Route Map; Central Asia Map; Marco Polo's route;
The Silk Routes (collectively known as the "Silk Road") were important paths for cultural, commercial and technological exchange between Ancient China, Ancient India, Ancient Tibet, Persia and Mediterranean countries for almost 3,000 years. As it extends westwards from the ancient commercial centers of China, the overland, intercontinental Silk Road divides into the northern and southern routes. The northern route stars at Xian city, the capital of the ancient Chinese Kingdom. As it progresses westward, it splits again on many branches. Some are rarely visited, some are very busy as hundreds of years ago. Most train tourists end up taking the northwest route passing thru the north of the Aral and Caspian seas then and on to the Black Sea and up north into Russia. Most of the railroad was built here by the Russian Empire and USSR later. The last available link on the Northern branch of Silk Road was completed in 1990, when the railway systems of China and Kazakhstan connected in Alataw Pass (Alashan Kou). Currently, the line is used by direct passenger service from Urumqi in China's Xinjiang to Almaty and Astana in Kazakhstan. Today, most states of Central Asia, also called "stan" countries, are connected by Rail, Auto Roads, and Air. Yet, there are parts where rail network is poorly maintained or does not exit at all. The car or a bus would be the only option unless you are willing to travel by camel, donkey and horse!