Silk Road, an ancient trade route, stretches from 4350 miles from Xian to Europe. The route passes through 12 countries and four Chinese provinces, including Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang. There are several different ethnic minorities living along the route, such as Uyghur nationality, Hui nationality. The whole trip covers areas with different lifestyles, languages, customs and altitudes. Hence, getting to know some FAQs in advance will makes your trips more enjoyable and unforgettable, such as the best time to visit silk road is from April to October, what to bring, how to get there and safety.
Best Time to Visit Silk Road
Best time to visit Xian and Gansu is between March and October when the average temperatures are at a comfortable level (between 20oC and 30oC on average). The scenery is most beautiful and the weather is comfortable. Other months will be cold and even freezing.
Best time to visit Xinjiang is from April to October when flowers are in full bloom, various fruits ripen and the air is fragrant with ripening fruits. The weather is pleasant with warm and cozy days, and cool nights. It’s highly recommended not to visit during religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, as lots of shops and restaurants will be closed.
The weather of Silk Road differs in provinces, as the route went through a string of cities, including famous Xian, Dunhuang, Turpan and Urumqi. And it keeps four distinctive seasons, with highest temperature in summer and lowest temperature in winter. The temperature in Turpan can reach 40℃ (104 ℉) in the summer and -20℃ (-4℉) in January. Temperature difference between day and night gets bigger from southeast to northeast. Humidity and rain capacity reduces from southeast to northwest, so the weather gets drier in Xinjiang.
The best time to travel the Silk Road is from May to October when the weather is mild, fruits are ripe, and the mysterious land displays the best of its glamor. Summer can be scorching hot and dry, but scenery is ideal. Spring will be troublesome due to the sands, winds and dust, while winter will be too chilly.
What to Bring
Climate and temperature along Silk Road vary greatly due to different topographies. So a wide range of clothing and basic suppliers are necessary.
- As the temperature changes a lot between day and night and it’s usually windy in desert area, please bring warm and wind-proof jackets, long pants, thin shirts, sweater for nights and scarf. It’s very hot in summer, T-shirt and short are more suitable. In winter from September to October, warm clothes are necessary.
- Comfortable warm shoes are a must as you will need to walk for a long time when sightseeing.
- Moisturizer, lip creams and mask are needed for protecting your skin from dry and dusty weather.
- The sun's ultraviolet radiation is very strong as altitude get higher. Carry sun block, suntan oil , sunglasses and sunhat to prevent sunburn.
- Bring some basic medicines for diarrhea and heat stroke.
Where to Stay
The Silk Road stretches from eastern modern cities to isolated small villages and accommodations vary greatly from luxurious hotels to simple guesthouse. In big cities like Dunhuang, Xian, Turpan and Lanzhou, there are lots of hotels for choosing which all are equipped with all-around services, high-standard facilities and various breakfasts. But it will be expensive. In some inaccessible villages where transportation is limited like Kuche and Hetian, there are not many types of guesthouses and all with basic facilities, like standard room with private washing room and a simple breakfast. This kind of guesthouse is very popular among backpackers as it’s usually economic.
What to Eat
A trip along Silk Road is also a culinary adventure through a plethora of flavors of tantalizing Chinese Cuisine. Every cities have distinctive delicacies, local snacks, features fruits and local drinks like kumiss, frozen yogurt and the tea with milk. You can find these in various night markets, small restaurants and snack streets. Islamic influence on eating habits and food is huge in Northwest China like Xinjiang.
- In Xian, you should try Dumpling Banquet, Liang Pi (Cold Noodles), Yangrou Paomo, Rou Jia Mo (Shaanxi Sandwich), etc. Famous places include Huimin Street (Muslim Street) and Defachang Dumpling Restaurant.
- In Gansu, you can not miss the delicious wheat food, like Lanzhou Beef Noodles. Camel Hoof, Niang Po and Stir-fired Hump with Five Shredding are also visitors’ favorites. Zhengninglu Night Market is Lanzhou specializes in halal foods, packed with more than 100 street stalls offering kebabs, grilled fish, crispy fried pancake stuffed with beef, etc.
- Xinjiang, knowns as “a land of melons and fruits”, owns famous raisins, Hami melons, grapes, Korla pears as well as peaches, pomegranates and apricots. Here, mutton, beef and noodles are widely spread everywhere. Popular foods include Xinjiang Kebabs, Urumqi Dapan Ji, Xinjiang Grilled Fish, Uyghur Pilaf and Nang.
How to Get There
As the tourism industry develops faster and faster, transportation infrastructure on Silk Road is more and more convenient. You can get there via airline, train or bus.
By air is the most convenient and comfortable way and there are airports in Xian, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Urumqi and Kashgar. Airports, including Xiangyang International Airport ( XIY ), Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport ( LHW ), Jiayuguan Airport ( JGN ), Dunhuang Airport ( DNH ), Urumqi International Airport and Kashgar Airport, have various flights to major domestic cities, like Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Nanjing, etc. Xian airport also has international flights to Bangkok, Tokyo, Pansan, HK, Taipei and more. More flight information and ticket fare can be confirmed from airlines agencies when planning a trip.
