Xi'an to Bishkek

Asia is the continent where overlanding all started, and Dragoman has been the leading operator there since our first trucks went through in the 1980s - take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading into the wilds, well away from the usual tourist trail. Starting in the beautiful city of Bishkek, we journey through 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. We'll 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. Join us on this unforgettable epic overlanding experience on the Silk Road!

  • Duration: 27 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites, Active/Adrenaline
  • Physical rating: Demanding
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 100%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Supplier Tour ID: EEX2/158125
  • Starts: Xi'an, China
  • Finishes: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
You will Visit
  • Xi'an
  • Pingliang
  • Lanzhou
  • Xiahe
  • Liujiaxia
  • Bingling Si
  • Zhangye
  • Jiayuguan
  • Dunhuang
  • Turpan
  • Heavenly Lake
  • Bayanbulak
  • Aksu
  • Kashgar
  • Lake Karakol
  • Tash Rabat
  • Kochkor
  • Bishkek



Day 1: Xi'an

Border Information: if joining in Xi'an, you will most likely enter China at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA code: XIY).

Welcome to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi province and the end of the 'Silk Road'! We will have a free day to explore the city, it's famous walls, bell and drum towers, pagodas and Muslim Quarter.

There will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm - please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception with more information about this important meeting.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Xi'an before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Xi'an.

In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.


Day 2: Xi'an

This morning we head out of Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour.

We will return to Xi'an for the afternoon, where we'll have a free afternoon to further explore this incredible city.


Day 3-4: Pingliang

Today we will drive to the small town of Pingliang at the base of the Mount Kongtong, one of the holiest mountains in Chinese Taoism.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

On the following day we will have an included visit to Mount Kongtong, and will have the full day to explore the temples and walk and explore the pilgrimage routes on the mountain. 

In Pingliang we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Please note that if the group and leader prefer to split the drive between Turpan and Dunhuang over 2 days, there will only be 1 night in Pingliang and a half-day exploration of Mount Kongtong.


Day 5: Lanzhou

Today we will head to the chaotic capital city of Gansu province, Lanzhou. We will have some free time this evening to explore the city.

In Lanzhou we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.


Day 6-7: Xiahe

Today we set off to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe where we spend the next 2 nights. We will have an included visit to the incredble Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

The next few days are free to explore this beautiful town and surrounding grasslands. We can take a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants. There may also be a chance to go trekking, horse riding or exploring the surrounding grasslands, visiting Tibetan families and perhaps trying the local Yak butter tea.

In Xiahe we will stay in a local Tibetan-owned hotel.


Day 8: Liujiaxia

Today we will leave Xiahe behind us to reach the small city of Liujiaxia. We will have an included visit to the incredible Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route.

In Liujiaxia we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.


Day 9: Zhangye

Today we will drive to the incredible Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains - we'll spend some time exploring the region before heading off to wild camp nearby.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.


Day 10: Jiayuguan

Today we continue our journey with a drive to Jiayuguan, where we will have an included visit to the Jiayuguan Fort - the most western point of the Great Wall of China. Please note that the Great Wall here is abode, unlike the more famous stone sections further east.

We will wild camp near an adobe section of the Great Wall near Jiayuguan.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.


Day 11-12: Dunhuang

Today we will continue our journey westwards to reach the city of Dunhuang.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

On the following day we will have an included visit to the awe-inspiring Mogao Buddha Caves in the morning. We will then have a free afternoon to explore this amazing town and it’s surroundings - there are possibilities for camel rides along the sand dunes and bicycle rides out to the nearby White Goose Pagoda!

In Dunhuang we will stay in a comfortable hotel.


Day 13-14: Turpan

Today we will have an early start and a big drive to the oasis town of Turpan.

Estimated Drive Time - 10-12 hours.

Please note that sometimes it may be preferred by the group and the leader to split this drive over 2 days, wild camping in between - in this case we will have 1 less night in Pingliang towards the beginning of the trip.

On the following day we will have a free day to exploring the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins.

In Turpan we will stay in a local hotel.


Day 15-16: Heavenly Lake

Today we will continue on to Heavenly Lake, a beautiful lake set in the Tian Shan mountains.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

We will stay here for 2 nights, and will have many opportunities to relax in the incredible scenery and walk around the lake.

In Heavenly Lake we will stay in local yurts with very basic facilities.


