Small group holidays
on the Silk Road

‘Silk Road’ is an umbrella term for the vast network of ancient trails that were once used by armies, imperial envoys and traders traversing the mountain foothills, huge lakes and inhospitable landscapes between Asia and Europe. The transportation of silk from east to west and metal and glassware in the other direction saw trade relations between China and the Roman Empire, in particular, flourish and prosper. Caravanserais – guesthouses, hostels and inns – sprung up along these commercial highways. Towns and cities en route were pivotal for selling wares at markets and refuelling on exceedingly lengthy journeys, and modern travellers can still encounter many of these historic sites along the Silk Road today.

Why travel the Silk Road on a
small group holiday?

A small group tour is the best way to experience the key landmarks on the Silk Road, plus lots of lesser known sites in between. Travelling in groups of no more than 16 people means it is easy to travel by train, and to stay in small, locally owned hotels and yurt camps. You’ll meet local people in authentic settings rather than experiencing more staged events that don't always give a true representation of Central and East Asian life.

In Kyrgyzstan, for example, you might stop for lunch at a women's association which sells traditional rugs and handicrafts made by craftswomen from nearby villages. You can hear Dungan and Kyrgyz folklore tales and witness the art of hunting with a golden eagle after a hike through the Jety Oguz Gorge. Asking questions and chatting – through tour interpreter-guide – with local people gives you a glimpse of what life is like on one of the world’s most enduring trails.
A tour leader will accompany your group plus you’ll meet local guides who know the language and the places worth visiting that aren't commonly frequented by tourists. And if a change of plan is necessary – temperatures may drop too severely for yurt camping or a government might book out an entire train, for example – your tour leader will ensure last minute itinerary changes are as seamless and stress free as possible.

You’ll also have the chance to share experiences with similar minded travellers, and solo travellers on these trips can experience a sense of camaraderie. Staying in family run accommodation, travelling on a sleeper train, and enjoying meals with local families lets you bridge the gap between authentic travel and a package break. A small group tour is perfect for travellers who want to make their time – and their holiday funds – go much further.

Classic Silk Road trips

Small group holidays on the Silk Road have varying durations, and departure dates – so you’ll find one to suit you. Some tours will take you through five ‘Stans – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; others focus solely on China or just one or two Stans as part of a two-week road trip. Longer durations are often better suited for those who don’t mind living out of a rucksack – think the epic 120-day overland truck journey from Istanbul to Mongolia via Azerbaijan, Georgia and China.

There is no one way to travel the Silk Road. Sleeper trains, domestic flights, overland vehicles, boats, taxis, 4x4s and public transport; you name it and you can travel on it as part of a small group holiday. Some journeys will be very long, so do be honest with yourself and decide whether you can handle a sometimes lumpy, bumpy truck ride, or whether you really would prefer a short, air-conditioned flight.

Our top Silk Road Holiday

The Silk Road small group tour

The Silk Road small group tour

Discover the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China

From £2649 to £2849 15 days inc UK flights
Small group travel:
2019: 22 May, 19 Jun, 26 Jun, 17 Jul, 21 Aug, 28 Aug
2020: 20 May, 27 May, 3 Jun, 17 Jun, 24 Jun, 15 Jul, 5 Aug, 19 Aug, 26 Aug, 2 Sep, 7 Sep, 9 Sep, 14 Sep
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Silk Road or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

What will I see on a Silk Road
small group tour?

Small group tours provide an enticing balance between the big name sights and the more hidden attractions en route. Samarkand and Bokhara, in Uzbekistan, are definite Silk Road highlights. Sitting midway between Istanbul and Beijing (formerly Peking), they held great significance for the traders of old. Ancient architecture dominates Samarkand; its three madrasahs (centres of learning) in Rēgistan Square and the restored façade of the 15th century Bibi-Khanym Mosqu are prime examples of Islamic influence here. Bokhara is considered one of Central Asia’s best preserved medieval cities and boasts one of the region’s last remaining reflective Persian pools, surrounded by 500-year-old madrasas. Ride the rails from Uzbekistan into Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to explore more ancient sites and Silk Road tales, and meet local people on the train. Meanwhile, Almaty, in Kazakhstan, and Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, conjure up images from the Soviet era.
In between these towns and cities, thick forests and alpine lakes line the valleys and foothills of the Tian Shan Mountains. This range stretches through China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and some sections were crossed by Marco Polo, the Italian merchant and writer, on his travels. There’s even a ‘Marco Polo sheep’ that’s native to the Tian Shan highlands. The early adventurers would have had to contend with the likes of the huge Issyk Kul Lake as they journeyed between overnight camps. You can spend a night at a yurt camp in the Jety Oguz Gorge, and gaze up at the same star-filled skies that these early nomadic traders would have glimpsed as they crossed Central Asia.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Rudra Narayan Mitra] [Intro: Kalpak Travel] [Why travel the Silk Road on a small group holiday? : Raki_Man] [Classic Silk Road trips: pxhere] [What will I see on a Silk Road small group tour? : Stomac]
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