Duration of partial flight for reference:
- Xian to/from Lanzhou: 1 hour
- Xian to/from Dunhuang: 1 hour
- Lanzhou to/from Jiayuguan: 1.5 hours
- Lanzhou to/from Dunhuang: 2 hours
- Lanzhou to/from Urumqi: 2.5 hours
- Dunhuang to/from Urumqi: 1.5 hours
- Urumqi to/from Kashgar: 1.5 hours
Travel by train is the most popular way because it’s convenient and inexpensive. There are railways on Silk Road connects with Beijing, Zhengzhou, Shanghai and Chengdu. And Silk Road Railway is connected by the Xian-Lanzhou Railway and Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway. Each day, there are over 31 trains running about 6 to 8 hours between Xian and Lanzhou, covering 676 kilometers. Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway has stops in famous sites, including Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Urumqi, Turpan and Kashgar. Lanzhou-Urumqi railway has over 25 trains running between Xian and Urumqi.
Duration of partial trains for reference:
- Xian to/from Lanzhou: 8 hours
- Lanzhou to/from Jiayuguan: 8 hours
- Lanzhou to/from Dunhuang: 15 hours
- Lanzhou to/from Urumqi: 21 hours
- Dunhuang to/from Turpan: 8 hours
- Urumqi to/from Kashgar: 24 hours
- Urumqi to/from Turpan: 2.5 hours
By Bus or Car
The cost of by bus will economic, but very uncomfortable, unsafe and slow compared with train. But the three- hour bus from Urumqi to Kashgar is highly recommended for active young travelers. On the bus along the road, you can enjoy the stunning views of the Heavenly Mountains and the unique glimpses of the oasis towns along the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert. You can buy ticket in city bus stations. A car or mini-can is necessary when travelling some small inaccessible village.
Duration of partial buses for reference:
- Urumqi to/from Turpan: 3.5 hours
- Turpan to/from Korla: 5 hours
- Korla to/from Kuqa: 4 hours
- Kuqa to/from Khotan: 12 hours
- Khotan to/from Kashgar: 11 hours
There are about 20 different nationalities living along the Silk Road, like the Uigur, Tibetan, and Mongolian. All have their own lifestyles and languages with writing, which causing great culture shock. As the tourism develops, some ethnic groups began to learn Mandarin and use Chinese writing. They also integrate lifestyle of Han people with their own, as well as learn more about Han culture, especially among young generations. Most of road signs combine local languages and Mandarin.
Xinjiang Time, also known as Urumqi Time, is two hours behind Beijing Time because of the geographical location. Although Beijing Time is the standard time in China, Xinjiang locals often use Xinjiang time. So most shops are open when your watch reaches 10AM (thus 8AM for Urumqi)
Travellers do not have to worry about safety problem as there is great public security in minority areas. Locals are very hospitable and welcoming to tourists.
- Please show respect to local culture and religion, and do not say anything about pork.
- Always take good care of valuable belongings, especially in crowded public area like bazaar, train stations.
- Do not bargain with vendors unless you really want to buy something.
Some FAQs from our customers as bellow:
What are the popular tourist sites?
There are lots of tourists sites along Silk Road, including natural landscapes and historical sites. In Xian, you can visit Terracotta Army, Daming Palace Site and Luoyang Longmen Grottoes. In Dunhuang, there are famous Magao Caves, Yumenguan Pass and Dunhuang Yadan National Geological Park. Ancient City of Jiaohe in Turpan, Heavenly Lake in Urumqi and Boisterous in Xinjiang are all well-known attractions.
What medicines should I bring?
Pain-killer pills with you, medicine for colds, diarrhea, nausea and fever, nasal ointment and throat-moistening pills, travel pill or anti-nausea medicine, medicines for preventing sunstroke and colds, diarrhea, nausea, fever and carsickness, anti-mosquito spray, cream or lotion.
How to avoid mountain sickness?
Many places in Xinjiang are over 2000 or 3000 meters above sea level and it is quite possible for you to get mountain sickness. Before you go, a thorough physical examination is necessary. If you have problems like anemia or hypertension, or suffer from heart problems and other illness of lungs, liver or kidney, you are adviced not go there. Bring enough water or drinks and fruits, snacks with high caloric content, like chocolate.
What's the main transportation means along the Silk Road? How about the condition?
Xian and Urumqi have international air connections and tourists can get there by air. To other cities, tourists need to take train and most of the time by land. Xinjiang has a vast desert territory, the Gobi desert, marshy grasslands, valleys, forests, which makes road travel not so conducive. Some roads in Xinjiang might be bumpy and driving takes relatively long between cities.
What are the do's and don'ts when traveling in Xinjiang?
Xinjiang is a Islamic region where several ethnic groups exist. Tourists should respect their beliefs. People should not to drink wine, ask for eat pork, dog's, donkey's or mule's meat in Muslim restaurants or even talk about it. Tourists should not enter Mosques without being properly dressed; Women or ladies are not allowed to enter some mosques in the south of Xinjiang; Travelers should not gaze at Uigur or their staff in markets without buying anything. No talking while a Muslim is praying. No stepping on the prayer mats inside a mosque or house; Not to hug or pat the children; On shall break the Naan breads instead chewing up in whole.
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