Since opening up to travellers, China and its northwestern neighbours don’t seem quite as out-there a destination to some people – but they’re clearly not looking in the right places. This comprehensive 26-day journey from Beijing to Tashkent is one of those experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. Picking up in the Chinese capital, you’ll visit the Uyghur province of Xinjiang, learning about the food, culture and history of this minority group. Then, we’ll leave China behind and venture into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to retrace part of the route that helped build empires: The Silk Road. From stunning snow-capped mountains to arid deserts, experience a side of Asia you’d never be able to manage on your own in a way that you’ll barely believe is real.
Highlights: Wander along the Great Wall, stare down the Terracotta Warriors, ride a camel through sand dunes, bargain at Kashgar's Sunday bazaar, stay in yurt with a Kyrgyz family, marvel at the sights in Bukhara and Samarkand.
The Silk Road of China (ACSR)
Geographically and culturally, Northwest China is about as far away from “traditional China” as you can get without crossing the border. The source of the Silk Road—the ancient trade route that helped create the modern world—is unlike anything you’ll find in Beijing or Xi'an, and this 17-day adventure takes you deep into the China few ever see. Otherworldly experiences abound: watch the sun rise over the dunes outside Dunhuang, explore the world of the Muslim Uyghurs, spend the night in traditional yurts near Urumqi, and venture into the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar. There’s more, of course, but we’ve got to keep a few secrets, right?
Highlights: Walk along two sections of the Great Wall, stare down the Terracotta Warriors, ride a camel through sand dunes, learn about the Uyghur culture, stay in a traditional Kazakh yurt, bargain at Kashgar's Sunday bazaar
To truly understand China, you’ve got to get out and meet it on its own terms, which is exactly what this 12-day trip through the country’s northern reaches delivers. Up here, you’ll get to the big stuff (the Great Wall, Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, Beijing) and lesser-known treasures that only the hardiest of travellers ever get to see: village life in Inner Mongolia, the amazing Yungang Buddhist Caves and the nearly 3,000-year-old city of Pingyao, to name just a few. North China: No tourists allowed!
Highlights: Envision ancient times at the Great Wall of China, live like a local in an Inner Mongolian ger, marvel at the Hanging Monastery of Datong, stare down the Terracotta Warriors, learn traditional Chinese painting in Pingyao