THE GREAT SILKROAD

  
visit asia - tours to asiaCode GSR18D
Price £4,295 per person
( Minimum of 4 required )

The Great Silk road ran from China to Italy embracing many countries in Central Asia, India, the Middle East and part of Europe. Through 7,000 kms of roads, for over 17 centuries ( 2nd century BC – 15th century AD ) Chinese silk & pottery together with Indian semi precious stones & spices, wool carpets from Central Asia have travelled on camel back from East to West and in return leather & fur were brought back from Europe. This tour takes you to parts of 3 countries (Kyrgyzstan, China and Kazakhstan) which have seen streams of caravans slowly moving in & out of their lands, stopping for trade and breaks exchanging culture, languages & traditions.
The ancient cities with their domes and minarets, caravan sarais and other remarkable historical sites resting on a background of stunningly beautiful mountain landscapes make this trip truly unique.

BISHKEK - CHON-KEMIN - ISSYK-KUL LAKE - KARAKOL - JETY-OGUZ - KOCHKOR - NARYN - TASH RABAT - TORUGART PASS - KASHGAR SUNDAY CATTLE MARKET - TURPAN - URUMQI - ALMATY - CHARYN CANYON.

Price includes : Visa for China, private a/c car with driver, local English speaking guides/escorts, hotels as stated or similar with daily breakfast, main meals as stated, visits & excursions as per programme, admission fees, permits for Kyrgyz-China border crossing, internal flights Kashgar/Urumqi/Almaty.

Price excludes : International flights* ( London to Bishkek and Almaty to London via… ), insurance, tipping, optional horse/camel riding, tipping and any service not specified.

* To make your holidays even more hassle free, we can purchase international flights on your behalf at very competitive prices. Please call us for more information

Day 1 Departure from London. Fly to Bishkek.

Day 2 BISHKEK (-/-/D)
Arrival in Bishkek (the old name is Frunze), the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Meeting with our representative and transfer to 4* Park hotel in city centre. Early check-in to catch up with some sleep. Rest of the morning is at leisure.
Afternoon enjoy a one hour car journey to Ala Archa national park in the outskirts of Bishkek. This alpine national park on the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan includes the gorge of the Ala-Archa River, small & large glaciers and a 4,900 m high mountain peak. A popular relaxing place for city dwellers, you will come across many Kyrgyz coming to enjoy fresh air and barbequeing by the stream. Return to Bishkek in late afternoon. Welcome dinner at local restaurant.
Overnight at Park hotel.

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Day 3 BISHKEK (B/-/D)
Today a guided city tour takes you to Victory Square, Oak park with its open air museum of Sculptures, History Museum ( former Lenin Museum), Frunze Museum, the national theatre and Osh bazaar. Complete the day with a visit to the State Museum of Fine Arts and a stop at The House of the commander of the Red Army and the Russian Orthodox church. Late afternoon enjoy a ballet performance at the National Theatre ( subject to availability ). Dinner at local restaurant & overnight at Park hotel in Bishkek.

Day 4 CHON-KEMIN (B/L/D)
Departure by road to Chon-Kemin gorge (175 km). Stop en route to see Burana tower (11th century). Here you can find the ruins of Balasagun, an ancient city of the Eastern Turks. This Silk Road city has flourished during the reign of the Karakhanids (955-1130). At that time, the city was described as a developed and wealthy city with more than 200 mosques, madrasahs and khanakas. Balasagun is the birth-place of the famous medieval poet Yusuf Balasaguni, the author of the poem “Blessed Knowledge”, the first literary work in Turkic language of Central Asia. The original of this book is still kept in Cairo. In 1219, Balasagun was captured by the Mongols and renamed to Gobalyk, translated as “Good city”. And in the 14th century, according to some scientists, after the deadly pestilence , the black plague in 1338-1339, the whole city disappeared.
The Burana Tower, a few balbals and ruins of the Nestorian and Muslim mausoleums are all that remain today of the legendary Balasagun. From the top of the tower (25 m high) the 11th century minarets can be seen blending in a beautiful panoramic view of this region. Next stop is at the ruins of the ancient city of Sogdians – Nevaket, before arriving in Chon-Kemin. Enjoy a stroll in the local villages and experience a horse riding ( optional ) in Chon-Kemin gorge. Lunch, dinner and overnight at the scenic Ashu Mountain Guest House.

