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Land only price$22,220
Duration48 Days

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The Great Silk Road Adventure: Xi'an to Istanbul

Itinerary

Day 1: Tour starts in Xi'an (China)

Our epic trip begins this evening in Xi’an, an ancient city famed for being the starting point of the Silk Road. After an introductory briefing, we’ll venture out for our first group dinner.

  • Grand Dynasty Culture Hotel or similar
  • Dinner
Day 2: Xi'an

This morning we’ll visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and explore the old town, where we will be able to see the massive city walls which at 14km in length enclose the historic centre. We’ll wander through the narrow streets of the Muslim Quarter and visit the Great Mosque, one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China. The afternoon has been left free to allow time for personal exploration of this endlessly fascinating city.

  • Grand Dynasty Culture Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 3: Xi'an - Lanzhou

A highlight of any visit to Xi'an is a visit to see the Terracotta Warriors, one of the greatest archaeological finds of the last century. Amazingly nothing was known of the existence of the life-size soldiers of the Terracotta Army until a peasant digging a well in 1974 stumbled upon them. The underground battle formations of life-sized pottery warriors, archers, horses and chariots have been left in situ in three large excavated pits and we’ll visit them all. Later in the day we’ll return to Xi'an to board our overnight train heading along what was the first stage of the westbound Silk Road towards Lanzhou.

  • Overnight Sleeper Train
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4: Lanzhou - Xiahe

The capital of Gansu Province, Lanzhou was once an important link along the Northern Silk Road and a major crossing point of the Yellow River. Today it provides us with our gateway into the culturally rich landscapes of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. On arrival in Lanzhou we’ll continue on to Xiahe by road. Home to the famous Labrang Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, one of the largest outside Tibet, the town of Xiahe sits alongside the Daxia River amidst a rural mountainous landscape populated largely by ethnic Tibetans.

  • Nirvana Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: Xiahe

One of the six great monasteries belonging to the Geluk (Yellow Hat) School of Tibetan Buddhism, Labrang Monastery was founded in 1790 by the first Jamyang Zhaqypa, Ngawang Tsondru. Situated at the intersection of four major Asian cultures - Tibetan, Mongolian, Han Chinese and Chinese Muslim - during the 20th century, it was one of the largest Buddhist monastic universities in the world. Located at the foot of the Phoenix Mountain, the monastery boasts a collection of Buddha statues that number in their tens of thousands and is still an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists across the region, with the largest number of monks in residence outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. We’ll have the whole day to explore this fascinating place.

  • Nirvana Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 6: Xiahe - Lanzhou - Jiayuguan

Making our way back to Lanzhou today, we’ll first pay a visit to the Binglingshi Caves located on the Yellow River, which have Buddhist carvings dating back over 1500 years. A scenic speedboat ride takes us to the entrance, from where we will be able to enjoy walking around this impressive site. Returning by boat to meet our bus, we’ll continue to Lanzhou to catch the overnight train through the Gansu Corridor to Jiayuguan, where we will find the first pass at the western end of the Great Wall. We’ll arrive in the city early tomorrow morning.

  • Overnight Sleeper Train
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7: Jiayuguan

A strategically sited town in Gansu province, Jiayuguan once guarded the western extremity of the Great Wall. After breakfast we’ll visit the Overhanging Wall, located just a short distance to the north-west of the city’s famous fort. Located at the foot of the Black Mountains, this section of wall forms part of the defensive ramparts that once protected China’s western border. A mix of partially restored fragments and original wall, today it provides an excellent venue for a walk, offering some stunning views out across the barren emptiness of the surrounding countryside. This afternoon we’ll visit Jiayuguan Fort, one of the quintessential images of western China, built in 1372 to guard the pass between the snow-capped Qilian Shan and Hei Shan peaks. This splendid construction has been considered the last outpost of the Chinese Empire since the days of the Han Dynasty when the Great Wall reached as far as the Yumen Pass, about 90km northwest of Dunhuang, our next destination.

