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If you’ve ever heard of the Silk Road, this refers to an ancient network of Eurasian trade routes that once connected the East to the West. These were routes that emerged across both land and sea, along which silk and many other goods were imported and exported.

For many years, this was the primary source of cultural crossover between Europe and Asia. And while the Silk Road stretched all across Europe and the Middle East, it is the Asian stops of the Silk Road that are most worth the trip today.

This is where the Silk Road originated, when China opened up to trade in the first and second centuries B.C. But while goods were traded, imported, and exported in and out of Asia, it has a much greater cultural significance. The constant movement and mixing of populations also brought about the transmission of knowledge, ideas, cultures and beliefs, which had a profound impact on the history and civilizations of the Eurasian peoples.

For those with an interest in history and cultural heritage, the Silk Road is a great path to follow when travelling in China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. Here are 3 must-see destinations you shouldn’t miss.

3 Must-See Destinations For Travel Along the Silk Road

Xian’s Terracotta Warriors

Located in the Shaanxi province of China, Xian’s terracotta warriors is a stop along the Silk Road you should’t miss. There’s a reason why millions of visitors flock here every year – the warriors are a spectacle and an archaeological feat.

One of the largest modern archaeological discoveries, the terracotta warriors located in China’s capital of Xian are a collection of 8,000 individual, life-size terracotta warriors that were created to protect the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang Di, the first ever emperor of China.

Aside from the sheer size (each warrior is about 6 ft. tall), detail (they each have their own facial expression), and number of terracotta warriors, one of the most amazing things about them is that although they were created and buried about two millennia ago, they were forgotten until 1974.

They were discovered by a group of local farmers that were digging a well.

Terracotta Warriors China

Terracotta Warriors China

Photos: melenama & Chris Hibbs via Flickr.

Todai-ji Temple

Religion was one of the biggest exports during the era when the Silk Road was in use. Because of this, there are a lot of temples that can be found along the Silk Road.

One of the most beautiful temples that can be found along the route is in Nara, Japan. The Todai-ji Buddhist temple can be dated back to 728 and features a lot of rich, religious history.

Once a member of the Seven Great Temples in Japan, Todai-ji is a UNESCO world-heritage site and a spectacle to be beheld. One of the major draws of Todai-ji is the statue of Buddha that is featured in its Great Buddha Hall, which is actually the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world.

For more information on other great temples along the Silk Road in Japan, check out this awesome Japan travel guide book series.

Todai-ji Temple Japan

Todai-ji Temple Japan

Photo credits: Fredrik Rubensson 

The Mogao Caves

Another great stop along the Silk Road in China are the Mogao Caves; a system of almost 500 temples that are carved into the cliffs above the Dachuan River, and stretch along the edges of the sand dunes.

Mogao caves feature over 1,000 years of beautiful Buddhist artwork, and have been recognized as having outstanding universal value by UNESCO.  While once a place for Buddhists to worship, the caves are now open to the public by tour only.

Taking a tour through these caves and seeing some of the ancient paintings and carvings that they feature is an amazing history lesson, and a beautiful way to appreciate the culture of China.

These Were Just Three

There are so many amazing stops along the Silk Road, it can be hard to choose which to visit. Whether you are planning on travelling the whole route, or just picking a portion to visit, make sure to take in at least these three.


The silk road Amazon book

 The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

The silk road Amazon book

The Silk Road: A New History

The silk road Amazon book

Material Culture of the Silk Road


Photo credit: Armored Terracotta Warrior by Jennifer Morrow.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

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  1. I remember learning about the Silk Road as a child and it seemed impossibly exotic, a wonderful tale from history! Thus far, I’ve visited Todai-ji temple in Nara, and indeed the historical ryokan in which we stayed was once a part of the temple complex. I’ve not seen the Terracotta warriors but that’s very high on my wishlist. I hadn’t heard of the Mogao Caves before but they sound well worth a visit.

    • I do too, I remember watching documentaries on it in history class in school, and hearing about the Terracotta warriors, and seeing representations of them in popular films like tomb raider and Indianna Jones movies – I agree, it’s all very exotic and adventurous!! Takes my imagination back to the days of Marco Polo and the first explorers.

      Awesome to hear that you enjoyed your visit to Todai-ji temple in Nara – I hope you have the opportunity to visit China at some point soon too :)

  2. This post had me looking up Silk Road maps and dreaming of a trip – it’s incredible how any dynasties were made because of these lucrative trade routes. Personally, I’d love to visit the Mogao Caves – the art sounds phenomenal.

    • Glad we could inspire you to check out the region Vanessa – it really is just an incredible trail to follow, so many massively cultural significant points of interest, and Mogao Caves are surreal – I hope you do have the opportunity to visit at some stage :)

  3. The Mogao Caves really is an underrated treasure. I was there last June, and the place has the atmosphere, history and cultural significance of an ancient site like Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu.

