Overlanding the Silk Road

120 days between Ulaanbaatar and Istanbul or vice versa…

Asia is the continent where overlanding all started. You could say that Alexander made a pretty good effort, but he was a bit violent! The overlanding scene (for tourists) really took off in the 1960’s and 70′. Known affectionately as the ‘Hippy Trail’ it allowed many to see a wider diversity of cultures. Sadly politics changed all that in 1979 with the Iranian revolution and things haven’t quite been the same since – for what was deemed to be the traditional route. With the fall of the soviet union and the opening up of China news routes immersed, the most popular being termed the ‘Silk Road’. Students of history know that there were many variances of the silk road, but it is possible to retrace some of the routes today. We have always offered up a Silk Road by train, but there is still the possibility of making the journey overland by roads on a truck type bus with a group – mixture of budget hotels and camping.

Should you not wnat to be part of such a group, or not want to camp, we can, through our extensive list of local contacts construct a private overland tour using our local partners and their transport.

Starting in the magnificent historic city of Istanbul,  to the magical land of Cappadocia and on to the breathtaking ancient monastery of Sumela. Then head to the wonderful country of Georgia and discover the ancient city of Kutaisi and Stalin’s birthplace of Gori before arriving in the delightful capital, Tbilisi. From Tbilisi journey to the Georgian wine regions of Telavi, before crossing into Azerbaijan and discovering its charming towns and ancient petroglyphs. After an adventurous ferry crossing over the Caspian Sea, you arrive in the reclusive desert land of Turkmenistan, visiting the Kow-Ata underground lake en route to the bizarre capital city of Ashgabat. From Ashgabat cross the deserts of Turkmenistan via the Darvaza gas crater to reach the phenomenal land of Uzbekistan. Visit the astonishing ancient cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, and enjoy a yurt stay in the incredible Kyzylkhum Desert before arriving at the pleasant capital city, Tashkent. From Tashkent venture into the truly breathtaking lands of the fertile Fergana Valley, and head into the mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan.

Stay in local homestays and yurt camps, and take advantage of the phenomenal trekking opportunities in this incredible country on a flexible itinerary, before heading for the beautiful city of Bishkek. Continue on to cross the remote and desolate mountains in the south of Kyrgyzstan and cross the Torugart Pass into the incredible country of China. We will visit the stunning Lake Karakol in the colossal Karakoram Mountains before heading to the fascinating city of Kashgar. From here we’ll head through the isolated Taklamakan Desert and the oasis of Turpan to the incredible Buddha caves of Mogao in China’s remote western provinces. Overland past the western end of the Great Wall of China to the Tibetan town of Xiahe, before descending past the Bingling Si Buddha caves and the temples of Mount Kongtong to arrive at the colossal historic city of Xi’an, home of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors. Continue through the cave village of Lijiashan to the traditional old town of Pingyao.

Move on to the Buddhist temples of Wutai Shan and to the phenomenal Buddha caves of Yungang. Visit the breathtaking Great Wall of China before heading to the old imperial summer retreat of Chengde, then finally head to the bustling capital of Beijing, home to the famous Forbidden City and countless other highlights. From Beijing journey into the hauntingly-beautiful and desolate plains of Mongolia, arriving at the fascinating city of Ulaanbaatar. From Ulaanbaatar head west through the central region of Mongolia, past the fascinating Erdene Zuu monastery to the phenomenal natural beauty of the Orkhon Valley and the Tsenkher hot springs. Then make the stunning journey north to the remote and spectacular Khövsgöl Lake before heading back towards the capital. The country is an overlander’s paradise, with challenging roads, stunning scenery such as desolate rolling plains, glistening lakes and beautiful forests in which we can wild camp anywhere we like, and a unique and welcoming culture.

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