Home to countless peoples, cultures and civilizations, the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road are teeming with incredible sights. Let’s take a look!
‘Encompassing many of the world’s greatest civilizations, the Silk Road was much more than just a trade network as it saw the exchange of peoples, cultures, ideas and beliefs’
Stretching all the way from China, India and Japan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, the Silk Road was an intricate network of land and sea routes that facilitated the exchange of goods, ideas and beliefs.
With incredible peoples, cultures and civilizations lining its many routes, the Silk Road had a profound impact on the world that we know today, and a veritable treasure trove of impressive historical sights and cultural landmarks now characterize the ancient trade routes.
With so many spectacular monuments, cities and countries to discover, here are just seven seducing sights that you shouldn’t miss.
1. The Terracotta Army – Xi’an
Long an important crossroads, Xi’an in China is where the Silk Road began and it was during the Han Dynasty (207 BCE – 220 CE) that one of its most astounding and enduring sights was created: the majestic and awe-inspiring Terracotta Army. The vast brigade of terracotta sculptures was buried alongside the Han emperor to protect him in the afterlife. Around the same time, the trade missions carrying silk among other things were first dispatched from the imperial capital to far-flung destinations such as southeastern Asia and even Rome.
2. The Pamir Highway – Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
Winding its way through towering mountains, sweeping valleys and rugged terrain, the Pamir Highway is one of the world’s most scenic roads, and Silk Road caravans passed along its picturesque routes. Taking you through the magnificent Pamir Mountain range that includes a number of peaks standing at over 7,000 meters in height, driving along the highway is the ride of a lifetime with nowhere else in the world quite like it.
3. Tian Shan – China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
Connected to the Pamir Mountains in the south, the Tian Shan mountain range lies in the border regions of China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and its many snow-capped peaks are absolutely incredible to behold with sparkling glaciers and glimmering lakes dotted here and there.
Stunning natural sights include the Ala Kul and Issyk-Kul lakes. the towering heights of Jengish Chokusu and the amazing structures like the Tash Rabat Caravanserai and minaret at Burana. Tian Shan offers up the perfect combination of history, nature and outdoor adventure all rolled into one.
4. Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand – Uzbekistan
Home to some of the most impressive monuments, historical sights and cultural landmarks in Central Asia, the Silk Road cities of Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand in Uzbekistan are all well worth a visit for what they have to offer. From the eighth to 12th centuries, this wonderful part of the world was replete with philosophers, thinkers and academics who shaped the world. Khiva’s winding, narrow alleys, Bukhara’s majestic Kaylan Mosque and Samarkand’s Registan Square can hardly fail to set your heart racing as you step back in time to these incredible cities’ heydays.
5. Merv – Turkmenistan
Once one of the largest cities in the world, much of Merv was sadly destroyed by the Mongols in 1221 and the important Silk Road site sadly never regained its prosperity with it once again being razed to the ground in 1789. Nowadays its desolate ruins are fascinating to explore and seeing the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar and the old city walls rise up from the Karakum desert as you approach is a haunting yet strangely mesmerizing experience.
6. Isfahan – Iran
With its grand boulevards, elegant palaces, beautifully tiled mosques and minarets, not to mention its resplendent public square, Isfahan readily sparkles before you with a vast array of amazing things for you to see and do. Remarkably the Silk Road was actually re-routed through the city so that it could benefit from the trade that caravans brought and it is not without reason that the former capital of Persia is now considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
7. Cappadocia – Turkey
Connecting the Silk Road with the Mediterranean and the many port cities that lined its coasts, it was through Anatolia in Turkey that caravans laden with silk and other wares made their way whether overland or by sea to Europe. The incredible underground cities and rock-hewn churches of Cappadocia are one of the region’s most breathtaking sights and a number of centuries-old Silk Road caravanserai dot the scenic landscapes around it.