Istanbul to Beijing

GUIDED SMALL GROUP EXPEDITION

The Silk Road an ancient and modern trade route linking the Far East to the Mediterranean and Europe. Almost 2000 years old it covers more than 6,000km through harsh deserts, formidable mountains, lush valleys and oases. Our journey of 58 days explores the highlights along its length from Istanbul to Beijing. Visiting Turkey, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China this route will truly show you the old Silk Road. Having explored and guided trips along the Silk Road for many years and having followed various loops of this exotic trade route our latest offering gives you the best of the Silk Road.

Exploring the cities of Istanbul, Xi’an and Beijing, the mosaic-clad Silk Road cities Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara and many other towns and attractions as we follow the Silk Road. Into the mix is one of our favourite countries Georgia with its ancient history, epic landscapes, friendly people and amazing food and wine and also part of the original Silk Road. We explore Kyrgyzstan and trek up into the alpine meadows with the nomadic herders and stay in a traditional yurt. How about the Tibetan enclaves of Xiahe and the Labrang Monastery, the ancient city of Pingyao or the Giant Buddhas and Temples of Bingling Si – all of this and so much more. Follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Genghis Khan. Immerse yourselves in the history, culture, landscapes, food, and people of this fascinating journey.

Pricing: from A$14,950 per person sharing

Upcoming Departures:

7 April to 4 June 2025. 2026 dates to be released in 2025

ROUTE HIGHLIGHTS

Turkey

A richly historic land and the crossing point from Europe to Asia or East to West. Turkey was a vital part of the ancient Silk Road trade route and the start of this epic journey.

Istanbul with its mosques, palaces, bazaars, Hammams, great food and friendly locals. Easy to explore on foot and view the divide between Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus River.

View the ancient Roman and Greek ruins Ephesus as we head down the Turquoise Coast. Relax on the beaches and explore the islands and bays on a Gulet, the local wooden sailing boats.

Explore the rugged and scenic “fairy tale” landscapes of Cappadocia and its underground cities. Fantastic walks in the valleys and the chance to float over it all in a hot air balloon.

Georgia

A country where guests are considered a blessing and hospitality is a way of life. With its ancient Christian history mix in with its past of being part of the USSR this country once a major Eurasian crossroads has so much to offer.

Tbilisi the charming capital of Georgia is a melting pot of cultures, neither Europe nor Asia. Its crumbling old town, Art Nouveau building, cathedrals, ancient ruins and modern architectural statement pieces create a unique blend.

Drive up into the Caucasus Mountain villages of the Svaneti region with is incredible natural beauty and small village hamlets which take you back in time. Explore the towns of Kutaisi and its rich history dating back more than 4,000 years and Telavi in the heart of Georgian wine growing region and the ancient cave city of Uplistsikhe. There is so much to experience in the Georgia one of our favourite countries along the Silk Road.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan home to the cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, cities of legends along the old silk road, we take the time to explore all three of these historic cities as well as the modern capital city of Tashkent. Immerse yourself in the history, and walk the streets once trodden by Marco Polo and Alexander the Great.

The Silk Road cities are full of architectural wonders and offers incredible opportunities for keen photographers to capture their perfect image.

The markets of Uzbekistan are full of great local produce and unique food, as well as plenty of potential souvenirs including carpets and pottery.

Kyrgyzstan

Think spectacular mountains, grassy valleys, rushing glacial rivers, grazing flocks, semi nomadic herders and their unique yurts a locally made felt clad “tent”. Kyrgyzstan is a true spectacle and a big change from our travels to date. We take a chance to head out into the lush valleys and get to understand these friendly people and their way of life. Great walks and horse riding.

China

The Silk Road has its origins in China in about 130BC as the Han Dynasty gradually developed a network of trade routes which made their way west taking Chinese silk to distant markets, and leading to the development of trade and the exchange of cultures, religions and ideas. 

As we enter China we start in the far West on the edge of the Taklakaman desert and make out way east jumping from ancient trade centre to trade centre with a couple of detours to explore other attractions.

