Drive the Silk Road - From Munich to Hong Kong 2016

Despite the great distance between Asia and Europe, the two regions had contact prior to the first century AD. Traders, pilgrims and warriors all travelled along the Silk Road from the Mediterranean region in the West to as far as China in the East. Cultures spread through interaction among merchants, travellers and conquerors. The most profound influence of all were those brought by conquering civilizations. To understand the history of cultural diffusion, one must understand the major empires of the Silk Road and the effects that they had on the exchange and spread of culture.

Our one-of-a-kind overland adventure “Drive the Silk Road: Munich to Hong Kong” program from August to November will take place again in 2016. It will take 92 days travelling through 18 countries covering about 20,000 kilometres. The trip is divided into 4 sections and travellers will have the option of participating in one section or two combined sections. 

The journey reveals various regions along this historical and legendary route taking travellers into many unspoiled and off-the-beaten-path places. By driving through and visiting these places, our participants have realized that the Silk Road is not a legend that belongs to the past, but full of liveliness and present-day activities, and the knowledge gained from the journey shall be much greater than those from the history books. Journey with us in the footsteps of legendary explorers ,along the greatest thoroughfare in human history.

Days Program Accommodation Nutrition 
Day 1 Journey start from Munich, Germany Hotel D
Day 2 Munich – Memmingen ( 115 km) Local Guesthouse B/-/D
Day 3  Memmingen – Innsbruck, Austria ( 242 km) Hotel B/-/D
Dey 4  Innsbruck - Hallein, Austria (189 km) Hotel B/-/D
Dey 5  Hallein – Salzburg – Liechtensteinklamm (108 km) Guesthouse B/-/D
Day 6  Liechtensteinklamm – Bled, Slovenia (185 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 7  Bled  Hotel B/-/D
Day 8  Bled – Postonjna Cave – Trieste, Italy  (156 km)  Hotel B/-/D
Day 9  Trieste, Italy – Pula, Croatia  (119 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 10 Pula, Croatia – Plitvice Lakes NP (188 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 11 Plitvice Lakes National Park – Split – Tucepi  (295 km) Seaside Resort B/-/D
Day 12 Tucepi – Mostar, Bosnia (106 km) Guesthouse B/L/-
Day 13 Mostar – Dubrovnik, Croatia  (123 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 14 Dubrovnik  Hotel B/-/D
Day 15 Dubrovnik – Kotor, Montenegro (88 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 16 Kotor, Montenegro – Tirana, Albania (195 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 17 Tirana, Albania – Demir Kapija, Macedonia  (450 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 18 Demir Kapija – Sofia, Bulgaria (230 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 19 Sofia Hotel B/-/D
Day 20 Sofia – Plovdiv  (132 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 21 Plovdiv – Istanbul, Turkey (380 km) Hotel B/-/D
Day 22 Depart Istanbul (August 31) ---------- B/-/-
Day 01 Istanbul (September 04) Hotel -/-/D
Day 02 Istanbul Hotel B/L/D
Day 03 Istanbul – Ankara (580 km)  Hotel B/L/D
Day 04 Ankara Hotel B/L/D
Day 05 Ankara – Cappadocia (530 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 06 Cappadocia  Hotel B/L/D
Day 07 Cappadocia  Mt. Nemrut (543 km)   Hotel B/L/D
Day 08 Mt. Nemrut  Hotel B/L/D 
Day 09 Mt. Nemrut – Gobekli Tepe – Şanlıurfa (191 km)  Hotel B/L/D 
Day 10 Şanlıurfa – Hasankeyf – Van (669 km) Hotel B/L/D 
Day 11 Van                                                        Hotel B/L/D 
Day 12 Van - Dogubayazit – Kars (190 km) Hotel B/L/D 
Day 13 Kars  Hotel B/L/D
Day 14 Kars – Akhalkalaki, Georgia (180 km)   Guesthouse B/L/D
Day 15 Akhalkalaki – Yerevan, Armenia (80 km)        Hotel B/L/D 
Day 16 Yerevan (65 km)  Hotel B/L/D
Day 17 Yerevan Sevan Lake – Dilizhan (325 km)
Guesthouse B/L/D
Day 18 Dilizhan  (80 km)   Guesthouse B/L/D
Day 19   Sevan Lake Tbilisi, Georgia   (170 km)      Courtyard by Marriott B/L/D
Day 20 Tbilisi Courtyard by Marriott B/L/D
Day 21 Tbilisi Sighnaghi (111 km)      Hotel B/L/D
Day 22 Sighnaghi Sheki, Azerbaijan (161 km)    Hotel B/L/D
Day 23 Sheki Hotel B/L/D
Day 24 Sheki Baku (300 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 25 Baku  Hotel B/L/D
Day 26 Depart Baku (September 29) Caspian ferry B/-/-
Day 01 Arrive Baku (September 28) Hotel -/-/D
Day 02 Depart Baku, cross the Caspian Hotel or ship -/-/D
Day 03 Cross the Caspian ship -/-/-
Day 04 Cross the Caspian               ship -/-/-
Day 05 Arrive Turkmenbashi  Hotel B/L/D
Day 06 Turkmenbashi – Ashgabat (580 km)   
Hotel B/L/D
Day 07 Ashgabat  Hotel B/L/D
Day 08 Ashgabat  Hotel B/L/D
Day 09 Ashgabat Darvaza (255 km)  Desert Camping B/L/D
Day 10 Darvaza Dashoguz Khiva, Uzbekistan  (395 km)  Hotel B/L/D
Day 11 Khiva Hotel B/L/D
Day 12 Khiva Bukhara (410 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 13 Bukhara Hotel B/L/D
Day 14 Bukhara Samarkand (280 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 15 Samarkand 
Hotel B/L/D
Day 16 Samarkand Tashkent (310 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 17 Tashkent Ferghana Valley Osh (426 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 18 Osh – Arslanbob  (208 km) Local home stay B/L/D
Day 19 Arslanbob Chichkan Valley (335 km) Lodge B/L/D 
Day 20 Chichkan Valley Kochkorka (260 km)  Family stay B/L/D
Day 21 Kochkorka  Bishkek (190 km)  Hotel B/L/-
Day 22 Depart Bishkek (October 19) ------------- B/-/-
Day 01 Arrive Kashgar, China (October 18) Hotel -/-/D
Day 02 Kashgar Hotel  B/L/D
Day 03 Kashgar – Tashkorgan Hotel  B/L/D
Day 04 Tashkorgan – Kashgar  Hotel  B/L/D
Day 05 Kashgar  Hotel B/-/D
Day 06 Kashgar – Yecheng (Karghalik) (244 km)  Hotel B/L/D
Day 07 Yecheng  Hotel B/L/D
Day 08 Khotan Minfeng (288 km)  Hotel B/L/D
Day 09 Minfeng Korla (780 km)  Hotel B/L/D
Day 10 Korla Turpan (390 km)  Hotel B/L/D
Day 11 Turpan  Hotel B/L/D
Day 12 Turpan Dunhuang (840 km)  Hotel B/L/D
Day 13 Dunhuang                                                 Hotel B/L/D
Day 14 Dunhuang Jiayuguan (520 km)  Holiday Inn  B/L/D
Day 15 Jiuquan Zhangye (400 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 16 Zhangye Hotel B/L/D
Day 17 Zhangye Xining (337 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 18 Xining – Ta’er Monastery – Xining   Hotel B/L/D
Day 19 Xining – Tongren   (181 km)             Hotel B/L/D
Day 20 Tongren – Langmu (359 km)  Guesthouse B/L/D
Day 21 Langmu – Songpan (241 km)             Hotel B/L/D
Day 22 Songpan – Chengdu (322 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 23 Chengdu – Chongqing  (311 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 24 Chongqing – Zunyi (239 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 25 Guiyang – Kaili – Xijiang Miao Village (268 km) Village House B/L/D
Day 26 Xijiang Miao Village – Congjiang  (246 km)                         Guesthouse B/L/D
Day 27 Congjiang – Yangshuo, Guangxi (284 km) Riverside Resort B/L/D
Day 28 Yangshuo   Riverside Resort B/L/D
Day 29 Yangshuo –Shenzhen (622 km) Hotel B/L/D
Day 30 Shenzhen – Hong Kong. Depart Hong Kong. End of the Silk Road drive! ----------------- B/-/-

 

Section 1: 
Dates: August 10 – August 31,  2016
Length: 21 days
Countries to be visited:  Germany – Austria – Slovenia – Italy – Croatia –  Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro  – Albania – Macedonia – Bulgaria – Turkey
Total distance:  ±3220 km
Per person price:  USD 8400 (based on twin-share)                                                          
                                  USD 1620 (single room supplement)

 

Section 2:
Dates: September 04 – September 29, 2016
Length: 26 days
Countries to be visited: Turkey – Armenia – Georgia – Azerbaijan
Total distance:  ±4400 km
Per person price:  USD 12750 (based on twin-share)
                                   USD 2990 (single room supplement)

 

Section 3:
Dates: September 28 – October 19, 2016
Length: 22 days
Countries to be visited: Azerbaijan - Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan – Kyrgyzstan
Total distance: ±3646 km
Per person price: USD 9360 (based on twin-share)
                                 USD 1980 (single room supplement)

 

Section 4:
Dates: October 18 – November 16, 2016
Length: 30 days
Countries to be visited: China
Total distance: ±7813 km
Per person price: USD 11920 (based on twin-share)                                                      
                                USD 2850 (single room supplement)

 

What's included in the payment?

- 4WD vehicle throughout the journey (3-4 people per vehicle). 
- Petrol charges, toll fees, maintenance and repair of the vehicle. 
- Leadership of experienced Group Leaders including mechanical support.
- Local sightseeing with entrance fees (sometimes via chartered coach).
- Accommodation: 4 & 5-star hotels in major cities, best available in remote areas and camping facilities. 
- Hotel taxes and service charges.
- All meals.
- Arrival and departure transfers.
- All cross-border handling.
- Banquets, parties and special events.
- Travel manual and educational materials.
- Use of travel accessories (i.e., GPS, maps, GMRS Radio Walkie-Talkie, tools, general emergency kit)

What is not included?
- International airfare (from home city to Istanbul and from Beijing to home city)
- Travel insurance (mandatory)
- Visa fees
- Expenses of personal nature such as beverages, laundry, telephone/internet fees, etc.