  • Jiugang Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: Jiayuguan - Dunhuang

This morning we’ll visit the Wei-Jin tombs that date back to 220-420 AD. Inside the tombs we can see some of the original wall paintings depicting various social activities such as fishing, farming, hunting and drinking, including a very controversial depiction of ancient Chinese using knives and forks. We’ll then continue by road to Dunhuang, once a very important staging point and the last stop for the camel caravans before the gruelling journey through the desert. It was from here that the Silk Road divided into its northern and southern routes. This evening we’ll have a chance to visit the city’s excellent night market.

  • Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 9: Dunhuang

Dunhuang's fame is largely due to the Mogao Grottoes, which are one of the world's richest treasure troves of Buddhist manuscripts, wall paintings and statues known as the Thousand Buddha Caves. The site was first carved out of the cliffs in 366 AD, with more caves being hewn out of the rock up until the 14th century. The honeycomb of caves runs along the cliff face and contains some 2,415 coloured clay sculptures and more than 45,000 square metres of mural paintings. Many of these were paid for by pious travellers facing the perilous journey across the vast desert, or as thanks upon their safe return to Dunhuang. The colours have remained lively due to the extremely dry climate, but natural and electric light and the humidity caused by the breath of thousands of visitors is slowly fading the precious art, and some of the caves are periodically closed. About 25-40 caves are open to the public at any one time and we’ll visit some of them this morning. Although guides carry a torch, it is also a good idea to take your own. This afternoon we’ll head out to a wonderfully iconic spot – the singing sand dunes of Crescent Moon Lake. Here we can climb to the top of the enormous sand dunes for amazing views of the crystal clear spring hidden amongst the sands and enjoy the stunning views of the sunset in the desert.

  • Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 10: Dunhuang - Turpan

Today we have a morning at leisure in Dunhuang before transferring to nearby Liuyuan to catch a bullet train all the way out of Gansu Province and into Xinjiang, once known as Chinese Turkestan. We’ll arrive this evening in Turpan, one of the lowest places on earth, where rain never falls and summers can be scorching hot.

  • Huo Zhou Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11: Turpan - Urumqi

Turpan was once an important staging post on the Silk Road and its large oasis produces the best grapes in China. During our time here we’ll visit the fascinating ghost city of Jiaohe, the ancient capital of the Jushi people, a city founded in the 2nd century BC but abandoned in 14th century AD following its destruction by the Mongols. It stands on an isolated plateau and has a haunting silhouette and atmosphere. We’ll also see the 18th century Emin Minaret built in Afghani style. This afternoon we drive on to Urumqi, Xinjiang’s bustling capital, where we’ll spend the night.

  • Bing Tuan Grand Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12: Urumqi - Kashgar

We will have time this morning to explore some of the sights of Urumqi, particularly the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum displaying a variety of art, crafts and relics from twelve minorities, before taking a flight over the imposing Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar. This Uighur town was one of the most strategically important destinations on the Silk Road, lying as it does at the junction of major routes over the mountains towards India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Depending on our arrival time today, there may be time this afternoon for an orientation tour around the old city.

  • Qinibagh Royal Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 13: Kashgar

Today we will have the chance to experience the famous Yakshambe Bazaar - the Sunday Market - where we’ll be able to meet Uighur, Kyrgyz and Kazakh traders at the famous animal market. Here we will spend time watching the locals trade everything from woodwork and ironware to sheep, donkeys, cattle, horses and camels before progressing onto the covered bazaar, believed to be the biggest in Central Asia. The afternoon will be free to spend at leisure and dinner has also been excluded this evening, to allow for some ‘time-out’ at the end of the first stage of this trip.

  • Qinibagh Royal Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 14: Kashgar - Sary Tash (Kyrgyzstan)

An early start sees us drive out of Kashgar due west along the main artery of the Old Silk Road to the Irkishtam Pass (2950m). This is a stunning drive through an area of outstanding natural beauty, with multi-coloured sedimentary sandstone flanking our route. At the pass we will cross into Kyrgyzstan then continue on towards Sary Tash along another staggering road, this time with the high Pamirs rising to the south. We’ll stay the night with a local family in their cosy house.

