Follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo to discover the history of the Silk Road. This is the collective name given to a number of trade routes linking the Chinese and Roman Empire. The long and winding Silk Road in north-west China has a history of more than two thousand years. This ancient route starts from the old capitals of Xian and reaches the Yellow River at Lanzhou, then follows along the “Gansu Corridor” and stretches along the edge of deserts and mountains. The popular attractions are summarised below:
The capital city of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the name means “beautiful pastures” in Mongolian, for over 2,000 years the area surrounding Urumqi has been lush pastures populated by minorities who herded sheep and cattle. The popular sights are: Heavenly Lake, Xinjiang Regional Museum, Grand Bazaar and the Tatar Mosque
With 70% of the population being Uighurs they make a concerted effort to make visitors feel welcome. The city is synonymous with grapes and wine – one of their most famous products, made possible by a clever underground irrigation canal system that was built 2,000 years ago that transfers water from the glaciers. Popular sights in and around Turpan include: Jiao He Ruins, ruins of an ancient city – Flaming Mountain , 100km long mountain range of red sandstone whch glows red during the sunset – Emin Minaret, a large tower by the Uyghur Mosque.
Capital city of Gansu province in north western China serves as the regions telecoms, transport and tourism hub for the Silk Road. Lanzhou was a historical meeting point between China and the Western world, with mountains to the north and south, the Yellow River running through the city provides some beautiful scenery. Parks in the city include the White Pagoda Temple, which give you an insight into the cultural side of the city. The Bingling Caves (translates as ten thousand Buddha’s in Tibetan) are a major attraction.
About 52km outside of Dunhuang lie one of the largest and best preserved relics of the Buddhist world – the Mogao Grottoes – or Cave of 1,000 Buddha’s. Tang Dynasty inscriptions suggest construction commenced in 366 AD and for the next 1,000 years the task of carving out caves and Buddhist sculptures has lead to a network of over 700 caves.
Was known as “the Pearl of the Ancient Silk Road” the city enjoys a long history and a splendid culture, there are various kinds of cultural relics scattered in and around Kashgar. The Sunday Market is a unique experience, bustling and lively with vendors and sellers pouring over products ranging from locally made Xinjiang goods, handicrafts, food and vegetables.
Nestled in a valley amongst lush mountains lies the town of Xiehe which will give you a taste of traditional Tibetan village life. The most significant religious structure is the Labrang Monastery, home to the largest number of monks outside of Tibet, geographically centred at the apex of four key Asian cultures – Mongolian, Tibetan, Han Chinese and Chinese Muslim. Once housing 3,600 monks, today’s figure is closer to 1,200. This area is politically sensitive and is often closed to tourists.