Explore Xi’an the original capital and start of the silk road in Hans Dynasty times, with its amazing terracotta warriors and many other attractions.

Explore Beijing and a scenic section of the Great Wall of China, visit the Tibetan monastery town of Xiahe and join the pilgrims and monks at the Labrang Monastery. Get lost in the alleys of Pingyao one of China’s best preserved old fort towns and so much more.

Itinerary

Day 1 & 2 - Istanbul

Istanbul the meeting point of Europe and Asia and historically a vital point on the Silk Road the gate way to Asia. We base ourselves in Sultanahmet the old city making it easy to explore the top attractions. This vibrant city with its friendly locals, great restaurants and bazaars is such a great place to start this epic Odyssey . We spend an evening cruising slowly on the Bospherus River the divide between Europe and Asia

Day 3 - Eceabat & Gallipoli Peninsula

Leaving Istanbul we follow the coastline of the Sea of Marmara and drive down the Gallipoli Peninsula to the coastal town of Eceabat. For those who wish we take a tour in remembrance of Anzac Day with a local guide. There is also the chance to relax on the beach and explore the town.

Days 4 & 5 - Kusadasi

Heading further south we head for the coastal town of Kusadasi which will be our base to explore the Ruins of Ephesus and the surrounding attractions. We team up with a knowledgeable local guide to explore the Ruins of Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary and the Temple of Artemis. There will also be time to explore the town and its restaurants and bars and there are also great beaches to enjoy.

Days 6 & 7 - Bodrum

Set on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey or the Turkish Riviera the Bodrum peninsula with its town of Bodrum and many smaller fishing villages is a pleasure to explore. Wonder the narrow streets and sample the local restaurants offerings of seafood and other Turkish delicacies. Join us as we go sailing on a Gulet the local wooden sailing boats and explore the Azur blue bays and sandy beaches. For those who fancy a bit more history there is a castle to explore and great museum

Days 8 to 10 - Goreme

Leaving Bodrum early we head for the airport and board a flight to Cappadocia the land of “Fairy Chimneys” underground cities and amazing landscapes. We base ourselves in Goreme a great town right in the middle of the region and from here we explore this enchanted part of Turkey. We head off with a local guide and explore the underground cities and many other attractions of this area. There are many great walks and hikes as well as the option to get up early and soar over this enchanting landscape in a hot air balloon. The local carpet shops and art galleries offer some great shopping and the restaurants offer some tasty local food.

Days 11 & 12 - Tbilisi

It’s time to change country and what a destination Georgia is! A firm favourite with past groups who have travelled the Silk Road with us. We arrive into Tbilisi by plane.

Tbilisi has been called many things including the Prague of Asia with its mix of ancient and modern architecture the city is a gem to explore. Our local guide takes us on a walking tour of the town to get us settled in before we head off and enjoy it at our leisure. The difference from Turkey is so notable partly driven by Georgia Christian heritage but also influenced by its past when it was part of the Soviet Union. What will soon come to light though is the Georgians are a very proud and passionate people with a love of food and wine. Marco Polo travelled through Georgia enroute to the far East and Georgia is sure to impress.

Day 13 - Chiatura and Kutskhi Pillar

Georgia has so much to offer in its landscapes and towns and cities and today is sure to impress! Our first destination the 40 metre Kutskhi Pillar a limestone pillar known as the “Pillar of life” the church built on its summit boggles the mind. Only first accessed by researchers in 1945 it has been a place of seclusion from some time in the 4th century. We head further up into the Caucasus mountains heading for the mining town of Chiatura with its almost spooky Soviet era feel. Famous for its network of cable cars built in Soviet times to link the mines on the side of the mountains this is a unique town to explore way off the tourist track.

Days 14 & 15 - Mestia & the Svaneti Region

This region of Georgia in its far north western and in the heart of the Caucasus mountains is a challenge to reach but rewards with mountain scenery and small village hamlets unique with their siege towers used to protect families in time of war and family feuds. Exploring this region you feel like you have travelled back to the middle ages. We base ourselves in the village of Mestia and explore the surrounding villages and mountains and get to know these hardy mountain folk who proudly call this stunning valley their home. The local home cooked food served as a banquet is truly uniquely Georgian and sure to impress.

