Jiayuguan Fort, China

When people think of China, they often think of the Great Wall, rice terraces and pandas. The Silk Road, stretching from Xian all the way to China’s western border, is mostly overlooked. Too inaccessible, too remote, and why would you travel there if there’s so much to see in the East? But think again. Remote means less tourists and a chance to get off the beaten track. Plus, trains make it easy to travel in between cities.

The Silk Road has a lot to offer, from desert towns to Tibetan monasteries and natural wonders. Not convinced yet? Read on and I will show you the highlights along the Chinese Silk Road, from the Kyrgyz border all the way to Xian.…

Terracotta Warriors, Xian, Chengdu

Xian, China’s former capital in the west, is often considered the end of the Silk Road. It is one of the most interesting Chinese cities we traveled to, with its mix of Chinese and Muslin traditions, old buildings sprinkled throughout the city centre and the famous Terracotta Warriors nearby. It is easy to spend two or three days here, maybe even more, without running out of things to do.…

Panda, Chengdu, China

As we got closer to Chengdu, I got more and more excited. Over the past few days, we had talked about what to do in this city and the prospect of what lay ahead of us made me want to get there as quickly as possible. Pandas, the Chinese Opera, how could I not be excited about this city?

Chengdu did not disappoint. But see for yourself why you should visit the Sichuan capital.…

Crescent Lake, Dunhuang, China

Dunhuang was our first stop in China outside the province of Xinjiang. While it was still remote, we saw a sudden increase in tourists – and rightfully so. It is a city that can easily keep you occupied for two or three days. Once a large outpost on the Silk Road, it is famous for its Buddha caves and its sand dunes. But see for yourself:…

Bushcamping, Turkmenistan

Overland trips are a great way to see remote parts of the world. They bring you to areas that independent travellers can’t reach easily, they help you connect with fellow travellers and they are cheap. This is why this summer, I went along the Silk Road with Oasis Overland. We drove in our yellow truck from Ashgabat in Turkmenistan all the way to Xian in China, crossing desert and mountain passes, meeting locals, seeing incredible scenery and remains of ancient civilizations.…

Grapes, Turpan, China

Have you ever heard of Turpan? No? I hadn’t either until I started researching the Silk Road. It is most likely the city’s remoteness that keeps it from being a tourist destination. Located in the province of Xinjiang in Western China, travellers need to spend many hours on a train to get here. Yet, I highly recommend a visit. In touristy China, you won’t find many places that you can enjoy to yourself. Plus, there are enough things to do in this city that make a trip out here worthwhile.…

Old Town of Kashgar, China

When thinking of China, Kashgar is not the first city that comes to anyone’s mind. Located in the west, close to the border with Kyrgyzstan, it was once an important stop on the Silk Road. Merchants who made it across the Torugart Pass would stock up on supplies before crossing the Taklamakan Desert.

These days, barely any travellers come to Kashgar. It is not on any itinerary for those visiting Eastern China, the political situation is difficult with an ethnic minority living in China’s west and Kashgar is so remote, you would have to fly or spend a long time on a train.

Those who make it, however, are rewarded with a unique cultural experience and a lack of other tourists.…

Lake Song-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Despite the breeze, sweat glistened on the men’s backs. Hooves thundered on the ground as their horses jumped while the men held each other in a strong grip, trying to wrestle their opponent to the ground. As I watched, I couldn’t help but think about how accurately these horse games represented Kyrgyzstan. Wrestling horsemen, shouting spectators and all around us a stunning mountain scenery.

Kyrgyzstan is a country not to be missed. If you even remotely enjoy nature and a unique culture, you will want to spend some time exploring the country’s highlights.…

Bishkek

Bishkek is not a typical tourist city. Most people will spend some time here to arrange travel onwards through Kyrgyzstan, but it is not a place they seek out for its tourist attractions. Yet, the city has more to offer than one would think at first glance. We certainly had a lot of fun during the days we spent here.…

Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent

“So what is there to do in Tashkent?” my friend asked. I looked up from my guidebook and shrugged. “Not much at first glance. But enough to keep us occupied for a day.”

Sooner or later, every traveller along the Uzbek Silk Road will end up in Tashkent. It is a necessary stop on the way to Kazakhstan, it has a major airport and it is unavoidable if you want to see the Fergana Valley. And while it is true that there isn’t much to do in Tashkent, we quickly found out that there is enough to keep you occupied for a day or two.…