"Go in and never come out", the literal translation of the Taklamakan Desert, is an apt description of the dangers caravan traders on the Silk Road once faced. For those who wish a more complete trip along the Silk Road, a Northern extension can be arranged through Turpan and ending in Dunhuang.
In fact, the Silk Road is not one continuous route, but a collection of caravan trails that stretch from Xiian in the East to multiple destinations across Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Although we undertake this excursion in the comfort of air-conditioned vehicles, travelers must be prepared for long days of driving. However, this allows us to visit lesser known sites along the Silk Road that were once only accessible by camel caravan. We shop in local bazaars, rest at remarkably green oasis outposts, visit the ruins of a 5th century Buddhist temple, and camp in the desert to awake to a stunning sunrise.
This journey is a demanding one - the accommodations are standard, the driving is tedious, and the cuisine, while exotic, is repetitive. Nevertheless, the rewards are immense, as we learn about a culture markedly different from the Chinese, travel through stunning desert vistas more appropriate to Central Asia and the Middle East, and discover the treasures of silks, jades, and spices that made this road famous.
Day 1: Fly to Urumqi. On arrival, we visit Xinjiang Regional Museum. Then take a evening flight to Kashgar.
Day 2: Whole day is set aside to explore Kashgar Sunday Market, livestock market and numerous jade and carpet workshops.
Day 3: Kashgar to Khotan via Yarkand (Shache). Explore Zawa Monday Market en route.
Day 4: Khotan to Tazhong via Minfeng. Visit Niya Ancient Town. For tonight, we will camp in the Taklamakan Desert.
Day 5: Drive across the Kaklamakan Desert to reach Kucha.
Day 6: Visit Kizilya Grand Canyon and Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves.
Day 7: Fly back to Urumqi.
Day 8: Fly out Urumqi.
Also see tour packages in:
Asia China Outdoor: Land Rambler Desert Expeditions Cultural Journey