What to read and watch before travelling the Silk Road

What to read and watch before travelling the Silk Road


For centuries, the great civilizations of East and West were connected by the Silk Road, a network of shifting intercontinental trade routes linking China with Central Asia and continuing on to India, Persia and the Mediterranean. It was on the Silk Road that overland travel was born, and to this day it remains one of our most popular routes. These are some of the best books, documentaries and films about the Silk Road to read and watch while you're waiting to travel.


Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Treasures of Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk

The Silk Road was once the greatest thoroughfare on earth. Along it travelled precious cargoes of silk, gold and ivory, as well as revolutionary new ideas. Its oasis towns blossomed into thriving centres of Buddhist art and learning. Yet in time, it began to decline; the traffic slowed, the merchants left and finally its towns disappeared beneath the desert sands to be forgotten for a thousand years. But legends grew of lost cities filled with treasures, and in the early years of the 19th Century foreign explorers began to investigate these legends, soon beginning an international race for the lost treasures of the Silk Road. Huge wall paintings, sculptures and priceless manuscripts were carried away, literally by the ton, and are today scattered through the museums of a dozen countries. In Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, the late journalist and historian Peter Hopkirk tells the story of the men who led these long-range archaeological raids, incurring the undying wrath of the Chinese.

Also by the same author: Trespassers on the Roof of the World, The Great Game



Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

On buses, donkey carts, trains, jeeps and camels, travel writer Colin Thubron traces the drifts of the first great trade route out of the heart of China into the mountains of Central Asia, across northern Afghanistan and the plains of Iran into Kurdish Turkey. Covering more than 7,000 miles in eight months, Thubron recounts extraordinary adventures - a near-miss with a drunk-driver, incarceration in a Chinese cell, undergoing root canal treatment without anaesthetic in Iran - in inimitable prose. Shadow of the Silk Road is about Asia today; a magnificent account of an ancient world in modern ferment.

Also by the same author: The Lost Heart of Asia



David Baddiel on the Silk Road (2016)

This four-part travelogue follows comedian David Baddiel on a journey from Xi’an, China to Istanbul, Turkey to uncover some of the most extraordinary sites and stories of the Silk Road and revealing its cultural and historical significance. The result is both entertaining and educational; Baddiel is chased by wild dogs, develops a taste for camel's milk, plays an ancient version of polo with a headless goat and drinks with Uzbekistan’s last remaining Jewish family.


The New Silk Road by Peter Frankopan - VPRO documentary (2019)

In his 2015 bestseller The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, the British historian Peter Frankopan argued that, contrary to traditional understanding, Western civilisation descended not so much from the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians, but from the East, and the networks of the Silk Road which linked continents and oceans together. In this VPRO documentary, Frankopan looks to the future, suggesting that power is shifting to the East, that the isolation and fragmentation permeating the West stands in sharp contrast to events along the Silk Road, where ties are being strengthened and mutual cooperation established.


Overlanding the Silk Road (2018)

This short film by Nicolás Bori is the result of 120 days and 18,000km following the ancient Silk Road with Dragoman, crossing China, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, the Caspian sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.