Retrace the path of ancient traders and adventurers on this comprehensive overland journey across Western China. Experience the legendary Kashgar Sunday Animal Market, where merchants sell everything from ducks to sheep. Make your way east to visit Turpan’s lush Grape Valley, watered by a 2,000-year-old irrigation system, and Dunhuang’s UNESCO-listed Mogao Caves, frescoed and carved with a thousand images of the Buddha. Ride the high-altitude train from Xining to Tibet, and explore the Tibetan Plateau on a splendid route that embraces the sacred cities of Gyantse and Shigatse, as well as Lhasa, “City of the Sun.”
Days 1-5: Kashgar, Turpan
Begin in 2,000-year-old Kashgar, the fabled city that greeted Marco Polo as he entered the Middle Kingdom. Browse its Sunday Animal Market, where locals purchase livestock for meat, milk, or transportation. Board an overnight train 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. Explore the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, begun in 366 AD, and investigate the underground tombs of Astana.
Days 6-8: Train to Liu Yuan, Dunhuang
Depart by fast day train to the city of Liu Yuan, the gateway to Dunhuang, where the Mogao Buddhist Caves were created. Marvel at the incredible frescoes and painted statues of this UNESCO-listed wonder, and take a short camel ride at the foot of Echoing Sands Mountain.
Days 9-11: Xining, High-altitude railway
Catch the train to Xining, located high on the Tibetan Plateau in remote Qinghai Province. Admire the brilliant blues, golds and reds of Ta'er Monastery, and browse the grand Tibetan Medicine and Culture Museum with its fascinating collection of artifacts and information about ancient Tibet. Board the high-altitude train to Lhasa, passing by the world’s highest railroad station, Tangula.
Days 12-18: Lhasa, Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse, Shigatse
Spend a night in Lhasa before continuing to Gyantse’s celebrated Kumbum Stupa and turquoise Yamdrok Lake, said to be a goddess incarnate. In Shigatse, discover gold-roofed Tashilhunpo Monastery, founded by the first Dalai Lama in 1447. Back in Lhasa, visit the massive UNESCO-listed Potala Palace, rising in splendor above the city, and Jokhang Temple, Tibet's most sacred site. Wander Barkhor Market, bargaining for yak-wool boots or Tibetan fur hats. Venture into the valley where Chupsang Nunnery is hidden, then celebrate the journey's end with a festive farewell dinner in Lhasa.
This 18-day tour is scheduled for October 11-28, 2019. Prices start at $6,795 per person. For more information, visit https://www.mircorp.com/trip/chinas-silk-road-tibet-route-of-monks-merchants/ or call 800-424-7289.