FAQ

Why is there a cash payment?

Your cash payment will cover all gratuities and incidentals. In the countries we travel through, tipping is a common practise. Your guides, the hotel staff, restaurant staff, bus drivers, people who operate boats, wash and service cars, etc., are all to be tipped. Our group leader will collect 500 EUR or 700 USD cash payment from each participant at the group’s departure meeting in Istanbul and this cash payment will cover gratuities of all mentioned above. 

How & when to register?
“Drive the Silk Road:  from Istanbul to Beijing” is planned for a maximum of 16 travellers. Therefore it is recommended to register early to secure your place on the trip. If you are in the USA or Canada, the quickest way to make a reservation is to call us at 1-866-564-1226. If you are in Europe or Russia, please contact us by mail office@asiamountains.net . You may also mail or fax in the reservation form (e will send you reservation form as soon as you ask).  We accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express, cheque or wire transfer for the initial deposit. The balance of the land cost must be paid by cheque or wire transfer. 
Early reservations are recommended, since group size is limited and the trip requires extra preparation time.

 

How will I know when the trip is confirmed?
Total seats available: 16. Minimum number of passengers for a guaranteed departure: 8.  
This trip is based upon a minimum of 8 registrants. Should we receive less than 8 people, we reserve the right to cancel the trip, or apply a surcharge as in our experience most participants usually prefer to pay an additional cost rather than have their trip cancelled. You will be notified as early as possible should this situation arise.
Final confirmation date (should the minimum number of travellers not be reached earlier): 90 days prior to departure.

What happens after I pay my deposit?
Upon receiving your reservation form and deposit, we will hold your space and send you a notice confirming receipt. The minimum number of passengers on this trip is 8.  Once we receive bookings from this number of people, the departure will be confirmed, and we will send you a trip information kit.  
The trip information kit contains general and practical information on the countries you will be visiting, a suggested reading list and packing list; as well as a medical information disclosure form and liability waiver form, which you need to fill out, sign and return to us. 
Your trip dossier will be sent out approximately 3 weeks prior to departure. The trip dossier contains more detailed information related to many aspects of the journey such as detailed itineraries, local contact numbers and group meeting locations, maps, etc - all of which are useful in the final planning of your journey.

Do I need to get visas for this trip?
It is safe to assume that visa will be required for all countries on this trip. Many of these visas will require an invitation letter from the local tour operator or an official visa authorization confirmation from the government. We will obtain these documents on your behalf. 
It is your own responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a passport (with at least six months validity from the date of return at the end of the trip) and any visas necessary to enter the countries involved in the journey.

 

How challenging is this trip?
While this trip is not extremely strenuous, there are periods when the driving times are long and the conditions basic. All participants should be in relatively good health and be prepared to experience long days on the road travelling over varying types of terrain. A willingness to be involved, a positive and flexible approach to travel and an understanding of the particular demands of this trip will ensure your enjoyment on one of the greatest travel adventures of your life. In addition, this is a driving adventure program. You will be required to drive a 4x4 vehicle provided by us. Currently, what we provide you is Land Rover Discovery II with automatic transmission. You need to send us a copy of your driver's license (an electronic scan via email will be OK). So far, an international driver’s license has not been required by any country's authority, if the situation changes, we will inform you or your agent. We should receive your driver's license copy at least 90 days prior to departure since in certain countries, it takes time to get you a local driving permit.

When and where will I meet the group?
You will find the start and end dates on the itinerary page. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in Istanbul on or before the start date, where you will be met at the airport by our local representative. Similarly our services will end with a transfer to the airport in Beijing for your departure home. Should you require extra pre or post-tour accommodation please contact our office and we will be pleased to assist you.
 

Are sightseeing and activities all pre-arranged and included?
Yes! Our sightseeing activities are specifically arranged for this program and will vary according to the local conditions. ‘Scheduled Sightseeing’ is part of the itinerary inclusions and is generally by minibus or coach but occasionally we will use the Land Rovers. All sightseeing programs include transportation, entrance fees and English-speaking local guides.
Please note that there are only two activities are not included and it is totally up to you to decide if you would like to participate in or not. One is the hot-air-balloon ride in Cappadocia, Central Turkey. The other one is the camel ride over the Singing Sand Dune in Dunhuang, China. These activities may not be for everyone and also their operation depends on the local weather condition. Therefore we didn't include the cost in the total price.


How should I pack for the trip?

Due to the nature of this trip space will be limited. Each Land Rover will need to carry essential supplies and it is therefore strongly recommended that all participants limit their luggage to one main piece per person. We recommend bringing a single backpack or soft bag for the journey. A moderate sized suitcase with retractable handle and wheels is also acceptable. Please do not bring oversized suitcases or bags. You should also carry a small day-pack for personal items used during the day (camera, water, snacks etc.). A hidden money belt for carrying valuables is also useful.

 

Will there be changes to the itinerary?
We will take every measure to ensure the accuracy of itineraries and promotional literature. However, circumstances beyond our control may necessitate changes to our route, accommodation, date and activity.  In the case of program change, you should refer to the daily itinerary included with your final documents package as it may have been updated since you booked your trip. In the case of a shift in dates, we will notify you as early as possible of such changes so that necessary adjustments can be made. Changing conditions in the field may also necessitate itinerary modifications after the trip has departed. Participants may be asked to share any increased costs associated with the changes. We also reserve the right to change hotels with properties of similar standard when necessary.
Please note that we are travelling through some of the most remote regions of the world: the trip could be delayed because of weather, road conditions, political conflicts, sickness or other contingencies for which we cannot reasonably make provision.  The cost of the delay and/or trip interruption is not included in your payment.
In consideration of, and in part payment of, the right to participate in the trip, you will fully assume all risk of the above hazards and hereby release and discharge us and our agents from all actions, claims or demands resulting from your willing participation in the trip.

 

What is your Cancellation Policy?
Cancellations or revisions must be made in writing and your right to a refund if you cancel your trip is as follows:

Cancellation Made (days before departure)   Cancellation Penalty
More than 90 days prior                         Loss of deposit
89 - 60 days                                       50% of your payment             
59 - 0 days                                        100% of your payment

There are no refunds for no-shows or any unused portion of the trip. Cancellation fees will apply and are non-refundable for any reason whatsoever. In the event that the tour price increases by more than 7% from the time of booking by the passenger, the participant has the right to cancel the contract for travel and obtain a full refund of payment(s) made to us by providing written notice at any time after a payment has been made up to and including the date of departure as set out in this brochure, unless the increase in the tour price is as a result of government taxation or a fuel surcharge permitted by the National Transportation Agency with respect to charter air travel services, as may be applicable.

 

What other important information do I need to know?

Pre-arranged Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is mandatory for this trip. Policies must provide adequate coverage for the loss of personal items and any potential medical expenses. You will be required to provide your medical insurance provider’s contact details and your policy number in case of emergency.
 

Health & Government Travel Advisories
It is your sole responsibility to inform yourself of the prevailing travel advisories issued by the government of your country regarding the risks and associated precautions (including health) related to travel to the countries and regions visited on this trip. Health advice is available from travel health specialists and international bodies such as the World Health Organization. OUr company will not be responsible for advising you of such travel advisories or of any changes that occur to such travel advisories prior to departure of the trip

Health & Fitness
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are have a suitable level of fitness to undertake this journey and that you have received the required vaccinations. We recommend that you consult with your doctor or travel health specialist regarding the specific health recommendations for travel to the countries and regions visited en route. You must inform Us of any medical condition that may prevent your full participation in the trip. Should you fail to do this and Our Company. or your group leader find that you are medically unfit to participate in the trip or should your medical condition deteriorate during the trip, to an extent where you are no longer able to fully participate in the trip, you will be required to leave the trip. No refund will be made for any unused services in such an event. Our company. and our agents reserve the right to withhold or withdraw tour participation for anyone whose inappropriate behaviour ormedical condition is likely to affect the smooth operation of the trip or adversely affect the safety or enjoyment of other travellers on the trip. As well, Our company. reserves the right at any time to insist on a current medical certificate stating that you are fit to travel, and may refuse your participation if a satisfactory certificate is not supplied. Any decision to exclude a passenger for any reason will be made by OUr company. without any further recourse. When joining Drive The Silk Road you accept the authority of the Group Leader.

In case there are political crisis or military conflicts taking place while we are in the region...During the past few years, we haven't experienced any political crisis or military action throughout the Silk Road trip and our driving adventure was never interupted or re-schduled. This doesn't mean that we are not placing the precautions and safety/security issues on the very top of our list. We are fully aware of what is happening within the countries that we will drive through and keep close contact with our local operators, guides, friends and associations to make sure our information is up-to-date. We also prepared two alternative routes, one is going through the Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan) after Turkey and around Iran; the other one is going through Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia into Inner Mongolia of China. We have our support teams in these places in case there are difficulties for us to enter Iran or Western China

 

Section 1. MUNICH TO ISTANBUL – from the Alps to the Balkan Countries

Dates:                                                  August 10 – 31, 2016
Length:                                                21 days
Countries to be visited:                  Germany - Austria – Slovenia – Itely - Croatia -
                                                              Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro  – Albania – Macedonia –
                                                              Bulgaria – Turkey

Total distance:                                   ±3220 km

Per person price:                              USD$8400 (based on twin-share)          
                                                               USD$1620 (single room supplement)

DAILY ITINERARY

Day 1, Wednesday, August 10   Journey start from Munich, Germany
Our 2016 Silk Road drive will start from Munich, Germany.
Today, all Silk Road overland travellers arrive Munich, our 2016 meeting point. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to a city centre hotel.
Welcome dinner at the famed Hofbräuhaus MünchenHoliday Inn or King’s Hotel