Days 16 & 17 - Kutaisi

This historic city has served as capital of the region at various times over the last 4000 years has a rich history. We explore the ruins of the Bagrati Catherdral built in 1003AD by Bagrat III and the ruined palace citadel which dates back to the 6th century.

We then head to the centre of town with its relics from Soviet Union times and with its impressive opera house,  and art museum. A visit to Kutiasi would not be complete without  a visit to the local traditional market. Georgians do most there shopping in this style of market from the many fresh produce and food stalls. Supermarkets are few and far between in Georgia and the markets are sure to be highlight. This will be a great place to try something interesting for lunch. While in Kutiasi we will be staying in a local guest house where dinner is sure to impress.

Day 18 - Uplistsikhe and Gori

Uplistsikhe is a fascinating cave city in the Mtkavari  valley has been occupied since the 6th century BC and was an important  trade centre on the main caravan route along the silk road. Occupied by many different rulers over the years a guide helps us understand how this ancient cave city functioned all those years ago.

After a bit of ancient history we head to the town of Gori and the birth place of Joseph Stalin, he grew up and went to school in Gori. We visit the Stalin Museum one of Georgia’s most impressive museums and get a bit of an understanding of the former USSR and Stalin. We spend the night in Gori with a chance to explore the city centre with its impressive buildings.

Days 19 & 20 - Telavi and the Georgian wine regions

Georgia lays claim to being the first country to make wine and has some evidence to support this. Most Georgian family’s have a country house each which has its own cellars in the basement. The wine is made and stored in traditional clay queveris buried in the floor. We stay in a Georgian homestay a unique experience.

The modern Georgia wine industry is booming with a lot of new cellars producing some great wine using many of the local varieties of grapes of Georgia. The most famous being Saperavi a full-bodied red comparable to a Cabernet Sauvignon. We explore both the modern and traditional winemaking of Georgia. A warning: be aware of the local firewater Chacha which the locals will try feed you! This is sure to be a festive day out with a great home cooked dinner by our local hosts to finish the day.

Days 21 & 22 - Signaghi

A former fort town this pretty town in the Katheti region sits on a hilltop and is full of 18th and 19th century architecture. The town has seen a well-structured renovation and is fantastic to explore on foot with its narrow-cobbled streets, plazas, churches, fort walls and 23 watch towers. There is also a great museum, restaurants and interesting shops.

Days 23 & 24 - Tashkent

Today we head back to Tbilisi and to the airport to board our flight to Uzbekistan and to visit some of the Silk Road’s most famous cities. We arrive into Tashkent the capital city and a major hub of Central Asia. There are some great museums to explore, the impressive Chorsu Bazaar is sure to impress with its displays of fresh food and other wares and the surrounding mud brick residential area offers a perspective of local Uzbek living. The local subway systems built in USSR times is also worth exploring with their decorated stations. We also use this time to relax and to prepare for the Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand.

Days 25 to 27 - Samarkand

Possibly the most evocative of the silk road cities Samarkand was founded in the 5th century BC and was already a cosmopolitan capital walled city when Alexander the Great captured it in 329BC. He was said to have commented “Everything I have heard about Marakanda is true, except that it is more beautiful than I imagined”. As a major city on the silk road its history and architecture are something to marvel at and we spend three nights here so as to give us time to enjoy the sites as well as time to relax in this unique part of the world. Your expert local guide takes us on a tour of exploration as we really do this silk road city justice. We travel from Tashkent to Samarkand by bullet train which is an experience in itself. We stay in a centrally located hotel with easy access to the Registan Square great for exploring the square at night.

