Route of Silk Road

Silk Road Map
Silk Road Route Map (Click to enlarge)

The Silk Road was originally opened up by Zhang Qian and it gradually formed in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).

In the Han Dynasty, the ancient road originated from the historical capital of Chang'an (now Xi'an). This China trade route ran through Gansu Province via Tianshui, Lanzhou, Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan, Jiayuguan (an important military garrison and barrier of the Great Wall) and Dunhuang along the Hexi Corridor. Dunhuang is famous for its Mogao Caves and other cultural relics. It was also a key point of the route, where the trade road divided into three main branches: the southern, the central and the northern.

The three main routes spread all over the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The Southern Route wandered west along the northern foot of the Kunlun Mountains, passing  Ruoqiang (Charkhlik), Qiemo (Cherchen), Hetian, Yecheng (Karghalik), Shache (Yarkand) and reached Kashgar (the last point of the Silk Road in China). Then this route crossed the snow-covered Pamirs, reached Pakistan and India via Kashmir; it could also reach Europe through Islamabad, Kabul, Mashhad, Baghdad and Damascus.

Statue of Travelling on Ancient Silk Road
Statue of Travelling along the Ancient Road

The Central Route ran west along the southern foot of Tianshan Mountains, passing Loulan (now Ruoqiang), Turpan , Korla, Kuche (Kuqa), Aksu and Kashgar, afterwards went over the freezing Pamirs, wound to Mashhad via the Fergana Basin, Samarkand, Bukhara and finally joined the Southern Route.

The Northern Route went west along the northern foot of Tianshan Mountains, taking merchants westwards to Hami (Kumul), Urumqi and Yining, and then reached the areas near the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

According to some experts, the total length of the historically important trade route is about 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles), among which approximately 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) of the route are inside China's territory. Nowadays, the immemorial Silk Road spreads over the five provinces in the Northwest Territories including Shaanxi Province, Gansu Province, Qinghai Province, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The road made a great contribution to the political, economic and cultural exchange between China and Central Asia, West Asia, India, Roman and Europe.

Further Reading:
 Maritime Silk Route      Southern Silk Road

 Nowadays, the ancient road is still catching the attention of the world with its large number of historical and cultural sites, splendid natural scenery and colorful ethnic customs. Benefiting from the increasingly convenient transportation network, travelers can travel along this route more easily than before. Pack up and get a taste of the ancient oriental culture by taking one of the China routes below.

 China Delights: 10-Day Beijing - Xi'an - Guilin - Shanghai from $1249 Up
 Classical Silk Road: 14-Day Beijing - Urumqi - Kashgar - Urumqi - Dunhuang - Xi'an - Shanghai from $2929 Up
 Silk Road In-depth: 22-Day Beijing - Urumqi - Korla - Kuqa - Aksu - Kashgar - Hetian - Minfeng - Korla - Turpan - Dunhuang - Xi'an - Shanghai from $3519 Up

- Last modified on Apr. 15, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Route of Silk Road
Asked by lkbdg from USA | Feb. 06, 2016 09:34Reply
how long does it travel to travel from Xi'an, China to Delhi?
Answers (1)
Answered by Helen from CANADA | Feb. 14, 2016 19:59

Well, it is suggested to fly from Xi'an to Kunming first and it takes around 2h and 20min. Then fly to New Delhi in 5h. According to the schedules of the flights, you may also need to wait for some time at Kunming.
Asked by Amir Ali from UNITED KINGDOM | May. 09, 2015 10:46Reply
Torugart Pass to Khunjerab Pass - Travelling by own Car.
Hi Im planning a road trip where i will enter China through Torugart Pass and drive through Kashgar to Khunjerab pass. I like to know what is required in terms of documents apart from visa? Is this something you can help us with? Trip will take place in July 2015.

Many thanks.

Answers (2)
Answered by Helen from PAKISTAN | May. 10, 2015 00:51

I heard it is not enough only to hold your own driving lisence. Upon getting into China, you should head for the closest Vehicle Administration Office to get a Chinese driving lisence. Also as you will driver near the border, you may need to pally for a Border Travel Permit, but I am not sure.
Answered by Ablajan from URUMQI/CHINA | May. 12, 2015 13:57

Hi ,
You need Chinese driving lisence and probably plate number . you need a Kashgar base tour company for this lisence and permit . you have to contact before you arrive , make sure your document prepared before you arrive .
Good luck !
Asked by faiz Yousuff from INDIA | Mar. 11, 2015 07:33Reply
I want to know of we could travel from India to China by the silk route now .
I want to travel from India to China by the silk road route. And would appreciate if we could Get the exact details of the route like distance. places to touch. Planning to do a travel documentary . Kindly provide appropriate information if possible.
Answers (2)
Answered by Fay from SAN MARINO | Mar. 12, 2015 01:02

Faiz, it will be a difficult long journey for you. Some cities you shouldn't miss along the road are Korla, Kuqa, Aksu, Kashgar, Hetian, Minfeng, Turpan, Urumqi, Dunhuang and Xi'an. I think you may refer to the tours for Silk Road provided by this website and then make out your own travel itinerary. Related tours can be found by clicking the Tours of the left navigation bar on this page.

Korla, Aksu, Kashgar, Turpan, Urumqi, Dunhuang and Xi'an. These are some representative cities along the road. Your route could be Urumqi-Korla-Kuqa-Aksu-Kashgar-Turpan-Dunhuang-Xi'an. In Urumqi, you may see International Bazaar, Southern Mosque and Xinjiang Regional Museum. Then you may take around 6 hours bus journey to Korla (about 500 kilometers). On the way, you may visit Tiemen Pass. During your journey from Korla to Kuqa, you may visit Subash Ruins. Then you may head for Asku to see Kizil Thousand-Buddha Caves. Then you need to drive around 500 meters from Asksu to reach Kashgar. In Kashgar, you may visit Sunday Bazaar and Id Kah Mosque. If you plan to see Hetian, you should drive another 520 kilometers. If you prefer to see the desert, you may take around 3.5 hours journey (300 kilometers) to Minfeng. There you can visit Takla Makan Desert. Afterwards, you can drive back to Korla and get to Turpan. The Ruins of Ancient City of Gaochang and Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves are worth your visit. Also don’t miss Karez systems. Then you can get to Dunhuang from Turpan. Mogao Caves and Dunhuang Museum are highly recommended. And you can visit Echoing-sand Mountain and Crescent Lake. Finally, you get from Dunhuang to Xi'an, the starting point of Silk Road. Terra cotta warriors and Horses, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, City Wall and Shaanxi Provincial Historical Museum are all worth your visit.
Answered by Kimberly from MEXICO | Mar. 19, 2015 12:58

I am pretty sure it is possible, but extremely difficult I hope I could help is some way :)
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