Of inestimable cultural and historic value, the famous Silk Road once connected ancient China to the outside world, and in some instances it still functions as a commercial trade route today. Along its path, you’ll discover numerous sites of particular interest. The following are just a few:
Rising iconically from the intersection of four famous roadways in Xian, the Xian Bell Tower has been the most recognizable structure (from the 14th century) in the city that many believe was the starting point of the famous trade route.
Before leaving Xian, be sure to stop off at the tomb of Qin Shihuang, which is guarded by 7,000 life-sized terra cotta warriors. Nearly 1,000 of the astonishing statues have been reconstructed since the site was rediscovered in the early 1970s. No visit to the region is complete without a pilgrimage to this incredible site and museum.
3) Heavenly Lake (Tiānchí in Chinese)
Arguably the loveliest body of water in China, this beautiful crater lake (approximately a 3-hour ride from Ürümqi) is particularly popular with Chinese seeking recreation and Kazakh families who set up traditional tents during the summer. Suffice it to say, the lake and surrounding hills and mountains are as picturesque as it gets, and are an excellent place to catch your breath as you make your way along the Silk Road.
4) Mogao Grottoes
Situated southeast of Dunhuang, the 40 caves that make up the Mogao Grottoes have been providing sanctuary to spiritual seekers since the 4th century. Take care to visit the giant statues of the Buddha that are located in a handful of the caves, and peruse the list of the tens of thousands of religious and political documents and artifacts that have been discovered at the turn of the 20th century.