The legendary Silk Road continues to spark the imagination of travelers from all over the world. The silk Road originally bridged the West and the East, from Europe to Asia. If you want to trace the route of the camel caravans and the footsteps of pilgrims and merchants, here are the 10 key cities of the fabled Silk Road where its rich history continues to live on.
1. Khiva, Uzbekistan
Khiva was one of Uzbekistan’s three cities that were critical stop-off spots along the Silk Road. The beautifully preserved medieval walled town of Khiva, Ichon-Qala, is dotted with dozens of renovated monuments like the ornate Tash-Hauli Palace and the incomplete Kalta-Minor minaret.
2. Xi’an, China
Ancient Imperial China’s capital Xi’an is the starting point of the journey of merchants in the Far East along the Silk Road. Xi’an serves as the home to the 8,000 terracotta sculptures of warriors, popularly known as the Terracotta Army, which were buried in the vast mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.
3. Merv, Turkmenistan
A succession of empires that attempted to control the center of the Silk Road conquered Merv located by an oasis in modern-day Turkmenistan. Described as the mother of the world by a 10th-century geographer, Merv reached its peak during the early 13th century when it was the world’s largest city with more than 500,000 people.
4. Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Samarkand situated on a plateau on Alai Mountains’ westernmost tip benefited a lot from its location right at the center of the Silk Road. Established about 2,750 years ago, several powerful and famous rulers conquered Samarkand over its long history.
5. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Ashgabat with the nickname Las Vegas of the Karakum is one of the less popular cities along the Silk Road. Located between the Kopet Dag mountain range and the Karakum desert, it now houses garish monuments, white marble palaces, and gilded mosques.
6. Balkh, Afghanistan
Balkh, known as Bactria in the early days, served as the key center of Zoroastrianism. It later became known as the area where Zoroaster, the prophet, lived and died. It changed with the arrival of Alexander the Great in 329 BC after he overcame the mighty Persian Empire.
Dunhuang was the Silk Road’s important military, cultural, and commercial center for over a thousand years. It is located at the westernmost tip of China’s Hexi Corridor which is the meeting place of the three provinces of Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Gansu.
8. Almaty, Kazakhstan
The largest landlocked country in the world is home to one of the most historic cities in Central Asia. Almaty was one of the leading agricultural and trade centers on the Silk Road from the 10th up to the 14th century with its official mint.
9. Taxila, Pakistan
Northern Pakistan’s Taxila connected the Silk Road and the subcontinent of India. A diverse variety of goods such as silver, spices, and sandalwood passed through this great city.
10. Istanbul, Turkey
Silk Road’s single most important city was the final terminus, none other than Istanbul or Constantinople. Traders wound up their journey to the test here before they spirit their goods deeper into Europe to Roman and Venetian marketplaces.
Take a trip along the Silk Road and travel back in time!