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Xi'an to Ashgabat

Asia is the continent where overlanding all started, and Dragoman has been the leading operator there since our first trucks went through in the 1980s - take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading into the wilds, well away from the usual tourist trail. Starting in the surreal capital city of Ashgabat, we cross the deserts of Turkmenistan via the Darvaza gas crater to reach the phenomenal land of Uzbekistan. We visit the astonishing ancient cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, and enjoy a yurt stay in the incredible Kyzylkhum Desert before arriving at the pleasant capital city, Tashkent. From Tashkent we will venture into the truly breathtaking lands of the fertile Fergana Valley, and head into the mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan. We will fully explore the breathtaking scenery, stay in local homestays and yurt camps, and take advantage of the phenomenal trekking opportunities in this incredible country on a flexible itinerary, before heading for the beautiful city of Bishkek. We continue on to cross the remote and desolate mountains in the south of Kyrgyzstan and cross the Torugart Pass into the incredible country of China. We will visit the stunning Lake Karakol in the colossal Karakoram Mountains before heading to the fascinating city of Kashgar. From here we'll head through the isolated Taklamakan Desert and the oasis of Turpan to the incredible Buddha caves of Mogao in China's remote western provinces. We'll overland past the western end of the Great Wall of China to the Tibetan town of Xiahe, before descending past the Bingling Si Buddha caves and the temples of Mount Kongtong to arrive at the colossal historic city of Xi'an, home of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors. Join us on this unforgettable epic overlanding experience on the Silk Road!


Duration: 56 Days Guaranteed Departure: Yes
For lovers of: Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites Physical rating: Demanding
Accommodation standard:   Budget% Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
Your Guide: English speaking Tour code: 158088
Starts: Xi'an, China Finishes: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
You will Visit
  • Xi'an
  • Pingliang
  • Lanzhou
  • Xiahe
  • Liujiaxia
  • Bingling Si
  • Zhangye
  • Jiayuguan
  • Dunhuang
  • Turpan
  • Heavenly Lake
  • Bayanbulak
  • Aksu
  • Kashgar
  • Lake Karakol
  • Tash Rabat
  • Kochkor
  • Bishkek
  • Chong Kemin Valley
  • Karakol
  • Cholpon Ata
  • Jeti Oguz Valley
  • Song Köl Lake
  • Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
  • Arslanbob
  • Fergana City
  • Fergana Valley
  • Tashkent
  • Samarkand
  • Nurata
  • Bukhara
  • Khiva
  • Kunye Urgench
  • Darvaza
  • Ashgabat

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Xi'an

Border Information: if joining in Xi'an, you will most likely enter China at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA code: XIY).

Welcome to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi province and the end of the 'Silk Road'! We will have a free day to explore the city, it's famous walls, bell and drum towers, pagodas and Muslim Quarter.

There will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm - please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception with more information about this important meeting.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Xi'an before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Xi'an.

In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

02

Day 2: Xi'an

This morning we head out of Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour.

We will return to Xi'an for the afternoon, where we'll have a free afternoon to further explore this incredible city.

03

Day 3-4: Pingliang

Today we will drive to the small town of Pingliang at the base of the Mount Kongtong, one of the holiest mountains in Chinese Taoism.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

On the following day we will have an included visit to Mount Kongtong, and will have the full day to explore the temples and walk and explore the pilgrimage routes on the mountain. 

In Pingliang we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Please note that if the group and leader prefer to split the drive between Turpan and Dunhuang over 2 days, there will only be 1 night in Pingliang and a half-day exploration of Mount Kongtong.

04

Day 5: Lanzhou

Today we will head to the chaotic capital city of Gansu province, Lanzhou. We will have some free time this evening to explore the city.

In Lanzhou we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

05

Day 6-7: Xiahe

Today we set off to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe where we spend the next 2 nights. We will have an included visit to the incredble Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

The next few days are free to explore this beautiful town and surrounding grasslands. We can take a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants. There may also be a chance to go trekking, horse riding or exploring the surrounding grasslands, visiting Tibetan families and perhaps trying the local Yak butter tea.

In Xiahe we will stay in a local Tibetan-owned hotel.

06

Day 8: Liujiaxia

Today we will leave Xiahe behind us to reach the small city of Liujiaxia. We will have an included visit to the incredible Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route.