  • Homestay (Between 4 & 6 people will share a room. Toilets are of the “long drop” variety)
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 15: Sary Tash - Osh

Weather permitting we will be able to see stunning views of snowy Peak Lenin this morning, which at 7134m is the second highest mountain in the Pamirs. After breakfast we will drive on another extraordinary road over the 3554m Tol Dek Pass and on into the Fergana Valley to the ancient Silk Road town of Osh. Reputed to be over 3000 years old, Osh is a place steeped in history and dominated by Solomon’s Throne, which looms over the town. After climbing up to the top for great views out over the surrounding area, we plan to stay with our old friend, Imanjan, and his family at his guesthouse.

  • Imanjan’s Homestay or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 16: Osh - Kokand (Uzbekistan)

After breakfast we cross the border into Uzbekistan, where we will be met and driven onwards through the Fergana Valley. This incredibly fertile region was the breadbasket of the Central Asian USSR and is still one of the wealthiest parts of the whole region. Our first stop today will be in the town of Margilon, centre of the still thriving silk trade in the area. Here we hope to see the entire silk-weaving process from cocoon to end product, before continuing our journey to Kokand.

  • Silk Road Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 17: Kokand - Tashkent

After a chance to visit the 19th century Palace of Khudayar Khan this morning, we will transfer to cars for our drive through the mountains to reach Tashkent. On arrival we’ll have the afternoon to explore some of Uzbekistan’s capital, taking in the Khast Imam Complex, which houses a 7th century Koran, and Independence Square.

  • City Palace Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 18: Tashkent - Samarkand

A fast train this morning takes us to Samarkand, one of the finest cities of the Silk Road and undoubtedly a tour highlight. Once we have checked in to our hotel we will take our first look at this amazing city, with a visit to the majestic Gur-Amir Mausoleum and of course the iconic Registan.

  • Malika Classic Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 19: Samarkand

We’ll enjoy a full day wandering through this incredible city taking in such sights as the Bibi Khanym mosque, the Shakhi Zinda ‘street of the dead’ and we’ll have the chance to return to the Registan for sunset.

  • Malika Classic Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 20: Samarkand - Bukhara

After breakfast we’ll drive along the “Royal Road” to Bukhara. We aim to arrive early afternoon and check in to our guesthouse close to the famous Labi Hauz plaza and pool. This afternoon there will be free time to explore the streets and alleyways of this atmospheric ancient town before meeting up for dinner.

  • Sasha & Sons Guesthouse or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 21: Bukhara

This morning we visit the famous Arc – or town citadel – in front of which the British officers Connelly and Stoddard lost their heads in what was one of the most infamous events of the Great Game. We’ll also visit the Kolan Minaret – or Tower of Death, from which Amir Nasirulla Khan threw his enemies – as well as the rest of the beautiful old town. The rest of the day is free to explore Bukhara at your leisure, with opportunities to wander through the bazaar and maybe do a little souvenir shopping.

  • Sasha & Sons Guesthouse or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 22: Bukhara - Mary (Turkmenistan)

An early start today takes us to the Uzbek border where we then enter the rarely visited country of Turkmenistan. After customs formalities followed by the thrill of crossing the great Oxus – Amudarya River – we will have lunch in Turkmenabat before continuing on to Mary, our base for the next two nights.

