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Home-China Intensive-Camel Ride across the Taklamakan Desert

Camel Ride across the Taklamakan Desert: Beijing-Urumqi-Turfan-Kucha –
Minfeng-Yutian (Keriya) - Balguntai- Daheyan-Taklamakan Desert-Maztagh-
Hotan-Kashgar-Urumqi–Heaven Lake-Urumqi-Beijing (23 days)

This exceptional journey makes a special landscape known to you – the Tarim Large Valley and the Taklamakan Desert – as well as the history of this region, which is closely connected with the landscape. Besides the terrific scenery, you will get to know the cultural accomplishments of the sundry peoples, who lived in this area, and become acquainted with the cultural exchange, which came along with the trading at the Silk Road. Flourishing oases, ancient, yet still functioning water supply systems, Buddhist rock grottos and Islamic Mosques give you an insight into the inventive power of human being. Perished cities of which we admire nowadays the ruins that show the opposite as well. Desiccated rivers and cities, which sink in the desert sand, witness the climatic and environmental changes, which are caused partially by human being. The experiences you make during this somewhat laborious journey, the beautiful scenery and the amiable people, whom you will meet, will stay forever in your memory.

Tarim Large Valley and the Taklamakan Desert
The river, which crosses the desert in the left half of the picture, is the Hotan River. To the east (right) of it, you can see the Keriya River, which ends in the desert. The Turfan Basin is at the south of the mountains, top right edge of the picture.

The picture is based on NASA data and was compiled by the “Earth Observatory team” and made available by the “Visible Earth team”


Day 1: Beijing  

Fly to Beijing.

Day 2: Beijing / Urumqi D Xinjiang Hotel****

karez -Bew?sserungssystem

Arrival in Beijing, delivery of the flight tickets and flight to Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province. Greetings by your tour guide and transfer to the hotel.

Day 3: Urumqi / Turfan B/L/D Oasis Hotel***

Turfan Flammende Berge Go to the legendary Flaming Mountains, red sandstone rocks at the northern corner of the Turfan basin. The mountains were made famous by the classic novel Journey to the West. The ascending hot air above the red rocks in contrast to the blue sky generates the appearance of mountains on fire. Afterwards visit the Bezeklik Grottos. In this region, the first Buddhist Caves in China are situated. The cave art (e.g. mural paintings) began in the Southern and Northern Dynasty and ended in the 13th century with the ingress of Islam. The remains that still exsit today provide a very interesting insight into the worldwide trade and cultural exchange of that time. Visit the Gaochang Ruins near the Flaming Mountains. The city was founded by the Han Emperor Wudi (141 – 87 BC) and it became an important center of the Uigur Realm later, but it was destroyed in the 14th century in the war. In the afternoon, you will visit Turfan’ landmark - the Emin Minaret (Sugong Ta), a part of the Sulaiman Mosque. This 44 m high tower is made of clay bricks and is in geometric and plant patterns. It was built in 1777 under Emperor Qianlong and it is an excellent example of Uigur architecture.

Day 4: Turfan / Kucha B/L/D Train

HimmelsseeToday you will be surprised by the ingenious and still working Karez Water Supply System (also known as the "Ganats system"), which was developed in the arid regions of Middle Asia and spread along the Silk Road. It consists of more than one thousand canals, which lead the water from the 40 km distant Bogda Mountain to the fields of the Turfan oasis. Visit the Jiaohe Ruins, 10 km outside Turfan, the capital of a kingdom during the Han Dynasty. The city was built of clay bricks on a loam plateau. After the returning to Turfan, go for a ramble at the bazaar and transfer to the train station in the evening. Then go to Kucha by train in a first class sleeping wagon.

Day 5: Kucha B/L/D Kucha Hotel**

Arrival in Kucha, the political and cultural centre of western China in the period of prosperity of the Silk Road. After breakfast in the hotel, visit the Ruins of a large monastery city situated at an impressing river landscape at the foot of Tianshan Mountain. Then you will see the highest Beacon Tower along the Silk Road and the Kizil Thousand Buddha Cave. Go there through a marvellous canyon landscape of Tianshan Mountain. The grottos are carved into an about 1 km long scarp along the Muzati River. The oldest of the former over 200 grottos were formed in the third century. Therefore, they are the oldest Buddhist Cave Temples in China. Return to Kucha afterwards.

