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Escapes    Starry Road 2019

Starry Road 2019

On the “Starry Road”, you explore sections of the legendary Silk Road, visiting historic sites and observing extraordinary views of the stars with a small group of like-minded adventurers, group leader, and guides native to each of the regions you explore.

You start by venturing to ancient capitals on the Eastern edges of the Silk Road, learning about ancient Chinese merchant life and seeing Buddhist grottoes, before traveling further west along the Silk Road, chasing the starry skies to the Tibetan grasslands.  Here, a visit to a living monastery and conversation over yak butter tea with a local family offer a window into local spirituality and daily life.  A Starry Escapes Moment awaits you at the Gobi Desert, with spectacular views of an ancient Great Wall fort and mountain ranges – all under the crisp, desert night stars.  Topping off your journey, you continue on to observe the skies from a desert oasis mountain top, taking in the landscapes, stars, and diverse history you explored along the Starry Road.


Day 1 Beijing

Arrive in Beijing, welcome and transfer to your hotel to check in.  Studio 45 at Opposite House for 1 night.

Day 2 Taiyuan

Fly to Datong, once the capital of Northern Wei Dynasty.  Head to Yungang Grottoes, and visit the exquisitely-carved statues and caves from the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557), especially the five caves carved by monk Tan Yao in 460.  A UNESCO World Heritage site, Yungang Grottoes showcases the highest achievement of China’s Buddhist cave art in the fifth and sixth centuries.

After lunch, drive to Taiyuan (~280km /174mi, 3.5hrs), the provincial capital of Shanxi.  En route, make a short visit to Yingxian Wooden Pagoda (the Sakyamuni Pagoda).  Built in 1056 during Liao Dynasty, Yingxian Wooden Pagoda is of very high value in studying the architectural art, as well as the religion and culture of the Liao Dynasty (907-1125).  Deluxe Room at Kempinski Hotel Taiyuan for 1 night.

Day 3 Pingyao

Enjoy some downtime in the morning, or opt for visiting Shanxi Museum.  Though less famous than the museums in Beijing or Xi’an, Shanxi Museum is well worth a visit for its great collection of old architecture, ancient Chinese coins, Buddhist steles and sculptures from the region.  Afterwards, drive to Pingyao (~110km /68mi, 1.5hrs).  En route, visit Jinci Temple, an ancient ancestral temple which is noted for its magnificent architecture and history.

Tour the Qiao Residence, the well-preserved courtyard home made famous in director Zhang Yimou’s film “Raise the Red Lantern.”  With its large scale and the exquisite craftsmanship, the well-preserved Qiao Residence is a fine example of the private houses built by the wealthy businessmen and bankers during Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).  Arrive at Pingyao in the late afternoon, and enjoy dinner at hotel.  Courtyard Room at Jing’s Residence for 2 nights.

Day 4 Pingyao

Pingyao, a UNESCO site, is known for its well-preserved ancient city walls and building structures, as well as being the center of the nation’s banking industry during the imperial China.  This morning, head to Jingsheng Village and visit Wang Family Compound.  One of the most prominent families in the region, the Wang family business started in the Ming Dynasty and flourished during the early and middle Qing Dynasty.  The Wang Family Compound is splendid and impressively large, composed of numerous small courtyards, and it’s celebrated for its high achievements in the traditional Chinese residential architecture and art.

Return to Pingyao, and visit Shuanglin Temple, which is unique for its well-preserved ancient murals and painted sculptures. Afterwards, go for a leisurely stroll on the Ancient City Wall of Pingyao Old Town.  Wander the ancient street, visit Rishengchang Money Exchange and the ancient Government Office.

Day 5 Xi’an

This morning, transfer to Pingyao Railway Station and board a bullet train for Xi’an (~3hr, first class seats).  Known as “Chang’an” before the Ming Dynasty, the deep historical roots of today’s Xi’an are a testament to the city’s importance to past dynasties.

At Shaanxi History Museum, learn about the ancient Chinese civilization and appreciate some of the very rare treasures.  Through its well-organized and fascinating world-class exhibits, Shaanxi History Museum displays the rich historical and cultural heritage of the region.  Have a special access to the underground Tang Dynasty Murals, here a prominent expert will offer interesting and insightful views to bring these ancient paintings alive.  Horizon Club Room at Shangri-La Xi’an for 3 nights.

Day 6 Xi’an

Visit Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses, and appreciate those life-size sculptures of warriors and horses, which were built to guard the massive mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuang.

After lunch, visit Wild Goose Pagoda.  A masterpiece of the Tang Dynasty Buddhist architecture, Wild Goose Pagoda was constructed in year 652 to worship and hold the Buddhist relics, statues and sutras that monk Xuanzang brought back from India. Today this quaint pagoda is often taken as the symbol of the historic Xi’an city.  Afterwards, have a leisurely stroll through the city’s Muslim Quarter, and visit the Great Mosque for its remarkable architecture and history.

Day 7 Luoyang

Take a high-speed bullet train to Luoyang (~1.5hrs, first class seats).  Visit the very first Buddhist temple in China – the White Horse Temple, and explore the invaluable statues, steles and architecture from the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.  Visit the nearby Qiyun Pagoda, a well preserved pagoda from Jin Dynasty (1115-1234).

After lunch, transfer to Longmen Grottoes, and appreciate the Buddhist art of this UNESCO site.  Longmen Grottoes is considered a masterpiece of both the Buddhist art and Chinese calligraphy, and its most caves were built by the royal families of Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557) and Tang Dynasty (618-907).  Board a high-speed bullet train, and return to Xi’an in the late afternoon.

