The Silk Road, a unique adventure in Central Asia

By Sergio González | 12:29

Registan at night, Samarkand

The Silk Road employed Alexander the Great, the Persian Royal Road and the powerful Han Empire in China to become the most profitable trade route in history.

Bringing together every culture from the East China Sea to the Mediterranean, fresh ideas, philosophies and The Four Great Inventions of China -papermaking, printing, gunpowder and compass- traveled along silk, revolutionizing life and science. Ever heard about Greco-Buddisht art?

If you’re looking for a different adventure to wake you up from monotony, hop on a camel and start practicing the tricky pronunciation of Central Asia countries. Azerbai…what? Can you say it again, please?

And if you’re really bold, the options are countless.

It would be incredible to follow the Silk Road when it crosses the rich Persian Empire but Middle East region is too unstable nowadays for leisure travelling. Better take the northern route.

You could start in Constantinopla with a cruise over the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov. From Rostov-on-Don you should take a train to Volgograd. Discover the place of the famous WWII battle of Stalingrad if you feel like but our destination is Astrakhan, an old port city built in the Caspian Sea.

The next landmark is Merv, an old oasis in the plains of Türkmenistan that grew a thriving society thanks to its strategic posting along the Silk Road.

Our route goes over several hard deserts but if you want a great story you can still tell your grandchildren, better ride on camels -the ones with two humps- between nearby oasis. Being in a desert it’s an undescriptable feeling I highly recommend to everyone -you’ll never see such a starred night inside civilization.

From Samarkand –once you’ve visited the Registan and the Necropolis of Shohi-Zinda-you have to make the same decision Marco Polo did to reach Ürümqui, the beginning of China . Heading north, through Tian Shan mountains crossing Taraz and Almaty -modern Kazakshtan- or going till Kashgar and cross the Taklamakan desert of no return.

All these cities are connected by modern roads so you can drive your way there but consider booking a flight. The distances are short and usually done in light aircrafts flying low, so you’ll get the most amazing views of the Silk Road.

However, these lands are full of myths and legends from rich ancient cultures -many still to discover for the Western countries- so don’t mind spoiling some days. Please, check the lake Tian Chi two hours driving from Ürümqui before you hit the road again.

Silk Route travel end: The Terracota Army in Xi'an

Once in China, your goal is the old capital of the Celestial Empire, Chang’an -modern Xi’an, where the Terracota Army guards the tomb of the Yellow Emperor.

Google maps places it 40 hours away by car. But you’ll be travelling the least known part of China, which holds ancient secret gems such as Turfan, Lanzhou or Baoji. Allow yourself two weeks to get lost in a mysterious world of Silk Goddesses protected by the Greatest Wall.

 The Silk Route crosses many climates and different landscapes. Take comfortable waterproof shoes, a good coat and sun screen as well as personal hygiene items –you won’t find them so easily.

I am a sucker for spring and visiting countries when the air is scented with blossoming flowers and people are getting in a better mood seem to me a good idea. If the destination is hot, even better. Choose May; the snow has melted and the weather is soft, allowing the first green sprouts to create charming landscapes in the Caucasus.

Although friendly, these countries are mainly conservative and traditional, still opening to foreign tourism. Take care and be respectful -better ask than face a problem later. Apar from that, enjoy the journey of your life!

Photo Credit: Arian Zwegers

Photo Credit: madiko83

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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