Day 6: Kucha / Minfeng B/L/D A local guesthouse

A long and exciting journey awaits you today. Go from North to South across the Taklamakan Desert on the Oil Road - the Taklamakan Desert Highway, which was built to open up crude oil sources. The Taklamakan Desert is the largest cohesive sandy desert (By comparison, only 20 % of the Sahara Desert is covered by sand). Here you will get to know the difficulties of the construction and preservation of such a road. Cross the Tarim River through its famous gallery forests in the midst of the desert and enter the more than 400 km wide “ocean” of sand dunes, which towers up to 200 m. You will be charmed by the undescribable beauty of the dune landscape, which changes its formation again and again, the lines of light and shadow narrowed to the simplest and the particularly enchanting sentiment of the desert. It is a foretaste of the imminent adventures. In the evening, reach the small village Minfeng (Niva) about 50 km, at the southern route of the Silk Road. Overnight stay at a local guesthouse.

Day 7: Minfeng / Yutian (Keriya) / Balguntai B/L/D Tent

In the morning, go to Yutian (Keriya) by bus in the western direction, there you will change to off-road vehicles. Afterwards leave the south route of the Silk Road, which means parting for 10 days from civilisation. Loaded with victuals, go by off-road vehicles on a road along the Keriya River, which becomes even drier, into the Taklamakan Desert. It is the centre of the Tarim Large Valley, which is surrounded by high mountains in the North, the West and the South. On the way you will come across small oasis villages, which are encircled by poplar boulevards time and again. An about 200 km long and several km wide belt, in which poplars and tamarisks turn up again and again, accompanies the river into the inside of the desert. Overnight stay at the small Uigur settlement - Balguntai - just as in the coming days - in tents.

Day 8: Balguntai / Daheyan B/L/D Tent

In the morning, go forward into the desert. Arrive at the small village Daheyan in the afternoon. The small settlement amidst the desert owes its existence to the Keriva River, which is fed by melt water from the Kulun Mountains – albeit the river is often desiccated at this place. Here you will get the possibility to become acquainted with the caravan guides and to become familiar with the camels.

Day 9-14: Taklamakan Desert B/L/D Tent

Taklamakan The great adventure begins today. Travel with a grand caravan of up to 30 camels into the ocean of dunes, which seemed endless. Now, go on a camel ride through the heart of the Taklamakan for one week. The dunes, which constantly change their shapes and formations due to the wind, are up to 200 m high. You will be fascinated by the ostensible infinity of the dune landscape, the quiescence and the particular sentiment of the desert. The play of colour, light and shadow is overwhelming. You will cover a distance of about 20 km (airlane distance about 15 km) every day. The celerity is in commensurate with the common celerity of the caravans. But it is not a walkaway. It requires a good physical condition for climbing up the dunes, marveling at the impressing scenery and in addition, taking photos on the way. Not everywhere the sand is consolidated as it is at the windward side of a dune. Strong wind and variations in temperature of up to 30 degrees between day and night are not uncommon. Good physical and psychological constitution, as well as team spirit, is very important. I am sure you will have an unforgettable experience. During theses days, a chef will cater for you ordinary but nourishing and palatable food (picnic at noon, and a hot meal in the evening).
Day 15: Mazatagh B/L/D Tent

During the day, you will reach the Mazatagh Mountain at the Hotan River that crosses the entire desert and flows into the Tarim River, and which, as well as the Keriya River owes its existence to the melt water of the mountain. The mountain can be seen in the flickering air already one day before the arrival so that it can serve as an orientation. At the mountain, ruins of a fortification are located, where the long ago vanished trade route along the Hotan River across the desert was under control. It throws a short bright light on the changeful history of the region. The ascendency on the mountain gives you the opportunity to watch a wonderful sunset.

Day 16: Mazatagh / Hotan (Hetian) B/L/D Zhejiang Hotel***

This morning, you have to say goodbye to the caravan guides and the animals, which you will cherish in the days to come. Go by off-road vehicles on a sabulous road along the Hotan River, about 250 km in the south out of the desert. Here the river is accompanied by a wide belt of poplars and tamarisks. When you arrive at the southern boarder of the Taklamakan - Hotan (Hetian), you will find the civilisation there. The old kingdom Hotan at the southern route of the Silk Road was a symbol for the wealthiness during the time of prosperity of the Silk Road. It was the most important distributor and emporium for jade, silk and carpets. After the arrival at the hotel, a refreshing shower and change of clothes, you can make a city tour there.

Day 17: Hotan B/L/D Zhejiang Hotel***

Visit the Old Town and the bazaar with oriental mediaeval appearing hurly-burly of life and homesteads, where silk fabrics and mulberry paper are produced in the same practices as 2,000 years ago. Then you can go for a Jade Search in the “ White Jade River”, one of the sources of the Hotan River, and then visit a jade carving establishment. Time permits, you will visit the museum, where mummies from the desert among other things are exhibited.

