From Urumqi to Lhasa by Private Train

Roll across Western China to discover the teeming Sunday Market in exotic Kashgar, where Marco Polo may have shopped; the ancient karez underground irrigation system in Turpan that caused the desert to bloom; and the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, where generations of pilgrims carved and painted images of the Buddha. Then hop the special high-altitude train, ascending from the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa at 12,000 feet, passing the world’s highest railroad station along the way. Explore the “City of the Sun,” with its massive UNESCO-listed Potala Palace, sacred Jokhang Temple, and the lively Barkhor Market.

13 Day Trip

  • Rail Journey
    Minimums vary - call for confirmation status
  • Travels to:
    China, Tibet
  • Private Rail:
    China: Urumqi, Kashgar, Turpan, Dunhuang, Jiayuguan, Xining, Golmud, Lhasa

Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Experiences on this Tour
  • Browse the animal section at the Kashgar Sunday Market
    Browse the fantastic animal section at the Kashgar Sunday Market, where you can find anything from a herd of fat-tailed sheep to a single camel ready for a test drive....
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  • Tour UNESCO-listed Mogao Thousand Buddha Caves
    Tour the UNESCO-listed Mogao Caves, which present a thousand-year study in the development of Buddhist art in China....
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  • Ascend to the “Roof of the World,” the Tibetan Plateau
    Ascend to the “Roof of the World” and become acquainted with the Holy City of Lhasa....
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  • Bargain with local Tibetans in the Barkhor Market
    Bargain with locals in the Barkhor Market, striking deals on everything from prayer wheels to coral jewelry....
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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • Over two decades of Tibet travel experience
  • Travel programs such as the California Agricultural Leadership Program and the American Museum of Natural History have chosen MIR to guide them to Tibet
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-2: Urumqi

A tour of Urumqi includes a visit to the fascinating Xinjiang Regional Museum, with its collection of local mummies, including the "Loulan Beauty," the nearly 4,000-year-old body of a woman in fur sandals believed to be of Indo-European descent.


  • Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China
  • Xinjiang Regional Museum with the “Loulan Beauty” ancient mummy

Days 3-4: Kashgar

2,000-year-old Kashgar is unlike any other place in China, retaining the immense appeal of medieval Asia. Explore its Old Town and browse its cacophonous Sunday Market, one of China’s best.


  • Kashgar’s Old Town, ancient dirt lanes between mud-brick Uighur houses with ladders leading up to the roofs
  • Kashgar Sunday Market and its unrivaled animal bazaar

Day 5: Turpan

Near Turpan, the hottest city in China, explore the ruined city of Jiaohe, built in the 2nd century. Learn about the ancient karez, the long-lived underground wells that collect and distribute the glacial meltwater from the Tien Shan Mountains. Enjoy a meal of traditional favorites with a local family.


  • Turpan, the hottest city in China, located in the “Valley of Fruits”
  • Ruined city of Jiaohe, built in the 2nd century
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Day 6: Dunhuang

Ancient travelers had to pass through Dunhuang on their way to and from their destinations. Take a short camel ride at Crescent Moon Lake, and visit the UNESCO-listed Mogao Caves, where tradition says that a 4th century Buddhist monk carved and decorated the first cave at the place where he had a vision of a thousand Buddhas.


  • Bactrian camel ride at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert
  • Mogao Thousand Buddha Caves, UNESCO World Heritage Site in Dunhuang

Day 7: Jiayuguan

Today’s stop is in Jiayuguan, in the middle of the Hexi Corridor, the narrow desert valley that funneled caravans from X’ian through to Dunhuang. The only remnants of the Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty are located here. Here the wall climbs up from the valley floor to the summit of Black Mountain.


  • Hexi Corridor, natural protection from northern tribes
  • Westernmost fortress of the Great Wall

Day 8: Xining

Xining is the capital of Qinghai Province. Visit the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Ta'er Si, and stop at the 600-year-old Dongguan Mosque. This beautifully painted mosque combines Chinese and Islamic architectural features.


  • Xining, formerly the Tibetan province of Amdo
  • Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Ta'er Si, with yak butter sculptures
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Days 9-12: Golmud, Lhasa

Board the special high-altitude train running from Golmud to Lhasa. Meet Chinese, Tibetan, and foreign travelers, and admire the pristine lakes and glaciered peaks of the Tibetan Plateau from the comfort of the train. Pass by Tangula Station, the world’s highest.

In Lhasa, stroll through the gardens of 18th century Norbulingka, the former summer residence of the Dalai Lamas. Light a yak butter candle in Lhasa’s massive UNESCO-listed Potala Palace, a maze of over a thousand rooms with thousands of altars and statues. Wander the Barkhor Market, bargaining for yak-wool boots or Tibetan fur hats.