In Liujiaxia we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

07

Day 9: Zhangye

Today we will drive to the incredible Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains - we'll spend some time exploring the region before heading off to wild camp nearby.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

08

Day 10: Jiayuguan

Today we continue our journey with a drive to Jiayuguan, where we will have an included visit to the Jiayuguan Fort - the most western point of the Great Wall of China. Please note that the Great Wall here is abode, unlike the more famous stone sections further east.

We will wild camp near an adobe section of the Great Wall near Jiayuguan.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

09

Day 11-12: Dunhuang

Today we will continue our journey westwards to reach the city of Dunhuang.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

On the following day we will have an included visit to the awe-inspiring Mogao Buddha Caves in the morning. We will then have a free afternoon to explore this amazing town and it’s surroundings - there are possibilities for camel rides along the sand dunes and bicycle rides out to the nearby White Goose Pagoda!

In Dunhuang we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

10

Day 13-14: Turpan

Today we will have an early start and a big drive to the oasis town of Turpan.

Estimated Drive Time - 10-12 hours.

Please note that sometimes it may be preferred by the group and the leader to split this drive over 2 days, wild camping in between - in this case we will have 1 less night in Pingliang towards the beginning of the trip.

On the following day we will have a free day to exploring the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins.

In Turpan we will stay in a local hotel.

11

Day 15-16: Heavenly Lake

Today we will continue on to Heavenly Lake, a beautiful lake set in the Tian Shan mountains.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

We will stay here for 2 nights, and will have many opportunities to relax in the incredible scenery and walk around the lake.

In Heavenly Lake we will stay in local yurts with very basic facilities.

12

Day 17-18: Bayanbulak

Today our journey continues westwards through the Taklamakan Desert. Our crossing of the desert usually takes 3 days/2 nights, and we plan to wild camp near Korla or Bayanbulak on our first night and near Aksu on our second.

Please note that occasionally the police insist that we do not camp in times of political tension - in this case we will stay in local hotels in the small towns en route.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours each day.

13

Day 19-21: Kashgar

Today we complete our journey to the far west of China, arriving in Kashgar, once one of the ancient trading posts on the Silk Route! 

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

We will spend 3 nights in Kashgar, during which time there will be lots of opportunity to explore the city and its central Id Kah Mosque. We will also have an included visit to the animal market just outside of town, and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar.

In Kashgar we will stay in a hotel with good facilities.

14

Day 22: Kashgar

Border Information: if leaving in Kashgar, you will most likely exit China at Kashgar Airport (IATA code: KHG).

If leaving the trip in Kashgar, today is a free day to further explore the city before leaving. If you are continuing on our trip into Kyrgyzstan, we will leave for Lake Karakul today.

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Kashgar. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

15

Day 23: Kashgar

For everyone that is continuing with us to Kyrgyzstan, there will be quick pre-departure meeting in the early morning in order to explain the next 6 days until Bishkek, and your leader will collect the kitty for this linking section.

Today we will set off on a stunning journey along the Karakoram highway to Lake Karakol. The drive takes us up past some truly incredible mountain scenery and underneath a few 7000m peaks, including Mustagh Ata.

Near Lake Karakol we will stay in local nomadic yurts, sleeping 6-8 people per yurt. Provisions here are very basic, but the scenery is incredible and it is an interesting glimpse into the way of life of the local Uighurs.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

16

Day 24: Lake Karakol

This morning we have a chance to spend a little time at Lake Karakol before starting our journey back along the beautiful mountain road to Kashgar.

The evening will be free to explore the old town.

In Kashgar we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

17

Day 25: Tash Rabat

Border Information: Exit China at Torugart, enter Kyrgyzstan at Torugart.

Today we will have a full day drive over the 3752m Torugart Pass into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan! We will head just over the border to Tash Rabat, once a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border. During our time here we will visit an ancient caravanserai and have some time to explore the surrounding area.

In Tash Rabat we will wild camp. In cold weather (or if simply the group prefers and there is availability), we may choose to stay in local nomadic yurts that are set up for guests near the caravanserai, sleeping 8-10 people per yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

18

Day 26: Kochkor

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

Please note that if nobody from this group is leaving in Bishkek, we may choose to stay instead in a guesthouse in the small town of Naryn (a 2-3 hour drive from Tash Rabat). This is so that we don't repeat Kochkor unnecessarily on the next section and can have more time to explore the area of Tash Rabat this morning.

