Things to do along the Silk Road

The history of the Silk Road is a fascinating and multi-faceted tale which, as you begin to discover it more, will all at once explain the mystery of the myth-laden high road, but inspire more questions from you too.

Get lost in history

When you think about it literally, the Silk Road was the world’s first international commercial highway; it connected the Eastern and Western worlds in a vast trading network that lasted for centuries - that’s a whole lot of history. But the history goes way beyond a geographical context, or even that associated with the notion of business, and a tour of the Silk Road allows visitors to really grasp the mindset of the world at the time. How did the Chinese manage to keep silk an absolute state secret for so long? And why was the West so utterly enraptured with the fabric when they encountered it? Everything about the Silk Road, it’s beginning, expansion, and the stories of the people that expanded it will grip history buffs and enchant those that might not have known they had an interest.
Just the term ‘Silk Road’ evokes a romantic notion of mules plodding their weary way laden with exotic produce, but what of the people for whom the route changed everything?

Meet the people

Throughout the centuries that the Silk Road was active, tribes were formed, conquered and divided; whole new towns and cities built, each with their own distinct personalities and cultural quirks. Though some ethnic groups are being diluted and modernity has crept into otherwise traditional life, the Silk Road is still an extraordinary melting pot where ancient, medieval and modern culture collides.
The Silk Road is a crucial bridge connecting extremely diverse artistic and architectural tradition; nothing can prepare you for the sheer scale and extravagance of the buildings you will explore.

Architectural Arcadia

The architecture of the Silk Road is simply mesmerising. On the one hand you have Samarkand, the mythic capital of Timur, one of Central Asia’s greatest conquerors who flourished during the 13th and 14th centuries. Timur's wishes would transport craftsman all over Uzbekistan to construct grand buildings like the Shahi Zinda necropolis, a mind-blowing structure that showcases some of the most complex, three-dimensional glazed tiling in the whole of Central Asia. On the other hand, Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat was entered into the Guinness Book of Records for having the highest concentration of marble buildings in the world; by night it's an up-lit technicolour marvel that makes Vegas look drab. You have to see it to believe it.

Our top trip

The Silk Road small group tour

The Silk Road small group tour

Discover the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China

From £3699 to £4949 15 days inc UK flights
Small group travel:
2024: 9 Apr, 23 Apr, 30 Apr, 14 May, 21 May, 28 May, 11 Jun, 19 Jun, 26 Jun, 17 Jul, 7 Aug, 21 Aug, 28 Aug, 4 Sep, 11 Sep, 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 2 Oct, 9 Oct, 16 Oct
2025: 9 Apr, 23 Apr, 14 May, 21 May, 4 Jun, 11 Jun, 18 Jun, 25 Jun, 16 Jul, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, 27 Aug, 3 Sep, 10 Sep, 17 Sep, 24 Sep, 8 Oct, 15 Oct
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.
The Taklamakan Desert appears like an optical illusion as you fly from Urumqi to Kashgar and watch the slatted shadows shift beneath you.

Roam the sands of time

Northwest China’s Taklamakan Desert is the world’s second largest shifting sand desert with a whopping 85% of its surface made up of shifting sand dunes. From Dunhuang you can channel your inner nomad, mount a camel and head to the singing sand dune of Mingsha Shan, a mountain that hums an echo to the sound of sand as you slide down its slopes.
Written by Polly Humphris
Photo credits: [Page banner: Rudra Narayan Mitra] [Get lost in history: Ninara] [Meet the people : Gusjer] [Architectural Arcadia: Robert Wilson] [Roam the sands of time: taylorandayumi]