Day 2, Thursday, August 11   Munich – Memmingen  (distance: 115 km)
We will be introduced to our vehicles here and test drive around the town.
The historic town of Memmingen has a wonderful array of interesting sights with a Mediterranean touch. The historic center is the perfect place for a gentle stroll and a little shopping all topped off with some local culinary delights.
We will overnight at a local guesthouse to enjoy the Bavarian small town atmosphere.
B/D Local Gueshouse

Day 3, Friday, August 12   Memmingen  – Innsbruck, Austria (driving distance: 242 km)
Today is our first driving day!
Leisurely drive to drive into Austria, and overnight at Innsbruck.
The historic city of Innsbruck is nestled in between two Alpine mountain ranges. The Brenner Pass, an easily crossed path through the Alps, made the position of the town a strategic location. The importance of the valley eventually gave rise to the ultimate evolution of Innsbruck into a cultural and commercial hub. It is said Innsbruck was the West-most city that Genghis Khan’s Mongolian Empire had ruled.
B/D  Innsbruck Hotel or similar

Day 4, Saturday, August 13   Innsbruck - Hallein, Austria (driving distance: 189 km)
Today’s drive is long but very scenic. Having lunch en route, we will arrive Hallein, a salt mine city near Salzburg in the afternoon. Send the night at a local guesthouse.
This afternoon we will visit the salt mine upon arrival.
B/D Hallein Guesthouse

Day 5, Sunday, August 14   Hallein – Salzburg – Liechtensteinklamm (driving distance: 108 km)
After breakfast, we first drive to Salzburg to visit Mozart’s birth place. After spending time in Mozart’s Museum and the old town, which is like a Baroque postcard town, we will drive southbound to reach Central Austria’s Liechtensteinklamm Gorge, one of the most beautiful and longest gorges in the Alps.
Upon arrival, we will check hotel and overnight.
B/D Hotel Alpendorf

Day 6, Monday, August 15   Liechtensteinklamm – Bled, Slovenia (driving distance: 185 km)
Today we leave Austria, drive through beautiful alpine region and enteer Slovenia.  Arrive Bled and check into our hotel by the lake side.
Bled, also called “the mountain pearl” is Slovenia’s most visited scenic spot. The town is best known for its lake, Lake Bled, with a little island in the middle, where we will take a boat ride to visit. Visit Bled Castle standing on a high cliff overlooking Bled Lake and enjoy fantastic panoramic view of landscape around it.
We will spend two nights here.
B/D Park Hotel or similar

Day 7, Tuesday, August 16   Bled
Enjoy Bled! Morning take the boat trip to reach the island in middle of the lake. Afternoon visit the castle and the winery inside of the castle.
B/D Park Hotel or similar

Day 8, Wednesday, August 17   Bled – Postonjna Cave – Trieste, Italy (156 km)
This morning, we drive to visit Postojna Cave, a 24,120-meter long karst cave system near Postojna, southwestern Slovenia. It is the second-longest cave system in the country as well as one of its top tourism sites.
After the cave visit, will drive 54 km to reach the Adriatic Sea and overnight at a historical town in Italy.
Trieste is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of Italian territory lying between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia. Trieste is located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste and throughout history it has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of Latin, Slavic, and Germanic cultures.
Trieste was one of the oldest parts of the Habsburg Monarchy. In the 19th century, it was the most important port of one of the Great Powers of Europe. As a prosperous seaport in the Mediterranean region, Trieste became the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after Vienna, Budapest, and Prague). In the fin-de-siecle period, it emerged as an important hub for literature and music.
In 2012, Lonely Planet had listed the city of Trieste as the world's most underrated travel destination.
B/D Hotel Riviera & Maximilian’s

Day 9, Thursday, August 18   Trieste, Italy – Pula, Croatia (driving distance: 119 km)
In the morning we will drive southbound into Croatia. Arrive Pula in the afternoon.
The wealth of Roman architecture makes Pula a standout among Croatia’s larger cities. The focal point of the town is the remarkably well-preserved Roman amphitheatre, smack in the heart of the city, which dominates the streetscape and doubles as a venue for summer concerts and festivals. We will visit the amphitheatre in the evening when the lights are lit.
The amphitheatre is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. It was constructed in 27 BC – 68 AD and is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the World. A rare example among the 200 Roman surviving amphitheatres, it is also the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia.
Historical attractions aside, Pula is a busy commercial city on the sea that has managed to retain a friendly small-town appeal.
We will overnight at this very scenic town of Croatia.
B/D HotelAmfiteatar 

Day 10, Friday, August 19   Pula, Croatia – Plitvice Lakes NP (driving distance: 188 km)
After some leisure time in the morning, we will drive westbound along the scenic coast towards Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Enjoy a visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a string of 16 turquoise coloured lakes linked by 92 waterfalls and cascades and surrounded by densely wooded mountains and lush vegetation. Admire the landscape formed by the mineral-rich waters which carve new paths through the rock, and enjoy your time in the middle of nature.
Arrive hotel in late afternoon.
B/D Plitvice Hotel

Day 11, Saturday, August 20   Plitvice Lakes National Park – Split – Tucepi (driving distance: 295 km)
Drive to Split in the morning.  En route pass through a scenic town Split.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia, with just over 200,000 inhabitants, and is the largest city on the Adriatic coast. Coupled with its strong history - it emerged from a settlement around a palace built by Roman emperor Diocletian, and this lively city was also important within Yugoslavia.
Afternoon tour the Diocletianus’ Palace. Split. Within area of Split and Solin the oldest findings are from the time of Neolithic and Eneolithic. In late ancient period during the Roman administration, the splendid Diocletian Palace was built.
After touring Split, we will drive to a seaside town, Tucepi to overnight.
B/D Bluesun Seaside Resort

Day 12, Sunday, August 21   Tucepi – Mostar, Bosnia (driving distance: 106 km)
Drive to Bosnia and overnight in Mostar. Upon arrival, check into a local guesthouse.
The historic town of Mostar, spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostar has long been known for its old Turkish houses and Old Bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named. In the 1990s conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge, designed by the renowned architect Sinan, was destroyed. The Old Bridge was recently rebuilt and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or rebuilt with the contribution of an international scientific committee established by UNESCO.
B/L Shangri-La Guesthouse

Day 13, Monday, August 22   Mostar – Dubrovnik, Croatia  (Driving distance: 123 km)
Drive back to Croatia and arrive Dubrovnik.
Often being described as "Paradise on Earth" and "a Jewel in the Crown of the Adriatic", Dubrovnik has also been regarded as the most perfectly preserved medieval town in the world and is a city which for centuries rivaled Venice as a major sea trading port. It has now been fully restored to its former glory and is an ultimate expression of all that is fine in medieval building. The enormous walls, built between the 11th and 17th centuries are still intact and provide a beautiful setting for the numerous cafes and restaurants that they house.
We will spend two nights in this historical city. Afternoon at leisure.
B/D Dubrovnik Palace Hotel 

Day 14, Tuesday, August 23   Dubrovnik
Half-day old town tour of Durbrovnik.
We will spend the morning in the old town with an English-speaking guide. After lunch, enjoy some free time. Optional hiring a boat to sail in the picturesque Adriatic Sea.
B/D Dubrovnik Palace Hotel

Day 15, Wednesday, August 24   Dubrovnik – Kotor, Montenegro (driving distance: 88 km)
Today we will drive along the coast into Montenegro and arrive Kotor to spend the night.

The Old City of Kotor is an ancient trade center, due to its fortified entrance to the sea. It's also a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site and Montenegro's most famous town. The Old Town is a well-preserved collection of buildings, churches, squares and stone streets that date back to the Middle Ages. Our hotel is located inside the car-free, walled town. We need to pack an overnight bag to enter the old town while parking the cars outside of the city wall.
Tour of old town.
B/D Hotel Vardar

Day 16, Thursday, August 25   Kotor, Montenegro – Tirana, Albania (driving distance: 195 km)
Today we will leave Montenegro and enter Albania. Arrive Albania’s capital, Tirana in the afternoon.

Albania – a country in Europe genuinely exotic and not yet full of stag parties – or becoming rapidly out of date.

Visit Tirana and you will see a part of Europe yet to succumb to mass tourism, where you can still glimpse just how different some parts of European continent were a few generations ago.  Albania is only just escaping from a difficult period in its history. It suffered under a particularly oppressive form of communism, when virtually all contact with the outside world was forbidden.  It emerged from this with a speculative boom and a national pyramid-selling scam, so its first experience of the market economy was a catastrophe – encouraging huge numbers of Albanians to emigrate, mostly illegally, to either Greece or Italy, but with quite a few ending up in Germany or Britain.

Albania is trying to be a normal European country, regardless its all sorts of difficulties. 
B/D Dinasty Rezidence Hotel 

Day 17, Friday, August 26   Tirana, Albania – Demir Kapija, Macedonia (driving distance: 450 km)
We will leave Albania and drive into Macedonia.
After crossing the border into Macedonia, we will arrive Demir Kapija. Demir Kapija is a small town, located on the left bank of the Vardar River in the Povardarie region in southern part of Macedonia. Demir Kapija is known as for the production of red paprika and for it's wineyards.
The name Demir Kapija is preserved from the Ottoman period, which means literally means Iron Gate. We will overnight at a local vineyard hotel here.
The Popova Kula Hotel and Vineyard offers unique experience to its guests with its comfortable rooms and impressive wine production. We will enjoy wine-tasting here tonight.
B/D Polova Kula Hotel and Vineyard

Day 18, Saturday, August 27   Demir Kapija – Sofia, Bulgaria (driving distance: 230 km)
Today we drive through Macedonia and enter Bulgaria from its Southern border. Upon arrival, check into the city center hotel to rest.
B/D  Hotel Anel

Day 19, Sunday, August 28   Sofia
 A walking city tour will take up the whole morning. Visits include: Alexander Nevski Cathedral, National Assembly Square, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Former Royal Palace (now Ethnographic Museum and National Revival Art Gallery), National Theatre, National Archaeological Museum, Presidency, St. George Rotunda, Central Square with closed market, St. Nedelya Old Metropolitan Church, the 16th century Banya Bashi Mosque and the Synagogue.
Afternoon at leisure.
B/D  Hotel Anel

Day 20, Monday, August 29    Sofia – Plovdiv
(driving distance: 132 km)
Drive to Plovdiv, entering the old city and settle in our historical hotel.
Afternoon, tour the old city including the Roman theatre, the Roman mosaics, and the presumed beginning of Via Trayana.
Plovdiv is a modern city with an ancient spirit and charm, emanating from its numerous remains of old times. Enjoy some leisure time walking through the city.
B/D Dedeman Hotel Plovdiv

Day 21, Tuesday, August 30 Plovdiv – Istanbul, Turkey (driving distance: 380 km)
Drive towards Turkey via Svilengrad.

