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21 Mar 13 - 11 Apr 13
22-day expedition to A...
A unique overland expedition to the “hill tribe land” that borders China, Vietnam and Laos. Despite political disputes and ever-changing borders in this region, a large number of local people have kept their ancient tradition... (+)
From 2000.00$

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Chingeltei Duureg 5th Khoroo, 6th Khoroolol bldg. 17, door 39. Ulaanbaatar 211238 Mongolia.

Phone : +976 11 330 351

Fax : +976 11 330 350

Hidden springs and holy castles

15-day trip to the deserts and mountains of China’s frontier

At the heart of Inner Mongolia, the world's highest sand dunes form a unique desert. Dotted throughout this sea of sand are 150 lakes, a rare source of life in this primarily inhabitable environment. We will explore the Badain Jaran desert, before continuing on through the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai, followed by a journey on the world's highest railway line to Lhasa.

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Day 1. Beijing (D)

We arrive in Beijing, the fascinating capital of the world’s most populated country. This city mirrors not only China’s fast-growing economy but also the very simple life of literally hundreds of millions of Chinese people who are barely touched by change. Skyscrapers rise up only a few steps away from the ancient hutongs; the latest cars glide past rickshaws; and traditions thousands of years old continue to be observed alongside new market rules and a new way of life. All these, and much more, make Beijing one of the world’s most impressive cities to visit. From the airport we drive to our hotel. After checking in, and a short time for refreshment, we will go for a welcome dinner. Overnight in Beijing.


Day 2. Beijing Q Yinchuan (B,L,D)

After breakfast at the hotel, we drive out of the city to the famous Great Wall, probably China’s most prominent landmark. What we in the West know as the Wall is actually a system of walls that was built over centuries by different emperors. The Wall is considered to be some 2700 kilometers in length, but if we include all the sections that were built throughout its history, there are some 10,000 kilometers of this enormous man- made structure. The day will be devoted to walking along some parts of the ‘wild Wall’, in areas that are rarely visited by travelers, with a great view from the top of the Wall over the pristine landscapes surrounding it. In the afternoon we drive back to Beijing and then fly to Yinchuan, the capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Overnight in Yinchuan.


Day 3. Yinchuan/ Alxa Zouqi (B,L,D)

We begin the day with a stroll in one of Yinchuan’s small morning markets and then visit one of the city’s numerous mosques. Leaving Yinchuan, we head to the Helankou Scenic Area, with its beautiful and distinctive rock engravings, and the well maintained museum dedicated to them and to wall engravings from other parts of the world. We then continue to the tombs of the kings of the Western Xia Dynasty, dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries. We leave Ningxia and head into the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The border between these two autonomous regions is marked by an ancient part of the Great Wall. We then make for Alxa Zouqi, a small town with a large Mongolian population, on the edge of the Badain Jaran Desert. On arriving at Alxa Zouqi, we shall go to explore the local Mongolian Buddhist Temple and the street where items made of jade or other semiprecious stones can be bought. Overnight in Alxa Zouqi.


Day 4. Alxa Zouqi/ Kulat-U (B,L,D)

Heading towards the desert, on a highway full of trucks carrying exports into Mongolia and returning with loads of Mongolian coal, we reach our lunch stop. We leave our bus here and get into four-wheeled-drive vehicles that will take us to the heart of this remote desert. The Badain Jaran Desert is home to the world’s highest sand dune, rising to some 500 meters, and offers challenging drives as well as marvelous landscapes of sand seas extending to the horizon. We stay the night in the small settlement of Kulat-U beside a small salt lake. Overnight in a simple guesthouse at Kulat-U.


Day 5. Kulat-U/ Soumin Jaran (B,L,D)

In the morning we visit the small Mongolian temple next to the salt lake. We then continue our exploration of the desert, and at about lunch time we reach the area of more than 150 lakes that dot the yellow dunes. We climb to the top of the dunes for a marvelous view over several lakes and stop at Yinderitu Lake, whose waters are believed by the locals to cure a sick person from stomach diseases. Another short drive through the dunes brings us to Soumin Jaran, a beautiful lake with a beautiful Mongolian temple beside it. We visit the temple, now inhabited by only one monk, and stroll along the lake shore. Overnight in a simple guesthouse at Soumin Jaran.