Day 8 Lanzhou

Fly to Lanzhou, the provincial capital of Gansu.  Situated between the vast Tibetan and Loess plateaus, and bordering six other provinces and autonomous regions, Gansu province offers a distinctive glimpse into Silk Road history and ancient Buddhist history and practices. 

At Gansu Provincial Museum, visit the ancient treasures excavated along the Silk Road, especially the delicate brick mural “Postman” and the mysterious Galloping Horse.  If time permits, stroll along the Yellow River, visit Zhongshan Iron Bridge and walk up the White Pagoda Hill.  Atop the hill, take in panoramic views of today’s Lanzhou – once a garrison town along the Silk Road.  Deluxe Room at Crowne Plaza Lanzhou for 1 night.

Day 9 Xiahe

Drive to Xiahe via Binglingsi Caves (~230km /143mi, 4hrs).  En route, take a speedboat to Binglingsi Caves (also known as Bingling Temple).  Apart from the fascinating Buddhist statues and ancient murals inside a peaceful valley, Binglingsi Caves is characterized by its picturesque surroundings – the jagged mountain cliffs and the twisting Yellow River.

Stop for lunch at Linxia, a Muslim town dubbed “the little Mecca of China”.  Explore the local market street and visit one of Linxia’s numerous mosques.  Afterwards, continue the journey to the Tibetan land (2,800m /9,186ft), and spend the remainder of the day at leisure.  Guest Room at Xiahe Labrang Aviation Hotel for 2 nights.

Day 10 Xiahe

Nestled at the foot of the Phoenix Mountain, Labrang Monastery is the religious center of the Amdo Tibetan area, and the largest Buddhist monastic university in the entire Tibetan area.  Join the local people walking the pilgrimage route around the monastery.  Explore the vast monastery complex, and visit the Tibetan medicine college and the sutra-debating courtyard.

After lunch, visit the monastery’s sutra-printing house, and have a hands-on try at the ancient woodblock printing.  Drive to Ganjia Grasslands, visit local Tibetan families and taste yak butter tea.  Spend the rest of the day wandering around the bustling Xiahe market street. As the night falls, head to Sangke Grasslands, and stargaze with local Tibetan families.

Day 11 Jiayuguan

Drive back to Lanzhou, and fly to Jiayuguan.  Today a beautiful oasis town amid the vast Gobi desert, Jiayuguan was once a strategic pass along the ancient Silk Road.  Spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure, and have dinner at your hotel.  Guest Room at Jiugang Hotel for 2 nights.

Day 12 Jiayuguan

At dawn, photograph Jiayuguan Fortress against the snow-capped Qilian Mountains.  Watch the sunrise, and enjoy a catered breakfast on Gobi desert.  Visit Jiayuguan Fortress (Jiayuguan Pass), the eastern starting point of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall. After some time to relax and recharge at hotel, head to the nearby Jiuquan city.  Visit the Wei-Jin Underground Tombs, and appreciate the vivid brick paintings from the Wei and Jin dynasties (220-419).   This evening, return to Jiayuguan Fort for our Starry Escapes Moment.

Day 13 Dunhuang

Have a free morning to unwind.  After an early lunch, drive to Dunhuang (~390km /242mi, 4hrs).  En route, stop to stretch legs, and visit the ancient beacon towers and Great Wall from Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD).  Arrive in Dunhuang in the afternoon.  Once a trading hub on the ancient Silk Road, today’s Dunhuang is associated with the gorgeous Flying Apsaras at Mogao Caves, the magic Crescent Moon Lake, as well as the desolate Gobi desert and endless sand dunes.  Deluxe View Room at Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel for 2 nights.

Day 14 Dunhuang

Visit the famed Mogao Caves (the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas), and study the incomparable mural paintings and Buddhist sculptures.  An unrivaled treasure house for Buddhist art, Mogao Caves is especially renowned worldwide for the painted murals, which depict various aspects of the social life and are of significant historical values to study the culture, politics and economics of ancient China.

After some downtime resting at hotel, pay a visit to Mingsha Sand Dunes and Crescent Moon Lake in the late afternoon.  Enjoy a camel-ride, and watch the sun setting over the rolling sand dunes.  Have dinner at Rooftop Restaurant of your hotel.  For the evening, drive up Sanwei Hill, stargaze and take in an astonishing bird’s-eye view of the nearby Mogao Caves and Mingsha Sand Dunes.

Day 15 Farewell

Fly to Beijing, and connect to your onward flight home.  Farewell.

Trip Map


Dates & Prices

September 13 – 27, 2019


A small group of 10-12 guests traveling together, each guest USD5,690

Internal Airfare

All internal flights of economy class, starting from Beijing till Beijing, each guest USD920

All inclusive and fully serviced for your journey duration in China

All hotel accommodation on double occupancy;

All meals;

All transportation (modern, air-conditioned coach);

All tour and event plans, with the service of an English speaking guide and a driver, starting from arrival to departure at the airport of each destination;

First class seats for Taiyuan /Xi’an /Luoyang /Xi’an bullet trains;

The service of one group leader throughout the trip;

Plus proper flexibility and 24/7 immediate support.


1, For guests who take single occupancy for all hotel accommodation, a single supplement of USD1,360 will be charged.

2, Guests will need to take care of the international flights to and from Beijing, passport and China visa, travel insurance, personal expenses on trip, and optional gratuities to your guides and drivers.

Star Records

Thoroughly researched and developed to feature the best hotels and experiences available, our expeditions are continuously updated and perfected with the incorporation of new opportunities for you to engage with the places and people you visit.

Starry Road 2013

Starry Road 2014

Starry Road 2015

Starry Road 2016

Starry Road 2017