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BT-02 Silk Road & Tibet Explorer

URUMQI ► TURPAN ► DUNHUANG ► JIAYUGUAN ► LANZHOU ► LHASA ► GYANTSE ► SHIGATSE ► EVEREST ► KATHMANDU

17 nights from UK £ TBC per person

Price based on 2 people travelling. This price is to give guidance and final quotes vary by date, exchange rates and are subject to availability. Trip runs April to December.
Please note: This is a private tour (not a group tour). It can be tailored to your requirements and we can also book your international flights if required. An altitude of over 5,200 meters (17,000 feet) is reached on this trip. Whilst the vast majority of people experience little more than shortness of breath there is a very small risk of more severe complications such as acute mountain sickness (AMS). Note that level of fitness and age are no indication as to whether you are more susceptible or not to AMS.

Heading east along the Silk Road you will be stopping at oases, towns and cities along this legendary route – TURPAN, DUNHUANG, JIAYUGUAN and LANZHOU.

On to Tibet for stunning temple, monastery and palace architecture that can be seen in LHASA, GYANTSE & SHIGATSE before the dramatic high altitude scenery culminating in mount EVEREST before descending into the KATHMANDU valley which offers a complete change of scenery and culture.

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TRIP MAP & DESTINATIONS VISITED

BT-02 Silk Road Tibet Explorer map

DAY BY DAY TRIP ITINERARY

Day 1 - Urumqi to Turpan

Arrival in Urumqi With a Drive Through the Desert to the Oasis of Turpan

Arrival in Urumqi, the furthest city from the sea in the world, from where you will be transferred by directly the 190 km to your hotel in Turpan. This desert oasis is famous for it’s grapes, scorching summer temperatures and for being the second lowest point on earth at 154 meters below sea level. It was also an important stop on the Silk Road and it is this rich history that draws adventurous travellers today. Check-in to your hotel with free time for the rest of the day.

Meals Included: None today.

Day 2 - Turpan

Visit Ancient Gaochang, the Flaming Mountains, Thousand Buddha Caves, Karez Irrigation System & Emin Minaret

The sights of Turpan are mainly outside of the city and so we head into the desert today to explore these. We visit ancient Gaochang – a thriving city set up in the 1st century BC but abandoned in the Ming Dynasty – and the dramatic Flaming Mountains on the way to the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, the ancient dwellings of the modern day Uygur people.

Returning back towards Turpan we stop at the The Karez Irrigation System, an engineering achievement up there with Great Wall as one of China’s ancient wonders and Turpan would not exist today without its ability to collect water from the Tianshan mountains to feed this oasis. Our final stop is the Emin Minaret built in 1777 and is the largest old tower in Xinjiang built in honor of the heroic Turpan general Emin Khoja.

Return to Turpan and your hotel to overnight.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 3 - Turpan to Dunhuang

Free Morning Before a Bullet Train on to Dunhuang

A free morning in Turpan to relax or explore the town before a transfer to the station for a bullet train through the desert to Dunhuang arriving late afternoon. Dunhuang flourished during the Han and Tang dynasties and had considerable military importance as a stop on the Silk Road.

Transfer to your hotel which almost feels like a tourist sight itself. Free time to relax before tomorrow’s tour of the area.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 4 - Dunhuang

Surreal Crescent Lake & Its Towering Sand Dunes & Spectacular Mogao Caves

This morning we visit Crescent Lake, 5 km outside of the city where huge sand dunes abruptly rise from the flat desert. Nestled amongst the dunes is the small lake and a temple in this extraordinary setting.

In the afternoon visit the UNESCO recognised Mogao Caves containing a vast repository of Buddhist art which began to be accumulated here nearly 2,400 years ago and was added to over a period spanning 1,000 years. There are nearly 500 caves with murals covering 450,000 square feet although much is off limits to visitors at any one time to help preserve the paint.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 5 - Jiayuguan to Lanzhou

Day Train on to Jiayuguan Garrison Town & the Tomb of Weijin & the Hanging Great Wall on Black Mountain

After an early breakfast transfer to the station for a train to Jiayuguan. This little visited but prosperous city is the symbolic Western end of the Great Wall and so one of the defining points on the Northern Silk Road. This was where the power of Han China dissolved into what the Chinese believed were the barbarian lands to the West.

Early afternoon arrival with a tour to the small but atmospheric Tomb of Weijin and the very steep Hanging Great Wall on Black Mountain, a restored section of the 2,000 mile Great Wall system that starts at Jiayuguan and stretches to the coast east China near Beijing.

Continue to your hotel to overnight.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 6 - Jiayuguan to Lanzhou

The Vast Fort & Bullet Train on to Lanzhou

Today you have a full day tour of this fascinating area of the Northern Silk Road starting with the Ming Dynasty fort built in 1372 in what became known as the “mouth of China” or it’s Western entrance. To be cast out of the magnificent fort here into the unknown was considered a fate worse than death for corrupt officials and other criminals who would be leaving Chinese civilisation behind forever.