After border-crossing formalities, will drive into the crowded city of Istanbul. Check into a centrally located hotel in Sultanahmed area.
Welcome to Istanbul!
In the Afternoon visit the Blue Mosque, built in 1616 unequalled for its mosaics, and the Haghia Sophia dedicated in 536 AD during the reign of Justinian, we will also visit Topkapi Palace, which was built by Mehmed the Conqueror.  
Evening dinner cruise along the famed Bosphorus, and celebrate the completion of our first section of the Silk Road drive!
B/D  Seven Hills Hotel or Sultanahmed Palace Hotel

Day 22, Wednesday, August 31   Depart Istanbul
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
This is the end of Section I.
B

What’s included in AAST’s services:

  • 4WD vehicle throughout the journey (3-4 people per vehicle).
  • Petrol charges, toll fees, maintenance and repair of the vehicle.
  • Leadership of experienced group leaders including mechanical support.
  • Local sightseeing tours with entrance fees (sometimes via chartered van or coach).
  • Accommodation: 3 & 4-star hotels in major cities, local guest houses or best available in remote areas.
  • Hotel taxes and service charges.
  • Meals which are indicated in the day-by-day itinerary (in this section, breakfast and dinner daily).
  • Arrival and departure transfers.
  • All cross-border handling.
  • Banquets, parties and special events.
  • Travel manual and educational materials.
  • Use of travel accessories (GPS, maps, GMRS Radio Walkie-Talkie, tools, general emergency kit)

What would be your extra cost:

  • Your international flights and related taxes.
  • Personal travel insurance (mandatory) .
  • Visa fees.
  • Vaccinations (not mandatory).
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls, use of internet, laundry, shopping.
  • Cash payment (5 euro or 6 dollars per traveller, per day). This will cover all gratuities and incidentals. The group leader will collect this cash payment at your trip’s starting point.

Section 2. ISTANBUL TO BAKU – The Ottoman Empire and the Caucasus

Dates:                                                September 04 – 29, 2016

Length:                                              26 days

Countries to be visited:                Turkey – Armenia – Georgia – Azerbaijan

Total distance:                                 ±4400 km

Per person price:                            USD$12750 (based on twin-share)
                                                             USD$2990 (single room supplement)

 

DAILY ITINERARY

Day 01, Sunday, September 04      Istanbul
Arrive Istanbul. Transfer to hotel and rest. Welcome dinner.
D Seven Hills Hotel or Sultanahmed Palace Hotel

Day 02, Monday, September 05      Istanbul
Tour Istanbul for the day.
In the morning visit the Blue Mosque, built in 1616 unequalled for its mosaics, and the Haghia Sophia dedicated in 536 AD during the reign of Justinian, we will also visit Topkapi Palace, which was built by Mehmed the Conqueror.
This evening we shall have a memorable dinner on a boat cruising along the Bosphorous.
B/L/D Seven Hills Hotel or Sultanahmed Palace Hotel

Day 03, Tuesday, September 06      Istanbul – Ankara (driving distance: 580 km)
This morning there will be an orientation session with our Land Rover Discovery before we start to drive to Ankara, the capital. Arrive in late afternoon. We will spend two nights at a boutique hotel near the old city of Ankara.
B/L/ D Divan Çukurhan Hotel

Day 04, Wednesday, September 07    Ankara
Today, we visit the historical remains in the city, the old citadel "Hisar", where according to legend, an anchor was found while it was being constructed, from which the city took its name "Ancyra". Inside its walls it contains examples of old Turkish houses alongside the ancient ruins. There is also a covered bazaar, called "bedesten", close to the gate "Hisar Kapisi".
After lunch, visit the very fine Museum of Anatolian Civilizations which details the ebb and flow of cultures that have passed through the area, from the Hittites, the Phrygians, Lydians and Persians to the Galatians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks and Ottomans.
B/L/ D Divan Çukurhan Hotel

Day 05, Thursday, September 08     Ankara – Cappadocia (driving distance: 530 km)
Drive to Cappadocia. En route, we will stop at Şereflikoçhisar and visit the Salt Lake (Lake Tuz).
This is the second largest lake in Turkey with its 1,665 sq. km surface area and one of the largest hypersaline lakes in the world. It is occupying a tectonic depression in the central plateau of Turkey, fed by two major streams, groundwater, and surface water, but has no outlet. Brackish marshes have formed where channels and streams enter the lake. Arable fields surround the lake, except in the south and southwest where extensive seasonally flooded salt-steppe occurs.   
We will have lunch en route and arrive in our cave hotel in a small village of Cappadocia.
B/L/D Cappadocia Cave Suites Hotel

Day 06, Friday, September 09      Cappadocia
Optional hot-air balloon tour is available for the ones can get up very early in the morning (weather permits).
Full day tour in Cappadocia. Visit to the enchanting "fairy chimneys" (conical and unusual rock formations) in Devrent Valley. We continue to the Goreme Open Air Museum, where we will see the finest examples of religious frescoes in rock-cut churches from the 10th to the 13th centuries.
Enjoy Pasabag Valley, and then continue to Avanos, centre of terra cotta work. Afternoon visit Derin kuyu underground city.
B/L/D Cappadocia Cave Suites Hotel 

Day 07, Saturday, September 10      Cappadocia  – Mt. Nemrut (driving distance: 543 km) 
After breakfast, drive eastbound towards Mt. Nemrut region.  After the city of Adiyaman, we will enter the mountain and arrive our hotel just before supper time. Need to go to bed early tonight.
B/L/D Euphrat Hotel

Day 08, Sunday, September 11    Mt. Nemrut
This morning, we will get up around 4:30 am and climb Mt. Nemrut. We shall summit the mountain at sunrise to visit the magnificent ruins and stone statues.  After spending some time at the site, return to hotel to have breakfast.
During the day, we will visit a local Kurdish family in a village nearby. In the afternoon, drive to visit the ruins of the arsemia Roman bridge of Cendere and Royal Tomb of Karakus. Return to hotel for supper.  
B/L/D Euphrat Hotel

Day 09, Monday, September 12      Mt. Nemrut – Gobekli Tepe – Şanlıurfa (driving distance: 191 km)
Leaving the mountain, we will first visit Gobekli Tepe, the site of World’s first temple.
Gobekli Tepe, a mysterious Neolithic temple complex on a remote hilltop near Urfa, predates the pyramids at Giza by 7,000 years. This is the oldest known instance of a religious structure. The site consists of megalithic T-shaped pillars that resemble human figures arranged in dozens of giant circles. These cleanly cut limestone forms rise up to 18 feet tall and weigh up to 16 tons. Carved on their surface are reliefs of snakes, boars, spiders, vultures, and other wild beasts. The site covers a sprawling 22 acres, only a small fraction of which has been excavated to date.
When archaeologist Klaus Schmidt from the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul was called out to investigate some strange stones found by a wandering shepherd in Eastern Turkey in 1994, he quickly realized that he was dealing with something of immense importance. He also realized that if he did not turn and walk away at that very moment, he would spend the rest of his life amongst the incredible stones of Göbekli Tepe. Dr. Schmidt is still excavating Göbekli Tepe, and he has decided to take things very slowly for fear of damaging the site in rushing to find the ancient truth of this special place, as many archaeologists have done at other important sites. 
After exploring the amazing site, we will drive to Şanlıurfa.
In the afternoon, we will walk around the city of Sanliurfa (“Glorious Urfa”), centers around its Old City market and a calm wondrous pleasure garden surrounding Abraham’s Fish Lakes and his traditional Birth Cave. Legends of Abraham abound in this region, where Kurdish, Turkish, Arab and Alevi villages dot the dry plains.
B/L/D Manici Hotel  

Day 10, Tuesday, September 13    Şanlıurfa – Hasankeyf – Van (driving distance: 669 km)
Today’s drive is long. First, we drive to Hasankeyf.
Hasankeyf is an ancient city, and has been identified with the Ilanṣura of the Mari Tablet (c. 1800 BC).[5] The Romans had built the Cephe fortress on the site and the city became the Kiphas fortress and a bishopric under the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Arabs, in ca. 640, renamed Hisn Kayf. In the 12th century, the city was successively captured by the Artukids as their capital. During this period, Hasankeyf's golden age, the Artukids and Ayyubids built the Old Tigris Bridge, the Small Palace and the Great Palace. The infrastructure, location and significance of the city helped increase trade and made Hasankeyf a staging post on the Silk Road.
Afternoon, drive through some beautiful landscape to reach Lake Van.
Arrive Van in the evening.
B/L/D Merit Sahmaran Hotel

Day 11, Wednesday, September 14    Van                                                   
In the morning, we will take the boat to cross the lake and visit the Akdamar church, which is built on an island in the lake by the Armenians.
Lake Van was the center of the ancient kingdom called Urartu by the Assyrians that flourished in the ninth to eighth centuries B.C. The Urartu called themselves the Biaini, which may be the origin of Van. It was an important culture, excelling in the casting and sculpturing of bronzes, many of which were exported to the West, including mainland Greece and Italy. The Armenians, who may have been related to the Phrygians of central Anatolia, migrated into the Van region in about the sixth century B.C. 
After the boat ride, we will pass the old city of Van,  which lay at the foot of the rock of Van (the ancient citadel of the Urartu) was obliterated in a fire as the retreating Russians left their Armenian allies to the mercies of the advancing Turks, at the close of World War I. From the rock, one can make out in the surrounding green fields the outlines of the old neighborhoods and see the ruins of about half a dozen mosques.
After lunch visit Van Fortress.
The Van Fortress is a massive stone fortification built by the ancient kingdom of Urartu during the 9th to 7th centuries BC, and is the largest example of its kind. It overlooks the ruins of Tushpa the ancient Urartian capital during the 9th century which was centered upon the steep-sided bluff where the fortress now sits. A number of similar fortifications were built throughout the Urartian kingdom, usually cut into hillsides and outcrops in places where modern-day Armenia, Turkey and Iran meet. Successive groups such as the Medes, Achaemenids, Armenians, Parthians, Romans, Sassanid Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuks, Safavids, Afsharids, Ottomans and Russians each controlled the fortress at one time or another.
B/L/D Merit Sahmaran Hotel

