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The Great Silk Road Adventure: Xi'an to Istanbul - Map & Itinerary

Tour starts in Xi'an (China)

Day 1

Our epic trip begins in Xi'an, an ancient city famed for being the starting point of the Silk Road.

Xi'an

Day 2

This morning we'll visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda as well the old town. The afternoon has been left free to allow time for personal exploration of this endlessly fascinating city.

Xi'an - Lanzhou

Day 3

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 - which we'll do today before boarding our overnight sleeper train westwards.

Lanzhou - Xiahe

Day 4

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 to Xiahe set in the culturally rich landscapes of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

Xiahe

Day 5

We'll spend the morning exploring the famous Labrang Tibetan Buddhist Monastery - one of the six great monasteries belonging to the Geluk (Yellow Hat) school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Xiahe - Lanzhou - Jiayuguan

Day 6

Returning to Lanzhou today, we'll 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.

Jiayuguan

Day 7

After some time to relax, we'll drive this afternoon to visit the Overhanging Wall for a walk and also visit Jiayuguan Fort, one of the quintessential images of western China, built in 1372.

Jiayuguan - Dunhuang

Day 8

This morning we'll visit the Wei-Jin tombs that date back to 220-420 AD before continuing by road to Dunhuang, once an important staging point and the last stop for the camel caravans before the gruelling journey through the desert

Dunhuang

Day 9

We'll visit the Mogao Grottoes today, one of the world's richest treasure troves of Buddhist manuscripts, wall paintings and statues known as the Thousand Buddha Caves. We then head to the singing sand dunes of Crescent Moon Lake for sunset.

Dunhuang - Turpan

Day 10

After a relaxed morning we drive to Liuyuan to catch a train on to Turpan, one of the lowest places on earth.

Turpan - Urumqi

Day 11

Turpan's large oasis produces the best grapes in China. Today we'll visit the fascinating ghost city of Jiaohe and the 18th century Emin Minaret built in Afghani style before driving on to Urumqi, Xinjiang’s bustling capital.

Urumqi - Kashgar

Day 12

After a visit to see the 'mummies' of Xinjiang's regional museum we'll take a flight over the imposing Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar.

Kashgar

Day 13

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.

Kashgar - Sary Tash (Kyrgyzstan)

Day 14

An early start sees us drive out of Kashgar due west along the main artery of the Old Silk Road to the Irkishtam Pass, crossing into Kyrgyzstan. This is a stunning drive through an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Sary Tash - Osh

Day 15

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 3000 years old.

Osh - Kokand (Uzbekistan)

Day 16

We cross the border into Uzbekistan today and head to Kokand. Stopping in Margilon en route, we hope to see the entire silk-weaving process from cocoon to end product.

Kokand - Tashkent

Day 17

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 Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent.

Tashkent - Samarkand

Day 18

A fast train this morning takes us to Samarkand, one of the finest cities of the Silk Road and undoubtedly a tour highlight.

Samarkand

Day 19

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 see the Registan at sunset.

Samarkand - Bukhara

Day 20

After breakfast we'll drive along the "Royal Road" to Bukhara. We aim to arrive early afternoon to allow free time in this atmospheric town.

Bukhara

Day 21

This morning we visit the famous Arc. 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.

Bukhara - Mary (Turkmenistan)

Day 22

An early start today takes us across the ancient Oxus River which forms the border with Turkmenistan. After border formalities we'll proceed to Mary.

Mary

Day 23

Near to Mary lie the extensive ruins of Merv, one of the most important cities on the Silk Road where Genghis Khan is said to have put a million people to the sword.

Mary - Ashgabat

Day 24

Today we'll fly west to Turkmenistan's eclectic capital, surely one of the most bizarre places in Central Asia.

Ashgabat

Day 25

We'll have the whole day to explore Ashgabat and its surrounding area including a visit to see the famous Heavenly Horses of the Turkmen steppe.

