Writing a travel guide to the Silk Road is a difficult task, since it has to encompass so many different cultures and such a large territory. Different publishers have approached the task in different ways. All of the following books, we can say, are well-written. Each has its specific focus.
The Silk Road by Insight Guides
Illustrated with 100’s of full-color photographs and written by a dozen experts in travel, history and culture of the Silk Road, this book is a must-have if you want to get excited about going on a Silk Road trip. The history chapter is excellent. A guidebook that keeps you interested is hard to find, but the Insight Guide makes you want to read more and travel further. It provides little practical detail, however, and is therefore more useful for trip planning than it is on the road.
Lonely Planet Central Asia 2014
Lonely Planet made its name with practical travel information, and this is what LP Central Asia provides for the 6 stans (not Pakistan). With the breakneck speed of change in Central Asia, parts of the guide are not so useful, and this website aims to fill the gap. But it is the only regional guide that gives good information for those willing to venture off the beaten path, or those interested in adventure and outdoor sports.
For those on a long trip looking for a compact overview of what to do and see in Central Asia, this guide is still the best choice out there.
The Silk Roads by Trailblazer
Trailblazer’s Silk Road travel guide covers the same distance as the Insight Guide, but focuses heavily on the history. Without many practical details, it is not very useful for the independent traveller. Simultaneously, it has few illustrations, which gives the Insight Guide the edge for those in the trip planning stage.
Trailblazer’s Silk Road guide is probably the least attractive of the bunch, and only recommended as additional reading for history buffs on an organised tour of the Silk Road, or in addition to another guidebook.
Not a travel guide as such, this book will still get you ordering train tickets faster than any guidebook can. This is a book for foolhardy youth and eternal romantics. Written by Oxford Classics professor Omrani and illustrated with breathtaking photographs, it is highly recommended for anyone who loves books or has an interest in the culture and history of Russia and Western Asia.
Asia overland tells the story of Russian expansion in Siberia along the Transsiberian and the cultural exchanges along the Silk Road, and illustrates this with well-written tales of early overland travellers’ adventures that transport you to a time very different than our own.
Silk Road: Xi’an to Kashgar
A uniquely focused guidebook that is as useful for armchair travelers with a thirst for accurate, comprehensive and well-written historical and cultural information about this famous route as it is for travelers and adventurers to western China itself.
That’s what it says on the publisher’s website, and as a loyal fanboy, I would have to agree. For those interested in off-the-beaten path Western China, Odyssey’s Xinjiang guide will be better. For travellers aiming to explore the history of the area, this is the best guide.