Day 12, Thursday, September 15     Van – Dogubayazit – Kars (driving distance: 190 km)
Today we leave Van in the morning and head to the Muradiye Waterfalls, a short drive will take us to the border town of Dogubayazit dominated by the towering peak of Mount Ararat.
The old town of Dogubayazit was once an important staging post on the Silk Road. Visit the Ishak Pasa Palace. If the sky is clear, we will have a chance to enjoy the nice view of Ararat.  
After Ishak Pasa Palace visit, a beautiful drive northbound will bring us to Kars. 
En route, we will drive by some amazing volcano ground formation.
Upon arrival in Kars, check into hotel.
B/L/D Cheltikov Hotel

Day 13, Friday, September 16   Kars
45 km outside of Kars, we will drive to visit the Ani ruins , with its impressive fortified walls still encircling the ruins of numerous churches, mosques and caravanserays. Ani historical site is one of the most imprressive one on the ancient Silk Road.
Upon returning to Kars, we will visit the city castle, a 12th-century Seljuk fortress and Kumbet camii, which was originally built as a Church of Apostles in the 10th century.Today is our last day in Turkey.
B/L/D Cheltikov Hotel

Day 14, Saturday, September 17      Kars – Akhalkalaki, Georgia (driving distance: 180 km) 
Today we will cross the border entering Georgia. Drive along the mountain road to overnight at the city of Akhalkalaki. This city is the centre of a historical region called Samtskhe-Dzhavakhetia located in the utmost southwest of Georgia . It is a high-mountainous area of subalpine and Alpine meadows with many crystal water springs and brine wells.
The city of Akhalkalaki , according to historians, was founded in the 11th century. In the 15th century it was almost completely destroyed and in the 17th -18th centuries rebuilt by Turks and transformed into a powerful fortress. We shall visit an old fortress en route.
B/L/D
Ararat Guesthouse

Day 15, Sunday, September 18    Akhalkalaki – Yerevan, Armenia (driving distance: 80 km) 
Drive to Georgia/Armenia border in the morning and process the border-crossing formalities. Then drive to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.  Enjoy some leisure time in the city.
B/L/D  Golden Tulip Hotel or Ani Plaza Hotel

Day 16, Monday, September 19    Yerevan (driving distance: 65 km)
Today visit two major sites near Yerevan.
The Church of St. John (St. Hovanes), also known as Mastara Church, in Mastara, Armenia dates from the 5th century. It features a variation of the cruciform plan and central cupola'd church. In accordance with its square plan, the four projecting apses, inward-facing circular and outward facing polygonal, offer the requisite supports to hold up the imposing polygonal cupola.    
In the afternoon, drive through the picturesque Avan Canyon, skirting formidable cliffs and passing exotic-looking gorges until a green plateau by the Azat River comes into view. Here, in the harmony of the relief and the virgin nature you will see the pagan Garni architectural complex of the 1st century and feel the spirit of ancient ages. Another ten minutes ride through the gorge will take you to the cave monastery of Geghard. 
B/L/D  Golden Tulip Hotel or Ani Plaza  

Day 17, Tuesday, September 20     Yerevan Sevan Lake – Dilizhan (driving distance: 325 km)
Today we will trace the ancient Silk Road through Southern Armenia driving towards the town of Ararat. We will have a wonder view of the Caucasus Mountain range and visit one of the old Caravanserais. 
Also visit the Hayravank Monastery and Noraduz Village close to the town of Gavar where lies the famous Noeaduz Cemetery. 
After some bumpy road driving, we will reach Dilizhan by the Lake Sevan and spend two nights at a local family house.  
B/L/D Ana and Edward’s Guesthouse

Day 18, Wednesday, September 21     Dilizhan  (driving distance: 80 km)   
Dilizhan area of Armenia is affectionately known as the "Little Switzerland".
Hidden in forest inside of Dilizhan National Park, there lies a handsome monastery from the century XII (Haghartsin means "dance of the eagles"). Enjoy the drive and tour, then some hiking by the Lake Sevan.
This evening, we will visit a Molokans family in a hidden village.
During the 19th Century, Tsarist officials instituted policies designed to force Molokans from Central Russia to the periphery of the empire. Accordingly, Molokan communities developed in Caucasus and Central Asia.
One Molokan community in Armenia is located near Dilizhan, a village with a population of about 1,500. This is one of the nine Molokan communities in Armenia, with a total population of about 5,000. About a decade ago there were an estimate 12,000 Molokans in Armenia. The rapid reduction in numbers is in part connected with the struggling Armenian economy.
The community we visit has the feel of an ethnic Russian village. Conversations heard around town are conducted entirely in Russian, and villagers live according to long-held traditions, eschewing many modern conveniences. For example, women rely on devices called pakhtalkas, or butter churns. The primary source of revenue is production of cabbage. We will enjoy a dinner with the family.
B/L/DAna and Edward’s Guesthouse

Day 19, Thursday, September 22      Sevan Lake Tbilisi, Georgia   (driving distance: 170 km)    
Today we will drive north-bound  towards Georgia border. En route we will visit a very interesting village of the Russian Molokan people.
Russian Tsar Nikolai I in 1830 signed a decree prohibiting “Molokans” to live in the central areas of Russia. This made them resettle in Transcaucasus. The villages of the Molokans are still existing in Northern Armenia. Molokans live in complete harmony with nature. They preserve not only the fields, but also the forests. They collect wild berries, pears and grow cabbages. Their home-made jams, cheese and pickles are fantastic.
There will be some border-crossing formality from the Armenia side and then enter Georgia.
Arrive Tbilisi in the afternoon.                                                                                                                     
B/L/D Courtyard by Marriott

Day 20, Friday, September 23    Tbilisi                                                       
Full day of sightseeing in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. 
The city was found in the 5th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali.  We will take a walk around the old town, Kala, which developed within the walls of a citadel and reached the bank of the river Mtkvari; visit centuries old churches, treasuries of museums and other important cultural and religious sites.
B/L/D Courtyard by Marriott

Day 21, Saturday, September 24       Tbilisi Sighnaghi (driving distance: 111 km)   
Drive eastbound to the city of Sighnaghi.
Explore picturesque and the most fertile part of Georgia - Kakheti, which borders the Great Caucasus range from the north Alazani Valley, summits of which are over 3,000 m.
This region is known as a birthplace of viticulture and wine-making. The rich land, burning sun and hard work have developed about 500 varieties of wine in Georgia. The history, culture and lifestyle of Georgians are embodied in Georgian wine. It is a symbol of Georgian hospitality, friendship, tolerance and a key to the mystery of Georgian longevity. Enjoy breathtaking views of Kizikhi area and unusual Charm of Signagi Royal Town. Take a walk in narrow streets of the town in shadow of wooden balconies richly decorated with the lace of carved ornaments.
B/L/D Hotel Solomoni

Day 22, Sunday, September 25    Sighnaghi Sheki, Azerbaijan (driving distance: 161 km) 
Today we cross the border to enter Azerbaijan. We will cross the border at the Lagodekhi border post, and continue on to Sheki, about 160 km from the border.
Upon arrival, we will check into a hotel converted from an ancient karavansarai. Enjoy some home-made wine and food at a local family.
B/L/D Karavansarai Hotel

Day 23, Monday, September 26      Sheki
One of the most ancient settlements and cultural centres of Azerbaijan, Sheki was founded more than 2700 years ago at the southern slopes of the Major Caucasus Mountains Chain (370 kilometres to the north-west from Baku). During its millennial historical the town used to be devastated many times, so the most part of the historic and architectural monuments currently preserved are dated to the 16th-19th centuries.
Magnificent Royal Palace of Sheki Khans (Kings) constructed in 1762 without a single nail is one of the most marvellous monuments of its epoch, which the Shekians are particularly proud…
In the afternoon, we will drive to a village 40 km outside of Sheki  to trek up to an ancient fortress in the mountain.
B/L/D Karavansarai  Hotel 

Day 24, Tuesday, September 27      Shaki Baku (driving distance: 300 km) 
Today we will depart Sheki for Baku.
Drive through the Muganly Mountain Pass. Photo stops on the most beautiful viewpoints on the mountains.
En route, we will visit to Diri Baba mausoleum in Maraza village.
The highlight of the day would be the exploration of the live mud volcano before we reach Baku. 
Arrive Baku and check into hotel in late afternoon.
B/L/D Central Park Hotel

Day 25, Wednesday, September 28     Baku  
Baku sightseeing for the day. Visit to Memory Alley – “Shehidler Khiyabany”, panoramic view of Baku city from the park. Visit to the State Carpets museum. Visit to medieval fortress of Old Baku – “Icheri Sheher” and “Maiden Tower”, the complex of Shirvan Shahs Palace, medieval Caravansaray and so on.
B/L/D Central Park Hotel 

Day 26, Thursday, September 29   Depart Baku
Today we will be at leisure until the time for boarding the Caspian ferry.
This is the end of Section II.
Those who leave the group from Baku, will be transferred to airport for your homebound flight.
 B 

The Caspian Crossing

All cross-Caspian journeys are conducted by cargo ships with space for passengers. Do not expect a comfortable ride!  Because of the nature of the trips, there is no set schedule for when ship arrive and depart, and crossings in this area are often only accessible with local knowledge and luck. Information about these journeys is sparse on the internet.

The only routes available at this time on the Caspian are from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan, and Baku to Aktau, Kazakhstan.