Day 6. Soumin Jaran/ Alxa Youqi (B,L,D)

We leave Soumin Jaran and drive almost to the top of one of the highest dunes in the area for a spectacular view of the lakes and the seemingly endless seas of sand. From here we take a 2½-hour hike to Nuritu Lake. After a quick lunch there, we ride on two-humped camels to a point from where we can enjoy marvelous views over desert and lakes. We then take to vehicles to drive out of the desert. En route we visit the wall of singing sand and the brave can have a quick bathe in Bor Tulguu Lake. We leave the dunes and stop at the small local museum to learn more about the desert and its surroundings. Back on a solid asphalt road after three days of crossing the dunes, we reach the small settlement of Alxa Youqi. Overnight in a local hotel in Alxa Youqi.


Day 7. Alxa Youqi/ Zhangye (B,L,D)

Today we leave the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and head towards the province of Gansu. We go through mountain passes at more than 2000 meters and drive along a significant section of the ancient Silk Road. We arrive in Zhangye, once an important trade city on the Silk Road, and, after checking in at the hotel and having a quick lunch, we head to Dan Xia, a spectacular mountain with somewhat psychedelic patterns of colors all along it. From there, we continue our ride to Bing Gou, made out of sandstone with beautiful natural formations. Here we take a refreshing hike and then ride back to Zhangye. Overnight in a local hotel in Zhangye.


Day 8. Zhangye/ Xining (B,L,D)

We begin the day with a visit to the reclining Buddha temple, dating back to the Western Xia Dynasty of the 11th century. Apart from the impressive 34-meter Buddha statue, the temple complex also includes some very interesting religious artifacts that have been recovered from various archeological digs in the region. We then leave Zhangye and drive to the Ma Ta Se Temple (the Horseshoe Temple), a beautiful hanging temple with caves carved into the mountains, housing numerous religious sculptures. We continue on a road running beside many Muslim villages with their distinct minarets to Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province. Overnight in Xining.


Day 9. Xining/ Canbula/ Xining (B,L,D)

Today we take an excursion out of Xining to the Canbula National Forest Park, which has impressive rock and land formations and snow-capped mountains. We explore the park by car then hike down the Nanzong Valley to the area of Liujia Gorge, now flooded following the construction of a power station dam, and take a memorable boat ride on the lake formed by the dam. In the late afternoon we drive back to Xining, crossing over the mighty Yellow River. Overnight in Xining.


Day 10. Xining/ Sky Train to Lhasa (B,-,-)

Today we have an early start and go to the city’s main square to see the crowds taking their morning exercises, from groups of Tibetans dancing to traditional and modern music all the way to individuals mastering their t’ai chi technique. We then walk to the city’s food market to stock up on fruit and vegetables for our train ride later in the day. Before leaving Xining, we stop at one of the city’s largest mosques. Showing a combination of traditional Muslim and Chinese architecture, the mosque is located at the edge of the wide extent of the Chinese Sunni people. Originally constructed during the 14th century, the buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt several times. We continue to the train station for an unforgettable ride on the recently opened Sky Train to Lhasa. This ambitious project undertaken by the Chinese government is not only the world’s highest railway but also a true triumph for mankind, overcoming many natural obstacles during its construction. Overnight aboard the train.


Day 11. Sky Train/ Lhasa (-,-,D)

We reach Lhasa in the early afternoon and drive directly to our hotel to rest after the 24-hour train ride. At nearly 3500 meters above sea level, the air in Lhasa is very thin. For those who need some time to acclimatize, a free afternoon in the hotel is offered. We leave the hotel and drive to the bustling Barkhor, a circular street around the Jokhang Temple, of the Tibet’s most important temples. After exploring the Barkhor, with its countless pilgrims and busy market stalls, we visit the Jokhang, dating from the 7th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overnight in Lhasa.