Ashgabat - Mashhad (Iran)

Day 26

This morning we will leave Turkmenistan behind us as we drive to the Iranian border and continue to the holy city of Mashhad - the Place of Martyrdom.

Mashhad - Shiraz

Day 27

Today we visit the impressive Imam Reza shrine, whose golden domes and towering minarets present one of the most remarkable monuments anywhere in the Muslim world. We then take an afternoon flight to Shiraz.

Shiraz

Day 28

A walking tour of the city today includes a visit to the imposing Arg-e Karim Khan fortress, as well as the bazaar. We'll also see some of the famous gardens before finishing at the tomb of the great Persian poet Hafez

Shiraz - Persepolis - Shiraz

Day 29

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.

Shiraz - Isfahan

Day 30

This morning we visit Pasargadae with its six-tiered tomb of Cyrus the Great, before driving on to the fascinating city of Isfahan, the former Safavid Capital and our base for the next 3 nights.

Isfahan

Day 31

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.

Isfahan

Day 32

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.

Isfahan - Tehran

Day 33

Driving via Kashan today we'll visit the Royal Gardens of Fin and one of the restored merchant houses before reaching Tehran, where we spend the night.

Tehran

Day 34

Today we'll take a tour of the Iranian capital which will include the Golestan Palace, the Carpet Museum and the breath-taking Crown Jewels.

Tehran - Tabriz

Day 35

After our morning flight, we'll explore Tabriz today - home to the Blue Mosque, constructed in 1465, and a UNESCO covered bazaar which stretches over 7km!

Tabriz - Dogubeyzit (Turkey)

Day 36

Today, is our final international crossing of the trip. We head for the small town of Dogubeyzit, situated on the plain at the foot of Mt Ararat where we'll visit the Ishak Pasha Palace.

Dogubeyzit - Kars

Day 37

We'll have most of the day to visit at leisure another one of the tour's definite highlights - the ruined ancient city of Ani, which was the Armenian capital in the 10th century.

Kars - Erzerum

Day 38

We will head west to Erzerum, Turkey's highest city at 1920m, which occupies a key strategic location and is home to some striking medieval Islamic buildings.

Erzerum - Kemaliye

Day 39

After some time this morning to explore Erzerum further, we'll then follow the Euphrates River as far as the town of Kemaliye, which is known for its historic architecture, including many Ottoman-era houses.

Kemaliye - Divrigi - Sivas

Day 40

From Kemaliye we'll head to the town of Divrigi which is home to one of the finest examples of Seljuk mosque architecture in Anatolia. In the afternoon we'll head north-west to the old Seljuk capital of Sivas.

Sivas - Cappadocia (Avanos)

Day 41

We'll have the whole morning to enjoy this historical city before moving on to Cappadocia region, where we spend the next 3 nights in Avanos.

Cappadocia

Day 42

Today we'll visit some of the highlights of this region including the Göreme Open Air Museum, Kaymakli underground city and Uchisar Fortress, as well as taking a walk through the 'fairy chimneys'.

Cappadocia

Day 43

On our second day we'll head to the lesser known Soganli Valley to enjoy a 2-hour walk to visit several painted churches. We'll also visit some of the unspoiled villages before returning to Avanos to visit the famous potteries.

Avanos - Konya - Ankara

Day 44

Today we drive across the plain of Konya stopping to visit Sultanhani Caravanserai and the Mevlana Museum in Konya. We complete our journey to Ankara by train.

Ankara

Day 45

Turkey's modern day capital, Ankara, is home to two of the country's most essential sights - the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations and the Mausoleum of Ataturk.

Ankara - Istanbul

Day 46

The last stage of our epic journey takes us by high-speed train towards Turkey's cultural capital, Istanbul, formerly Constantinople.

Istanbul

Day 47

We'll spend the morning exploring Sultanhamet, Istanbul's historic centre. Here we'll see the Aya Sophia, Blue Mosque and Hippodrome. The afternoon is free to explore at your leisure.

Tour ends in Istanbul

Day 48

The tour ends after breakfast.