Guests will drive from Lhasa through the Tibetan highlands to sacred Yamdrok Lake, hike from hillside Pabonka Monastery to the Chupsang Nunnery, ride the high-altitude train from Lhasa to Lanzhou, and enjoy an authentic Uighur meal served in a private Kashgar home. The tour starts at $5,895 and is happening September 26-October 13, 2014.
Days 1-2: Beijing
Spend a night in Beijing, then board a flight to the Tibetan Plateau.
Days 3-8: Tsetang, Lhasa, Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse, Shigatse
Spend six incredible days exploring remote corners of rural Tibet. Spend a night in Tsetang and visit the country's first monastery, its first palace and the Yarlung Valley, home of its early kings. Continue to Lhasa and experience Tibetan culture at the massive UNESCO-listed Potala Palace, where yak-butter candles flicker in front of thousands of altars. Wander Barkhor Market, where you can bargain for yak-wool boots or Tibetan fur hats trimmed with brocade. Venture into the valley where Chupsang Nunnery is hidden. Take a breathtaking drive over Khampa Pass at 15,700 feet, to Gyantse's celebrated Kumbum, stopping to enjoy the views from the shores of turquoise Yamdrok Lake, said to be a goddess incarnate. Drive to Shigatse to discover the traditional home of the Panchen Lamas, Tashilhunpo Monastery, whose gleaming golden roof can be seen flashing from afar.
Days 9-13: High-altitude railway, Lanzhou, Dunhuang
From Lhasa, board the high-altitude train down to Lanzhou, passing by Tangula Station, the world's highest railroad station. In Lanzhou, visit the Gansu Provincial Museum to admire the iconic bronze Flying Horse, perfectly balanced atop a bird. Fly to Dunhuang, founded in 111 BC, where the Mogao Buddhist Caves were created across ten centuries by Silk Road travelers, pilgrims and artists. Visit Crescent Moon Lake, bubbling up in the midst of the Taklamakan Desert sand dunes at the foot of Mingsha (Echoing Sands) Mountain, and take a short camel ride.
Days 14-18: Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar
Fly to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and drive to Turpan, a welcome oasis on the northern Silk Road. The sweet wine grapes cultivated in Turpan are irrigated with a 2,000-year-old gravity-fed system that brings water from the glaciers of the Tien Shan. Explore the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, begun in 366 AD when a Buddhist monk from India scooped out the compacted red sand of the riverbank to form the first cave. Investigate the underground tombs of Astana and the ruins of ancient Gaochang. Tour Kashgar, the 2,000-year-old fabled city that greeted Marco Polo as he entered the Middle Kingdom. Browse its Sunday animal market, where you can purchase livestock for meat, milk or transportation, and explore the remnants of Kashgar's atmospheric Old Town before a meal in a private home.
More information: http://www.mircorp.com/trip/chinas-silk-road-tibet-route-of-monks-merchants/