    Alas, access is controlled by limited slots and group tours, ostensibly to protect the fragile wall paintings from damage by mass tourism.

    Its well worth a visit though!

    • Totally agree with you, I’m glad you enjoyed your experience!

      And yes I agree, I’m torn on attractions which only offer access by group tour, because we’re very independent travelers, but I also acknowledge that mass tourism does need to be controlled to protect a fragile environment or preserve history which would otherwise be lost due to irresponsible tourism. Always a tricky one to balance, but ultimately I’m happy to support limiting human impact.

  4. The terracotta warriors viewing is on my bucket list. But, I have more personal- and vastly different locales- to visit on my journey along the Silk Road.

    • Fabulous Roy – I hope the experience is everything you expect :)

  5. That was a fascinating archaeological discovery in China. I used to like watching movies that’s related to Emperors and warriors about China and they’re actually awesome more that one could imagine. And Narra, I have so much love for Japan and its people. Although Japan is not a highly religious country, they have incredible respect for temples like Todai-ji,. I’d like to see that largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. Astounding!

    • Wasn’t it!! Makes you wonder how many other incredible sites are out there, lost, hidden, or buried, just waiting to be discovered.

      I hope you do have the opportunity to visit China and Japan along the Silk Road soon :)

  6. I am actually very fascinated by the Silk Road and often read up about it’s evolution and eventual demise…the story certainly makes an impact. The Terracotta warriors are pretty famous, but I think I loved the Mogao caves the most above. The more I read about them the more interesting they sound – especially the paintings inside the caves!

    • Fabulous Siddhartha, I’m glad we could write a post which really interested you :) Glad to hear you made it to both the Terracotta warriors and Mogao caves – I’m in the same boat as you – the more you learn about them the more fascinating they are!

  7. I learnt about the Silk Road a little at school, but have never thought about retracing the steps and seeing the destinations! However I don’t think I’d made the connected to the Terracotta Warriors, something I’ve long wanted to see. The Mogao Caves look brilliant and they are new to me so I think I’ll be booking a trip pronto.

    • Glad we could give you a little bit more of an overview and make it interesting in a travel context :) I hope you do get the chance to take in the Terracotta Warriors, and Mogao Caves at some stage soon :)

  8. I learned about the Silk Road in my World History class in college. I didn’t think about the fact that there would be loads of sites along that way. I didn’t even think about the Terracotta Warriors being on it. Todai-ji Temple looks absolutely stunning and the caves look amazing! I wonder what other stops are along the Silk Road… You’ve inspired a whole new trip idea for me….

    • Glad we could put everything you learned in history into an interesting travel context – there are definitely some very cool points of interest to take in along this ancient route :)

      Hope you have the chance to travel soon!

  9. The Silk route definitely has a lot of amazing places to see. Among the ones you have shared, the Terracotta Soldiers have for long been on my list. They are just so intriguing and I remember reading up almost every possible angle to why they were made and how they were found. I definitely would love to check out those caves as they sound a lot like the ones found in India. A very interesting read – Meg. Thanks for this.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Ami! Yes, the Silk Road truly is an incredible route :) I do hope you have the opportunity to visit China and take in the Terracotta Warriors and Mogao Caves at some stage soon :)

  10. The Silk Road or Silk Route which name I find more fascinating has always been a source of great intrigue for me. The fact that the route that began in China and passed through India is one of the reasons. Though I have not visited China, we visited Nathula Pass near Gangtok in Sikkim, which was a part of the silk route. In fact, there was a border trading post which was active then where Indo-Chinese trade was happening.

    • I like to say that the Silk Road is a great route :D Technically the name is Silk Road, but it describes ancient trading routes :)

      Fabulous to hear that you’ve taken in parts of the route throughout India – I haven’t made it that far yet but would love to at some point. Thanks for the tip on Nathula Pass near Gangtok in Sikkim, I’ll add it to the list!

  11. Gld to see a post on Silk Route! This is actually one of my secret dreams! The entire central Asia and Western China has that kind of an aura. There is so much history buried in the mountains and then the landscapes out there are also mindboggling.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Jitaditya! I hope you can realize your dream of exploring this region soon!

  12. Excuse my geography but I wasn’t aware of the Silk Road. I have been to Todai-ji temple in Japan though so I am a little embarrassed that I still did not know about what Silk Road is. Xian’s Terracota warriors also looks like a great place to visit, I haven’t been to China so it’ll be on my list for when I do. I wish you’d put a picture of the Mogoa Caves, I’m curious to see what they look like!

    • Glad we could introduce you Medha :) Nothing to be embarrassed about, I’m still learning about different parts of the world and their history – there’s always something new to discover!

      Definitely include the Terracota warriors and Mogao Caves on your itinerary when you have the chance to visit China – their quite incredible sites!! There are some fabulous photos of Mogao Caves if you run a quick Google image search :)

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