Day 18: Hotan / Kashgar B/L/D Qiniwake Hotel***

Today, make a journey along the southern edge of the Taklamakan desert to Kashgar. The southern route of the Silk Road is the oldest part of this trade route and due to its remote site, a lot of its original shape is still preserved today. During the drive, at your left side is the Kunlun Mountains, while at your right side the desert is situated. You will reach Yarkant, an old oasis kingdom between Kashgar and Hotan about noon. Visit the Mausoleum of the Yarkant Kings and the Mosque. Arrive in Kashgar in the late afternoon.

Day 19: Kashgar (Karakorum Highway, Karakul Lake) B/L/D Qiniwake Hotel***

Make a day trip to the Pamir Mountains today. Go there through the Karakorum Highway, which goes from Kashgar to Islamabad. As soon as you leave Kashgar, you will see the impressing scenery of the snow covered mountains with the double peaks of the Kongur Mountain (7719m) and the Muztagh-Ata Mountain (7546m). And then you will reach the Karakul Lake at an altitude of 3,600 m. Enjoy the life of the nomads and the different culture around the lake.

Day 20: Kashgar / Urumqi B/L/D Xinjiang Hotel****

Acity sightseeing in Kashgar with the Bazaar, the mediaeval appearing craftsmen street and the Old Town awaits you today. Visit the more than 400 years old Id Kah Mosque, the largest Mosque in China today. It is said that there is place for about 10.000 believers. And you will see the Abakh Hoja Tomb, a masterpiece of Uigur architecture. From the year 1640 on, 72 members of the Abakh hoja Family were buried in 58 graves there. In China, the tomb is also known as that of the "Fragrant Concubine". In fact, this Uigur concubine of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty was buried in the Eastern Qing Tombs close to Beijing, archaeological research found out. Fly to Urumqi in the evening.

Day 21:Urumqi / Heaven Lake / Urumqi B/L/D Xinjiang Hotel****

After breakfast, make a city tour there. Urumqi is a modern and lively city. It is the centre of Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region at the northern mountainside of Tianshan Mountain. Then visit the Red Mountain, and from its peak you will get a view of the beautiful city and the 5445 m high Bogda Mountain in the distance. Then make a trip to the Heaven Lake, which is situated at a 1,900 m height, and is surrounded by the snow covered Tianshan mountain.

Day 22: Urumqi / Beijing B Best Western****

Transfer to the airport and fly to Beijing.Greetings by your tour guide and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is at your disposal.

Day 23: Beijing B  

Transfer to the airport and go back home.

End of the travel.

B: Breakfast       L: Lunch       D: Dinner

Tour No.: CRTD
Camel Ride across the Taklamakan Desert 2006

For groups

Travel Dates
Travel Price
Single room extra charge
3400 USD
245 USD

(Minimum number of participants: 6 persons)

Due to the climatic characteristics of this area, the journey can be conducted only in the time from the end of August to the end of October. The temperature during the day can be up to 40 degrees, while at night, the temperature is around the freezing point. This has to be taken into consideration in the travel planning. Therefore you need both light cotton clothes, which absorb the sweat, and warm clothes, which are suitable for temperatures around the freezing point. Likewise, your sleeping bag should be suitable for temperatures up to at least 10 degrees below zero. Good physical and psychological constitution, team spirit and spirit of adventure, flexibility, tolerance and patience are essential for this journey. You will receive a detailed check list of the equipments after the registration.

The Hotels:
Turfan Oasis Hotel***
Kucha Kucha Hotel**
Minfeng Guesthouse
Yutian – Balguntai - Mazatagh Tent
Hotan Zhejiang Hotel***
Kashgar Qiniwake Hotel***
Urumqi Xinjiang Hotel***

Price includes:
-- All overnight accommodation in double rooms shared by two adults with     breakfast, lunch and dinner.
-- All transfers and entrance tickets as listed in the itinerary.
-- Inland flight tickets including all fees.
-- Local English-speaking tour guide.
-- All the necessary additional expenditures like camel, chef, off-road vehicles,    tent, etc.

Price does not include:
-- International flight tickets
-- Visa for China
-- The service that has not been mentioned in the itinerary
-- Personal expenditures, tips etc.

-- Children less than 12 years old can be given discounts.
-- The hotels, trains and flights listed in the itinerary may be changed into the     ones of similar category if necessary.
-- If you need more information, please contact us.


China Intensive
•Scenery and Culture
•China Panorama
•South China and the   Yangtze
•China Highlights
•China Discovery
•Trekking tour
•Biking tour
•Beautiful Silk Road
•the Complete Silk   Road
•Camel Ride across the   Taklamakan Desert
•Tibet and the Yangtze
•Budget Tour 1
•Budget Tour 2
•Budget Tour 3
•Learning Kong Fu in   Shaolin Temple
•China with Taijiquan
•Taijiquan and Sunbath   Vacation
•Tibet Discovery
•Shangri La Adventure
•F1 Shanghai
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