Day 5 ISSYK-KUL LAKE (B/L/D)
Breakfast at the Guest House. Continue by road to Issyk-Kul lake ( 160 kms ), the second largest lake in the world on the altitude of 1607 m above sea level and bordered by the Tien Shan mountain range. The warm & clear water of lake makes it a popular holiday destination to Central Asian people who called it the Kyrgyz ‘sea’ and Pearl of the Tien Shan. After lunch time at leisure to relax and take in the beauty of the lake. Dinner and overnight at the Raduga Resort.

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Day 6 KARAKOL (B/L/D)
After breakfast car transfer to Karakol ( 130 km ) along the northern shore. Since ancient times the coasts of Lake Issyk-Kul have attracted people. Everything around the lake relates with history: the caves of Stone Age people, the stone burial mounds of cattle breeding tribes, the art galleries of Petroglyphs ... stretching over hundreds of kms around the lake, the stone roads and huge burial mounds of the Scythian kings, silent stone statues guarding the repose of perished civilizations.
Caravans of heavily-laden camels, horses, and donkeys used to plod their way from China across the high mountain passes and along the lake shore to distant Europe. The ruins of ancient and medieval cities which prospered in the times of the Great Silk Road now lie buried underwater, vanished from memory after centuries of war and conquest. Arrive in Karakol, one of the old towns where the Russian garnisons settled in 19th century. Upon arrival visit an old Russian Orthodox church and a Mosque in Dungan style and Karakol regional Museum. Overnight at Green Yard hotel at the foot of the mountain.

Day 7 JETY-OGUZ - KOCHKOR - NARYN (B/L/D)
After breakfast car transfer to Jety-Oguz gorge (25 km) stopping at Seven bulls, a remarkable red sandstone rock formation. Continue by road along the southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake to Kochkor (240 km). On the way a few stops for leisure walks on the sandy lakeshore. Upon arrival in Kochkor, lunch at a local restaurant before visiting a felt carpet workshop. Continue your overland transfer to Naryn (150 km) via a beautiful road bordered by red mountains. Dinner and overnight at Khan Tegri Hotel.

Day 8 TASH RABAT - TORUGART CROSSING - KASHGAR (B/L/D)
After an early breakfast depart by road to Tash Rabat Caravan Sarai, a place on the Great Silk Road, that served as inn for traders, now an important historical and archeological monument of Kyrgyzstan and is one of the very few well preserved memorials from the Middle Ages. Located at an altitude of 3,000 m above sea level, Tash-Rabat Caravan Sarai was constructed in the 15th century, on the ancient Silk road from Central Asia to China to accommodate merchants, ambassadors and travellers. It is the largest stone structure built in Central Asian architecture. The size of the construction, the building materials, the special layout, are all remarkable. Leisure walk along the gorge and mountains populated by yaks. Picnic lunch.
Midday transfer to Torugart. Meeting with your Chinese guide and continue by road going through a few check-points and immigration formalities before entering Kashgar ( 170 kms ). Arrive in Kashgar in late afternoon. Check in at 5* Xuejing Jinxiang Int'l Hotel. Dinner & overnight in Kashgar.

Day 9 KASHGAR (B/L/D)
Morning excursion to Oytak Glacier (140 km). Return to Kashgar for lunch after which enjoy a stroll in Kashi old quarter for a glimpse of the Uighur’s traditional lifestyle which remains the same over the years. Dinner in town. Overnight at Xuejing Jinxiang Int’l Hotel.