These ship don't have any fixed departure and arrival schedule. It depends a lot on the weather, and they leave when they're full. We can only find out about departures by calling or visiting the ticket office daily or twice daily. Buying tickets is only possible on the day the ship leaves. We need to have our visa for Turkmenistan in advance. Tickets only let us onto the boat, having food, staying in a cabin, getting bedding and towels would cost extra.

Azerbaijan is the most common destination (or source) for passengers crossing the Caspian. Ships mostly depart from Baku, however, starting from last year, more ships dock in Alat, 70km south of the capital. Departures from Baku only take trucks and cars, and departures from Alat take trains, passengers, and private cars.

Baku –Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan  (the route we usually take)

The Baku-Turkmenbashi service normally leaves every day or so, and takes 17 hours, in theory.

The Turkmenbashi service is more reliable than the Aktau service, however Turkmenbashi's port is sometimes too jammed up, making ship anchor outside until they are allowed in. This could take a day or two, but a wait of three days has been experienced in 2014.

The procedure to buy tickets is the same for either port; arrive at the office in Baku in the morning, if there is a boat, buy the ticket, and go to the port to board the ship.

The ticket office changes location from time to time. We need to find out where the tickets are being issued on the day we depart, go there and buy our tickets.

Baku –Aktau, Kazakhstan  (the route we took in 2015 due to Turkmenistan’s refusal of entry)

2015 was the only year we had to go through Kazakhstan. We drove to Alat around 8 pm and waited in parking lot till 3 am before we were called to board the ship. The sailing takes longer than Baku – Turkmenbashi route, should be around 25 hours however, we had to wait on board for one extra day due to the port’s traffic jam.

Boarding

Azeri customs do not allow passengers on board without having the visa of their destination in their passport. European and North American passport holders do not need visa for Kazakhstan, but Turkmenistan visa is definitely required.

Cargo is loaded before the passengers, so we will have to wait. Customs officers will ask to see proof that we will not be turned back once we arrive, like a visa or an invitation letter. On board, someone will want to see your passport and, in Turkmenbashi, they will collect the ticket. It is safe to give them our passports as they need to record the details of each passenger.  When the ship docks at the destination,  we need to line up and go to the captain’s cabin to re-claim our passports.

Sailing

The views of the Turkmen and Azeri coasts are beautiful. We might be able to spot Neft Daşları, an oil city of 2000 people built upon the foundations of oil platforms 55km away from the shore. The sunsets of the Caspian are stunning.

We are free to wander around the ship during sailing, into the hall, the machine room or the bridge.

The cabins are nothing special.  Hygiene standards are mostly low, for example shower and toilet facilities are in the same place, and are usually not too clean. There are public toilets elsewhere. Bring sleeping bag, sheet and pillowcases as your supplied mattress and pillows do not look very attractive.

Though it may not be necessary, but bring some food to be safe. The kitchen on board might fry us up some chicken for a few manat or dollars, or sell some beers, vodka and cigarettes, but once the food runs out, we will be on our own. It would be wise to pack some food and drink given the risk of being stuck in harbour for days.

Customs

Customs and border formalities can take a substantial chunk of time after leaving the ship, especially when we have the cars. We might get stuck for hours in customs. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan can take from 1 to even 5 hours, but Aktau is the worst, in 2015 we were stuck there for almost a whole day with our vehicles. Also, customs only appears to operate from 9-5 in Aktau, so although foot passengers can get off the ferry in the middle of the night, drivers can’t.

Regardless all the above, crossing the Caspian is a very special experience. We have done it 5 times, and just like giving birth, all pains and frustrations are fading away, only joyful and triumphant feelings left in memory.


What’s included in AAST’s services:

  • 4WD vehicle throughout the journey (3-4 people per vehicle).
  • Petrol charges, toll fees, maintenance and repair of the vehicle.
  • Leadership of experienced group leaders including mechanical support.
  • Local sightseeing tours with entrance fees (sometimes via chartered van or coach).
  • Accommodation: 3 & 4-star hotels in major cities, local guest houses or best available in remote areas.             
  • Basic cabin accommodation on board of cross-Caspian cargo ship. Passenger ticket and vehicle charges.
  • Hotel taxes and service charges.
  • Meals which are indicated in the day-by-day itinerary (B=breakfast; L=lunch; D=dinner)
  • Arrival and departure transfers.
  • All cross-border handling.
  • Banquets, parties and special events.
  • Travel manual and educational materials.
  • Use of travel accessories (GPS, maps, GMRS Radio Walkie-Talkie, tools, general emergency kit) 

What would be your extra cost:

  • Your international flights and related taxes.
  • Personal travel insurance (mandatory) .
  • Visa fees.
  • Vaccinations (not mandatory).
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls, use of internet, laundry, shopping.
  • Cash payment (5 euro or 6 dollars per traveller, per day). This will cover all gratuities and incidentals. The group leader will collect this cash payment at your trip’s starting point.

Note: on the cross-Caspian ship, please prepare some small bills in USD or in Azari Monat to pay for food and water.

Section 3. TURKMENBASHI TO BISHKEK – Unveil Central Asia

Dates:                                                September 28 – October 19, 2016

Length:                                              22 days
Countries to be visited:                 Azerbaijan - Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan – Kyrgyzstan

Total distance:                                 ±3646 km

Per person price:                            USD$9360 (based on twin-share)
                                                             USD$1980 (single room supplement)

 

DAILY ITINERARY

Day 01, Wednesday, September 28   Arrive Baku 
Those who joins the group for the Central Asia section should arrive Baku today and will be transferred to hotel to join the group
Welcome dinner.
D Central Park Hotel

Day 02, Thursday, September 29   Depart Baku, cross the Caspian
Due to the uncertain nature of the Caspian cargo ship sailing, we might be able to get on board but might not. If not, we will spend an extra night in Baku.
In case our ship docks and departs from Alat, a port 70-some km from Baku, we need to drive out there before dark and wait at the port’s parking lot.
(About the Caspian sailing, please see details described in Section 2)
D Hotel or ship

Day 03/04, September 30/October 01      Cross the Caspian
We need to leave these days available since the arrival often gets delayed due to harbor traffic. Bring extra books to read on board, there won’t be internet available.
In case we arrive Turkmenistan early, we will have an alternative route to take and drive through some amazing valleys before entering Ashgabat.
On board of Caspian cargo ship

Day 05, Sunday, October 02   Arrive Turkmenbashi
Our ship will arrive the Caspian harbor city, Turkmenbashi. After a long cross-border formality process, we will be able to drive into town and overnight at a local hotel.
B/L/D local hotel

Day 06, Monday, October 03     Turkmenbashi – Ashgabat (driving distance: 580 km)
If we arrive Turkmenbashi a day earlier, we will have time to break this long drive, visit the Yangykala Canyon and overnight somewhere near Gozli Ata. If we only arrive Turkmenbashi on October 02, then we will drive straight to the capital, Ashgabat. Arrive the city around supper time.
B/L/D President Hotel or Yyldyz Hotel

Day 07, Tuesday, October 04    Ashgabat
Today we will have a full day of sightseeing in and around Ashgabat; including a city tour, a visit to the Carpet Museum, visiting the Bakharden underground lake as well as Kipchak Mosque. Later, we will tour the Old Nisa – the remains of the Parthian kings’ residence. Continue to National museum and return Ashgabat.
B/L/D President Hotel or Yyldyz Hotel

Day 08, Wednesday, October 05      Ashgabat
One more day in Ashgabat.
This morning, we will drive out to explore the mystical Nisa ruins.
Nisa was an ancient city, located near modern-day Bagir village, 18 km southwest of Ashgabat. It is described by some as the first seat of central government of the Parthians. It is traditionally assumed to be founded by Arsaces I (reigned c. 250 BC–211 BC), and was reputedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian kings, although it has not been established that the fortress at Nisa was either a royal residence or a mausoleum. The fortress at Nisa was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007.
Return to Ashgabat in the afternoon, relax and walk around town.
B/L/D President Hotel or Yyldyz Hotel

Day 09, Thursday, October 06   Ashgabat Darvaza (driving distance: 255 km)
Morning at leisure in Ashgabat. After lunch depart for a night of camping in the Karakum Desert.  Tonight there will be an amazing experience of a life time!  
B/L/D Desert Camping 

Day 10, Friday, October 07     Darvaza Dashoguz Khiva, Uzbekistan  (driving distance: 395km) 
Drive through the desert and arrive at Dashoguz, a small town by the Uzbek border. After lunch, we will cross the border to enter Uzbekistan.      
Upon arrival in Khiva, check into the hotel and walk around the old city at leisure.  
B/L/D  Hotel Kheivak Malika

Day 11, Saturday, October 08       Khiva
Khiva was the capital of the Khiva Khanate in the 17th century, and has still retained the exotic flavour of a medieval Oriental town. Today we will tour Ichan-Kala (the inner town), which is encircled by brick walls, whose foundations are believed to have been laid in the 10th century. Our visits will include: Mohammed Amin Khan Madrassah, Kunya Ark, Islam Khoja Madrassah and Minaret, Jummi Mosque, and Tash Hauli Palace. We will also see desert sights such as Toprak Kala and Koi Krylgan Kala.
B/L/D  Hotel Kheivak Malika

Day 12, Sunday, October 09    Khiva Bukhara (driving distance: 410 km)  
Drive to Bukhara through the KizilKum Desert. The drive can be very difficult if the new road is not yet ready.
En route we stop to see the Amudarya River, known to many western explorers as the Oxus River. Local fish restaurant for lunch. We will arrive at Bukhara in the late afternoon. In the evening we will see a folk performance in Nadir Devanbegi Madrassah.
B/L/D Asia Hotel Bukhara 

Day 13, Monday, October 10      Bukhara
Bukhara is the only city in Central Asia where the flavour of the East has been preserved intact. It is a town-museum with about 140 architectural monuments dating back to the Middle Ages.
Today our excursion in Bukhara includes visits to the mausoleum of Ismail Samani, a masterpiece of classical Eastern architecture, and the Poi Kalon Ensemble with its 50 meter-tall minaret decorated with unique patterns, towering over the centre of ancient Bukhara. In evening we will have dinner in a local traditional style restaurant.  
B/L/D Asia Hotel Bukhara  

