Journey to the Heart of China

Hanging Temples, Kung Fu Masters & Buddhist Caves on the Silk Road
Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: TBA  
Length: 21 days
Arrive: Beijing, China
Depart: Dunhuang, China
Lodging: 20 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included except 2 lunches
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Overland travel with walking tours, cultural explorations


  • Xi’an’s Tomb of the Terra Cotta Warriors, a World Heritage Site
  • Buddhist art treasures of the famed Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang
  • Labrang, one of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries outside Tibet
  • Walled city of Pingyao, with its well preserved Ming Dynasty architecture

This was another spectacular adventure with Roger Williams. It more than met my expectations. What a wonderful opportunity to travel this part of the Silk Road and better understand the rise of Buddhism in China.Judith M.—Albuquerque, NM

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!

Join veteran Asia Trip Leader Roger Williams for an in-depth journey across northern China and discover the remarkable story of a 5,000-year-old civilization. Our itinerary includes five World Heritage Sites, including two of China’s most famous ones: the epic Tomb of the Terra Cotta Warriors in the Silk Road city of Xi’an, and the Mogao Grottoes, a magnificent Buddhist cave complex at the edge of the Gobi Desert. Our explorations bring us to the 5th century Buddhist caves at Yungang, the charming walled city of Pingyao, where scenes from Raise the Red Lantern were filmed, the renowned martial arts temple at Shaolin, birthplace of kung fu, and the ethereal 17th century Labrang Monastery, one of the most venerated monasteries outside Tibet.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-5
Beijing / Datong / Pingyao

Arrive in Beijing and fly to Datong to explore the ancient Yungang Grottos, a World Heritage Site of classical Chinese Buddhist art. Heading to the traditional city of Pingyao, we visit the spectacular “Hanging Monastery,” founded in 491 AD, and explore the cobbled streets of Pingyao’s Old Town, encircled by intact Ming Dynasty city walls.

Days 6-9
Zhangbi Castle / Jinsheng / Xi'an

After a visit to Zhangbi Castle, with its temples and underground tunnels, we explore Jinsheng to see its well-preserved Qing Dynasty architecture. Flying to Xi’an, an ancient Silk Road capital, we see the extraordinary life-sized Terra Cotta Warriors, unearthed in 1974 from the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di, and also visit Xi’an’s Yangling Tombs, where over 60,000 pottery figurines, chariots, and weapons have been discovered.

Days 10-12
Luoyang / Longmen Grottoes / Xi'ian

Taking the train to Luoyang, we visit the famed Longmen Grottoes, 5th century Buddhist caves perched on either side of the Yi River and containing more than 100,000 statues. We also spend a day at Denfeng’s Shaolin Temple, celebrated in pop culture as a martial arts Mecca and the place where kung fu originated in 520 AD. We return to Xi’an for a walk on the City Walls, the best-preserved ancient rampart in China, right at the historic heart of this city.

Days 13-16
Maijishan Grottoes / Daxiangshan and Shuiliandong / Thousand Buddha Caves

Our explorations include the Daxiangshan Grottoes, among the largest cave grottos in China, the cliff-perched Maijishan Grottoes, famed for their superb frescoes, and the Thousand Buddha Caves, built in 420 AD and sheltering the most impressive work of both the Song (960-1279 AD) and Ming (1368- 1644 AD) dynasties.

Days 17-18
Xiahe / Labrang Monastery

We head up to in Xiahe, an authentic Tibetan town and a great place to enjoy a stroll, with its shops featuring beautiful Tibetan handicrafts. The next day we explore the venerated Labrang Monastery (9,530'), one of six great Gelukpa monasteries and a major pilgrimage site for Tibetans. We also have a chance for a bike ride out to the Sangke Grasslands, where Tibetan nomad encampments dot the landscape of the high plateau.

Days 18-21
Mingsha Dunes / Dunhuang / Mogao Grottoes

An overnight train journey brings us to Dunhuang, a Silk Road metropolis perched on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. Here we visit Mingsha, known as the“Singing Sand Dunes” for the sound the sand makes when the wind blows, and explore five-tiered “Caves of the Thousand Buddhas” (Mogao Grottoes), with their thousands of statues and brilliant murals. We depart via Xi’an on Day 21

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

The trip is Level 3, Moderate, according to our trip rating system. While this trip is not expected to be physically strenuous, the long travel days and transportation conditions may be quite demanding. Accommodations are in good city hotels. Overland travel is in minivans and small buses, depending upon the size of the group. Travel distances on some days are long. In Xiahe and at the Labrang Monastery, we are at an altitude of 10,500 feet for a few days, with excursions that take us a bit higher. Individuals vary widely in their physical response to high altitude. It is not uncommon to experience mild headaches or sleeplessness for a day or two when you first arrive at high altitude. For your own enjoyment, we recommend that you make a special effort to be in good physical condition. We believe that the most important requirements are a spirit of adventure and the understanding that you are visiting a remote and fascinating region. This is not a hiking trip, but we do hope to have opportunities for walks of two hours or more during the journey.

Explanation of Trip Levels