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How to Plan a Silk Road Trip

The Silk Road was a famous trading route that stretches over 4000 kilometers in China. With a history of over 2000 years, it continuously beckons travelers from the East or the West with its splendid historical treasures, colorful minority cultures as well as magnificent landscape.

Here some practical tips about best travel time, top-visited cities, food, accommodation and more haven been sorted out to make your Silk Road travel more comfortable, enjoyable and hassle-free.

Silk Road
When to Go

The Silk Road route runs through the hinterland of Northwestern China, which mostly features a typical arid climate with a dry, windy spring, a scorching summer season and a cold winter. In general, the best time to go is from May to October.

Specifically, late spring (May) and autumn ( September to October ) are the most comfortable seasons of the year to taking a Silk Road tour, with a favorable temperature of 15 degree ideal for outings to enjoy beautiful landscape and historical treasures.

Summer (June, July and August) is baking hot in desert areas, but also a popular travel season, as you will be rewarded with lots of delicious fruits and enchanting grassland scenery dotted by blossoming flowers.

It’s worth carefully checking the weather along Silk Road for preparing yourself before the journey.

Top Cities to Visit

The Silk Road is adorned with a plethora of splendid cities. The following pickups, which span over three provinces (Shaanxi, Gansu and Xinjiang), are most representative and included in our Silk Road tours, with marvelous grottoes, ancient ruins, passes, temples and architectures providing you insights into the glory of this ancient trade route.

a. Xian

The city of Xian was the starting point of the Silk Road. Serving the capital of 13 ancient dynasties for over 1100 years, it holds fascination for history buff with over 700 historical relics, famously the Terracotta Army with thousands of life-size terracotta soldiers dating back to over 2000 years ago. In its rectangle-shaped old city, ancient architectures are well preserved, like the iconic Bell & Drum Tower, Ancient City Wall and Small Wild Goose Pagoda. Xian Museum also cannot be missed for discovering the city’s glamorous, splendid past.

Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army

b. Gansu Section

Gansu section on the Silk Road connects cities like Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Jiayyuguan, Zhangye, etc., which are blessed with numerous historical relics and distinctive cultures for admiring.

Dunhuang: Mogao Caves is a brilliant treasure trove of Buddhist art, which draws an astonishing band of visitors to visit this ancient trading city. You also can enjoy the rare Gobi desert landscape at Crescent Lake and Echoing Sand Dunes, along with fun adventures like camel riding.

Jiayuguan: The city got its name from Jiayuguan Pass, an important military fortress on the ancient Silk Road and also the western end of the Ming Great Wall. The other draw is the Overhanging Great Wall noted for being built on a 45-degree ridge.

Mogao Caves
Mogao Caves

Zhangye: It is well-known across the world for its Rainbow Mountain in Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park. As an old city, there are many Buddhist temples that preserve; the most famous one is Mati Temple Grottoes.

c. Xinjiang Section

The ancient Silk Road has left the richest historical treasures in Xinjiang. Colorful ethnic minorities, including Uyghur, Hui and Kazak nationality, add hordes of exotic charm with their colorful cultures.

Turpan: Besides famous Flaming Hill and delicious grapes, Turpan have myriad historical relics for exploration, such as Jiaohe Ruins, Gaochang Ruins and Baizikelik Thousand Buddha Caves. Karez Well, an ancient irritation system, impresses you with Xinjiang people’s wisdom.

Kashgar: An important city on the Silk Road, the Old Town retaining Urgur-style architectures and folk customs is its top attraction, followed by Id Kah Mosque, Abakh Hoja Tomb and Karakul Lake. The bustling Sunday Market is the ideal place to hunt for local goods and souvenirs.

Jiaohe Ruins
Jiaohe Ruins

And there are more great Silk Road cities to discover over the once-in-a-lifetime trip.

How to Choose a Silk Road Route
Silk Road Route

The Silk Road connects a series of historical cities and towns running from Xian, through Gansu and further into Xinjiang. While choosing a route, time schedule and travel interest are the most important considerations, along with some concern about inter-city transportation. For example, Xian, Dunhuang and Urumqi with convenient transport are usually the arrive-in city from which travelers embark their meaningful trip.