  • Mary Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 23: Mary

After breakfast today we will drive to Ancient Merv to see remaining traces of the glorious “Maru Shahu Jahan” – “Queen of Cities”. Due to its size and historical importance, Merv is one of the most significant sites in Turkmenistan, indeed in all of Central Asia. It consists of a series of towns each succeeded by another throughout the course of history. We’ll see the remains of Erk Kala (6th C BC) with its citadel, Gayur Kala (3rd C BC), Sultan Kala (8-11th C AD), Abdullakhan Kala and Bairamalikhan Kala (15th C AD), Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar – the last ruler of a great Seljuk Empire (12th C AD), Great Kala and Little Kyz Kala (6-7th C AD), and the Mausoleum of Muhammed Ibn Zeid (12th C AD). Later this afternoon we’ll return to Mary to visit the highly acclaimed History Museum.

  • Mary Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 24: Mary - Ashgabat

Today we’ll take a morning flight to Turkmenistan’s eclectic capital, Ashgabat. With its grand marble clad buildings stretching along wide boulevards and its many fountains, Ashgabat is a wonderfully bizarre city. The Turkmen capital began life as a frontier settlement along the Trans-Caspian railway. Following its destruction by an earthquake in 1948, the city has been completely rebuilt and became the country’s capital following its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. An intriguing mix of architectural styles, the city owes much of its unique character to the influence of its late president Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov, known as Turkmenbashy, who during his tenure implemented an increasingly bizarre set of policies that included approving a series of controversial building projects, renaming the months after members of his own family and even changing the word for bread to that of his mother! This afternoon we will take a tour of the city to view some of the more fascinating reminders of the city’s rich and eclectic past, including the Arch of Neutrality.

  • Nusay Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 25: Ashgabat

This morning we’ll visit the largest mosque in Central Asia and the mausoleum of their first President “Turkmenbashy”, before travelling out to Nissa, the 3rd Century BC capital of the Parthians. We’ll then pay a visit to a nearby stud farm to see some of the beautiful pure-bred Akhel Teke, or ‘heavenly’ horses, where we’ll enjoy lunch. Finally we end our busy day back in the city with a visit to the National Museum.

  • Nusay Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 26: Ashgabat - Mashhad (Iran)

Today we will leave Turkmenistan behind us as we drive to the Iranian border and go through immigration formalities. We then continue driving on through some stunning scenery to the holy city of Mashhad - the Place of Martyrdom. It was here that the Imam Reza, a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed and the 8th Shia Imam, was killed on the orders of the caliph in 817. Heir to the Abbasid caliphate, his shrine went on to become a major pilgrimage site in the 16th century and today remains one of the Shia faith’s most sacred cities.

  • Pardisan Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 27: Mashhad - Shiraz

This morning we pay a visit to the impressive Imam Reza shrine, whose golden domes and towering minarets present one of the most remarkable monuments anywhere in the Muslim world. Set within the confines of a walled enclosure in the heart of the city, the site is filled with a wonderful array of mosques, courtyards and madrassahs, and whilst the shrine itself is off-limits to non-Muslims, the complex presents a fascinating place to explore. Following our visit, we will take an afternoon flight to Shiraz.

  • Pars International Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 28: Shiraz

Our late morning walking tour includes a visit to the imposing Arg-e Karim Khan fortress, with its 14-metre high circular towers which dominate the city centre. There will also be time to explore the bazaar and some of Shiraz’s famous gardens and teahouses before soaking up the atmosphere at the tomb of the great Persian poet Hafez.

  • Pars International Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 29: Shiraz - Persepolis - Shiraz

Today we have the whole day to enjoy what must surely be a highlight of Iran, if not of the entire Middle East: Darius the Great’s fabulous Persepolis. We will also visit the magnificent Achaemenid tombs at Nagsh e Rostam, cut high into cliffs above the ground and facing respectfully towards Persepolis. After ample time exploring the site we will make our way back to Shiraz where there’ll be time to discover this beautiful city at your leisure.

  • Pars International Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 30: Shiraz - Isfahan

Leaving Shiraz today, we head for Pasargadae with its six-tiered tomb of Cyrus the Great, founder of the great Persian Empire. Continuing our drive northwards we’ll also stop at Izad Khast, an abandoned Sassanian town, where we’ll have time to explore the castle ruins and caravanserai. Finally we reach Isfahan, the Safavid capital, which will be our base for the next three nights.

