Silk Road

Mystical Asia:
Experience history along the Silk Road

Photo: getty images

The legendary trader Marco Polo is considered a forerunner of today’s globetrotters. On his famous journey through Asia, he encountered a magical, distant world. With a trip along the Silk Road, you can soak in the mysterious past of this vast continent

On the Silk Road, once the most important trade route in the world, travellers can immerse themselves among dwindling cultures and the unique natural wonders of Asia. We give you the tools to create a tour of this legendary travel network with:

  • Background
  • Signposts
  • Travel tips
  • City guide
  • Planning

Background

For over 13 centuries on the former trade route, both merchants and thieves travelling on horses and camels transported valuable goods such as silk, spices, paper and porcelain between the Mediterranean and Asia. The name ‘Silk Road’ was taken from German terms coined by Ferdinand von Richthofen who traversed the trail in both directions in the 19th century.

Signposts

Instead of a single path, the Silk Road forms a network of different routes. These pass through vastly different environments: from hot deserts, to inhospitable mountain ranges and fertile valleys. Some routes currently go through war zones. Countries such as Syria, Iraq and Pakistan should be avoided as the Foreign Office has issued travel warnings for these areas.

City guide

Starting off in Uzbekistan, you should visit Samarkand. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the most mystical metropolises of the Silk Road. The mausoleum of the former ruler Timur, the observatory of Ulug Beg, and the Bibi-Khanum Mosque should all be on your to-visit list.

The central square in the ancient city of Samarkand 🙊

A post shared by Ally Stein (@overland_out) on

Registan, the most exotic city on the itinerary, and Bukhara, one of the largest cities in Central Asia, are also well worth a visit.

In Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world, a trip to the ultramodern Astana and the sophisticated Almaty are highly recommended. But your main objective should be to reach Aksu-Zhabagly. The nature reserve is home to an extraordinarily diverse range of species.

If you want to hit the trail on horseback, you should saddle up in Kyrgyzstan. The fertile valleys and mountain passes of the country are best explored Wild West style.

Read more

Hiking enthusiasts should head for Tajikistan. Half the country is almost 3,000 metres above sea level while hiking and camping on the Fann and Pamir mountains is pretty much mandatory.

 

Majestic blue mountain lake with juniper on the shore in Tajikistan 💙

A post shared by Silk Road Explore (@silkroadexplore) on

In China you can’t miss the world famous Sunday market in the Uyghur oasis town of Kashgar. Both the largest and most important market of the Silk Road, it even has yaks and Bactrian camels for sale.

A trip to Mongolia is perfect at the end of September. At the foot of the Altai mountains, you’ll find the unique Golden Eagle Festival where Kazakh and other tribes demonstrate their skills of hunting with these majestic birds.

Planning

You’ll need visas in advance to visit Azerbaijan, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. For Kazakhstan (15 days), and Kyrgyzstan (60 days) you can travel without visas but will need one should you wish to extend your stay.

Safety first: Find out what is covered by your travel insurance.

Read more
09 2016 The Red Bulletin

Next story