Day 12. Lhasa (B,L,D)

Today we explore Lhasa’s most prominent sites and temples, beginning with a morning visit to Norbulingka. Built in 1775, this was the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas from the time of its construction until the present Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959. With its vast, well maintained gardens, and the light breeze blowing from the central lake, this is a perfect refuge from the heat of the city in summer. We explore the numerous chambers and shrines in the complex before leaving the compound and heading towards the Potala Palace. With fortified walls as protection from both invaders and earthquakes, and stretching over some 140,000 square meters, the palace looks over the entire Lhasa Valley. The Potala features more than 1000 shrines, the tombs of most of the Dalai Lamas, and an excellent display of Tibetan and Buddhist art and workmanship. We leave the palace and head to Sera Monastery, where continuous religious debates take place in a shaded courtyard at the heart of the complex. This is one of the three main colleges of the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism, and we shall explore its various halls. Overnight in Lhasa.

Day 13. Lhasa/ Samye/ Tsedang (B,L,D)

Leaving Lhasa, we drive along the Kyi River valley. On the river bank, we stop at a sacred site where Tibetan families give a ‘water burial’ to children who have passed away. We then drive up to a 5,000-meter pass for a view over the crystal-blue Yamdrok Lake, one of Tibet’s most sacred lakes. Returning to the Kyi Valley, we head towards Samye Monastery. This is the first ever Buddhist monastery built in Tibet, with its construction assumed to have begun in 775 AD.  The five-story monastery is built in the form of a mandala and is a major pilgrimage site for Tibetans from all over the country. Leaving Samye, we take a boat to cross the Yarlung River and continue our ride along the valley to Tsedang. Overnight in Tsedang.

Day 14. Tsedang/ Lhasa Q Beijing (B,L,-)

Today we take the short drive from Tsedang to Yumbulakang Palace, believed to be not only the palace of the first king of Tibet but also the first building ever to have been built in Tibet. With very few written records about the palace, which now functions as a monastery of the Gelugpa sect, it is assumed that its construction started in the 2nd century BC. It was severely damaged during the Cultural Revolution but was reconstructed in 1983. Leaving Yumbulakang and Tsedang, we once more drive along the Yarlung Vally to Lhasa’s airport for an afternoon flight to Beijing. Overnight in Beijing.

Day 15. Departure from Beijing (B)

After breakfast at the hotel, we drive to Beijing international airport for our international departure flight.

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  • A 2% discount shall apply for any payment done by either wire transfer or cash.
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  • The below listed rates are based on tier pricing. While booking, the price shown in your booking summary will be based on the number of people you have booked on this trip. The final price will however be determined and sent to you in an invoice about 30 days prior to the trip’s first day of service, and would depend on the total number of people that have booked this particular trip.

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1. Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. gives notice that some services provided in connection with its itineraries, including transportation, hotel accommodations, restaurants, and other services, are purchased from independent suppliers who are not affiliated with Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. in any way. Although we endeavor to choose the best suppliers available, Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. Does not control their operations and therefore makes all travel arrangements upon the express condition that Mongolian Ways Co., Ltd., and its own agents and employees, shall not be liable for any delay, mishap, inconvenience, expense, irregularity, bodily injury or death to person, or damage to property occasioned through the conduct or default of any company or individual engaged in providing these services. Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. shall not be liable for: (a) expenses such as additional hotel nights and meals not specified in the individual trip itineraries that may be required either en route, prior to, or following a trip, when caused by individual clients' travel arrangements, by airline scheduling or airline schedule changes, canceled flights, missed flight connections, or by other factors not under Culture Scapes Co. Ltd. control; (b) expenses incurred in recovering luggage lost by airlines, belongings left behind on a trip, or in shipping purchases or other goods home from abroad; (c) bodily injury or property damage for any reason, including but not limited to acts of God, weather, quarantines, strikes, civil disturbance, theft, default, detention, annoyance, changes in government regulations, terrorism, war, or failure of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, etc., over which it (Culture Scapes Co. ,Ltd.) has no control.

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