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The Silk Road Tour takes us through
the land of "a thousand and one nights!" Our goal is the oasis city
of Kashgar located in Chinese Sinkiang province. Our journey will take us through
the beautiful Hunza valley on the KKH.
We will time our arrival in Kashgar
to coincide with the weekly Sunday Bazaar. This is a spectacle to behold. You
will be transported to another time and an another place! The adventure to Kashgar,
China begins in Islamabad, Pakistan. We will follow the wild Indus River all the
way to Gilgit on the Karakoram Highway. Here we have ample time to shop the local
Central Asian bazaars.
From Gilgit we proceed to the highest paved road
border crossing in the world called the Khunjerab Pass (4833 m.). After cresting
the pass, which is also the watershed of the Indian Sub-continent, we descend
into the deserts of Central Asia.
Double humped Bactrian camels can be
seen along with wild yaks on the route to Kashgar. Our return journey will take
us through Swat valley in Pakistan and we will also visit the famous Khyber Pass
located near the city of Peshawar.
The scenery throughout this trip is
outstanding. Perhaps, there is no other place on this planet which can rival what
this trip has to offer. The hospitality of the people from Hunza will warm your
heart. This is a classical overland trip traversing two vastly culturally different
nations. The views are also as diverse as these two nations are!
will be met at the airport and transferred to a comfortable centrally located
hotel. The remainder of the day is free for you to relax and recover from the
long flight to Pakistan. In the afternoon, for those who desire, there will be
a tour of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and the bustling bazaars of Rawalpindi.
In the evening, we have a welcome dinner where you will have the opportunity to
meet your guides and the other members of the group. Overnight stay at Pearl
Continental or Shalimar hotel.
Day 2: Besham
Our first stop outside of Islamabad is
the ancient Greek city of Taxila and its accompanying museum, which houses excellent
relics from the Gandhara and the Greco-Buddhist periods that date back to the
5th century BC. Next we turn north on the famous Karakoram Highway (KKH), moving
into the mountains, crossing the swinging bridge at Thakot, and stopping in Besham
on the shore of the mighty Indus. Overnight stay at Shangrilla or Panorama Hotel.
This is a long day but the
scenery en route more than makes up for it. Following the Silk Route alongside
the Indus River, we reach the famous town of Gilgit at the spectacular entry point
to the Karakoram mountains. For centuries, Gilgit has been the stopping point
on the Silk Route as caravans journeyed south from Kashgar. Chinese monks returning
from pilgrimages in India in the 5th century found Buddhism widely practiced in
Gilgit. Hinduism came to the area around the 10th century, followed by Islam
two hundred years ago. Overnight stay in good, tourist-class hotel.
For half a day, we drive along the
beautiful Hunza river valley, one of the most special parts of Pakistan, on our
way to the Hunza region. As we approach Karimabad, the peak Rakaposhi (7788m)
dominates the skyline to the east. Above Hunza stands the prominent rock spire
Bubulimating (6000m) and the impressive Ultar peaks. The former Mir of Hunza
now lives in a modern palace in Karimabad. We will have time to explore the shops
and city of Karimabad. Overnight stay at Hunza View or Hill Top Hotel.
This is a full day of exploring
the mystery and charm of the Hunza valley. The people here belong to the Ismaili
sect of Islam and commercial barter transactions are still the norm with them.
One of the highlights of this day will be our meeting with the local Hunzakuts
who are known for their longevity. We will also visit the famed forts of Baltit
and Altit. Overnight stay at Hunza View or Hill Top Hotel.
Today we will drive
southeast across the Hunza River to enter the mountain kingdom of Nagar. The
drive takes about 2 hours each way and we will have ample time to discover this
unique village next to the Bualter Glacier and to see the glacier up close. Overnight
stay in Karimabad at Hunza View or Hill Top Hotel.
A few short hours of driving on the KKH along
the river with high peaks all around will bring us to Sost or Sust, the former
site of the Pakistan border check post. The check post is now located a few
km north of Sust and has the name Afiyatabad. Sust is the jumping off point for
people going to Kashgar and we will visit the bazaars of this border town. Overnight
stay in good, tourist-class hotel.
