Long before planes, trains, and automobiles existed, goods were traded along the Silk Road. Spices, fabrics, food, and frankincense made their way along this route carried on foot and on camel and horseback. Journeys were long and difficult, passing through various climates, shifting sands, snow-covered fields, and through soaring mountains, always pushing toward the shimmering horizon. Bustling cities and bazaars bursting with intellectuals, artists, and merchants popped up along the routes and provided the perfect petri dish where nomads of different religions, languages, and cultures, met and infused new ideas together. The Silk Road was actually a web of various routes that branched out through many ancient lands and kept them all connected. Include these destinations on the ultimate Silk Road itinerary, offering a glimpse at part of the route.
Stretching from the far east to the Mediterranean, the ancient Silk Road not only carried silk—a precious and highly sought after textile—but also gold, silver, jade, tea, paper, and produce. The Han Dynasty kicked off this global trade route back in 130 B.C. Over time, it ebbed out into many beautiful and bewitching places. Xi’an was one starting point for many caravans carrying silk produced in the region. Step back into a time when traders brought colorful rugs, delicious fruits, and divine literature from far off lands to the Taklamakan Desert town of Kashgar, once an important Silk Road hub. The bazaar today explodes with sights and sounds. Stalls of overflowing sacks of nuts and apricots wait to be purchased, and pomegranate juice is bright and sweet. The scent of saffron wafts in the smoky air, and piles of round bread are waiting to soak up cumin and chili infused dishes, washed down with fragrant cups of black tea fragrant with cardamom pods and flower petals. The culinary flavors of this unique desert outpost is a reminder of its place on the Silk Road.
Leader Chinggis Khaan and his army stretched over an empire from China to Europe, protecting the Silk Roads. The sparsely-populated country has abundant green steppes that meet blue-grey mountains. The terrain is inhabited by nomads ready to shower their hospitality on curious travelers. In a way, their interactions give you a sense of what it must have been like for travelers on these ancient routes so long ago.
Samarkand sets the perfect tone for the stories of the One Thousand and One Nights. A glistening palace sets the stage for storyteller Scheherazade to tell her nightly tales to the Sultan of Samarkand. Intricately detailed tiled domes rise into the sky, their color a contrast to the dusty streets of flat roofed homes. Ladies in brightly colored traditional garb sell even brighter shawls and fabrics in the markets. Samarkand was one of the most important stopping points on the Silk Road making it a mosaic of different cultures. Italian explorer Marco Polo’s writings about the Silk Road and Uzbekistan gave Europeans a better understanding of a world so far away. If only Samarkand could tell us what it has seen.
Caravanserais—large guest houses or inns designed to welcome traveling merchants—popped up as stopping points to rest and eat before carrying on the journey the day after. Each resting stop was about a day apart. This complex distribution system crossed some of Iran‘s most beautiful cities like Isfahan. The Abbasi Hotel is a 300-year-old building right in its heart and was originally a caravanserai. Guests will happily admire the walls and alcoves adorned in swathes of emerald, blue, gold, and orange floral paintings. Mirror work reflects the shards of light casting a magical air on the property, and recalling a time when traders believed in genies corked inside mysterious lamps.
Perched by the Caspian Sea, this small country is rich in history. The port city of Baku was a transit point along the Silk Road and saw a swell of Indian spices and fabrics pass its shore. Inter-cultural communication was the norm and Baku retains much of this flavor. Zoroastrian temples mix with minarets, synagogues with old churches. Beautifully designed carpets were exported from this country and are still weaved today with intricate patterns symbolizing various meanings of life.
Ready to take a journey on the Silk Road? Contact your Ker & Downey luxury travel consultant to plan a magical trip back into time.