Days 28 & 29 - Bukhara

Bukhara another famous silk road city and possibly our favourite. The old city has been tasteful restored and keeps may of its original charms and its historic centre is an architectural preserve full of medressas, minarets and the vast royal fortress. We base ourselves close to Lyabi-Hauz to explore the area. We have an expert guide available to explain it all but getting lost amongst it all is part of the fun in this Silk Road city

Days 30 & 31 - Khiva

Khiva is by far the most intact silk road city which has been extensively restored over the years and some would say it looses some of its charm but we feel this silk road city gives you the most realistic view of how these cities would have been when at their peak as Silk road trading hubs. We stay inside the old city and explore on foot. The walled city is best in the early morning and evening but it is magical at night as well

Days 32 & 33 - Bishkek

Leaving Khiva behind we fly on to our next country Kyrgyzstan for a totally different experience. Though situated on the silk road this country is not about the cities but rather about its incredible natural beauty and semi nomadic people. Think soaring mountains, lush valleys, alpine lakes, trekking, horse riding and some unique food and accommodation. We arrive into Bishkek which is a very Soviet city and after relaxing for a bit head out and explore the incredible natural beauty of this country.

Days 34 to 37 - Kochkor, Jeti Oguz and Karakol

As we head out of Bishkek we soon leave the city behind and the natural beauty of this country is soon apparent as we head for the small town of Kochkor. For many families who do not live in the cities of Kyrgyzstan they live a rural life herding livestock and growing crops. These semi nomadic, yurt dwelling shepherds are the major attraction while we are in Kyrgyzstan. We arrive in the spring as they are moving up the valleys to the lush alpine meadows. We spend the night in Kochkor in a homestay getting to understand how these friendly country folk live and getting ready to head up into the mountains to join the sheperds and stay in a traditional yurt in the valley of Jeti Oguz.

As we cross many wooden bridges across ragging ice melt streams the valley opens before us and we start seeing traditional yurts and the grazing livestock. The traditional yurt made up of an intricate wooden structure which is covered in traditional felt is how these nomads have lived for 100 of years and offer an amazing shelter in these at times harsh lands. We will spend two nights living in yurts with a couple of western conveniences like flushing toilets and hot showers to make this a comfortable and unique experience. Our hosts spoil us with traditional food and drink while we are here. From the yurt camp there are easy walks or challenging treks its up to you or if you fancy jumping on one of the local mountain ponies this is horse riding paradise. Watch out while you are out and about if one of the other yurt families invites you in for a drink ask for tea and not the local Kumis which is fermented mares milk a very unique taste.

Having spent time up in the valleys we head back down to the shores of Lake Issyk Kul and a comfortable guest house for a night with the chance to explore the local open-air market which is a great place to get lost for a bit and chat to the friendly locals and sample the local food.

Day 39 - Bishkek

Leaving the friendly rural people of Kyrgyzstan we head back to Bishkek the capital for a night to relax before boarding our next flight to China to continue our journey along the Silk Road.

Days 40 to 42 - Urumqi & Turpan

A short hop by plane over the mountains of Kyrgyzstan takes us to the regional capital city of Urumqi in far Western China on the edge of the Taklamakan desert. From here we take a short bus ride to Turpan our first Silk Road town in China. Turpan sits in a depression and its lowest point is 154 metres below sea level making it the second lowest depression the world. Thanks to its ground water resources and fertile soils this veritable oasis has been a vital link on the silk road for thousands of years. We explore the town and the nearby Jiaohe Ruins a complex built during the Han dynasty. We also explore the karez underground aqueducts which supplied the water to the towns and farms in the area. Turpan also has a great night market and we experience a totally new style of food with this mix of Uighur and Han Chinese food. 

Days 43 to 45 - Lanzhou

Leaving Turpan we board one of China’s high speed bullet trains and fly along the silk road crossing the harsh desert landscapes of the Taklamakan desert. This journey of more than 1600km would have taken months to cross in the old days of the silk road with all sorts of challenges from the harshness of the desert to bandits which preyed on the caravans as they travelled along.

