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The Silk Road: East Meets West

| Words by Ellena Johnstone |

From bustling bazaars to sweeping sand dunes, the Silk Road has captivated the imaginations of travellers for centuries.

The Silk Road is a historic trading route, connecting East with West, and is recognised as one of Asia's iconic journeys. Here are our top five reasons for making the Silk Road your next adventure:


Wonders of the World

The Silk Road is home to countless treasures. From the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’An, the fabled start of the ancient route, to the Great Wall of China, travellers have been captivated by the treasures of the Silk Road for hundreds of years. A particular highlight of the journey is the chance to explore the Great Wall away from the crowds found at other sections; at Jiayuguan, it is possible to climb one of the most remote intact sections, as well as visit its museum for a deeper understanding of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Terracotta Warriers, Xi'An A visit to the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’An is a highlight of any Silk Road tour. The soldiers lay buried for over 2,000 years until 1974, when they were unearthed by Chinese farmers.

Mouth-watering cuisine

As you might expect from a route which unites East with West, the cuisine of the Silk Road is a melting pot of diverse flavours – a unique blend of Chinese, Central Asian, Middle Eastern and European cuisines. Must-try culinary experiences on the Silk Road include tasting Uighur staples like slow-braised lamb, hand-pulled noodles, and delicious sweet pastries, and trying the world-famous breads of Kashgar.

Cuisine, UrumqiThe cuisine of the Silk Road is a unique blend of Chinese, Central Asian, Middle Eastern and European flavours and influences.

Stunning natural landscapes

From the barren beauty of the Gobi desert, to the soaring sand dunes of Mingsha and its famous Crescent Moon Lake, to the spectacular snow-capped Tianshan Mountain Range, the Silk Road is packed with incredible natural wonders to enjoy. The sheer variety of natural landscapes will astound; from the dramatic snowy peaks of Jiayuguan, to the vivid red rock of the fabled Flaming Mountains, the ever-changing landscapes of the Silk Road are not easily forgotten.

Heavenly Lake, UrumqiWhile famed for its historic and cultural sights, the Silk Road has so many natural vistas to enjoy, like Heavenly Lake east of Urumqi.

Unique religious sites

From tranquil Buddhist temples, to towering mosques and minarets, a journey along the Silk Road offers travellers the chance to learn about the religious significance of this ancient trading route. Highlights include the Mogao Caves, known at the Thousand Buddha Grottoes, and the intricate Labrang Monastery, home to the largest number of Monks outside Tibet. Besides Buddhist temples, the Silk Road is home to incredible mosques, like the Id Hah Mosque in Kashgar which can house 20,000 worshipers, making it the largest mosque in China.

Mogao Caves, ChinaThe Silk Road is home to both Buddhist and Islamic religious sites, and the blending of both religions is what makes the journey so intriguing.

Captivating locals

The Silk Road has allowed some truly unique communities to flourish – individuals from vastly different ethnicities and religious brought together by the trading route, to create a veritable melting pot of cultures. From visiting a Tibetan home in the Sangke Grasslands, to enjoying lunch with a local Uighur family in Turpan, those travelling the Silk Road with Insider Journeys will get to meet and interact with communities which owe their very existence to the Silk Road. These personal exchanges are what make this journey a truly unforgettable experience.

The people of Turpan owe their unique ancestry to Central Asian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and European settlers brought together by the Silk Road.

Why not experience the Silk Road for yourself? Check out our popular The Silk Road small group tour, where you will travel alongside just 15 fellow passengers, or browse our China private travel options.

Readers in the UK may enjoy the BBC’s The Silk Road with Sam Willis, available to watch here this May.