The Silk Road, a massive ancient trade route whose very name evokes images of camel and donkey trains, exotic spices, lustrous silks and other faraway goods traveling across Asia to Europe. The Silk Road refers to both the winding land route that connected East to West, as well as the prominent sailing route.
Starting in China and winding through Asia to an end-point in the ancient Roman empire, this mercantile lifeline played an important role in developing distant countries such as India, China, Japan, Iran and more. Along with lacquerware, porcelain, sandalwood, frankincense and pistachios from these countries, political ideas and religions were also spread between empires. These options for the best silk road trips will take you through the cities that lay at the heart of the trade route, you can imagine the exotic locales, harrowing journeys and lone traders that played a part in developing the modern world.
The Great Silk Road Adventure
If you want to experience the Silk Road in all its glory, Wild Frontiers offers an epic trip covering the entire length of the overland route, from its traditional starting point of Xian in China to the Western end of Istanbul in Turkey, from where goods would be sold in the city's bazaars or loaded up onto ships and transported to those other great traders, the kingdoms of Venice or Genoa. You need time, as this trip is a mammoth 48 days long, but if you want to gain a full insight into the Silk Road there's no better way, taking in 6 countries and 15 UNESCO sites.
Begin in Xian, exploring the city's famous walls and Terracotta Warriors, before trekking across the country's forbidding Taklamakan Desert, stopping to see oasis towns and Buddhist caves along the way. Stop off at the great market town of Kashgar, once of the most important centres on the Silk Road where three key branches met. Cross into Kyrgyzstan and the town of Osh before heading into Uzbekistan for a tour of the country's great Silk Road cities - Samarkand and Bukhara.
From Uzbekistan cross into Turkmenistan and the UNESCO site of Merv, which Genghis Khan razed to the ground annihilating 1 million people. Head into Iran, which has probably the most hospitable people you will meet anywhere in the world. In Iran, marvel at the intricate Islamic architecture of Isfahan and Shiraz before browsing the world's largest indoor market in Tabriz. Discover some of the wonderful ruins of southern Turkey before finishing in the city of Istanbul.
Silk Road Odyssey
On this epic 23-day journey from Wild Frontiers, you will traverse Central Asia just like ancient traders of old did. One of the incredible parts about this lengthened tour is that it sticks to the Old Silk Road as much as possible, even though country borders and territories have changed. At the beginning of your journey, you’ll travel to the glacial Son Kul lake and have an opportunity to ride horseback or explore on foot at your leisure. The nomads are always happy to spend time with you as well, offering you the rare opportunity to be immersed completely in the experience of the Silk Road. On your way through China in the ancient city of Kashgar, you’ll see the markets and towns exactly as they were hundreds of years ago.
This journey will take you through Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, through mountain passes, lively bazaars and terrain rich with history and culture. Time will seem suspended as you take the fabled odyssey of the old Silk Road trade route.
Tehran to Tashkent: The Great Silk Road
This 17-day tour of a portion of the Silk Road is an extended version of tours highlighted above through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In addition to exploring the exotic gems along this part of the old Silk Road route, you’ll explore the portion that wound through ancient Persia (Iran today). Your journey will begin in the capital of Tehran and move on to Isfahan, considered the most beautiful city in Iran. You’ll spend plenty of time admiring the Iranian architecture, the Royal Square and the pristine mosques, cathedrals and palaces of the city.
As you travel through the windswept ruins of Persepolis on your journey along the Silk Road, you’ll admire the ancient tombs, mausoleums and mosques of famed Iran poets and leaders. The Silk Road journey will then take you to Turkmenistan highlights in the famed cities of Ashgabat, Merv and Konye Urgench. You’ll continue north to the ancient city of Kiva in Uzbekistan before finishing your tour in the lively streets of the capital, Tashkent.
Tehran to Tashkent - The Great Silk Road
Uzbek & Turkmen: Cities of the Silk Road
A slightly shorter trip through some of the most important landmarks of the old Silk Road, this full-service tour takes 14 days. You will begin your journey in Uzbekistan, where you will experience the ancient cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Shakhrisabz. In Samarkand, you will visit the Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Tamerlane’s Tomb. A daring crossing of the river Oxus will take your group into Turkmenistan and onto Merv. Although much of the ancient city was flattened by the Mongols, it was one of the famed emporiums of the Silk Road.
Along this journey, you will also visit the Darvaza gas crater, which consistently ranks on world lists of “100 Places to See Before You Die.” A camping trip in the desert near the gas crater will make for a truly unforgettable experience.
The Chinese Silk Road
This 14-day journey focuses on the portion of the old Silk Road route within China. The tour will begin and end in Beijing, stretching to the far point of Kashgar before returning on a southern leg of the fabled trade route. Along the journey, you will be immersed in hundreds of years of rich Chinese history, walking along the Great Wall and touring the Forbidden City. You’ll see the famed 8,000 terracotta warriors that guard the tomb of the first Qin Emperor.
In Dunhuang, you’ll admire the Buddhist art in the Thousand Buddha Caves carved into the cliffs before embarking on camel rides through the sand dunes, punctuated by oasis cities. In Kashgar, you’ll haggle for silks, knives, furs, camels and more in the famous Sunday Market. This journey through China is an homage to the beginning of the Silk Road and the expansive history of one of the oldest civilizations on Earth.
Heart of the Silk Road
The shortest of the sumptuous Silk Road journeys offered by Wild Frontiers, Heart of the Silk Road encompasses 11 days and countless Silk Road sights between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The tour focuses on the rich legacies of the Road as well as Tamerlane, the Parthians and the Seljuks.You will experience Samarkand, Ashgabat (the City of Love), Merv and Bukhara. These cities once reigned over the Silk Road, laying at the heart of the world trading route.
Your journey will begin in Tashkent, where you will tour mosques, minarets and the bustling bazaars of the city. During your visit, you will tour the medieval city of Khiva in Uzbekistan, exploring mosques, palaces and harems. You will also encounter Bukhara, Shakhrisabz and Samarkand. In Turkmenistan, you will pace the marbled streets of Ashgabat and view Knye Urgench. Knye Urgench also happens to be home to the Kutlug Emir Minaret. This is the tallest minaret in Central Asia! This full-tour will house you in exotic hotels, converted madrassahs and more.