After the tour a transfer to the station for a bullet train to Lanzhou. Evening arrival in Lanzhou with a transfer to your hotel. Lanzhou, capital city of Gansu province, has been an important garrison town for centuries due to its position along the Silk Road as well as being located on the Yellow River, one of China’s most important waterways.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 7 - Lanzhou

The Superb Bingling Si Grottoes

Today you head out of the town to the fabulous Bingling Si, a set of buddhist caves on the Yellow River in a setting that could be right out of Indiana Jones! The caves are reached by boat making the journey as much of the experience as the caves and statues themselves. Altogether there are 183 caves, 694 stone statues, and 82 clay sculptures. Return to the city to overnight.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 8 - Lanzhou to Lhasa

Flight on to Lhasa and Your First Taste of This Extraordinary City

Free time until a transfer to the airport for your flight to Lhasa. Your guide will have your Tibet Travel Permit and plane ticket. Arrival at Lhasa’s Gonggar airport after what has, cloud cover permitting, been a spectacular flight. Your guide will be meeting you at the airport for the 1 hour drive to Lhasa.

Tibet’s capital, at a quite manageable altitude of 3,650 meters (12,000 feet) is a unique city and a real highlight or any trip. The setting, history, architecture, people and contrasts all make for a very special travel experience. Free time to relax and adjust to the altitude or start exploring the city.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast & Restaurant Lunch.

Day 9 - Lhasa

Drepung Monastery, Nechung Residence, Sacred Jokhang Temple & Kora

Today first head 5 km out of Lhasa to Drepung Monastery, the largest in Tibet located on Gambo Utse mountain. Founded in 1416, it was the principal seat of learning for the Gelugpa school and at its height was thought to contain up to 10,000 monks (now there are 300). About 10 minutes walk from Drepung is Nechung Chok which was the residence of the State Oracle of Tibet. This small monastery was also evocatively known as the ”Demon Fortress of the Oracle King.”

After lunch (own arrangement) visit the Jokhang Temple constructed in 642 AD and considered the most sacred and important temple in all Tibet. It is located at one end of Barkhor Square, a fascinating meeting point for pilgrims from all over the region making for an intense atmosphere infused with incense and devotion. Surrounding the temple is the Barkhor Kora, a 1 km circular walk for pilgrims and locals as well as a fascinating market selling all the goods a pilgrim might need on their travels.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 10 - Lhasa

The Truly Spectacular Potala Palace & Ancient Sera Monastery

Today you visit one of the architectural highlights of China – if not the world – the vast Potala Palace, former residence of Dalai Lamas. Building started in 1645 and has been added to over the centuries. It is 13 stories high and contains over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. You will see some of the meeting rooms as well as the extraordinary chapels with their vast gold and jewel encrusted shrines to previous Dalai Lamas – the chapel of the 5th Dalai Lama has a stupa coated in 3,727kg of gold and 18,680 precious stones. The Potala dominates Lhasa and the views from the palace stretch out across the city to the surrounding mountains.

Continue to Sera Monastery, spread over 28 acres at the base of Pubuchok mountain and built in 1419. The highlights are the great assembly hall and some of the colleges located within the complex with their wealth of architectural features and shrines.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 11 - Lhasa to Gyantse

Kambala Pass, Beautiful Yamdrok Lake & Norjing Gangsang Glacier

Today we journey to Gyantse, 230 km south of Lhasa. The city is soon left behind as the road winds up the 4,780 meter (15,680 foot) Kambala pass colourfully strewn with prayer flags fluttering in the wind. See spectacular views in all directions before the road descends to the beautiful 72 km long Yamdrok lake with its spectacular backdrop of snowcapped mountains. Follow the lake shore before heading back into the hills passing the Norjing Gangsang Glacier, where we can stop for photos.

Continue along the road stopping at villages and scenic spots before reaching Gyantse (3,977 meters / 13,050 feet), Tibet’s third largest city. Free time to explore and if you have the energy the walk up the Dzong (fortress) that dominates the city is recommended for both views and acclimatization.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 12 - Gyantse to Shigatse

Palcho Monastery & Kumbum & Vast Tashilhunpo Monastery & Market

This morning visit Gyantse’s main monastery, the Palcho or Pelkhor Choede in Tibetan. The sprawling monastery complex dates back to the 9th century. It is most famous for the Kumbum, a 32 meter high 9 floored shrine which contains 108 unique chapels and is the largest of its kind in Tibet.

It is a 100 km drive to Shigatse at (3,840 meters / 12,600 feet) where we visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama and has since been the traditional seat of the “Tashi” or Panchen Lama. The monastery is fascinating as is the walk around the Kora which stretches up the hillside behind the monastery offering good views of the complex and Shigatse itself. We can also visit the local market.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 13 - Shigatse to Shekar

Tashilhunpo & Sakya Monasteries Before Journeying Deeper Into Tibet

This morning we visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama and has since been the traditional seat of the “Tashi” or Panchen Lama. The monastery is fascinating as is the walk you can do around the Kora which stretches up the hillside behind the monastery offering good views of the complex and Shigatse itself.

