Archaeology Along the Silk Road with Dr. Ye Wa

Autumn 2024 dates and prices coming soon!
Autumn 2024 dates and prices coming soon!

    May dates for this trip are currently fully booked. Please submit your contact details if you'd like to be notified of autumn dates. We'll let you know as soon as details are out. Thank you!

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    10 Days
    Spring departure is fully booked. Autumn dates coming soon.
    Min Age : 16+
    Max People: 12
    About this Journey

    In the capable hands of Dr Ye Wa, co-director of the International Field School of Archaeology at Yangguanzhai and one of the foremost experts on ethno-archeological approaches and Neolithic settlement patterns, embark on an archaeological exploration like no other, picking the brains of experts and getting hands-on with digs throughout central China.

    Begin the journey at the most easterly point of the Silk Road, Xi’an. Leave the ancient capital behind and discover Yangguanzhai, one of the largest Neolithic sites in China, while discovering fascinating insights about trade in this region prior to the 4th Century AD.

    Then, join Dr. Ye Wa and scholars at the Dunhuang Academy to learn the intricacies and particularities of medieval Buddhism’s visual culture. Round off this insightful foray into China’s past with the Getty Museum team, as they bring to life conservation and sustainable tourism in the surrounding Mogao area.

    What we love
    • Conversations on history, culture and Silk Road treasures over dinner with Dr. Ye Wa and local Dunhuang scholars in the Gobi Desert
    • "Monks and Merchants" discussions about the Buddhist grottoes along the Silk road
    • Insights into the history of Chinese porcelains, known as white gold in the west, at Shaanxi Archaeological Museum
    Dr. Ye Wa trip map

    Day 1Arrive in Xi’an

    Arrive in Xi’an and meet your local WildChina guide in the airport arrivals hall Check-in to hotel • Enjoy a welcome reception with Dr. Ye Wa and trip briefing with your local WildChina guide.

    Day 2Xi’an

    Start the day with a curator-led visit to the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum to view the proudly unflinching, life-sized Terracotta Warriors  • Step into the Muslim Quarter and observe the sunset Salat prayers in the city’s Great Mosque • Dinner with archeologists – Mr. Zhang Zhongli and Mr. Jiao Nanfeng. Mr. Zhang was the chief archaeologist of the Terra Cotta Warriors from 1995 to 2005, and Mr. Jiao the chief archaeologist of many important archaeological work near Xi’an, including excavation of the Yangling Mausoleum. 

    Day 3Xi’an

    Visit the Yangling Mausoleum to see the contrast in thought and style of the Qin and Han Dynasties • Visit the newly (2022) opened Shaanxi Archaeological Museum, the first museum in China to focus exclusively on the subject of archaeology • View hundreds of thousands of excavated items, showing the past and the present of China. • Meet Ms. Wang Xiaomeng, the vice director of the Shaanxi Academy of Archeology, a well known archaeologist specialized in medieval Chinese archaeology

    Day 4Xi’an - Tianshui

    Take the morning bullet train for 2 hours to Tianshui and then drive for an hour to Maijishan • Visit the Maijishan Grottoes, a collection of over 7,000 Buddhist statues and murals carved into the side of a hill. • Meet with the director there. • Check in to your hotel and spend the evening at your leisure

    Day 5Tianshui - Lanzhou

    Take the morning train to Lanzhou (1.5hrs), the capital of Gansu Province • Visit the Gansu Museum and discover artifacts relating to Buddhist Art and Silk Road civilizations that date back over five thousand years • In the evening, dine with a museum curator, together with Dr. Ye Wa – Buddhist grottos along the Silk Road


    Day 6Lanzhou

    Rise early and travel (2hrs’ drive and another 30mins’ speed boat ride) to Binglingsi, the site of one of the largest remaining carved statues of Buddha in China • Travel back to Lanzhou and rest at the hotel

    Day 7Lanzhou - Dunhuang

    Take a 2-hour morning flight to Dunhuang • Drive to hotel for check in and rest • Drive about 1 hour to Yangguan, a mountain pass that was fortified in the Western Han Dynasty to protect against the invasion of the northwest nomads •  Take a hike on the Gobi Desert for about 2 hours on your way back to the hotel, along the Danghe River. • If weather permits, on our way back, enjoy the sunset on the Gobi Desert. • Dine with Dr. Ye Wa and local Dunhuang scholars, hear their insights and experience on Conservation of Silk Road treasures

