This tour mainly uncovers the charm of the first half of Silk Road in China. It starts from the famous thousand-year capital Xian which is also the first stop for most Silk Road travelers, and then heads to Lanzhou, Xiahe, Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiayuguan and finally gets to Dunhuang. Your eyes and souls will get feasted by both beautiful natural scenes and fabulous history/culture alongside. It almost covers all the highlights of first half of Silk Road to make your trip no regret.
Day 1 Xian Highlights Day Tour
Day 2 Xian – Lanzhou by High-speed Train : Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Huanghe River Custom Tourist Line
Day 3 Lanzhou – Xiahe: Bingling Temple
Day 4 Xiahe – Lanzhou – Zhangye: Labrang Monastery
Day 5 Zhangye Tour: Zhangye Giant Buddhist Temple, The Rainbow Mountain Scenic Area
Day 6 Zhangye – Jiayuguan by High-speed Train: Jiayuguan Pass, Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum, Wei-jin Art Tombs
Day 7 Jiayuguan – Dunhuang by High-speed Train: Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain, Shazhou Night Market
Day 8 Dunhuang tour & Dunhuang Departure: Mogao Grottoes
Your exploration begins with the must-see Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Known as “the Eighth Wonders of the World”, the museum shows a surprisingly high level in sculpture, which is listed in the most significant discoveries of the 20th century. The splendid scene and format will leave you an impressive memory. You can spend 2.5-3 hours there.
After lunch, continue to visit Ancient City Wall. It is the most completely preserved and the largest city wall in China, which was built for the military defense in the ancient time. Since it is cycling the city, visitors can ride a bike around the city wall(optional).
Afterwards, move to Bell Tower & Drum Tower Square which is a strategically important building that marks the geographical center of the ancient capital of Xian, have some relaxing walk here would be very worthwhile to experience local people’s life.
Last, go to Muslim quarter to have relaxing sightseeing and enjoy the local food/ snacks. Muslin Quarter is the most famous food street in Xian. It consists of Islamic food area, ethnic group shopping center, Great Mosque and living area of Hui people, with a history of more than 1,000 years. The tour guide will give recommendations for you to have the best local food experience.
Accommodation: Overnight in Xian
In the morning, you will visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda which was originally built to hold Buddhist sutra and figurines of the Buddha that Xuanzang brought back from India in Tang Dyansty, 652 A.D. Now there is a big square divided into North Square and South Square, surrounding the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The design of the buildings and statues is in Tang style, showing people the ever glory of that great time. It’s busier in the evening when many activities with Tang elements held by local amateur.
After an early lunch, you will head to Xian North Train Station for high-speed train to Lanzhou. The train rides around 3.5 hours, which would be a good chance for you to enjoy the scenery on the way.
Upon your arrival at Lanzhou West Train Station, the local English speaking tour guide and driver will be waiting for you at the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name. After short rest, follow your guide to visit Huanghe River Custom Tourist Line, which is considered as “the Bund of Lanzhou City”, taking Zhongshan Bridge as the axis to stretch out along the Yellow River. The sites to visit of the Tourist Line are distributed on the Road River, including Yellow River Mother Sculpture, Zhongshan Iron Bridge, White Pagoda Hill Park, Waterwheel Park and so on. A leisure strolling bathed in rosy light of dusk on the River Road is a top thing to do in Lanzhou.
After that, transfer to downtown hotel for check in.
Accommodation: Overnight in Lanzhou
After breakfast, your amazing day begins! The visit to Bingling Temple starts in the wake of 1.5 hours’ driving from Lanzhou. Although in the name of “temple”, it is actually a series of grotto complex featured in Buddhist elements and engraved on the mountain cliffs. Considering Bingling Temple stands on the cliff along Liujiaxia reservoir, people need to take a speedboat to approach the grottoes to have a better visit. The boat thrilling travels through the breath-taking landscape offering a delicious appetizer for travelers, later on, the climax is coming when you walking closely to those giant statues with vivid shapes and walling paintings in bright color, deeply dazzling each visitor.
In the afternoon, drive to Xiahe for overnight.
Accommodation: Overnight in Xiahe
Today’s visit begins with the Labrang Monastery.You will regret that you didn’t pay an earlier visit to Labrang Monastery if you hear the loud titles of it: one of the “Six Great Monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism Gelug Sect”, famous Tibetan Buddhist college with best complete teaching system of Tibetan Buddhism, the longest corridor of turning scriptures in the world…It does deserve the titles and also your visit after trudge. The grand temple complex housing elegant Buddhist images and statues, wall paintings and other treasures receives devout worship from those Tibetans who are pilgriming from misty valley in each dawn, telling you the moved power of belief from hearts.
After the visit, drive around 2.5 hours back to Lanzhou. You will be dropped off at Lanzhou train station for high-speed train to Zhangye. The train rides around 4 hours, you can have a nap on the train.
