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See the itinerary for the 2009 trip.

The “Silk Road” is not one road but many trade routes traversing the vast desert and mountain regions between Xian and the Mediterranean. Silk was the commodity most desired by westerners and was itself a form of currency used by Chinese emperors to acquire jade, lapis lazuli, delicately colored glass, and gold. Knowledge, religion and philosophy were moved along as well.  The Mongols united most of Asia allowing Marco Polo with his father and uncle, merchants from Venice, to travel in relative safety to China in late medieval times.

This tour takes travelers along two major routes north and south of the forbidding Taklamakan Desert.  We follow the path of caravans to Jiayuguan where a fortress marks the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall and the entrance into the Taklimakan Desert, a point of no return for Silk Road travelers long ago.  Highlights include the experience of riding a camel into the desert sand hills, exploring an oasis in a depression that is second only to the Dead Sea in depth, enjoying grapes (and their wines) courtesy of an ancient irrigation system, and of being immersed in the historic process of silk making.

After two weeks in the far northwest of China, we shift gears and experience classical China and the dynamic city of Shanghai along the East China Sea.  We will journey to Suzhou and see the modern production of silk.

Mary Fletcher led one of the first tourist groups allowed into China’s Silk Road when the Xinjiang Autonomous Region opened in 1984.  While her focus is on textiles and cultural arts, her geologist husband, Dwight Deal, brings the added dimension of natural history.  Spouses or friends of the textile enthusiast may choose to join Dwight at times for alternate touring activities.

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