    Day 8Dunhuang

    Explore the Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is a complex of 492 grottoes representing the pinnacle of Chinese Buddhist art. • Enjoy behind-the-scenes access with Professor Ye Wa and Neil Schmid, Scholar-in-Residence at the Dunhuang Academy and one of the leading authorities on medieval Buddhism’s visual culture • Meet with the Getty Museum team to learn about their joint efforts with the Dunhuang Museum to promote conservation and sustainable tourism in Mogao

    Day 9Dunhuang

    Rise early for a 2-hour drive out of the city to Yulin Caves, a better-preserved Buddhist cave with its spectacular frescoes and statues • Drive to Suoyang, an ancient city dating back to Han Dynasty. • See the ancient city wall, relics, pagodas and farmland relics. • Returning to the hotel • Visit the Ming Sha Sand Dunes by climbing the dunes to experience the “rumbling sands” named so for the sound they make when the wind blows • Travel to Crescent Moon Lake, an oasis situated in the notoriously inhospitable desert

    Day 10Depart from Dunhuang

    Departure from Dunhuang


    Hilton Xi’an
    5 star

    Ideally situated inside the city walls, a mere ten-minute drive from such key historical sites as the Bell Tower, Drum Tower, and Great Mosque, the Sofitel Legend is a modern escape where you can recharge after long days of exploring the ancient capital. Guests can use the hotel’s fitness center and indoor pool for free. This 5-star spot has earned a reputation as one of the city’s best hotels.

    Maijishan Pearl Hotel Tianshui

    Maijishan Pearl Hotel Tianshui
    Local boutique

    Newly opened in 2023, Maijishan Pearl Hotel offers spacious guests rooms equipped with high quality latex mattress and beddings, smart in-room control system. With only less than 30 minutes’ drive away to both Maijishan Grottoes and Tianshui city, Maijishan Pearl Hotel is a great choice for visits to Tianshui.

    Crowne Plaza Lanzhou Hotel

    Crowne Plaza Lanzhou Hotel
    5 star

    Seated front and center in Gansu’s dusty capital is the Crowne Plaza Lanzhou, an oasis of comfort sheltering travelers from the arid deserts of northwestern China. Guest rooms feature flat-screen televisions with satellite channels, high-speed internet and western amenities, and dining options range from fine dining to 24-7 room service. In the evening, sprawl out for a massage at the Spa Center or enjoy a cocktail at the signature lounge. Given the shaky standards of many of China’s more remote hotels, the Crowne Plaza offers a relieving experience and serves as a cushy launching pad into China’s sunbaked outback.

    Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel
    Local Boutique

    Our clients’ favorite part of staying at the Dunhuang Silk Road Hotel is its unbeatable views overlooking the rolling sand dunes, which can be enjoyed from the rooftop terrace restaurant area (barring sand storms).  Situated in a pleasant corner of town, the 4-star Dunhuang Silk Road aesthetics and local service bring out the character and history of the ancient Silk Road trading route.


    Travel expert

    Dr. Ye Wa serves as a professor of archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She also is a commissioner at the Getty Museum and a distinguished researcher at Shaanxi Institute of Archaeology. Upon graduation from China’s Northwest University with a bachelor’s degree in archaeology, Dr. Ye Wa began her specialization in Neolithic Period and Tang Dynasty mortuary practices. She holds a master’s degree in anthropology from Oregon University and a doctorate degree in archaeology from UCLA. She leads WildChina travelers around major archaeological sites around the Middle Kingdom, such as the Silk Road posts of Xi’an and Lanzhou.


    Dates for this journey

    May dates are fully booked. Autumn dates and prices will soon be announced.



    This journey starts in Xi’an, Shaanxi’s provincial capital and largest city.

    The primary airport in the region, Xi’an Xianyang International Airport (XIY), has daily flights from all major Chinese cities, as well as flights from several major Asian cities. 