A collection of Silk Road tour packages has been designed with a careful consideration of above factors. Tours varying from 4 to 16 days incorporate two or more iconic Silk Road cities, offering a diverse range of options to cater to your needs.

4 Days - Glimpse of Silk Road from Dunhuang to Jiayuguan
7 Days - Treasures of the Silk Road
13 Days - Silk Road Adventure

If you have more time and budget, it’s also a wonderful choice to combine Silk Road with other popular Chinese cities like Beijing, Xian and Shanghai for an in-depth exploration of China.

12 Days - Best China with Silk Road Exploration
16 Days - Relaxing Yangtze & Mysterious Silk Road

For more inspirations, you can refer to our Silk Road tour, or contact us to tailor make your own trip.

How to Get around along Silk Road

With the booming of Silk Road tourism, transport along the Silk Road including air, train and bus is fairly developed, which makes traveling on the ancient trade route quite easy, convenient and safe. Despite lots of airports and rail stations, long distance bus (or chartered car) is still the most popular means of transport on the Silk Road, as the complete highway system makes sparsely scattered attractions in Xinjiang and Gansu easily accessible.

Road Trip

Besides, travelers will have the opportunity to admire beautiful natural scenery like idyllic countrysides, scenic oasis towns and rugged desert landscape along the road trip.

  • Yangrou Paomo
  • Lanzhou Beef Noodles
  • Xinjiang Kebabs

The Silk Road, traversing the gigantic regions of Northwestern China, offers various delicious food to please traveler’s stomach, such as famous Xian snacks, Lanzhou noodles as well as Xinjiang food blending Middle Eastern and Central Asian flavors. (read more about food on the Silk Road)

Xinjiang, long famed as “home to fruits”, is a fantastic place to taste delicious sweet melons, grapes, apricots, figs, apples, peaches, etc.

Things to know: In this part of China mainly inhabited by Muslim, most dishes are made of beef and mutton and heavily flavored; wheat products are locals' staple food. If you are not accustomed to the flavor, it’s adoptable to prepare some snacks in advance. Or in large cities like Xian, Lanzhou and Urumqi, you can choose from diverse Chinese regional food or nice western fare.


Accommodation along the Silk Road varies greatly between different regions.

In most cities like Xian, Dunhuang, Urumqi, Kashgar and Turpan, you can find a wide range of accommodation options to suit your budget and preference. High-end star hotels, which are featured in all our Silk Road tours, are the top choice for modern comfort, convenience and superb service; nicely decorated guesthouses provide a good chance to mingle with locals and experience their culture; hostels with clean rooms and average amenities are great budget-friendly picks.

Venturing further and deep into some remote places in the far northwest of China, lodging becomes basic regarding meals and room amenities. But rest assured that Chinatours will try our best to find the best local hotels for you.

Things to Pack

Pack warm clothing; even in summer, jacket, thick coat and long pants are necessary for the changeable weather and the large temperature which can reach 10-16℃ in some places like Xinjiang. It’s advisable to check the Silk Road Weather before packing.

Hat, sunscreen, sunshade and sunglasses are essential protections against the scorching sun or windy weather.

Silk Road

A pair of comfortable shoes for walking, climbing, horse/camel-riding, etc.

Take along with some common medicines for possible carsickness, sunstroke, cold, diarrhea, etc.

Packe some snacks, food and water as you often experience a long time in coach transferring between scenic spots or cities along the Silk Road.

Useful Tips

Culture & Taboos

Along the Silk Road are inhabited by dozens of ethnic minorities who are pious Muslim. So traveling there, please respect their religious customs, living style and especially taboos - don’t eat or talk pork in Muslim communities. Follow your guide’s advice when visiting a local family or mosque so as to avoid impolite behavior.

Local Time

Xinjiang locals follow the time standard known as Xinjiang Time (UTC+6), which is 2 hours behind the Beijing Time (UTC+8). So sightseeing in Xinjiang is usually happened between 9:00-20:00; stores and offices also tend to open late.

Travel with a Local Guide

A qualified English-speaking local guide will help you to gain a better understanding of history, culture and minority people along the Silk Road, making your trip more culturally-enriching and educational.

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