A road trip never to forget
The Silk Road
Road trips are inherently adventurous. The road is usually literally wide open and you can travel in every direction you please. The traffic, the places you drive past and the people you meet along the road are unpredictable, giving every trip an adventurous feel. Road trips come in all shapes and sizes. You could take the Route du Soleil and road trip to France, or you could cross the Atlantic and make the legendary Route 66 trek in the US. Today we’re highlighting a lesser-known but stunning road trip – the Silk Road, a route that allows you to literally trace the steps, er … cart tracks of traders from long times past.
What is the Silk Road?
Although its name gives the impression of one long connection, the Silk Road was in reality a network of caravan routes that crisscrossed through Central Asia. Trade between China and East Asia on the one hand, and the Middle East and the Mediterranean on the other was carried out along the routes. During the Middle Ages, land-based trade increasingly started to decline, while maritime trade began to boom more and more. The route got its name from the many precious goods that were transported via the route, including silk from the East. But the route also carried along views, ideas and cultures. In other words, the impact of the Silk Road on our modern-day history and culture shouldn’t be underestimated.
Even though it has made it onto the UNESCO list of World Heritage, the Silk Road isn’t a precise, waymarked route. But it is possible to retrace major parts of its trajectory. Its full length spans 8,000km – from Xi’an in China, to Istanbul – meaning you’ll need a lot of time if you want to retrace the entire route. It is of course also possible to explore parts of the route. For instance:
- The Chinese Silk Road through western China (Urumqi-Xi’an). A route that can partially be covered by night train and that will bring you up close to myriad historical finds, fortresses and cloisters, while also allowing you to pay a visit to the famous Terracotta Army.
- Xinjiang in China, along the southern Silk Road (Kashgar-Turpan). An interesting corner of China that is home to the country’s Uighur population, which originates from Turkey. Fall under the spell of ancient villages, bazaars and magnificent desert areas.
- Central Asia: Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (Tashkent-Merv). A route that packs many architectural gems as well as picturesque mountain villages that could have come straight from a fairy tale.
- The Pamir Highway (M41) through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (Dushanbe-Irkesthtam). One of the world’s most scenic mountain routes. A gem of a route that follows the northern Silk Road.
- Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek-Kashgar (China)). Get a taste of the erstwhile nomadic life while traversing the most breath-taking mountain landscapes. A must for travellers who want to strap on their mountain hiking boots for a couple of days.