From the time of the ancient Tang Dynasty, Buddhist monks and caravan traders crossed the vast deserts of northwestern China to transport luxury goods to and from the bazaars of Central Asia and Europe. Today, the principal routes they followed – collectively known as the ‘Silk Road’ – offer a wonderful prospect for any traveller with a sense of adventure and romance.
Our recommended Silk Road journey begins at the imperial capitals the great trade artery helped to create: Xian and Luoyang. After a visit to the Longmen Grottoes and Terracotta Army – two of China’s most spectacular archaeological sites – you head north to Jiayuguan Fort, at the far western end of the Great Wall, marking the limits of ancient China. From there it’s desert all the way as you proceed west to the famous Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, then on to Turpan, site of a couple of long deserted Silk Road cities, and finally, Kashgar, the fabled Uyghur market town at the crossroads of High Asia.