Are you looking for a motorcycle tour that is truly exotic, truly mesmerizing? How about a motorcycle tour down China’s ancient Silk Road, a thoroughfare as old as human history.
Six UNESCO World Heritage Sites will be visited, and the Silk Road in its entirety is one of them.
Be amazed for two solid weeks by everything you do and see from the seat of your BMW F800GS. And if you love food, start dieting right now because you’re surely going to end this tour a few kilos heavier than when you started. And befitting an ancient trade route, the shopping in every itinerary stop is fantastic and we will have a support vehicle to carry all your purchases.
Tour date: Only 1 per year: JUNE 8-21, 2017
USD 6,995 – all inclusive. Pillions – USD 2,495. Contact us for details.
Silk Road Motorcycle Tour Itinerary
Buried for millennia, 8,000 life-size terracotta sculptures of soldiers aligned in strict military formation and holding weaponry of their day have been unearthed, along with 130 chariots and 670 horses (so far), Every piece of sculpture is anatomically different and unique in detail. Found more recently were thousands of non-military figures, including government officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.
This statuary was commissioned two centuries BCE by the first emperor of China and then long forgotten. They were discovered accidently in 1974 by farmers digging a well. The more that’s excavated, the more bizarre the entire site becomes. Archeologists are now uncovering an entire model city, and for these experts it’s a precious window into the society and lives of ancient man.
Day 2: Destination-Lanzhou
650 kms. 8 hours.
Our first day’s riding on the Silk Road is the longest of the tour, but it is all over good road and our BMW’s make excellent time. The Silk Road in its entirety is our 2nd UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Lanzhou all caravan trading goods were transferred from camels onto barges and shipped throughout China by their ancient canal system.
Lanzhou is an intermediate-sized city (by Chinese standards) and the geographical center of northwest China.
A scrumptious feast awaits us tonight, and we will sleep well after such a long day in the saddle.
Day 3: Destination-Zhangye
510 kms. 6 hours.
Today we drive into the Hexi corridor, a 1,000 kilometer long geological passageway into Western China. To the south lies the snow-capped Qilian Mountains and the Gobi Desert hems us in at the north. A string of oases in this corridor were the natural stopovers for the camel caravans of yore.
This geographical funnel is the start of the northern arm of the Silk Road, the route which we follow on this motorcycle tour.
On today’s ride we witness our 3rd UNESCO World Heritage Site in 3 days, the Painted Mountains in the Zhangye Danxia Geological Park. Zhangye is also the purported birthplace of Kublai Khan.
Day 4: Destination-Jiayuguan
325 kms. 6 hours.
Since the start of the tour, we’ve been seeing, off and on, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, our 4th of the tour, and today we come to the westernmost end of it, the Great Wall. Over the last several days we’ve driven past, visited, and seen the Wall in all its splendid majesty as well as witnessing some sections that are in an utter state of deterioration caused by the harsh desert climate and its ancient age.
Jiayuguan Fort caps the westernmost end of the Great Wall. It was completed in 1372 and guards the narrowest, most strategic point of the Hexi corridor. The fort marks the historical dividing line between Chinese civilization with its relative safety versus the hostile wilderness and no man’s land beyond.
Days 5 and 6: Dunhuang
385 kms. 6 hours.
Highlight today is the Mogao Caves, our 5th UNESCO World Heritage Site. This man-made cave complex of nearly 500 ancient caves contain the earliest example of Buddhist art in the world that date back to the 3rd century BCE, only two hundred years after the death of Buddha.
These caves were excavated and lovingly decorated by the earliest Buddhist pilgrims that travelled the Silk Road. The artwork, murals, and sculpture inside were remarkably protected from deterioration and damage by the arid climate.
Another highlight in this region is Crescent Lake, a natural desert oasis surrounded by towering sand dunes. For many on this tour, this will be your first and perhaps only opportunity to ride a camel across desert sands.
With so much to do and see in and around Dunhuang we take our first rest day of the tour here.
Day 7: Hami
420 kms. 6 hours.
We continue riding the Silk Road across the Gobi Desert, skirting the Mongolian border to our north. We overnight in another historic oasis; Hami. Delicious Hami melons originates from here. Raisin and grape cultivation also takes place in this fertile caravan stop, along with wine production from the grapes.
In Hami we start to see Uyghurs in increasing numbers. Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group that are the long-time inhabitants of this region of China. We start to become increasingly familiar with the Uyghurs and their unique culture as we travel westwards. And of course we will start sampling some of the highlights of their cuisine, delicacies like sliced camel paw, as well as the staple protein of their diet, lamb, in many of it variations; Lamb pies, lamb bread, lamb soups and lamb stews.
Day 8 and 9: Turpan
460 kms. 6 hours.
We enter the Taklimakan desert region, whose name translates into “those who enter do not leave”, and head for a two-night stay in Turpan. Turpan has the distinction of being situated in the second lowest depression below sea level in the world.
On the way into Turpan we pass the Flaming Mountains. When the late afternoon sun hits the mountain ridges right, they glow an indescribable blood red.
Even though Turpan is in the middle of the Taklimakan Desert, it is quite fertile due to a two millennia old irrigation system that directs snow melt from the mountain ranges in the north.
Because Turpan is so fertile it became one of the most important oasis caravan stops on the Silk Road. On our second rest day here we have the opportunity to soak up Turpan’s historic nature.
Day 10: Korla
560 kms. 6 hours.
We change our predominant direction and veer southwest and see the Tian Shan Mountain Range to our north, our 6th and last UNESCO World Heritage Site on this motorcycle tour. Before we arrive in Korla we pass through Iron Gate Pass, one of the most strategic points on the ancient Silk Road. Korla is a little visited town on the Silk Road whose claim to fame, besides its oasis, is jade.
Day 11: Aksu
600 kms. 7 hours.
We are nearing the western border of China, and our night’s destination, Aksu, is quite near to the Kazakhstan border. We are now deep in Central Asia, the historic battleground of empires and a melting pot of peoples of different races and cultures.
Hotan historically was one of the earliest Buddhist centers in the world and there are still remnants of this religion scattered around the now predominantly Muslim culture.
Hotan is renowned for their oriental carpets, produced using age-old weaving techniques. The jade market here is also sizable.
Day 13: Kashgar
520 kms. 6 hours.
Our last day of riding is to the westernmost city in all of China; Kashgar. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are just across the mountains to the west.
Historically, Kashgar has been controlled by various empires, such as the Turks, Mongol, Arab, Persian, and Tibetan, and an extraordinary number of battles were fought in and around Kashgar. Because of this, many historical records from disparate sources mention Kashgar, dating all the way back to the 2nd century BCE.
Approximately 4,500 kilometers of China’s Silk Road have now been ridden but the tour is not quite finished.
Day 14-Kashgar Sunday market
We have purposely designed this Silk Road motorcycle tour to finish on a Saturday so that everyone can take in Kashgar’s Sunday market, Central Asia’s largest and one which has been in continuous operation for over two thousand years.
A walk through this market is surely a never to be forgotten lifetime experience. Wherever you camera points will capture a cherished photo.
Tour date: Only 1 per year: JUNE 8-21, 2016
USD 6,495 – all inclusive. Pillions – USD1,995. Contact us for details.
You can read Reed Resnikoff’s entertaining magazine story about the first-ever motorcycle tour down the Silk Road – “If Marco Polo Road A Harley”
View the Silk Road slide show.
Questions / requests / feedback: Send us an email.