    The high-speed railway network in Xi’an is well-developed, with several high-speed trains connecting Xi’an to other major cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.


    This journey ends in Dunhuang, in northwestern Gansu. The airport, Dunhuang Mogao International Airport (DNH), offers domestic flights only to major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Lanzhou etc. 

    Flights to the US, Europe, Australia, and other international destinations are best served by airports such as Beijing (PEK or PKX), which can be reached daily by flights from Dunhuang. There are typically two direct flights per day to Beijing with a stop-over in either Xi’an or Lanzhou.

    Dunhuang is connected by rail to major northwestern cities in China including Xi’an, Zhangye and Lanzhou. Frequencies vary for each route. 

    What’s Included

    • All accommodations based on double-occupancy including breakfasts, as indicated in the itinerary
    • All meals, as indicated in the itinerary, and drinking water
    • All admission fees and activity expenses, as indicated in the itinerary
    • Ground transportation, including airport transfers
    • Services of an English-speaking WildChina guide
    • Service of Expert Dr. Ye Wa
    • All land costs as indicated in the itinerary
    • Domestic flight and trains and relevant taxes as noted. Flight (Economy Class): Lanzhou - Dunhuang. Trains(1st class seats): Xi’an – Tianshui; Tianshui – Lanzhou

    What’s Excluded

    • International and domestic flights, domestic trains, plus relevant taxes
    • Chinese tourist visa, which is required for most foreign passport holders
    • Travel and medical insurance
    • Meals, apart from those included in the itinerary, and alcohol
    • Expenses of a personal nature
    • Excursions and activities not included in the itinerary
    • Discretionary gratuities for guides and drivers
    What to expect

    Trip Difficulty: Moderate Adventure

    This journey is considered a moderate adventure. Moderate adventures include full days outside the hotel, with drives up to 3 or 3.5 hours on mainly well-maintained, paved roads. We may spend up to 2-3 hours walking and/or hiking, and stay in 5-star hotels. 

    In second-tier cities or rural areas, we stay at the best available boutique hotels or guesthouses.

    Your Guides & Expert

    Your guide will arrange the logistics of your trip, including meals, hotel reservations, sites, and activities, as well as providing you with information about the local region. You will also be traveling with a WildChina expert, who will serve as an in-depth source of knowledge covering your trip as a whole. Your WildChina guide is specific to each local region, but your WildChina expert will accompany you throughout your journey, escorting you to all locations. Your WildChina guides will be confirmed during booking.

    Meals and Water

    Meals are included, as listed in your itinerary. We strive to arrange meals that highlight authentic local cuisine in clean, local establishments.

    It is safe to drink bottled mineral water, but tap water, even in 5-star hotels, is not safe for drinking. We will provide bottled water, tea, and snacks throughout your journey.

    We request guests with severe allergies to consult their physicians prior to traveling and to bring all necessary medicines with them. Inform us ahead of time of specific allergies, such as peanuts or shellfish, or sensitivities to MSG, so that we can do our best to ensure these items are not used in your meals.

    Next Steps

    How do I secure my spot on this tour?

    We will continue to work with you until your trip is perfect.

    For international bookings: Once you are ready to book, a USD$500 planning fee, per booking, is required to begin reserving your arrangements. This will go towards your trip costs and will be taken off your final balance amount.

    For bookings made in China: Once you are ready to book, a RMB1,000 deposit, per person, is required. This will go towards your trip costs and will be taken off your final balance amount.

    What is the payment schedule?

    1. Deposit:
    A deposit is required to secure your reservation. Once your deposit has been received, we will send your confirmation along with a detailed itinerary and all the information you’ll need to prepare for your journey.

    2. Full payment:
    Full trip payment should be made 20 days prior to departure. If you’re booking within 20 days of your departure, you may be asked to pay make the full payment straight away.

    Payments can be made via credit card, bank transfer, WeChat or Alipay

    Is this trip guaranteed to run?

    This trip will be scheduled to run once we receive bookings from six (6) passengers. Should the journey be cancelled due to lack of sign-ups or government restrictions, WildChina will fully refund any deposits or fees paid.

    What is your cancelation policy?

    See our full cancellation policy and our  terms and conditions for more information.

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