Things to do along the Silk Road

Our top Silk Road activities

Get lost in history

The history of the Silk Road is a fascinating and multi-faceted tale which, as you begin to discover it more, will all at once explain the mystery of the myth-laden high road, but inspire more questions from you too. When you think about it literally, the Silk Road was the world’s first international commercial highway; it connected the Eastern and Western worlds in a vast trading network that lasted for centuries - that’s a whole lot of history. But the history goes way beyond a geographical context, or even that associated with the notion of business and a tour of the Silk Road allows visitors to really grasp the mindset of the world at the time: how did the Chinese manage to keep silk an absolute state secret for so long? And why was the West so utterly enraptured with the fabric when they encountered it? Everything about the Silk Road, it’s beginning, expansion, and the stories of the people that expanded it will grip history buffs and enchant those that might not have known they had an interest.

Meet the people

Throughout the centuries that the Silk Road was active, tribes were formed, conquered and divided; whole new towns and cities built, each with their own distinct personalities and cultural quirks. Though some ethnic groups are being diluted and modernity has crept into otherwise traditional life, the Silk Road is still an extraordinary melting pot where ancient, medieval and modern culture collides.

Architectural Arcadia

The Silk Road is a crucial bridge connecting extremely diverse artistic and architectural tradition; nothing can prepare you for the sheer scale and extravagance of the buildings you will explore. The architecture of the Silk Road is simply mesmerising. On the one hand you have Samarkand, the mythic capital of Timur, one of Central Asia’s greatest conquerors who flourished during the 13th and 14th centuries and would transport craftsman all over Uzbekistan to construct grand buildings like the Shahi Zinda necropolis, a mind-blowing structure that showcases some of the most complex, three-dimensional glazed tiling in the whole of Central Asia. On the other hand, Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat recently entered the Guinness Book of Records for having the highest concentration of marble buildings by the world and by night is an up-lit technicolour marvel that makes Vegas look drab. You have to see it to believe it.

Roam the sands of time

Northwest China’s Taklamakan Desert is the world’s second largest shifting sand desert with a whopping 85% of its surface made up of shifting sand dunes. From Dunhuang you can channel your inner nomad, mount a camel and head to the singing sand dune of Mingsha Shan, a mountain that hums an echo to the sound of sand as you slide down its slopes.
Photo credits: [Textiles: Bridget Colla] [Meet the people: Gusjer] [Architectural arcadia: Dan Lundberg] [Roam the sands of time: Land Rover MENA]
Written by Polly Humphris
The Silk Road small group tour

The Silk Road small group tour

Discover the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China

From US $2985 15 Days ex flights
Uzbekistan small group tour

Uzbekistan small group tour

Explore cities and landscapes of the ancient Silk Road

From US $1935 11 Days ex flights
Silk Road adventure vacation

Silk Road adventure vacation

Follow ancient footsteps along the Silk Road

From £2660 14 Days ex flights
Silk Road overland vacation

Silk Road overland vacation

Once in a lifetime Trans-Asian Silk Road Adventure

From £10545 7 Weeks ex flights
The five stans silk road vacation

The five stans silk road vacation

Step into the pages of history on a silk road tour

From US $5115 23 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: Rudra Narayan Mitra]
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