How do you start planning a Silk Road trip? How do you decide where to go, for how long, in what order, at what time of the year? Which form of transport should you take? How much will it cost?
And once you finally get there, what should you spend your time on? How do you get around? How do you talk to people? What are they like? Is it safe?
We are here to help you answer those questions. We have been traveling the Silk Road since 2008 and have been writing about it since 2011. In the following article, we will try to introduce you to Silk Road travel in a condensed format, and link out to some of the hundreds of articles found on this website if you want to delve in deeper.
Enjoy the trip!
Where is the Silk Road?
The Silk Road is a name for a network of trade routes connecting the Eurasian continent, coined by a German geographer called Ferdinand Von Richthofen.
We can name plenty of reasons why it is not an accurate name, but the fact of the matter is, the Silk Road is a powerful brand. It immediately conjures up images of romance, exploration and exoticism. So we decided to keep that name for our travel guide, despite the pitfalls.
So which modern countries fall under this umbrella? For the purpose of this travel guide, the Silk Road starts in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan & Turkmenistan) and fans out to Iran, the Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia & Azerbaijan), Mongolia, Western China, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Where does Caravanistan come in?
We write comprehensive guides on the basics of travel (visas, transport, et cetera) for the 13 countries listed above. For the 5 Stans of Central Asia, we write much more: in-depth guides to places and things to do, and background articles.
Is our travel guide any good?
Yes. Lonely Planet calls it a “peerless online travel guide to the region”, while Bradt Guides says it is ”the most comprehensive online guide to travelling the Silk Road”. Founder and editor of Wired Magazine Kevin Kelly thinks we are “highly reliable, immensely helpful, and always inspiring.”
Get an idea
If you have no idea what Central Asia has to offer for travelers, start at Central Asia for beginners for a brief introduction to the highlights of the region.
Once you know what is on offer, it’s time to start planning! Our itinerary page gives tips for those looking at a big East-West trip across Eurasia, and links out to more detailed regional itineraries.
Reading is always a good way to get inspired and find ideas that can pull you deeper into a particular place or culture; we have a big list of books from travelogues to politics on the Silk Road and per country.
In when to visit we discuss the weather, festivals and events to time your trip right. Finally, things to see and do in Central Asia is a huge chapter, that we are still busy writing and rewriting, with lots of practical detail on everything from how to find a match of kok boru to organising a ski trip on horseback.
If you are planning an organised trip: we can help. We specialize in finding you the right partner for custom-made tours. Have a look at some of our tour templates to get started.
Health and safety
We discuss your (parents’/kids’) worries about safety in Central Asia. We have an article on how to not get sick, and on travel insurance in case something does happen. Finally, we’d like to inculcate you with the importance of having a back-up plan. Things don’t always go according to plan in Central Asia.
If you are not a single white heterosexual man, do not fret! We have advice for getting on the Silk Road with kids, as a single woman, a Muslim or as LGBT, and how to deal with racism and sinophobia on the Silk Road.
The basics for getting into and out of these countries: visas and border crossings. We discuss how much money you are likely to need for a trip (and how to get hold of it) on our budget pages, and things to consider when selecting accommodation.
Silk Road by train? It’s possible these days to idle your days away on the train from Istanbul to Urumqi.
If you are a motorist, we have articles almost as long-winded as the road you will be traveling on, about self-driving from Georgia all the way to China. If you do not have your own wheels, read our guide to car and motorbike rental first.
Finally, we give some pointers for all the long-distance cyclists out there.
We have 5 country guides, for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. We discuss more practical details: everything from paying with cigarettes in Turkmenistan to internet on the Pamir Highway.
And we write about the places to go and the things to do and see along the way.
Get an idea
Health and safety