  • Safir Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 31: Isfahan

Isfahan is one of the world’s most beguiling cities and there’ll be lots of time to discover its amazing architecture, tile-work, bazaars and the bridges that have made this city so rightly famed. During our sightseeing today we will visit the Chehel Sotun Palace and Museum, and the magnificent Nasqh Jahan Square. Here we will explore some of the world’s most beautiful mosques, the Imam (Shah) Mosque and the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. We will also visit the magnificent six-storey Ali Qapu Palace, built in the 16th century to serve as a gateway to the royal palaces that are situated in the parklands beyond.

  • Safir Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 32: Isfahan

We’ll have another day to explore this fascinating city with time to visit the Jameh Mosque, the Armenian Quarter and the many bridges that cross the Zayandeh River. There’ll be plenty of time to explore and shop in the famous bazaar this afternoon, or just relax and people watch.

  • Safir Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 33: Isfahan - Tehran

We depart Isfahan this morning to make our way to Iran’s cosmopolitan capital, Tehran. En route we’ll stop in Kashan where we visit the Royal Gardens of Fin and one of the restored merchant houses for which Kashan is famed. Continuing on to Tehran, we should arrive late this afternoon.

  • Howeyzeh Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 34: Tehran

Tehran is one of the largest cities in Western Asia and currently home to about one-fifth of the country’s population. The Iranian capital since 1795, it is a rich blend of cultural traditions that span the country’s diverse heritage. Today we will take a tour of the city, starting with the Golestan Palace, which dates from the time of Karim Khan Zand and lies behind the historic walls of the city’s 16th century Arg (Citadel). The former residence of Qajar royalty, the site today is a wonderful fusion of gardens and throne rooms that are filled with elegant furnishings and artwork, set amongst a rich mix of European and Persian design. After taking in Tehran’s Carpet Museum and its bustling bazaars, we’ll also find time to visit the breath-taking Crown Jewels, a quite extraordinary collection that constitutes the largest jewel collection in the world and includes no fewer than 30 tiaras, jewel encrusted swords and shields, and the most comprehensive collection of diamonds, emeralds and rubies on the planet.

  • Howeyzeh Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 35: Tehran - Tabriz

Taking a morning flight today we’ll arrive in Iran’s north-west city of Tabriz, which can date its history back over 3000 years. We will spend time exploring and shopping in the UNESCO World Heritage bazaar, which stretches over 7km and is comprised of 24 separate caravanserais and 22 domed halls. Enter at your peril! Later this afternoon we’ll visit the Blue Mosque, which was constructed in 1465 and damaged in the earthquake of 1779, leaving only the entrance which is renowned for its unusual blue colour tiles. Tonight we’ll have our final dinner in Iran.

  • International Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 36: Tabriz - Dogubeyzit (Turkey)

A drive to the Turkish border takes us to our final international crossing of the trip. This is a major thoroughfare so come prepared for some lengthy checks, but once through we’ll head on to the nearby small town of Doğubeyzit, situated on the plain at the foot of Mt Ararat. This afternoon we’ll visit the beautiful Ishak Pasha Palace and we hope to get fine views of Mt Ararat. Ishak Pasha, a combination of fortress, palace and pleasure-dome, dates mostly from the 17th century and is an iconic image of Eastern Turkey.

  • Ertur Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 37: Dogubeyzit - Kars

After breakfast today we head north-westwards along the eastern limits of the Anatolian Plateau, sitting approximately 2000m above sea level. This afternoon we’ll visit another one of the tour’s definite highlights - the ruined ancient city of Ani, which was the Armenian capital in the 10th century. The ruins are right on the border with modern day Armenia, sitting above the Arpa River and controlling the crossing that was at one time an essential strategic point on an off-shoot of the Silk Road. The city became fabulously wealthy before it was captured in quick succession by the Byzantine and the Turkish armies in the 11th century. This is an intriguing and memorable place and was for many years completely off-limits as it lay within the no-go area that surrounded the USSR. We then drive the short distance on to Kars, where we’ll spend the night.