19

Day 27: Bishkek

Today we have a short drive to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The remainder of the day is free to explore the relaxed and atmospheric city.

In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (from Kochkor).

20

Day 28: Bishkek

Today there will be a group meeting at 10:00am for the next section of the trip towards Tashkent. The rest of the day will be free to further explore the city.

21

Day 29: Bishkek

Border Information: if joining in Bishkek, you will most likely enter Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek Manas International Airport.

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

The rest of the day is free for you to explore this relaxed and atmospheric city.

In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

*Another important note - please be aware that all itineraries in Kyrgyzstan are highly weather-dependent. The itinerary described in these notes are a statement of best intention, but we must approach each trip in Kyrgyzstan with a large degree of flexibility, as our leaders and local guides will have to 'play things by ear' according to the local conditions and weather. In low season certain routes become impossible and it may become far too cold to camp - in all cases there are fantastic and well-tried alternatives in place which means we can always run an excellent and comprehensive trip here, but please do not treat the exact details of the itinerary listed here as gospel - thanks for your understanding!*

22

Day 30-31: Chong Kemin Valley

The next 2 days will need to be fairly flexible. Many of the group will apply for Uzbekistan visas in Bishkek. However, the Uzbek Embassy opening times will often vary and therefore our itinerary will need to remain flexible over the next 2 days to accommodate this.

As a general guide, we will most likely spend our first night camping in stunning mountainous Ala Archa National Park near to Bishkek. We will then return to Bishkek on Day 3 in order to submit our visa applications. Once this is process is complete we will continue to Chong Kemin National Park, where we will have free time to explore and hike in this beautiful area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion if time allows

In Chong Kemin and Ala Archa we will wild camp. If it is too cold or simply preferred by the group, we may choose to camp in the grounds of a guesthouse in Ashu, a village in the Chong Kemin valley, where there could be the possibility to upgrade to rooms.

Drive times - 4-5 hours each day (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

23

Day 32: Karakol

Today we will drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon-Ata. We will then continue to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free evening to explore and relax!

In Karakol we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

24

Day 33-34: Jeti Oguz Valley

Today we drive up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti-Oghuz.

The next day we will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads!

In Jeti-Oghuz we will camp close to a local family yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

Please note that on trips in the low season we may not be able to camp in Jeti-Oghuz due to low temperatures. If this is the case, we will take a stunning and incredible drive up a mountain in a Russian 4x4 truck to Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development in a stunning alpine setting, staying in dormitory accommodation. We will then stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti-Oghuz Valley (allowing time for some day walks).

25

Day 35: Kochkor

 

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality! En route we will have an included demonstation from a local 'eagle hunter'.

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours.

26

Day 36-37: Song Köl Lake

Today we will drive to the incredible Song-Kul Lake, where we will spend the next two nights.

We will have free time here to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking, horse-riding or watching a game of goat polo!

At Song-Kul we will stay in traditional felt yurts.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

Please note that trips during the low season will not be able to visit Song-Kul Lake, as temperatures will be below freezing, the road will be snowed over, and there will be no yurts to stay in! Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

27

Day 38-40: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley

We will spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning and remote Kyrgyz Ferghana Valley, stopping often to admire the views and perhaps take some impromptu hikes in the hills and countryside.

During these days we plan to wild camp en route. Please note that trips running in low season (May to mid-June and October to November), we may not be able to camp if temperatures are too low, in which case we will stay in local guesthouses along the route instead.

Drive times - 4-8 hours per day.

28

Day 41: Arslanbob

Today we will complete our drive to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana Valley - if we have had a slow journey in the previous days with lots of stops, we may choose to stay in the closer town of Jalalabad instead.

In Arslanbob we will stay overnight in a local family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

29

Day 42: Fergana City

Border information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik, enter Uzbekistan at Andijon.

Today we will have a full day's drive across the Uzbek border to the eastern city of Ferghana.

In Ferghana we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.

30

Day 43: Tashkent

This morning we travel in local transport to Kokand, where we will have the oppurtunity to visit the Khudayar Khan's Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey over the Kamchik Pass to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital.

The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin us this evening in Tashkent.

In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 6 hours.

31

Day 44: Tashkent

 

Border Information: if finishing in Tashkent, you will most likely exit Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport.

