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Expeditions    Time Travel 2023

Time Travel 2023

In the far western borderlands of China, Xinjiang’s diverse communities and traditions reflects its history as a major thoroughfare along the Silk Road that connected the East and West, and as a part of numerous empires from across the region.  On “Time Travel,” you will have the opportunity to experience Xinjiang’s confluence of cultures, religions, and landscapes: to explore Buddhist cave art at Kizil Caves and observe morning prayers at Id Kah Mosque, stay with Kazakh nomads and sing and dance with a Uygur community, and even take in the starry skies during an overnight in Mongolian yurts.

Not your typical holiday, you will find yourself waking up to the scent of boiling milk tea on the grasslands, or sitting in a traditional donkey cart en route to a bustling bazaar – all while journeying across the deserts, grasslands, wetlands, and snowcapped mountains of Xinjiang.


Day 1, Arrive in Beijing

Arrive in Beijing, welcome and transfer to your hotel to check in.  Beijing, the center of politics and culture since the 13th century, showcases China’s best art and imperial culture.  In addition, today’s Beijing offers an excellent performance community, and a healthy variety of fine dining establishments.  Superior Suite at Peninsula Beijing for 1 night.

Day 2, Beijing /Urumqi

Fly to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.  At Xinjiang Regional Museum, visit the valuable relics excavated along the Silk Road, and see the ancient mummies of 3000-4000 years old, which are well preserved owing to the region’s dry and arid conditions.  Hike up the Red Hill, and take in panoramic views of the city.  This evening, opt to visit the night market.  Executive Room at Hilton Urumqi for 1 night.

Day 3, Urumqi /Turpan

This morning, drive southeast into the Turpan basin (~190km /119mi, 2.5hrs).  Visit Emin Minaret and the mosque, and study the elegant architecture of this ancient Islamic site.  Tour the Karez Well – the ancient underground irrigation system of channels and wells to supply water from Tianshan Mountains to the city and farmlands.

Before dinner, watch the sunset at Jiaohe Ruins.  In 2014, both the Ruins of Jiaohe City and Gaochang City were listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, for the area’s fascinating history and being the vestiges of ancient Silk Road.  Deluxe Room at Turpan Shuangcheng Hotel for 2 nights.

Day 4, Turpan

At Bezeklik Caves, appreciate the earliest Buddhist cave art in China, and learn the past glory of ancient Gaochang Kingdom. Have lunch at the vineyard of a local family home in Tuyugou Valley.  

Tour the peaceful Mazar Village, where old Uygur traditions are well kept.  Go to the nearby mountainside and discover some ancient ruins – a group of ancient Buddhist caves with frescoes.  Afterwards, visit the Ruins of Gaochang City, explore the vast site and fragments of the ancient city walls that were built over 2000 years ago.  Return to the city, and walk around the old town before dinner.

Day 5, Turpan /Korla

This morning, drive southwest to Korla (~380km /236mi, 5hrs).  En route, stop at the picturesque Bosten Lake, an inland freshwater lake amid the vast desert, and go for an easy stroll along the lake.  Afterwards, continue the drive to Korla.  After dinner, opt to join the locals and take a leisurely walk along the Kongque River (literally, the Peacock River).  Deluxe Room at Loulan Hotel for 1 night.

Day 6, Korla /Kucha

Drive into Taklamakan Desert, and visit Lop Nur Village, a small village on Tarim River where people still live in the old way – canoeing and fishing.

Afterwards, continue the drive along the northern rim of Taklamakan Desert to Kucha (Kuqa), once the ancient Buddhist kingdom on the northern Silk Road.  Before dinner, take a pleasant stroll at Kucha old town, and visit Kucha Mosque.  Deluxe Room at the 5-star wing of Kucha Hotel for 2 nights.

Day 7, Kucha

At Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves, appreciate the exquisite mural paintings and get a glimpse into the ancient Qiuci Kingdom. From these ancient paintings, you will discover the traces of the confluence of different religions and cultures dating back to the third century.  On the way back, visit the ancient Kizil Gaha Beacon Tower.  

Spend the afternoon exploring the peaceful countryside, and enjoy afternoon tea and taste local bread “Nang” at a local family home.  Alternatively, if Friday today, visit Kucha Friday Market instead.  Before the sun sets, have a visit to Subashi Ruins.