Day 14, Tuesday, October 11       Bukhara Samarkand (driving distance: 280 km)  
After breakfast we will start our trip to Samarkand, arriving in the afternoon where we will have lunch and some leisure time. 
B/L/D Hotel Sultan

Day 15, Wednesday, October 12      Samarkand
Samarkand was once known as the Garden of the Universe. It reached the height of its glory during the reign of Tamerlane who cherished the dream to make his capital the most beautiful city in the world. Today we will have a city tour of Samarkand including the famous Registan, Bibi Khanum Mosque, Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble, Ulugbek Observatory (15th century), and Chupan Ata (1440s). Later we will visit Khoja Abdi Darun, Khoja Abdi Birun and Ishrat Khana Mausoleums, and the famous Samarkand carpet factory. 
B/L/D Hotel Sultan 

Day 16, Thursday, October 13    Samarkand Tashkent (driving distance: 310 km)
In the morning we will start out for the capital, Tashkent. Upon arrival, check into the hotel and rest. Leisure time in the afternoon.
B/L/D Tashkent Palace Hotel 

Day 17, Friday, October 14     Tashkent Ferghana Valley Osh (driving distance: 426 km)
Today we will start early in the morning heading towards Eastern Uzbekistan: the famous Ferghana Valley. The road from Tashkent to Ferghana Valley is a bit challenging, crossing many mountain passes on the way. We will arrive in Andijan for lunch.
In the afternoon drive to the Kyrgyz border and continue to Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan; reputed to be about 3000 years old. There are several legends about the origin of the city, including claims that it was founded by Solomon or Alexander the Great. Even if such a grand personage did not establish Osh, its position at a crossroads along the ancient trading routes that became known as the Silk Road almost guaranteed that it would become a major settlement.
Excursion to Osh Bazaar, one of the biggest bazaars in Central Asia, stretching for about one kilometre along the river. Visit holy mount Suleiman-Too (Solomon’s Throne). According to legend this mount appeared after King Solomon rested here. For Central Asian Muslims, “Taht-I-Suleiman” is the 3rd most sacred place after Mecca and Medina. At the top there is a 16th century mosque and a museum.   
B/L/D Sunrise Hotel

Day 18, Saturday, October 15     Osh – Arslanbob  (driving distance 208 km)
This morning, drive to Arslanbob to spend the night in a village.
Arslanbob is an amazing mountain range with scenic forest area. It is said that the Arslanbob woodland has the largest walnut grove on earth.  If weather permits, we will take a light trek into the gorge and view waterfalls.
B/L/D Local home stay

Day 19, Sunday, October 16     Arslanbob Chichkan Valley (driving distance: 335 km)    
Drive to the Chichkan Valley.  Following the Ferghana Valley the road climbs through spectacular mountains and follows the Naryn River. We will overnight in the valley at a mountain lodge near the river.
B/L/D Oson Lodge

Day 20, Monday, October 17      Chichkan Valley Kochkorka (driving distance: 260 km)
Today the drive becomes challenging after 155 km of paved road. The route takes us through some of the alpine mountains and meadows of Kyrgyzstan. Along the way we will get a chance to meet Kyrgyz shepherds, and learn about their paths and their nomadic life. Drop in at a local nomadic yurta for tea.
In the afternoon, arrive the village of Kochkorka and stay at a local B&B-style accommodation.  Enjoy a Kyrgyz dinner and folk show.
B/L/D Family stay

Day 21, Tuesday, October 18      Kochkorka  Bishkek (driving distance: 190 km)
Today the group members who  will leave the team heading home will be transferred to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Overnight at a city center hotel.  Others will continue to the Chinese border.
B/L  Hotel Asia Mountains
This will be the end of the third section and the beginning of the fourth section of the journey.

Day 22, Wednesday, October 19      Depart
Bishkek
Depart Bishkek for home city.
B

What’s included in AAST’s services:

  • 4WD vehicle throughout the journey (3-4 people per vehicle).
  • Petrol charges, toll fees, maintenance and repair of the vehicle.
  • Leadership of experienced group leaders including mechanical support.
  • Local sightseeing tours with entrance fees (sometimes via chartered van or coach).
  • Accommodation: 3 & 4-star hotels in major cities, local guest houses or best available in remote areas and camping facilities for one night in desert in Turkmenistan.           
  • Hotel taxes and service charges.
  • Meals which are indicated in the day-by-day itinerary (B=breakfast; L=lunch; D=dinner)
  • Arrival and departure transfers.
  • All cross-border handling.
  • Banquets, parties and special events.
  • Travel manual and educational materials.
  • Use of travel accessories (GPS, maps, GMRS Radio Walkie-Talkie, tools, general emergency kit) 

What would be your extra cost:

  • Your international flights and related taxes.
  • Personal travel insurance (mandatory) .
  • Visa fees.
  • Vaccinations (not mandatory).
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls, use of internet, laundry, shopping.

Cash payment (5 euro or 6 dollars per traveller, per day). This will cover all gratuities and incidentals. The group leader will collect this cash payment at your trip’s starting point.

Section 4. KASHGAR TO HONG KONG – Cross the Taklamakan Desert & Explore Amdo (Upper Tibet) and Southwestern China

Dates:                                                 October 18 – November 16, 2016

Length:                                               30 days
Countries to be visited:                  China

Total distance:                                 ±7813 km

Per person price:                             USD$11920 (based on twin-share)
                                                              USD$2850 (single room supplement)

 

DAILY ITINERARY

Day 01, Tuesday, October 18     Arrive Kashgar, China
Upon arrival in Kashgar, the west-most city of China, you will be transferred to hotel and rest.
Welcome dinner.
D Chini Bagh Hotel

Day 02, Wednesday, October 19      Kashgar
Kashgar, the largest oasis city in China and Central Asia, used to be the last outfitting station on the centuries-old Silk Road. Today we explore this exotic city by visiting the Great Id Kah Mosque and the tomb of Abakh Hoja. 
B/L/D Chini Bagh Hotel

Day 03, Thursday, October 20     Kashgar – Tashkorgan
Our vehicles will have to go through a lengthy examination to be permitted to drive in China. We will leave the vehicles in Kashgar. A locally hired vehicle will take us on a 2-day excursion to Tashkurgan, on the Pamir Plateau, along the famed Karakoram Highway.
Tashkurgan means "Stone Fortress" or "Stone Tower" in the Turkic languages. It is where caravans from the West met to trade with those from China.
Tashkurgan has a long history (over 2000 years) as a stop on the Silk Road. Major caravan routes converged here leading to Kashgar in the north, Yecheng to the east, Badakhshan and Wakhan to the west, and Chitral and Hunza to the southwest (modern Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan).
B/L/D Local hotel

Day 04, Friday, October 21    Tashkorgan – Kashgar
After spending the night in Tashkurgan visiting the surrounding area, we will walk up to the ruined fort just on the city’s outskirts. Beyond are grasslands when yaks and camels join the standard horses, cows and sheep. The hills around are arid and angular, and the higher among them are capped with snow, even in this height of summer. Looking very much like Afghanistan. Tashkurgan provided the backdrop for most of the filming of The Kite Runner.
Return to Kashgar in the evening.
B/L/D Chini Bagh Hotel

Day 05, Saturday, October 22    Kashgar
The day will be at leisure.
A city of bazaars, two-wheeled carts, dusty streets and 4000 mosques, Kashgar reveals a strong Islamic influence. Its narrow maze of alleyways and open air markets display all the myriad faces of Central Asia with Uygur, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Kazakh merchants and locals, all busy haggling over camels and sheep, brightly coloured fabrics, fur hides and hats, handmade carpets and knives. Trade remains timeless still, especially on Sundays, when the entire community gathers at the one of the world's liveliest markets.
Our vehicles’ formalities should be done by now.
B/D Chini Bagh Hotel

Day 06, Sunday, October 23       Kashgar – Yecheng (Karghalik) (driving distance: 244 km)
Morning visit the Sunday animal market. After lunch, drive to Yecheng, or, Karghalik in Uygur language, located on the Yarkland River. Overnight at a local hotel.
B/L/D local hotel

Day 07, Monday, October 24      Yecheng – Khotan (driving distance: 258 km)
Drive to Khotan, the capital of jade.
On the southern part of the Silk Road, Khotan was an early centre for the spread of Buddhism from India into China. It fell to the Arabs in the 8th century and grew wealthy on the proceeds of the caravan trade that travelled the route between China and the West.
We will visit a local village, a jade market and Khotan Museum where a desert mummy is in display.
B/L/D West Lake International Hotel

Day 08, Tuesday, October 25    Khotan Minfeng (driving distance: 288 km)
Drive from Khotan to Minfeng, a small town right by the massive Taklamakan Desert. We will get ready for crossing the desert the next day, going to bed early is recommended. 
B/L/D Niya Hotel

Day 09, Wednesday, October 26     Minfeng Korla (driving distance: 780 km)  
Drive from Minfeng to Korla crossing the Taklamakan Desert from south to north along the longest desert highway in the world.  Upon arriving in Korla, the sense of achievement is quite overwhelming.  
B/L/D Loulan Hotel

Day 10, Thursday, October 27     Korla Turpan (driving distance: 390 km)  
Drive from Korla to Turpan.
Turpan is located in the Turpan Basin at the southern foot of the Tianshan Mountains. The city has a population of nearly 200,000, most of whom are Uygurs. The Turpan Basin is the lowest area in China, in which the Aiding Lake, with its surface being 154 meters below sea level, is the second lowest spot in the world, next only to the Dead Sea.
B/L/D Tuha Petroleum Hotel

Day 11, Friday, October 28    Turpan   
Visit to the Kan-er Waterwell, and the ruins of Jiaohe City, now on the list of UNESCO's historical and cultural sites, which protects the Tang Dynasty ruins of homes, garden walls, government offices, pottery kilns, temples and pagodas, all of which are still easily recognizable.   
B/L/D Tuha Petroleum Hotel