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Day 10 KASHGAR SUNDAY CATTLE MARKET (B/L/D)
After breakfast visit the incredible Sunday livestock market ( locally called bazaar ) in the south of Kashgar city. Here sheep, goats, cows, donkeys, horses, yaks & camels are sold like other consumer goods. On the day Uighur farmers and herders walk their cattle into the city from nearby villages to the bazaar to sell them for cash. Next we move to the Sunday market which opens… everyday. This is the largest market in the area, packed with textiles, garments & headscarfs, carpets, handicrafts, hats & bags, spices & dried fruits, etc... a myriad of striking colours & exotic smells. Return to hotel after lunch. Afternoon is reserved to pay a visit to some of Kashgar main religious sites: Abakh Hoja Tombs and Idkha Mosque. Dinner in town and overnight at the same hotel.

Day 11 KASHGAR/URUMQI-TURPAN (B/L/D)
After breakfast transfer to airport for a short morning flight to Urumqi. On arrival have lunch at a local restaurant near the airport before hitting the Express Highway to Turpan (185km). Dinner and overnight in Turpan at 4* Huozhou Hotel.

Day 12 TURPAN - URUMQI (B/L/D)
Guided visits to the must-see attractions in Turpan : Bezeklik Buddha Caves, Jiaohe Ruins, Karez irrigation system of ancient China, Imin Minaret. Afternoon drive back to Urumqi. Dinner and overnight at Hoitak 5* Hotel.

Day 13 HEAVENLY LAKE (B/L/D)
Morning drive East Urumqi to Heavenly Lake (Tian Chi) 110 km from the city. In the middle of Bogda Peak nestles Heavenly Lake covering 4.9 square kms of crystal cleared water. On a clear day the snow capped mountains can be seen in the blue horizon, their slopes coloured by verdant pasture and flamboyant wild flowers. Lunch during visits. Afternoon Urumqi guided city tour. Now the capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Urumqi was one of the main cities on the ancient Silk Road. The city tour includes a visit to the Red Hill park with Hongshan ( red mountain ), and a stroll in Erdaoqiao Bazaar. Dinner in town & overnight at Hoitak hotel in Urumqi.

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Day 14 URUMQI/ALMATY (B/-/-)
After breakfast visit Xinjiang Museum which houses collections of silver works of art, stone steles, coins and currency, ceramics, wooden articles, and paintings. One of the highlights is the well-preserved collection of 4,000-year-old corpses, unearthed along the Silk Road. Afternoon is at leisure. Evening transfer to airport for flight to Almaty. Arrive Almaty airport in the evening. Meeting with your Kazakh guide and transfer to 4* Otrar hotel for overnight.

Day 15 CHARYN CANYON (B/L/-)
Day excursion to Charyn Canyon 220 kms away from Almaty. Stroll among the magnificent rock formations and along the river Charyn. Lunch enroute at a popular Uygur restaurant in Baiseit. On the way back visit famous Isyk kurgans – places where Golden Warrior was found. Overnight at Otrar hotel in Almaty.

Day 16 ALMATY (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer up to mount Kok-Tobe, for a panoramic view of Almaty. Next visit to the impressive Medeo ice ring and Bandy stadium, built in 1949 at an altitude of 1,690 m. Lunch at local restaurant before heading to the Sunkar falcon farm where every day (except Monday) a bird show starts at 05:00 pm. There are 7 different types of preying birds which will demonstrate their hunting skills. Transfer back to Almaty for overnight at Otrar hotel.

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Day 17 ALMATY (B/-/D)
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at hotel. Midday starts a sightseeing tour round Almaty including visits to the Republic Square with the monument of Independence, Central Historical Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Panfilov Park of Heroes with its wooden Cathedral and The Museum of national musical instruments. Farewell dinner. Early night at Otrar Hotel.

Day 18 DEPARTURE (B/-/-)
In due time transfer to airport for flight home.