Today we will have free time to explore Tashkent. Please note that if you are leaving in Tashkent, today is the last day of the trip and there is no accommodation included tonight.

 

32

Day 45: Tashkent

Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport.

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

We will then have a free afternoon to explore the Soviet city of Tashkent.

In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

33

Day 46: Samarkand

Today our journey begins will a drive to the fascinating ancient city of Samarkand where we will stay for the next 3 nights.

In Samarkand we will stay in a good hotel on the outskirts of town.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

34

Day 47-48: Samarkand

Today we will have a guided tour of the incredible historic city of Samarkand and the surrounding area, including the Registan, Ulug Beg Observatory, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-I-Zinda.

On our second day, we will have a free day to further explore the beautiful city and its surroundings.

35

Day 49: Nurata

Today we will drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert near the town of Nurata. In the afternoon we will have the opportunity to take a swim in Lake Ajdar Kul and head out on an optional camel ride into the desert!

Tonight we will stay in a desert yurt camp.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

36

Day 50: Bukhara

Today we will drive to the beautiful city of Bukhara, where will spend the next 3 nights. Our drive will take us via the desert town of Nurata, which we will have a brief stop. 

In Bukhara we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

37

Day 51-52: Bukhara

Today we will have a guided tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and the Ark Fortress.

On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore this incredible historic city and its surroundings.

38

Day 53-54: Khiva

Today we have a full day drive to the incredible historic town of Khiva.

Estimated Drive Time - 10-11 hours.

On the next day, we have a guided tour of the ancient city of Khiva during the morning. In the afternoon we will have plenty of free time to further explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town.

In Khiva we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

39

Day 55: Kunye Urgench

Border Information: Exit Uzbekistan at Nijazov, enter Turkmenistan at Shovot.

This morning we will drive across the border into Turkmenistan, visit the markets in the border town of Dashoguz, and explore the Kunye Urgench ruins towards the end of the day.

We will wild camp in the deserts near Kunye Urgench tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (heavily dependent on the time taken to cross the border).

40

Day 56: Darvaza

Today we continue south through the Karakum Desert. We will have an included side trip to the amazing flaming Darvaza Gas Crater (also known as the 'Door to Hell'!).

We will wild camp in the deserts near Darvaza Crater tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

41

Day 57: Ashgabat

Today we will complete our drive to the interesting capital of Ashgabat, usually arriving mid-afternoon. There will hopefully be time to explore one of the city's museums upon arrival.

In Ashgabat we will stay in a decent quality local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6 hours.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Explore the world-famous site of the Terracotta Warriors, an army of 8000 life-size figures built to protect the Emporer Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife
    • Explore the stunningly beautiful Mount Kongtong, one of the sacred mountains of Chinese Taoism
    • See the vast Buddha statue and the outstanding Buddhist cave sculptures at the fabulous Bingling Si gorge
    • Explore the incredible and colourful natural phenomenon of the Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains
    • Visit the magnificent Jiayuguan Fort, the Ming Dynasty fortress that marks the western end of the Great Wall of China
    • Explore the awe-inspiring Mogao Caves, a series of temples containing some of the finest Buddhist art spanning a period of a thousand years
    • Explore the fascinating ruined natural fortress of Jiaohe, the seat of several rulers from 100BCE until it's eventual invasion by Genghis Khan
    • Learn about the Karez water system, the ingenious method of irrigating the area that was developed by the Han Dynasty and allowed Turpan to flourish as an oasis town
    • See the striking red sandstone landscape of the Flaming Mountains near Turpan
    • Enjoy a tranquil yurt stay at the beautiful Heavenly Lake
    • Explore Kashgar's vast Sunday market and the fascinating and atmospheric animal market
    • Take in the spectacular mountain scenery on our drive along the Karakorum Highway to Lake Karakol
    • Stay overnight in a traditional yurt owned by Kyrgyz and Tajik families near the beautiful Lake Karakol, set amongst the 7500m-high mountains of the Tian Shan range
    • Visit the ancient Silk Road caravanserai at Tash Rabat, close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border
    • Cross into Kyrgyzstan via the stunning and remote Torugart Pass in the Tian Shan Mountains
    • Stay at an overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village
    • See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here
    Tour Staff
    • 3 crew, local guides as necessary
    Accomodation
    • 44% Camping - 66% Hotels
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