The desert sands. The setting sun. Adventure.
Kick back for a drink-and-dine sunset party in the desert on this 8-day wander on the famous Silk Road.
Trace the silk road westward to the windswept fields of the Kangle Grasslands, psychedelic earth at Qicai Danxia and haunting twilight atmosphere of Moguicheng ‘Ghost Town’. Visit three great Buddhist relic cave complexes of the Silk Road – Mati Temple, Yulin Grottoes and the Mogao Caves, plus more.
meetup in Zhangye. Explore Zhangye.
Arrive in Zhangye.
Welcome to Zhangye!
Day one is meet-up day. Arrive, get to the hotel and check in.
Explore Zhangye city sights.
Visit the Ganzhou night markets in the cool of the early evening. Try a bowl of the local ‘twisty fish’ noodles, grab a handful of lamb shish kebab skewers, snack, browse and take in a night of desert city atmosphere.
Zhangye. Mati Temple. Qicai Danxia National Geopark Reserve. Danxiakou Village.
Depart Zhangye. Mati Temple.
Day two. Eat a breakfast then ride to the 2000-year grotto cave temple – Mati ‘horse’s hoof’ temple.
The centerpiece of Mati temple is the Number 33 Tianshi Grotto. Hand-carved into the face of a 100-meter solid stone cliff wall, 21 individual painstakingly excavated grotto caves link across 7 levels, forming a system of rooms, enshrining the female goddess known as ‘Green Tara’. Looking on from a distance they make the flat cliff face wall appear as a 3-dimensional building.
Also visit the Zangfo Hall. This is one of China’s largest grottoes, with numerous 1500-year-old Buddhist relics.
The name ‘Horse’s Hoof’ comes from legend. The temple rumored to have been built here because this earth bears the mark of the ‘sky horse’ or ‘heavenly steed’ – the east’s version of Pegasus from Greek Mythology.
Qicai Danxia National Geopark Reserve. Danxiakou Village. Check in.
After visiting, head to the psychedelic colored hills of the Qicai Danxia National Geopark Reserve. One of China’s 7 most visually stunning large Danxia land formation clusters, people visit these for their queer natural colors, size and concentration. Be here in the late afternoon to see the psychedelic hills at their most beautiful.
Follow the setting sun west to Danxiako Village. Arrive. Check in for the night.
Danxiakou. Kangle Grasslands. Great Wall: Jiayuguan Fortress. Stay the night in Jiayuguan.
Danxiakou. Kangle Grasslands.
After breakfast head to the open fields that the Yugur Minority calls home, the Kangle Grasslands. Sprawling windswept grass fields, a comfortable climate, a horizon of mountains under a sky of deep blue and fluffy cotton white clouds – this place feels like a sunny meadow from a children’s storybook or Japanese Ghibli studio animation.
After wandering the grasslands hit the road bound for the Great Wall of China - the wall’s Westernmost Fortress – Jiayuguan Pass.
Great Wall: Jiayuguan Fortress. Stay the night in Jiayuguan.
Set down before the majestic military watch post, explore the grounds, stand on the ramparts, command a view over the land, understand how this ancient frontier fortress functioned in times of peace and war all those centuries ago. Stand on the wall at the edge of the kingdom.
Descend. Return to the city. Check in at the hotel. Rest the night.
Jiayuguan. Mogao Caves and Yulin Grottoes. Dunhuang city check-in.
Depart Jiayuguan. Mogao Caves and Yulin Grottoes.
Eat breakfast, then depart Jiayuguan for one of the Silk Road’s Buddhist discovery highlights - the Yulin Grottoes.
Sister caves to the renowned Mogao Caves (our next destination), Yulin is home to some of the most detailed, intricate and inspiring Buddhist mural paintings in the world. Here they remain much better preserved than most other relic art elsewhere on the Silk Road.
From the Yulin Grottoes we ride to the hotel in Dunhuang city.
Arrive. Check in for the evening.
Dunhuang. 8 Mogao Caves + Mogao & the Silk Road Movie Screenings + Exclusive ‘Live Restoration’ Viewing. Clay Sculpture Crafting. ‘Encore Dunhuang’ Performance
Day 5 is all about "Dunhuang-olgy”. Get an all-areas introduction to the culture, art and history at this Silk Road mecca.
8 Mogao Caves + Mogao & the Silk Road Movie Screenings + Exclusive ‘Live Restoration’ Viewing. Clay Sculpture Crafting.
Eat a morning meal then head to the Silk Road’s Buddhist art vault, the Mogao Caves. Two twenty-minute, feature quality films give a mind-expanding introduction to all the information you need to appreciate the wonder of the Mogao relic cave network. After watching, head out to investigate a selection of eight ancient Buddhist caves.
In the afternoon head to the cave mural restoration site. An exclusive experience – share space with master artists who dedicate their lives to to restoring historic art here on the Northwestern frontier, watch them work, and understand these relic murals on a deeper level.
Attached to this live restoration experience is a clay sculpture crafting workshop. Get hands-on and make a Buddhist handicraft souvenir to keep.
Encore Dunhuang’ Performance.
In the evening, after dinner, gather and head out to see a performing arts stage play production. Watch Dunhuang’s grand ‘Encore Dunhuang‘.