Silk Road

Discover the incredible history and cultural diversity of the world's preeminant trade route, where cultures met for the first time and ideas spread faster than the goods along the way.

Silk Road

Discover the incredible history and cultural diversity of the world's preeminant trade route, where cultures met for the first time and ideas spread faster than the goods along the way.


The Silk Road was the trade route that joined Europe and Asia for the very first time. Gold, silver and fur moved along the route as exotic new products moved in both directions. But ideas spread just as quickly with those brave souls who plied these often treacherous routes - spreading Buddhism, Islam, farming techniques and much more besides - as the globalisation took its first tentative steps.

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Uzbekistan    Kyrgyzstan    Turkmenistan    Tajikistan   
Kazakhstan   Caucasus    Turkey    India

History of the Silk Road

Chinese silk production remained an exclusive secret, hidden from the rest of the world, for thousands of years. Any sharing of information about its production with foreigners resulted in a death sentence. A global demand for luxurious goods thus prompted the creation of an international trade route linking China with the Mediterranean, with trade in silk but also other precious commodities like gold, silver, ivory, jade, porcelain, fur and glass, as well as exotic foodstuffs like carrots, pomegranates, peaches and melons. Formed during the Han Dynasty from a network of routes, this overland path provided a means along which to import and export mostly exotic commodities with China's silk comprising a large and important portion of the trade. For this reason it became known as the Silk Road. 

Not only was this pathway critical to the flow of goods, perhaps more important was the flow of ideas. Along the Silk Road travelled religious ideas (most famously, Buddhism, but also Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and later Islam), business practices, agricultural techniques, artistic processes and even fashions - but also diseases and wars. The discovery of a sea route heralded the decline of the Silk Road route as an important corridor of trade and many of the lands it crossed became forgotten backwaters for many centuries. Today a journey along the Silk Road offers a fascinating insight into diverse ancient cultures, as well as the integration and cultural exchanges of a wide variety of civilisations. 

The Silk Road Today

Spanning over 4,350 miles, the Silk Road begins its epic journey in the ancient imperial capital of Chang'an (today called "Xi'an") in China. Retrace the path of merchants, passing by some of China's most iconic sights - the Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall, the Tibetan monastery of Labrang. Venture along the Hexi Corridor and on across the rolling sand dunes of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts into the untamed wilderness of Kyrgyzstan. Experience the nomadic lifestyle of yurt-dwelling shepherds and discover their stunning mountainous country. Explore the history of the famous Silk Road cities - Kashgar, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Merv - and admire their sublime architecture and beautiful handmade crafts. 

Visit the curious land of Turkmenistan, where a wealth of ancient history sits alongside a closed and often bizarre present, under the thumb of today's rulers. Continue into the Middle East to the fascinating ancient land of Persia (today’s "Iran") with its myriad of captivating sights - from Persepolis to Isfahan, and an unparalleled hospitality. From Persia you can cross into the Caucuses to visit Azerbaijan and the oldest Christian countries in the world - Armenia and Georgia - or cross into Anatolia and on through modern Turkey, visiting some of the oldest sites in the world - the world's first city, Çatalhöyük, and the world's first temple, Göbekli Tepe and the pivotal city known variously as Byzantium, Constantinople and today Istanbul. 

For more information on tour options for individual Silk Road countries, click the links at the top of the page or scroll down for more information on selected Silk Road tour options.

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