Day 12, Saturday, October 29      Turpan Dunhuang (driving distance: 840 km)
Depart Turpan early in the morning, leaving the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. After lunch at Hami, we enter Gansu Province and arrive Dunhuang in the evening. Dunhuang was once an important junction on the Silk Route, where it split into different branches, this oasis in northwest China, on the edge of the Gobi Desert, is surrounded by sand dunes. By the 4th century AD, the route had brought the city both commercial prosperity and a growing Buddhist community.  
B/L/D Dunhuang Sun Grand Hotel

Day 13, Sunday, October 30     Dunhuang  
This morning, take a bus tour to visit the Mogao Grottoes, a series of 500 caves which contain the world's most valuable display of Buddhist art - manuscripts, some 2,400 painted sculptures and 45,000 square metres of frescoes. In the late afternoon, tour the Singing Sand Hill and Crescent Moon Lake. Be prepared for a camel ride over the sand dunes!  
B/L/D Dunhuang Sun Grand Hotel

Day 14, Monday, October 31     Dunhuang Jiayuguan (driving distance: 520 km)
Drive to Jiayuguan and visit the Jiayuan Pass - the western end of the Great Wall.  
B/L/D Holiday Inn Jiayuguan

Day 15, Tuesday, November 01  Jiuquan Zhangye (driving distance: 400 km)
Drive to Zhangye and visit the Zhangye Museum. This museum is located in the Giant Buddha Temple, which is the largest architectural relic in Gansu Province, of the Western Xia (1038-1227) period. China's largest reclining Buddha is well preserved in this temple. Marco Polo spent one year in the town of Zhangye. 
B/L/D Jiaheng Grand Hotel

Day 16, Wednesday, November 02   Zhangye
Zhangye is known for its Danxia National Geological Park, presenting an amazing landscape — Red Rocks and Rainbow Ridges. We will take the day hiking into the park with some of our local friends.
B/L/D Jiaheng Grand Hotel 

Day 17, Thursday, November 03     Zhangye Xining (driving distance: 337 km) 
Today we start to head towards Amdo, Qinghai Province, the Upper Tibet region. We will drive over a mountain pass nearly 4000m above sea level. En route visit a small “Hui” village.
Arrive Xining in late afternoon.
Referred to as China's Summer Resort Capital, Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, is located on the eastern edge of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the upper reaches of Huangshui River.
The activities of human beings in this region can be traced to 2,100 years ago. During the Western and Eastern Han Dynasties, owing to its developing agriculture, Xining was paid more attention due to its economic and martial significance. As well as being the important hinge between the central plains and the western part of China in ancient time, Xining was the most common passing channel of the Silk Road. Until now, it is still the only road by which to enter the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
B/L/D Xining Hotel

Day 18, Friday, November 04     Xining – Ta’er Monastery – Xining
We will visit the Ta’er Monastery today.
Ta'er Monastery, or Kumbum Monastery, was built in 1560 on the site of the birthplace of Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), founder of the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located 25 km outside of Xining. Ta'er Monastery is a working monastery, with several hundred monks in residence, where visitors can experience the living Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Some of the monastery buildings were restored in modern times.
B/L/D Xining Hotel

Day 19, Saturday, November 05 Xining – Tongren (driving distance: 181 km)
We drive to the town of Tongren today.
Lying in the southeast of Qinghai Province, Tongren County borders Xiahe County of Gansu Province to the east, Guide County to the west, Zeku County to the south and Xuanhua and Jianzha counties to the south, and is 181 kilometres from Xining.
Tongren was a place for nomadic ethnic minorities in history. Situated at the transitional zone between the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Loess Plateau, the Longwu River runs across the city from south to city. Belonging to the cold-temperate arid climate zone, Tongren is a natural summer resort. It abounds in mineral resources and wild plants and animals, and rare medicinal herbs as well.
Tongren County is also the birthplace of the Regong Art. As an important art school of Tibetan Buddhism, Regong Art has a history of more than 700 years. The Tangka, barbola and sculptures of Regong Art feature refined craftsmanship and fancy colors, and enjoy great fame in the Southeast Asia, America and Germany, etc. Regong, which means "golden valley", is the appellation for Tongren area in the Tibetan language. Most of the murals, barbolas and sculptures in Tibetan areas were the works of Regong artists here.
B/L/D Regong Hotel 

Day 20, Sunday, November 06   Tongren – Langmu (driving distance: 359 km) 
Enjoy the scenic drive to Langmu, a very colorful township with many ethnic groups living side by side. Upon arrival, we will check into a local guesthouse and visit the Langmu Monastery.
B/L/D Local Guesthouse

Day 21, Monday, November 07    Langmu – Songpan (driving distance: 241 km) 
Today’s drive will be long and arduous.  Leaving Gansu Tibetan region, we will drive into Sichuan Province and overnight in Songpan.
Located in the northern part of Sichuan, Songpan is a small colorful minority town worthwhile exploring. With the ethnic minorities people of Hui, Tibetan and Qiang inhabiting there, Songpan itself is very lively. Songpan is also a historic town, featured by a peace-craving political marriage of Princess Wencheng in the 6th century BC of Tang dynasty and the Songpan Battle in the famous 25,000km Long March (1934 to 1936) of Chinese Red Army. A sculpture and a monument was built in Songpan to memorize the historical events respectively.
Rest and visit the town center and historical monuments.
B/L/D Songpan Hotel

Day 22, Tuesday, November 08    Songpan – Chengdu  (driving distance: 322 km) 
Drive southbound to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province.
Chengdu has a long history. A recent archeological excavation  shows  that Chengdu was an important gathering place for people tracing back to 4,000 years ago. There are many great stories that come from this ancient city.
Chengdu also has the country’s largest Giant Panda Research Centre. We will visit the centre today.
B/L/D Chengdu Hotel 

Day 23, Wednesday, November 09    Chengdu – Chongqing  (driving distance: 311 km) 
Drive to Congqing, China’s biggest city with a population close to 30 million.
By the mighty Yangtze River, Chongqing has been a very important city in China’s history. We will check into a hotel in the city and enjoy some very tasty Sichuan food!
B/L/D Hongya Dong Hotel

Day 24, Thursday, November 10   Chongqing – Zunyi (driving distance: 239 km) 
Zunyi is situated between the provincial capital Guiyang to the south and Chongqing to the north, also bordering Sichuan to the northwest. Along with Guiyang and Liupanshui, it is one of the most important cities of the province.
Zunyi is known for being the location where Mao Zedong was first elected to the leadership of the Communist Party of China during the Long March. After this famous Zunyi Conference,  Mao Zedong and other two leaders formed a group to control the procedure of the Long March. Chinese tourists come to take photographs in the meeting hall where this historic election took place. This historical meeting hall once belonged to a local warlord and after being occupied by the Red Army served as the temporary headquarters.
Zunyi is also known for its fiery hot local cuisine, including yangrou fen (spicy hot rice noodle soup with lamb and bean curd) etc. We will walk around the old town to taste a large variety of its local street food.
B/L/D Zunyi  Hotel

Day 25, Friday, November 11    Guiyang – Kaili – Xijiang Miao Village (driving distance: 268 km) 
Drive to Kaili visiting some colorful ethnic villages en route. After lunch in Kaili, where we will have lunch and visit the ethnic cultural museum.
Drive through the mountains into a hidden Miao Village and overnight. We will need to pack an overnight bag, leave the car outside of the village and enter it on foot.
B/L/D Miao Village House

Day 26, Saturday, November 12    Xijiang Miao Village – Congjiang (driving distance: 246 km) 
Drive to Congjiang,  enroute enjoy the scenery of the green tea plantations and winding rivers.
Passing through Congjiang town, we will enter a very unique village – Basha. Basha is one of the few ethnic villages in southeast Guizhou province. It is home to the last gun-hunter tribe of China.
Upon arrival, check in the local guesthouse for the night.
B/L/D Gufengzhai Guesthouse

Day 27, Sunday, November 13    Congjiang – Yangshuo, Guangxi
(driving distance: 284 km)           
Along the Congjiang River, we will leave Guizhou Province and enter Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Zone. Drive pass Guilin, we will arrive the very scenic town, Yangshuo. Check into hotel by the river.
B/L/D Yangshuo Hepan Riverside Resort  

Day 28, Monday, November 14     Yangshuo             
Today enjoy the river rafting along the Yulong River.
B/L/D Yangshuo Hepan Riverside Resort

Day 29, Tuesday, November 15    Yangshuo –Shenzhen (driving distance: 622 km)           
Leaving Guangxi, we will drive along the highway to Guangdong Province and check into hotel in Shenzhen, 18 km to Hong Kong. This is our final driving destination.
Dinner and celebration.
B/L/D New Times Hotel

Day 30, Wednesday, November 16        Shenzhen – Hong Kong. Depart Hong Kong for home city          
Transfer to Hong Kong airport for your onward flight.
If you wish to have some extended time in Hong Kong, a separate arrangement can be arranged.
B

End of the Silk Road drive!

What’s included in AAST’s services:

  • 4WD vehicle throughout the journey (3-4 people per vehicle).
  • Petrol charges, toll fees, maintenance and repair of the vehicle.
  • Leadership of experienced group leaders including mechanical support.
  • Local sightseeing tours with entrance fees (sometimes via chartered van or coach).
  • Accommodation: 3 & 4-star hotels in major cities, local guest houses or best available in remote areas.             
  • Hotel taxes and service charges.
  • Meals which are indicated in the day-by-day itinerary (B=breakfast; L=lunch; D=dinner)
  • Arrival and departure transfers.
  • Cross-border handling.
  • Banquets, parties and special events.
  • Travel manual and educational materials.
  • Use of travel accessories (GPS, maps, GMRS Radio Walkie-Talkie, tools, general emergency kit)

What would be your extra cost:

  • Your international flights and related taxes.
  • Personal travel insurance (mandatory) .
  • Visa fees.
  • Vaccinations (not mandatory).
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls, use of internet, laundry, shopping.

Cash payment (5 euro or 6 dollars per traveller, per day). This will cover all gratuities and incidentals. The group leader will collect this cash payment at your trip’s starting point.

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