At the end of our flight, the oasis town of Dunhuang appears unexpectedly in the midst of a seemingly infinite sandy desert. After landing here in the late afternoon, we will check into the Sun Villa Hotel. Tonight, dinner will be served al fresco in the hotel's spacious gardens (weather permitting). (Silk Road Hotel – Deluxe Suite) (D)
The day starts at one of the world's most impressive cultural heritage sites, the Mogao Caves . Comprising over 400 caves of paintings and sculptures, dating from the fourth to thirteenth centuries, the Mogao Caves are a store of history as much as they are of beauty. Documented amongst the murals are the expeditions of such legendary journeymen as Zhang Qian , the brave expeditioner who first recounted the potential of the Silk Road and Xuan Zhang , the devout monk who imported the first Sanskrit Buddhist texts to China from Northern India. (For most guests, a morning at the Mogao Caves will suffice. Others, however, may wish to spend the whole day exploring the caves.)
After a lunch of local delicacies, we will voyage northwest across the stony desert to Jade Gate Pass (or Yumen Guan), built in the second century BC during the Western Han Dynasty. Named after the high quality jade imported to China from Khotan, 800 miles to the west, the Jade Gate Pass – China's westernmost border crossing – indicated to the weary trader that his eastward journey to China's capital was just under half-complete. A nearby relic from this period is an early remnant of the Great Wall . To enthusiasts, what is most fascinating about this 2,100 year old section is the construction materials used to build it – layers of stamped earth, sand, straw and brushwood. (B, L, D)
This morning, we will take a camel ride to watch the sun rise over the Mingsha Sand Dunes. There, sitting above the "singing sands," we will breakfast (weather permitting). Before heading to the airport to return to Beijing, there will be time to visit the White Horse Pagoda, built in tribute to the horse of the famous monk- translator Kumarajiva. (B, L)
Please note that B, L, D denotes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Dunhuang tours are arranged on a private basis only. Visitors interested in a group tour of China, should view our frequent Imperial Tour.