Our China travel guide lifts the lid on the Ming vase with information on what we rate & what we don’t helping you find out how to travel like a local on your China vacation as you read up on food, shopping & people as well as a brief history of China to help you put things into perspective.
Things to do along the Silk Road
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.
Get lost in history
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.
Our Silk Road Vacations
Just the term ‘Silk Road’ evokes a romantic notion of mules plodding their weary way laden with exotic produce, but what of the people for whom the route changed everything?
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.
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. Timur's wishes 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 was entered into the Guinness Book of Records for having the highest concentration of marble buildings in the world; by night it's an up-lit technicolour marvel that makes Vegas look drab. You have to see it to believe it.
Our top Silk Road Vacation
If you'd like to chat about Silk Road or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
The Taklamakan Desert appears like an optical illusion as you fly from Urumqi to Kashgar and watch the slatted shadows shift beneath you.
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.
More about Silk Road
The Silk Road stretches from Asia and into Europe so deciding on when to visit the Silk Road will depend on where you’re planning on heading to first.
Unravel centuries of history on our Silk Road travel guide that leads you through what we rate and what we don’t, and our best and worst of Silk Road vacations, as well as inviting you to read a brief history of the Silk Road as well as tips on food, shopping and languages that you’ll find across the continents.
In order to make the most of your time we advise reading our Silk Road map & itineraries page which features information on our favourite Silk Road highlights in addition to travel times from Urumqi, Kashgar, Tashkent, Bukhara and Mary.
We’ve dedicated this page to answering the question: what is the Silk Road? So all you have to do is read on for enlightenment and learn about the Silk Road in detail before, during or after you set off on your travels.
If you’re planning on booking a Silk Road tour, it’s a good idea to do your research before merrily packing bags and heading off on the road to nowhere.
Central Asia’s cities and mountain foothills were once pivotal to the Silk Road, and today’s journeys along these routes reveal the historic threads that bind them together.
Getting a few tips from our friends along the Silk Road is always best advice with shopping, road travel, food and packing all covered by our Silk Road travel advice experts Marianne Grimshaw and Linda Maguire.
Understanding human rights and land degradation issues is imperative for approaching Silk Road responsible tourism in the right manner and if you want to know what you can do to help or just want to know how to travel right along the Silk Road then read on as these are issues that matter.