Drive on 127 km to Sakya monastery, the seat of the Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This monastery’s architecture is very different to others in Tibet as it is Mongolian in design dating back to 1268. Continue deeper into Tibet stopping when you wish before reaching the remote town of Shekar (New Tingri). Try to get a good nights rest in preparation for Everest Base Camp tomorrow.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 14 - Shekar to Everest Base Camp

The Superb Gyawu Pass View of the High Himalayas & Drive to Everest Base Camp

Depart Shekar stopping at the Gyawu pass for a breathtaking panoramic view of the highest peaks of the Himalaya. Drive on to Rombuk Monastery, the gateway to Everest. From Rombuk the hike to Everest Base Camp (5,200m / 17,000 feet) takes 2 hours although there is often a national park bus in service if you do not want to walk. The sunset on Everest is sublime as well as the mountain under a star or moonlit night – pray to the mountain Gods for no clouds! Rough and ready high altitude night at either Rombuk Monastery or up at Base Camp itself where there is seasonal tented accommodation run by local nomads (approximately May to October).

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 15 - Everest Base Camp to Kyirong

Sunrise at Everest Base Camp & the Amazing Drive on to the Border

Despite the inevitable cold it is well worth trying to get up just before dawn to catch the sunrise on Everest. The morning is spent exploring the area around camp before driving on late morning to Kyirong the last town on the Tibetan side of the border. On the way, you can spot the breathtaking Mt. Shishapangma and Pekutso Lake. After passing Ghungtang Lhamo (5236m), we will finally arrive in Kyirong in late afternoon.

The scenery rapidly changes as the altitude decreases, greening up and becoming lush and by the time the border town, perched on the steep mountainside, is reached. The world looks a very different place to what it did this morning as you prepare for your last night in Tibet.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 16 - Kyirong to Kathmandu

Entering Nepal, the Lush Kathmandu Valley & Change of Culture

After breakfast drive the 25km to the actual border and say goodbye to your Tibetan driver and guide. Pass through China immigration and walk across the short stretch of no mans land to Nepalese immigration in the town of Rasuwagadhi where your driver will be waiting for you. If you need to obtain a Nepal visa now is the time to do that. The 130 km 5 to 6 hour drive down to Kathmandu is initially through stunning lush mountain scenery which steadily becomes more tropical and couldn’t be further removed from the dry Tibetan Plateau.

Far more India than China, Kathmandu makes Chinese cities look exceptionally well ordered! Life appears frantic and chaotic here. Long a travellers mecca for Himalayan trekking, Kathmandu has mastered the art of providing creature comforts to the weary traveller. The city is culturally rich and beyond it the rest of Nepal and the sub-continent awaits! Your driver will drop you at the hotel in Kathmandu with the rest of the day free.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 17 - Kathmandu

Highlights of Kathmandu Including Durbar Square, Boudhanath & Pashupatinath

Today we cover the highlights of the capital starting with the central Durbar Square, Hanuman Dhoka with its many old palaces, temples and pagodas. Continue to the Temple of Living Goddess “Kumari”, and the Kasthamandap Temple, believed to be constructed from the wood of a single tree and from which the city derives its name. On to the huge in size and importance Buddhist Boudhanath Stupa before finishing at the Hindu Pashupatinath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and located on the bank of the holy Bagmati River. Return to your hotel with a free evening perhaps relaxing int he cafes and restaurants of popular Thamel district.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

Day 18 - Depart Kathmandu

Free Time to Explore the Sights of Kathmandu Before Onward Travel

Free time in Kathmandu until a transfer to the airport for your flight out of Nepal. If you prefer to stay longer in Nepal we can book additional hotel nights for you as well as some short tours around the Kathmandu Valley or longer excursions through the country – click here for more options.

Meals Included: Hotel Breakfast.

HAND-PICKED ACCOMMODATION FOR THIS TRIP

The hotels & accommodation used for this trip are from our hand picked selection and all are excellent for their class. We also offer upgraded hotels in most locations. Click here to explore additional hotel options and let us know of any changes you wish to make.

TOUR INCLUSIONS & EXCLUSIONS

What is included?

Transport between destinations as described.

All accommodation as specified under the accommodation tab

All private transfers and any other transportation as described

All meals as specified in the itinerary

All tours as specified in the itinerary

All entrance fees to sights toured in the itinerary

24 hour emergency assistance

Tibet Travel Permit needed to travel in this province

Back up oxygen cylinder outside of Lhasa in case of altitude issues (extremely rare this ever needs to be used!)

Visa Paperwork required in order to obtain the visas

Financial Peace of Mind as your trip is protected

What is not included?

International Airfare to / from the start / finish of your trip – we can book these flights on request

The Chinese visa – we can advise and partner with VisaCentral

Travel insurance to cover any medical treatment – we recommend Citybond Suretravel (UK residents only)

Discretionary gratuities to drivers and guides

Laundry and bar bills, photographic charges in some monasteries, additional costs due to unforeseen expenses that may arise due to the factors beyond our control like personal illness, weather, landslides, etc…

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