Day 17-18: Bayanbulak

Today our journey continues westwards through the Taklamakan Desert. Our crossing of the desert usually takes 3 days/2 nights, and we plan to stay in local hotels near Korla or Bayanbulak on our first night and Aksu on our second.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours each day.


Day 19-21: Kashgar

Today we complete our journey to the far west of China, arriving in Kashgar, once one of the ancient trading posts on the Silk Route! 

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

We will spend 3 nights in Kashgar, during which time there will be lots of opportunity to explore the city and its central Id Kah Mosque. We will also have an included visit to the animal market just outside of town, and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar.

In Kashgar we will stay in a hotel with good facilities.


Day 22: Kashgar

For everyone that is continuing with us to Kyrgyzstan, there will be quick pre-departure meeting in the early morning in order to explain the next 6 days until Bishkek, and your leader will collect the kitty for this linking section.

Today we will set off on a stunning journey along the Karakoram highway to Lake Karakol. The drive takes us up past some truly incredible mountain scenery and underneath a few 7000m peaks, including Mustagh Ata.

Near Lake Karakol we will stay in local nomadic yurts, sleeping 6-8 people per yurt. Provisions here are very basic, but the scenery is incredible and it is an interesting glimpse into the way of life of the local Uighurs.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.


Day 23: Lake Karakol

This morning we have a chance to spend a little time at Lake Karakol before starting our journey back along the beautiful mountain road to Kashgar.

The evening will be free to explore the old town.

In Kashgar we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.


Day 24: Tash Rabat

Border Information: Exit China at Torugart, enter Kyrgyzstan at Torugart.

Today we will have a full day drive over the 3752m Torugart Pass into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan! We will head just over the border to Tash Rabat, once a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border. During our time here we will visit an ancient caravanserai and have some time to explore the surrounding area.

In Tash Rabat we will wild camp. In cold weather (or if simply the group prefers and there is availability), we may choose to stay in local nomadic yurts that are set up for guests near the caravanserai, sleeping 8-10 people per yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.


Day 25: Kochkor

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

Please note that if nobody from this group is leaving in Bishkek, we may choose to stay instead in a guesthouse in the small town of Naryn (a 2-3 hour drive from Tash Rabat). This is so that we don't repeat Kochkor unnecessarily on the next section and can have more time to explore the area of Tash Rabat this morning.


Day 26: Bishkek

Today we have a short drive to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The remainder of the day is free to explore the relaxed and atmospheric city.

In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (from Kochkor).


Day 27: Bishkek

Today there will be a group meeting at 10:00am for the next section of the trip towards Tashkent. The rest of the day will be free to further explore the city.

    • Explore the world-famous site of the Terracotta Warriors, an army of 8000 life-size figures built to protect the Emporer Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife
    • Explore the stunningly beautiful Mt. Kongtong and its temples
    • See the vast Buddha statue and the outstanding Buddhist cave sculptures at the fabulous Bingling Si gorge
    • Explore the incredible and colourful natural phenomenon of the Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains
    • Journey down the Gansu Corridor to Jiayuguan Fort, our first stop at the Great Wall
    • Guided tour of the Mogao caves, Dunhuang
    • Exploration of the oasis and the Jiaohe ruins at Turpan
    • Learn about the Karez water system, the ingenious method of irrigating the area that was developed by the Han Dynasty and allowed Turpan to flourish as an oasis town
    • See the striking red sandstone landscape of the Flaming Mountains near Turpan
    • Enjoy a tranquil yurt stay at the beautiful Heavenly Lake
    • Explore Kashgar's Sunday market and Animal market
    • Take in the spectacular mountain scenery on our drive along the Karakorum Highway to Lake Karakol
    • Stay overnight in a traditional yurt owned by Kyrgyz and Tajik families near the beautiful Lake Karakol, set amongst the 7500m-high mountains of the Tian Shan range
    • Visit the ancient Silk Road caravanserai at Tash Rabat, close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border
    • Cross into Kyrgyzstan via the stunning and remote Torugart Pass in the Tian Shan Mountains
    • Overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village
    • See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here
    • 10% Camping - 90% Hotels
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Reviews (2)
Kathryn Jane W. Posted on: 

Made entirely wonderful by Gino, Jim and Claire.

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Timothy Mark D. Posted on: 

The design of the vehicle was well thought-out - as for camping and cooking, we had everything we needed!

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