Day 8, Kucha /Bayanbulak

This morning, drive to Bayanbulak Grasslands.  En route, go for an easy hike in the Grand Canyon of Tianshan Mountains, also known as the Keziliya Grand Canyon.  Continue the drive through the snow-capped mountains to Bayanbulak Grasslands.  Tour the famed Swan Lake (3,000m /9,843ft) – a wetland of many small lakes, where thousands of swans come to spend the summer before migrating to the south in autumn.  Stay at a local Mongolian yurt for 1 night, under the starry sky.

Day 9, Bayanbulak /Yining

Wake up in the scent of boiling milk tea and the fresh morning air.  Have a leisurely stroll around before leaving for Nalati Grasslands.  Amid the picturesque Nalati Grasslands, meet with local Kazakh nomads at their yurts.

Afterwards, continue the drive along Yili River (Ili River) to Yining.  Yining, the capital of Yili Kazakh autonomous prefecture, is a small but pleasant city in the far west China.  Deluxe Room at Yili River Hotel for 2 nights.

Day 10, Yining

Head to Khorgos Port – a border port between China and Kazakhstan, and visit the local market there.  Continue the drive through the scenic Guozigou Valley (literally, the fruit valley) to Sayram Lake.  Tour the picturesque Sayram Lake (2,070m /6,791ft) – the “Blessing” lake of the Kazakh people, and picnic by the lake.

Return to Yining in the late afternoon.  Walk along the Yili River, and enjoy the sunset over the Yili Bridge.

Day 11, Yining /Kashgar

Enjoy some downtime in the morning, and fly to Kashgar (when the seasonal direct flight to Kashgar is not available, you will fly to Kashgar via Urumqi).  As the ancient Silk Road trade center, the energy and charm of Kashgar flourishes today as if two millenniums ago.  This evening, have dinner at Lotus Restaurant (inside Radisson Blu).  Deluxe Room at Radisson Blu Hotel Kashgar for 3 nights.

Day 12, Kashgar

Visit Id Kah Mosque, the biggest mosque and the religious center of Xinjiang.  Step out of Id Kah Mosque, tour the nearby marketplace and the old neighborhood.  If time permits, step into a local Uygur home, have tea and chat with the family members about their daily life.  Afterwards, visit Abakh Khoja Mausoleum (also known as the Mausoleum of Xiang Fei), a masterpiece of Uygur Islamic architecture.

If it is Sunday today, head to Kashgar Sunday Bazaar, which is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating markets in Asia to experience the ancient Silk Road spirit.  Visit the bustling livestock market, the market for the trading of sheep, cows, donkeys and camels.  If it’s Monday, then you will head to Upal Village instead.  Take a traditional donkey cart to visit a smaller but traditional village market – the Upal Monday Bazaar.

Day 13, Kashgar

This morning, enjoy cycling through the peaceful countryside (~40km /25mi, 3hrs), and tour the Mor Pagoda – an ancient Buddhist site from Tang Dynasty.  Return to the city, and have lunch at the Chinese restaurant of Jinjiang International Hotel Kashgar.  En route, stop to photograph the Gaotai Ancient Homes, and learn the history of the centuries-old neighborhood of Kashgar Old Town.

Take a stroll at the People’s Square, and learn the story of the great statue of Chairman Mao.  Spend the rest of the day exploring the colorful market for all kinds of regional handicrafts (the International Trade Market of Central Asia, also commonly known as the Dongmen Grand Bazaar), as well as a nearby market for local fruits and melons that Xinjiang is famous for.  This evening, have dinner at a local Uygur family’s courtyard home, and watch a traditional dancing and singing performance.

Day 14, Farewell

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

Trip Map

Dates & Prices


2023, all year round, with June to September recommended only.


For a private group of 2 guests traveling together, each guest USD6,550

For a private group of 5 guests traveling together, each guest USD5,260

For a private group of 8 guests traveling together, each guest USD4,790

Internal Airfare

All internal flights of economy class, starting from Beijing till Beijing, each guest USD1,550

All inclusive and fully serviced for your journey duration in China

All hotel accommodation on double occupancy;

All meals;

All transportation (Toyota Land Cruisers for Urumqi – Yining, Day 2 till Day 11, with every three persons sharing one vehicle);

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;

Plus proper flexibility and 24/7 immediate support.


1, For guests who take single occupancy for all hotel accommodation, a single supplement of USD910 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.

Time Travel 2013

Time Travel 2014

Time Travel 2015

Time Travel 2016

Time Travel 2017

Time Travel 2018

Time Travel 2019