  • Hotel Katerina Sarayi or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 38: Kars - Erzerum

This morning there will be time to wander through Kars town, giving us a chance to see its characteristic Russian architecture as well as the Armenian Church of the Twelve Apostles. This area was occupied by the Russians during the late 19th century and British forces were besieged in Kars Castle during the Crimean War. We then head west to Erzerum, Turkey’s highest city at 1920m and occupying a key strategic location. Erzerum is also home to some striking medieval Islamic buildings, many of which strongly reflect the Central Asian heritage of the Turks who constructed them, and we’ll have time to explore this afternoon.

  • Kral Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 39: Erzerum - Kemaliye

Leaving Erzerum this morning we’ll take a scenic drive following the Euphrates River as far as the town of Kemaliye, which is known for its historic architecture including many Ottoman-era houses. Here we will spend the night in this very traditional part of the country.

  • Bozkurt Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 40: Kemaliye - Divrigi - Sivas

Leaving Kemaliye this morning we first head south to the town of Arapgir, where we’ll visit a 700-year-old 'Cemevi' - a place of worship for Turkey's Alevi community. Our visit will give us an insight into the religious diversity in Turkey and the influence of the large, but almost invisible, Alevi faithful whose beliefs, way of life and forms of worship are very different to the orthodox Sunni majority. Finally we head north-west to the old Seljuk capital of Sivas to spend the night.

  • Buruciye Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 41: Sivas - Cappadocia (Avanos)

Sivas once lay along the road to Baghdad, ensuring its development as an important centre for trade and culture. Under the rule of the Seljuks it grew into a mecca for learning and scholarship, and periodically served as the capital of the Seljuk Empire, along with Konya. Many of the city’s more interesting architecture stems from this period and its historic heart is liberally sprinkled with 13th century madrassahs and minarets that are covered in beautiful turquoise and blue tiles. We’ll have the whole morning to enjoy this historical city before driving on to Avanos this afternoon - our base for the next 3 nights, in the heart of Cappadocia.

  • Sofa Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 42: Cappadocia

We will spend the whole day exploring some of the highlights of the region, beginning at the Göreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we will walk through the valley and explore the painted churches of this former Byzantine monastery. This afternoon we’ll visit Kaymakli underground city, originally carved out by the Hittites around 3000BC, and then Uchisar Fortress, built by the Romans, from where we’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views of the area. We’ll also take a walk to visit the fairy chimneys known as 'Love Valley' before returning to Avanos for the evening.

  • Sofa Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 43: Cappadocia

A second day to enjoy this stunning area, we’ll head to the lesser known Soganli Valley today to enjoy a 2-hour walk and see several of the painted churches. We’ll also visit the unspoiled villages of Cemil, Taşkinpaşa and Şahin Efendi before returning to Avanos town, set on the banks of the Kizilirmak - the Red River. The red clay of the river provides the raw material for pottery, which has been produced in this area for centuries. There’ll be time to visit some of the family-run potteries for which the town is famous this afternoon.

  • Sofa Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 44: Avanos - Konya - Ankara

Leaving Avanos this morning, we’ll drive across the plain of Konya stopping to visit Sultanhani, one of the largest caravanserais on the Silk Road, dating back to the 13th century. Continuing on to Konya, we will visit the Mevlana Museum, containing the tomb of the great dervish and poet Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi. We’ll also visit the Seljuk period Karatay Madrassa before taking a late afternoon bullet train to Ankara, Turkey’s modern-day capital.

  • Divan Çukurhan Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 45: Ankara

Today we’ll visit two of the country’s most essential sights. The first is the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, one of the world’s most critically acclaimed museums (and deservedly so) displaying artefacts found within the borders of Turkey between 100,000 BC and 200 AD. The second is the Mausoleum of Ataturk, Turkey’s revered “father” who almost single-handedly is responsible for Turkey’s continued existence today following its defeat in World War I. This enormous monument is dedicated to Ataturk and the architecture of the mausoleum is based upon the caravanserai staging posts of the Silk Road. We will also have a chance to see Ankara Castle, with its great views over the city.

