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A vacation in the footsteps of Marco Polo

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Chinese Temple of Heaven. Photo courtesy of the China National Tourist Office.

Attention world travelers: Act fast, and you can add Tsetang, Lhasa, Yamdrok Lake, Gyantse, Shigatse, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Urumqi, Torpan and Kashgar to your “I (heart)” T-shirt collection. An 18-day trip to these exotic spots in China and Tibet leaves from Beijing on Sept. 26 and wraps up at Kashgar near the Chinese border with Tajikistan on Oct. 13.

Put together by the MIR Corporation, the trip is called China’s Silk Road & Tibet: Route of Monks and Merchants. Along the way you’ll stop at ancient monasteries, sacred cities, temples, palaces, forts, Buddhist caves, underground tombs, wineries, museums and markets (where you can bargain for things like yak-wool boots and Tibetan fur hats).

Catch this: Among highlights of the tour you’ll take a high-altitude train ride passing by the world's highest railroad station, you’ll hop on a camel for a trek across the eerie “singing sands” of the legendary Mingsha Mountains, and you’ll explore the fabled, 2,000-year of city of Kashgar in the footsteps of Marco Polo on the Silk Road to China.

(Westbound caravans on the 4,000-mile-long road carried Asian silk, spices and ivory to the kings, archdukes, barons, counts, marquises and the religious brass of Europe. Eastbound shipments carried European gold, silver and precious gems to the emperors, sub-emperors, kings, khans and other high mucky mucks of the Far East.)

The trip starts at $5,895 per person, plus $1,400 for some air hops along the way. The tab doesn't include your flights from home to Beijing nor your return flights from Kashgar. but MIR staffers can help coordinate your flight itineraries.

More info: Based in Seattle, Wash., the MIR Corporation has specialized in tours across Europe and Asia since 1986. You'll find info on all of MIR's tours on the company's website.