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After decades of isolation, China and the states of Central Asia have finally opened their doors to the rest of the world. Repressive communist regimes in both the Peoples’ Republic and former Soviet Union ensured this vast subcontinent remained inaccessible to ordinary travellers from the early 20th century onwards. But its innumerable treasures have now regained their rightful prominence on Asia’s tourist map – even those in the most far-flung desert regions, thanks to the advent of affordable air travel.
And what treasures they are: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army of Xian, the Caves of Mogao, the turquoise, mosaic-tiled Madrasas of Samarkand and Bukhara, the Potala Palace of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa . . . All these enthralling monuments recall the sophisticated societies that thrived here for over 2,500 years, from the time of Alexander to the fall of the Ming dynasty, and advent of the Mao and Soviet eras.
Driving their creation, or course, was a trade network of formidable reach and complexity: the Silk Road. Between the heartland of Imperial China on the shores of the Yellow Sea and the cities of Europe and India, its caravans transported precious goods in both directions, as well as knowledge, ideas and religions. Some of the arteries crossed Tibet and the Himalayas; others wound west over the Taklamakan Desert and great steppes to the Caspian Sea. All left in the wake a cultural legacy that has astonished travellers since Marco Polo visited the court of Kublai Khan in the mid-13th century.
TransIndus tours to China and Central Asia spare you the hassle which travel in this part of the world can all too easily entail. We’ve spent months on the road identifying the most rewarding monuments, fabulous landscapes, memorable places to stay and best ways to reach them, so that you can enjoy every moment of what, by anyone’s reckoning, will be a journey of a lifetime – whether you limit your explorations to modern China, or venture further west into the wilds of Central Asia, with its remote oasis market towns and resplendent Islamic capitals.