  • Divan Çukurhan Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 46: Ankara - Istanbul

The last stage of our epic journey takes us by high-speed train towards Turkey’s cultural capital, Istanbul, formerly Constantinople. The train terminates on the Asian side of the city, enabling us to cross the Bosphorus slowly by ferry to Europe, taking in the minarets and domes of one of the world’s greatest cities and a fitting finale to our Silk Road adventure. After a brief orientation, the rest of the afternoon will be free to take in the manifold sights of Istanbul at your leisure.

  • Sultanhan Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 47: Istanbul

We’ll spend the morning exploring Sultanhamet, Istanbul’s historic centre. Here we’ll see the iconic Aya Sophia, which was built at the command of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. We’ll also visit the Blue Mosque, with its magnificent series of domes and semi-domes, and with its six slender minarets sprouting from the corners of the mosque. From here we discover the ancient Hippodrome, the scene of chariot races and the centre of Byzantine civil life. In the afternoon you’ll be free to experience the extensive Grand Bazaar, one of the largest in the Middle East and a shopper's mecca since just after the mid-15th century, and the underground Roman Cisterns. Tonight we’ll meet up for our final dinner and have the chance to reminisce over the six countries and 12,000km we will have travelled over the last month and a half. It’s a true trip of a lifetime that few people, even in ancient times, will ever have undertaken in one stretch.

  • Sultanhan Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 48: Tour ends in Istanbul

The tour ends after breakfast at our hotel today.

  • Breakfast

Accommodation

As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this particular trip we will predominantly be staying in comfortable hotels but there will be two nights spent on sleeper trains in China, and two nights spent in more basic homestays/ guesthouses with shared bathroom facilities in Kyrgyzstan. Our preference is always for ‘soft sleeper’ class on the overnight trains, meaning 4 people share a compartment, but when this is unavailable ‘hard sleeper’ class will be used, where 6 people share. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability, especially in Iran where we are somewhat at the mercy of the authorities.

Transport

On this tour we will use a combination of buses, minibuses, boats, cars, domestic flights and trains.

Climate

For a 48-day trip which spans the breadth of the entire Asian continent and which travels between sea level (at Istanbul) and 3000m (at the top of the Irkishtam Pass between China and Kyrgyzstan) it is very hard to provide a general climate guide other than to say that – as per the travellers of old – you can expect a wide variety of temperatures and weather patterns. At this time of year we expect many fine sunny days with average daytime temperatures in their mid-20s (oC). However, you should also come prepared for some occasional colder nights, especially in the mountains of Turkey and Kyrgyzstan, and some hotter days in the desert regions of China and Turkmenistan.

Is this trip for me?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. Please therefore take time to read the itinerary carefully. All our tours are graded to give an overall picture of the trip but these are only guidelines and you should check the daily itinerary. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office. 

Key aspects to consider

Please note that although anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, it should not be underestimated that this is a BIG trip that, for its duration alone, will require considerable stamina and may take its toll on any inexperienced travellers. We have tried our best to pace the trip to allow for rest days and some ‘time-out’, but this is a journey of some 12,000 km with only three domestic flights so come prepared for some long days, some culture shocks and lots of red-tape, especially at border crossings. We have also chosen to increase our usual maximum group size from 12 to 16 as with longer trips, a slightly larger group size tends to work better.

With a trip of this scale requiring 4 visas in advance of travel, you will need to plan the schedule for obtaining these carefully. Your passport is likely to be unavailable for other travel for at least 2 months before departure whilst you are applying for the necessary visas.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Warning FCO Information

The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) sometimes advises against certain parts of this itinerary. Before deciding to book this trip you should first read the advice on their website - www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. You will need to sign a disclaimer to confirm you have read the advice and if you are a UK citizen, you will also need insurance that will remain valid throughout the entire trip.

