The 19 day tour departs from South Africa on 27 April 2005 and flies to Hong Kong where one night will be spent en route to Xi’an, terminus of the Silk Road. In this ancient city the group will experience the thrill and awe of seeing the individually sculpted faces of thousands of life-sized terracotta warriors. This army, buried with the first emperor for two millennia, including numerous horses and chariots was accidentally discovered by farmers in 1974.
From Xi’An he tour proceeds to Lanzhou on the banks of the Yellow River. Here long caravans of Bactrian camels were assembled and loaded with costly silks and heavy brocade centuries ago. A spectacular drive through the mountains of the West River Corridor leads to Xiahe where the Labrang Monastery will be visited. The whole complex, consists of many temples boasting a rich collection of Buddhist sutras, statues, murals and other relics.
Our itinerary returns to Lanzhou for the night and continues to Jiayuguan, west end of the Great Wall, western outpost of the Ming Empire.
The tour then travels by road through the Gobi Desert to Dunhuang from where the ancient Silk Road forked out into north and south roads. A day will be spent visiting the Mogao Grottos, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dunhuang is recognized as having one of the largest Buddhist art collections in the world with frescoes, murals, clay figures and carvings that date from the 4th to the 14th century.
In Dunhuang, the group will board a train to travel through the desert to Turpan, an oasis surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the great Takalamakan Desert. Here we’ll visit the ruins of Gachan and Bezelik, old Silk Road outposts that are now partially buried in sand as well as the underground tombs of the ancient Turkic civilization.
The tour then flies to Kashgar, the fabled oasis on the Silk Road that still retains its exotic Eastern feel. Once an important administrative center in the Far West, the town saw a busy flow of merchants and trade caravans traveling on the road in old times. Today thousands of local nationalities as well as merchants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan gather in the bustling bazaars to ply their trade.
A three hour drive takes the group from Kasher along the Karakorum Highway towards the Sino-Pakistani border to Karakuli Lake where one night will be spent enjoying the magnificent ice mountain and lake scenery.
From Karakuli Lake, its back to Kashgar and a flight on to Urumqi for two nights to include a full day excursion to Heavenly Lake.
Two nights in Beijing wraps up this amazing tour before the return flight to South Africa on 14 May arriving in Johannesburg on 15 May.