Today is a full day’s drive
over the Khunjerab Pass and into China on the Karakoram Highway. This is a fantastic
trip through a long, shallow high pass, which at 16,000 ft. is one of the highest
international border crossings in the world. On the other side of the pass we
will reach the Chinese town of Tashgurghan, where we complete our immigration
formalities and spend the night. The town itself has a Tajik and Chinese population
and a 14th century Chinese fortress that sits on a rise above the flat-bottomed
Tashgurghan River valley. Overnight at Pamir Hotel.
This morning we drive to Kashgar,
stopping to visit Kara-Kul Lake located between China’s two Pamir mountain giants,
Muztagh Ata (24,524 ft.) and Kongur (25,086 ft.). We visit several small villages
along the way and reach the interesting city of Kashgar in the afternoon and get
settled in our hotel where we stay for two nights. This interesting city has
many other things to see in addition to tomorrow’s bazaar, such as a cottage industry
market, a handicraft factory, a central mosque called the Id Kah and a beautiful
mausoleum. Overnight stay at Seman Hotel.
10: Kashgar Sunday Bazaar
day at the fabulous Sunday Bazaar in Kashgar. This bazaar is the destination
for a variety of colorful Central Asian nationalities who gather to barter everything
from radios to horses. Kashgar is truly a triumph of commerce over both nature
and ideology. Historically, it was the nexus of at least four branches of the
Silk Route despite being surrounded by awesome physical barriers of mountains
and desert. For much of this century it has been controlled by one of the world’s
two communist giants and Kashgar was aptly called the nest of spies of Central
Asia. Yet, within two years of the break-up of the Soviet Union, triangular trade
between China, Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics again started to flourish
in Kashgar. Overnight stay at Seman Hotel.
11: Drive from Kashgar to Tashgurghan via Kara-Kul Lake. Overnight
at Pamir Hotel.
Day 12: Drive from Tashgurghan
to Sust via Khunjerab. Overnight stay in good, tourist-class hotel.
13: Drive from Sust to Gilgit. Overnight stay in good, tourist-class hotel.
14: Drive from Gilgit to Besham. Overnight stay at Shangrilla or Panorama
Day 15: Swat Valley
the morning, we leave Besham and the KKH and travel over the enchanting Shangla
Pass into the valley of Swat. This is a very scenic route, and we stop en route
in small rural villages to savor the panoramic views. In Swat, we visit the
ancient Buddhist site of Butkara (2nd century BC), followed by a visit to a Gandhara
Museum. Weather permitting, we dine at a buffet barbecue set under the stars.
Overnight stay at Sarina or White Palace.
Today we head south through
the ruggedly scenic Swat Valley, passing Churchill’s picket of Takht-e-Bhai, an
ancient monastery located in the arid hills and over looking the pastoral plain.
We arrive in Peshawar in the late afternoon. Overnight stay at Pearl Continental
or Greens Hotel.
Day 17: Peshawar/Khyber
In the morning, we make an excursion
to the top of the world famous Khyber Pass (subject to permits being available
at the time) and gaze into the rugged landscape of neighboring Afghanistan. En
route, we pass through the tribal area with its famous Smuggler’s Bazaar - a bazaar
that still lives up to its name. If the Khyber Pass permit is not available,
we will visit Darra Adam Khel near Peshawar whose inhabitants have been making
their singular product of guns for over 100 years. Later in the day, we visit
the Gandhara Museum to learn more of this ancient and once influential civilization.
In the evening, we walk through the serpentine streets of Peshawar’s Story Teller
bazaar visiting the vendors and the exquisite Mahabat Khan Mosque. Overnight
stay at Pearl Continental or Greens Hotel.
Day 18: Islamabad In the morning, we take the historical Grand Trunk Road
to the east. En route to Islamabad, we stop at the confluence of the Indus and
Kabul rivers and gaze upon the spot where Alexander’s armies crossed over 2,000
years ago on their march into the Subcontinent. Overnight stay at Pearl Continental
or Shalimar hotel
This is a tentative
itinerary. For the enjoyment of your trip a ‘go with the flow’ attitude is necessary.
Many factors will influence your trip, such as weather conditions, health, route
conditions, etc. Please do not take this itinerary very seriously!