When you arrive at Zhangye train station, the local driver will pick you up from the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name and transfer to local hotel.
Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangye
Today you will fully explore the amazing Zhangye. The first site will be Zhangye Giant Buddhist Temple. Built in Western Xia Dynasty, the Giant Buddhist Temple had survived from the vicissitudes and stands on Silk Road for 900 years. There is a gigantic sleeping Buddha statue of Sakyamuni with the largest scale in Asia inside the temple, hence the name. The beautiful woodcarving, paintings and statues as well as the underneath culture and history impresses travelers a lot.
After that, move on your visit to Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park. The Danxia landform earns the most spotlight for Zhangye City. Rated as one of “10 Wonders of Nature in the World” in 2011 by National Geographic News, it does deserve the reputation. There are two main scenic area of the Zhangye Danxia with different features, and you will visit The Rainbow Mountain Scenic Area for today.
Located in Linze County, the Rainbow Mountain features in its bright color and is better to enjoy sunset, which chosen by most travelers. Seen from the high platform, the rising layers of mountains in beautiful red with different saturation is bathed in rosy sunlight, depicting a gorgeous picture for the visitors who trudged a lot to here.
Accommodation: Overnight in Zhangye
In the morning, you will take a 1.5-hour high-speed train to Jiayuguan. Upon arrive at Jiayuguan station, you will find the local English speaking tour guide and driver waiting for you at the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name and your exploration starts!
After driving through the yellow sand of desert, you will come to Jiayuguan Pass, also known as the “First and Greatest Pass Under Heaven”, “the Throat of Hexi Corridor”. As the western end of Great Wall of Ming Dynasty, Jiayuguan Pass, being constructed for hundreds of years, not only occupied a vital position in military defense but also exerted importance influence in trade & culture exchange as a key waypoint of ancient Silk Road. You can climb up the tower to admire the entire view.
Next, continue your visit to Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum. Inside the Jiayuguan Pass Scenic Area, there is the first Great Wall themed museum with 7 major exhibition halls to show you more detailed knowledge about this great constructional engineering in Chinese history. The oil painting of Great Wall exhibited here with large scale, about 220.5 m2 is a highlight deserving longer stop.
Afterwards, move on to Weijin Tombs. Driving through the wilder Gobi about 20km from Jiayuguan City, you will come to the famous “underground gallery”, Weijin Tombs. In accordance with the title, wall paints dominate the theme of the visit to this site. Underneath the yellow sand, were about 1,400 ancient tombs buried in the obscure desert and only 6 tombs are open to public today. It’s definitely a surprise discovery process when beholding the paints with bright colors vividly depicting the scholars and officals’ life in Weijin Time. The background knowledge about history, culture, politics and economy reflected by the paintings explained by tour guide helps you better understand this site, please follow up your guide closely!
Accommodation: Overnight in Jiayuguan
At around 05:00, the driver will pick you up from the hotel lobby and transfer to train station for your high-speed train to Dunhuang.
Friendly tip: there is ONLY one trip of high-speed train from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang in the morning. Thus, you will get up early in this morning to catch the train. You are suggested to take-away breakfast.
The train rides around 2.5 hours. Upon your arrival at Dunhuang, you will find the local English-speaking tour guide and driver waiting for you at the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name. When it is not too hot, you will stat your visit with Crescent Spring and Echo Sand Mountain. Echo Sand Mountain and Crescent Spring are harmonious mates of miracle created by natural, glittering like a pearl along the Silk Road for thousands of years. The incredible co-existence between spring water and sand mountains always amazes visitors at their first sight here: the sand mountains meanders like a huge dragon and roars when wings blowing while the Crescent Spring, like a gentle maiden, is embraced in arms of mountains without being smudging.
Friendly tip: There is camel ride available in the Echo Sand Mountain, if you would like to try it, please pay in cash on your own (around CNY100 /pax ). Of course your tour guide will help to purchase tickets.
Last, come to Shazhou Night Market for further exploration. Though you might have visited many night markets or food streets during your weeks of vacation, Shazhou Night Market still brings you something different. You will find the special vitality of this northwest city remoting from the country center during your leisure strolling.
Accommodation: Overnight in Dunhuang
Today you will head to the amazing Mogao Grottoes. As the existing anthology of Buddhist art with biggest scale and the best preservation in the world, Mogao Caves wins a fame of “the pearls of oriental art”. It keeps 735verns, about45,000 square kilometers frescoes, 2,415 painted sculpture, more than 4,000 flying Apsaras (the beautiful Bodhisattva in the Buddhism who has fair scent and does well in dancing and music), and 5 wooden constructions of Tang and Song Dynasty as well as thousands of Stone pillars and flagstones with lotus carving on them.
In the afternoon, you will be dropped off at Dunhuang airport for departure flight.
Friendly tip: you are suggested to depart after 3pm to ensure no rush for the tour.