  • High-altitude railway from Golmud to the Tibetan Plateau
  • Tangula Station, near the highest spot on 16,600-foot Tangula Pass
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See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

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Tour Dates & Prices
Trip Length: 13 Days

Land Tour Price, Per Person

  • Heritage Class, twin share
  • Heritage Class, single
  • Diamond Class, twin share
  • Diamond Class, single

2020 Dates

  • September 26-October 8
  • FROM
  • $11,295
What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • Accommodation aboard the Shangri-La Western Express private train.
  • Per the itinerary, 5 nights of shared accommodation in hotels.
  • All meals starting with dinner on Day 1 until breakfast on final tour day, including a generous, though not unlimited, allowance of wine or local beer, soft drinks and water with all lunches and dinners.
  • Arrival/departure transfers, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates and in the tour start/end cities.
  • All guided off-train tours per itinerary.
  • The services of an experienced Train Tour Manager, with local guides for scheduled off-train touring.
  • Complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water round the clock from your car attendant while on board the train.
  • All gratuities.
  • Baggage handling.

Before Your Tour

  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list, reading list, insurance information and visa kit.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps and travel tips.
  • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates and more.
Download Detailed Itinerary
Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

More Info

Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

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Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

MIR can arrange for an extended program in ChinaTibet, or Central Asia before or after your tour. All of MIR’s destinations are open to you, and all can be attached to this program. Please contact MIR for more details about exciting options for extended travel.

Or, choose from one of our private travel suggested itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

This trip is moderately active, and rated moderate to rigorous touring due to the daily walking involved and the overall shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure. To reap the full rewards of this adventure, travelers must be able to walk at least a mile a day, keeping up with fellow travelers.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour is explained in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

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Shangri-La Western Express

The perfect combination of remote destinations and comfortable accommodations, rail journeys by private train open a world of discovery to adventurous travelers who want to explore exciting and extraordinary locales as they unroll past their train windows.

Exclusive private trains furnish the dream of Old World rail travel with modern comforts and amenities that make the journey as pleasant as the destinations. The comfortable Shangri-La Western Express offers a restful and satisfying way to experience a legendary rail route.

Train & Hotel Accommodations

Relax and enjoy the panorama rolling past your private window and disembark for guided off-train touring in fascinating towns and cities along the way. Each car on the Shangri-La Western Express has its own attendants who keep an eye on everything while guests are away from the train.

Two styles of accommodation are available on board the Shangri-La Western Express for the journey around Tibet and China: Diamond Class (en suite) and Heritage Class (shower at one end; WC at both ends of each car).

  • Diamond Class

    Diamond Class

    Diamond Class cabins are the more comfortable and spacious cabins available onboard the Shangri-La Western Express private train. Measuring 75 sq ft (7 sq meters), each cabin is furnished with a large double bed, window table and chair, wardrobe, and DVD/CD player with LCD screen. They are outfitted with private en suite facilities, including a WC, sink and wet-room-type shower.

    Additional Information

  • Heritage Class

    Heritage Class

    Heritage Class cabins are more compact than Diamond Class cabins, offering comfortable accommodation with twin-berth compartments featuring two lower berths. Beds convert to comfortable sofas for daytime travel and there is storage space under the berths and above the door in each cabin. A WC is found at each end of the car, and each car has a shower compartment at one end as well.

    Additional Information

  • Hotel Accommodations

    Six hotel nights in upscale and best-available properties are interspersed throughout the journey. Hotel nights include three in Lhasa, one in Kashgar and one in Urumqi.

Life Aboard the Train

The Shangri-La Western Express train is a comfortable, though
 not luxurious, private train, which can accommodate up to 140 passengers. Average group sizes can range from 100-120 passengers, and off-train excursion groups top out at a maximum of 26 passengers per coach. Join travelers from around the world to enjoy the relaxed and casual environment onboard, with no need to wear formal attire on excursions or while dining.

Train formations are not fixed, as the composition varies to suit the number of passengers on a given departure. The exact configuration of train on any particular journey may not be determined until close to departure.

Please note that a variety of cabins styles are in use aboard the train. Décor, layout, type and number of dining, bar and sleeping cars on your journey may differ from the sample images depicted in our brochures/websites.

  • Bar/Lounge Car

    Bar/Lounge Car

    A Bar/Lounge Car is a favorite destination in the train formation and is typically included on most departures. The lounge offers a relaxing and comfortable area where you can enjoy a drink, take language lessons, and gather around the piano with other passengers.

    Additional Information

  • Dining Cars

    Dining Cars

    Dining Cars feature dedicated chefs serving a western breakfast followed by a wide range of authentic Chinese specialties at lunch and dinner, using only the finest local ingredients. Meals are accompanied by a selection of wines from around the world, as well as soft drinks, tea and coffee. Dining cars are multi-purpose, used for on-board lectures and documentaries. One or more dining cars may be included in the train formation of any given departure, depending on the number of passengers.

    Additional Information

  • Off-Train Tours

    Off-Train Tours

    Rail journeys feature an extensive line-up of educational city tours at the various stops on the routes. Private coaches and local guides whisk you away from your private train for fascinating half- or full-day forays into the principal towns and cities, sometimes including an in-city dining opportunity. Read through this tour’s itinerary for more information (found on the Itinerary & Map tab of this page).