One such insurance policy is Travel & General’s Wild Frontiers policy. For more information, please see the Insurance section below or contact us.

Non-UK clients should check the travel advice of their own governments as well as the small print of their insurance policy.
 

Responsible travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. 

Travel, Discover, Help

For every passenger that our local agent in Kyrgyzstan hosts, $1 per day is donated to their charitable project during your stay.
 
Travel, Discover, Help enables children from orphanages to learn more about Kyrgyzstan, by offering excursions to the countryside and events throughout the year.  
 
Additionally, they provide 40,498 days of work for locals annually and support ecological campaigns - transporting waste from glaciers and mountain gorges across this beautiful country.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.

If travelling from the finish of the tour to another European country you might also want to consider reducing your carbon footprint by travelling there by train. We are unfortunately not (yet) in a position to help you with the actual booking of the train tickets but lots of good information can be found here -www.seat61.com.

Flight Code Departing Arriving
GS 7988 London Heathrow (LHR)
22:00
Xi'an Airport (XIY)
16:00
BA 675 Istanbul (IST)
10:00
London Heathrow (LHR)
11:20

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour UK passport holders currently require visas for China*, Turkmenistan, Iran* and Turkey.

*Please note that for those resident in the UK, the Iranian and Chinese visas must be applied for in person through the relevant Consulate/Visa Application Centre.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

NB. It should also be noted that anyone with a passport showing evidence of having visited Israel within the last year (including having entered or left Jordan/Egypt from posts which are known to border Israel) are likely to be denied a visa for Iran.

Moreover, as of January 2016 US policy (subject to change) has stated that anyone wishing to travel to or via the USA is required to apply for a US visa (rather than an ESTA) if they have travelled to Iran since March 2011. The process is fairly straightforward and you can read more about it here – www.wildfrontierstravel.com/us-visa  - but this is just something you will need to aware of if you have future plans to travel to or via the USA.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Key information

Tour price

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour. For the latest prices, please refer to our website or contact the office.

Deposit

A £500 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking. In addition, due to the particular nature of this trip, an interim deposit of £1000 (or equivalent) per person will be required within 30 days of booking a guaranteed departure, or subsequently within 30 days of receiving confirmation from us that the trip has been guaranteed.

Travelling Solo & single supplement

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation, but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.

On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour except on the overnight trains in China and the two nights spent in homestays/ guesthouses in Kyrgyzstan, where it will be necessary to share with others.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

Insurance

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. If you choose to purchase the Wild Frontiers bespoke policy through Travel & General (currently available to UK residents only) then please note for this trip the minimum required level of cover will be the Elite policy. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

What's Included

Transport

All transport as required for the tour

Guides

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

Accomodation

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

Entrance Fees

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

Meals

Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary with the majority of meals being taken in local restaurants where viable

Airport transfers

Complimentary airport transfers are included for anyone arriving/departing on the suggested group flights (see GETTING THERE for details)

Carbon contribution

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act (if booking international flights through us)

What's Not Included

Visas & Travel Insurance

Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory

Tips

Always optional, but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information pack you’ll receive after booking

International Flights

Please feel free to ask us for an obligation-free quote

Beverages & any costs of a personal nature

This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

Additional information

Protection for your money

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

Responsible Travel

For more information, please refer to our responsible travel page

British foreign & Commonwealth office

As advocates of the FCO's Travel Aware campaign, we highly recommend checking out their website for lots of useful information. Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective government.

Wild Frontiers Community

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website?

Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events.

Why Wild Frontiers?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our why Wild Frontiers page to find out.

Talk to us about China

Sara

When visiting the Great Wall we recommend you visit the Mutianyu or Jinshanling section as they are much quieter than the Badaling section.

Speak to one of our team on
1 800 047 987 or use the simple online form below