We use Lanzhou as our jump-off point to explore the grottos and carvings of Bingling Si. This set of caves and carvings have been amazingly well preserved due its inaccessibility. Over a period of 1600 years sculptors went to great length to carve 183 niches and sculptures into the porous rocks of this steep walled canyon. Many of these carvings were sponsored by wealthy traders during the prosperous Tang dynasty period. The star attraction while here is the 27m high seated statue of Maitreya the future Buddha, but a short walk also allows you to visit a Tibetan monastery were the friendly monks enjoy showing you around. We access Bingling Si by boat which is a scenic journey in itself

Days 46 to 48 - Xiahe

We head slightly off the silk road for a couple of days as we head for the Tibetan monastic town of Xiahe and the Labrang monastery. Set in a stunning mountain valley at 2920m above sea level life seems to slow down as we share the streets with crimson-clad monks and the many pilgrims. The Labrang monastery  with its 3km long kora or pilgrims path is best explored in the early morning or late afternoon. To slowly follow the pilgrims and spin the prayer wheels is a very calming experience. While here we will also visit the many temples and chapels with a local guide to give us a clearer understanding of the spiritual place.

Days 49 & 50 - Lanzhou

Heading back to Lanzhou briefly we have a chance to explore the local food scene in one of the many night markets. Famous in China the local beef noodle dish is super tasty but the level of chilli is only for the brave.

Days 51 to 53 - Xi'an

The ancient imperial capital and eastern starting point of the silk road Xi’an has complexed history dating back to 221BC when it first came to prominence under the Qin Dynasty, but it was under the Han Dynasty that the first Chinese emissaries were dispatched  along what would become the silk road. We explore the history with our local guide with highlights sure to be the Terracotta Warriors, the Tomb of Jingdi, the Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque and the many other attractions of this ancient city.

Days 54 & 55 - Pingyao

China’s best preserved ancient city is our next destination and the wonderful walled town of Pingyao is fantastic to explore. This is a living, breathing community of around 30,000 locals who reside in the old town. Red lantern hung lanes, bridges, elegant court yards, ancient temples and characterful old buildings. Lose yourselves in the streets for a couple of days and enjoy this unique experience.

Days 56 to 59 - Beijing

Beijing, the capital of China, is our final stop on this epic Odyssey along the Silk Road and it could be said to be the starting point of the modern Silk Road of world trade. Though it is a modern capital city, we take time to explore this city with its many famous historic sites and museums. While here we will also do a trip out to section of the Great Wall of China a true symbol of achievement. After a final dinner out we all say our goodbyes and possibly start dreaming about our next epic overland journey.

Pricing & Upcoming Departures

Upcoming Departures

2025:

7 April – 4 June 2025

2026: 

Dates & Prices to be released in 2025.

Tour Dates not what you had in mind? Itinerary doesn’t suit you? Have your own group of family or friends?  We can create a tailor made tour for you.

Pricing

Inclusions & Exclusions

What's Included?

What's Not Included?

Optional Activities

Optional activities on this tour are usually paid for in cash or card on the day and organised during your trip, so you can decide whilst travelling which activity/ies you may want to do. Prices listed are only a guide and may be dependent on fluctuating exchange rates and minimum numbers. Please note this list is not exhaustive and there are other activities available along the journey depending on your interests. 

Note we are in the process of updating all prices for optional activities on this tour, please contact us for more information.

Vehicles

We use private hired buses and for all road transfers with air-conditioning and comfortable seats. In some places we use specialised vehicles to get us to remote attractions this may be jeeps or 4×4 mini buses.

For many journeys on this route the modern high speed railways are the best way to travel as they allow you to view the surrounding country in comfort and due to travel times are much faster than road transfers. Most train journeys on this journey are done during the day and can take from 3 to 6 hours. On one occasion we will use an overnight train (sleeper cabins). All train fares are included in the tour price.

There are 5 flights in this journey to jump us over sections which offer limited attractions. Please see the day-by-day itinerary for these flights. Flights are with regional airlines who operate modern fleets. These flights are not included in the cost of the tour and we will assist you in booking these flights. Estimated cost of these flights is A$1,640 per person.

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