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The Silk Road was the ancient trading route from Xi'an westwards to Persia and beyond. For centuries it was a vital link between China and the West, and great cities flourished and declined along its route. Today their remains lie among the many different peoples who inhabit this far western region of China.
Today depart London Heathrow or your regional airport for your flight to Beijing.
Arrive in Beijing. Met on arrival and transfer to your hotel. Rest of the day free.
Today join a seat-in-coach day tour to see Tiananmen Square followed by the Forbidden City - the huge palace complex that was the home of China's emperors for five centuries. After lunch visit the Temple of Heaven and the beautiful Summer Palace (B, L)
After breakfast join a seat-in-coach tour to the famous Great Wall at Badaling and the tombs of the Ming emperors. (B, L)
In the morning catch the high-speed train to Xi'an (about 5- to 6-hour journey). You will be met by your local guide and then travel with them on the metro to your hotel. In the afternoon take a walking tour along Xi'an's impressive city wall, built in medieval times. Then enjoy leisure time in the narrow streets of the atmospheric Muslim Quarter. (B, L)
Full day seat-in-coach tour to the famous Terracotta Army, the life-size clay warriors created for the tomb of China's first emperor and today one of the wonders of the world. (B, L)
After breakfast, take the metro, accompanied by your guide, to the railway station for the high-speed train to Zhangye (about 6 hour journey). On arrival you will be greeted by a guide and taken to your hotel. (B)
After breakfast join your local guide and car and driver to visit the Mati Temple (Horse Hoof Temple). The first caves of the Mati Temple were dug out of the cliffs over 1,600 years ago. Most were made into temple grottoes such as those of the North Matisi cliffs. Then continue to the Danxia Geological National Park. Here different coloured layers of sandstone, and the effects of erosion, have created a dramatic and beautiful landscape. Drive onward to Jiayuguan and overnight at hotel. (B, L)
Today visit the famous Jiayuguan Pass - the western end of the Great Wall. Here, with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains, a magnificent fortress marked the end of Ming Dynasty China and the wilderness beyond it. Drive to Dunhuang in the afternoon. (B, L)
Today your guide will accompany you on a visit to the Mogao Caves, one of the great treasure houses of Chinese art. The walls of the caves, created over many centuries, are lined with Buddhist frescoes and sculptures, said to be the finest Buddhist art in the world. Also visit the natural wonders of the Crescent-shaped Lake and the Singing Sand dunes. (B, L)
In the morning visit the Dunhuang Museum, which houses the relics excavated from the Dunhuang area. These reflect the flourishing development that existed along the trading route in ancient times. After lunch, transfer to railway station for high-speed train to Turpan (about 3- to 4-hour journey). Check-in to hotel. (B, L)
Today tour some of the many historical sites around Turpan, starting with the ruined city of Gaochang, once a large and lively centre on the Silk Road, and the Astana Graves where the city's elite were buried. Then visit the Flaming Mountains, that appear red in the setting sun, and the Bezelik Caves, another system of Buddhist grottoes. (B, L)
Visit the Emin Minaret, one of the landmarks of Turpan, and the ingenious Karez underground irrigation system, before travelling onward to Urumqi by road in the late afternoon (B, L)
From Urumqi, the capital of the western Xingiang region, travel about one and a half hours out of the city to Heaven Lake - a vivid blue lake set among the high slopes of pine forests and alpine meadows some 2000 metres above sea level, and settled by Kazak nomads. Return to the city to visit the Regional Museum and the exotic Uighur bazaar. (B, L)
Transfer to airport for flight to Beijing for your connection to flight to UK, arriving the following morning (B)
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