Tour along the Silk Road in China's northwest frontier.

Date: Aug 25 – Sep 6, 2018
Levels: all
Workshop Fee: Prices (in US$)

  • $9970 with 6-7 participants
  • $9550 with 8-9 participants
  • $9350 with 10-12 participants
  • $750 Single Supplement
  • $1,080 domestic flights (economy class, and subject to change)

Class Size: 12

The name Marco Polo echoes in memory. The words bring up thoughts from history, a child’s game, names of restaurants and hotels. A little research and one soon discover Polo’s path to fame and fortune, the Silk Road.

This ancient trade route, linking Europe with China, was a major conduit for the exchange of goods and ideas for over two-thousand years. Seven-hundred years ago, Marco Polo traveled from Venice to China and left a legacy the world still remembers. After seven centuries, what remains?

National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita attempted to answer this question. The result was a five-year journey that resulted in a 500 page book, The Marco Polo: a photographer’s journey as well as a National Geographic documentary, Marco Polo, The China Mystery Revealed. His guide was Marco Polo’s legendary and modestly titled book A Description of the World. We are fortunate to have Michael leading this trip along with Jock Montgomery.

We begin our journey in Xian, arguably the foundation of Chinese Civilization. We travel to the rumbling sands of Turpan, ancient Silk Route cities like Jiaohe and Gaochang, the edge of the vast Talmakalan Desert, and to the largest oasis city in Central Asia, which Marco Polo called one of the finest cities he has ever visited, Kashgar.

The journey will not just be physical and emotional, but a modern journey that creates a tangible connection between East and West, China and the West, a world infused with the Internet and one still connected to ancient traditions.


Ø  Receive personal guidance from National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita and adventure travel photographer Jock Montgomery

Ø  Follow a portion of the Silk Road through the eyes of Michael Yamashita, photographer and writer of the book Marco Polo: a photographer’s journey and The Silk Road Journey

Ø  Terracotta Warriors of Xian, now a UNESCO site

Ø  Rainbow mountains of Danxia, colorful striated rock formations

Ø  Emin Minaret, the tallest minaret in China.

Ø  Gaochang, an ancient oasis city along the Silk Road

Ø  Jiaohe, an important trading location along the Silk Road

Ø  Kashgar, exotic livestock bazaar and local markets

Ø  Go to this link to view slideshow by Michael Yamashita from the Silk Road


This photography tour concentrates first and foremost on helping you see and shoot in new and exciting ways. Michael Yamashita and Jock Montgomery will personally help you define your composition, create compelling content, and help you see the light. As you work towards nurturing your shooting style, you will learn how to personalize breathtaking moments that range from sweeping natural scenery to colorful human activities.

Every other day, we will gather to review each other’s work. Michael and Jock will personally critique your photos and provide expert advice for improvement and growth.

An invitation from Michael Yamashita

As China’s OBOR, One Belt, One Road initiative continues to dominate the news in China, it was my good fortune, perhaps my legacy, to have been given the opportunity to shoot a photographic historical narrative of Marco Polo along the ancient Silk Road for National Geographic. And how amazing it is that many of the same peoples and places encountered by Marco Polo can still be photographed today. Let me take you back in time following the ancient caravan routes of the Silk Road.

Zhangye sleeping Buddha temple

Journey through the heart of China’s hottest deserts following the fabled Silk Road. We will capture timeless scenes traveling along the Hexi Corridor from the multi-colored Rainbow Mountains of Danxia and the world’s biggest Buddha in Zhangye, through the Taklamakan Desert (it means “place of no return”) along the northern Silk Road to Turpan, an oasis city in one of the hottest parts of the world. We can expect blue skies every day of the trip to photograph the stark beauty of this waterless landscape.

There are only two roads through this vast desert of shifting sand dunes and we will traverse them both. We will be following the route of merchant caravans and photographing the ruins of ancient cities, mosques and minarets, Buddhist monasteries and walled fortresses. And be on the lookout for the roving herds of wild Bactrian camels that inhabit the dunes.

We arrive in Kashgar on the southern Silk route in time to shoot the Sunday market, the biggest market in Marco Polo’s day and arguably the biggest in Asia today. With its lively livestock auction, it is a must see experience. And finally there’s Khotan, center of silk, jade and carpets. We end our trip here shooting the carpet weaving workshops, jade markets and silk bazaars and at sunset, trekking on camels deep into the sea of sand surrounding the oasis.

If you haven’t already, please check out my website for photographs from my book, Marco Polo — a photographer’s journey.

Michael Yamashita


We make every effort to keep our plans, but we will also remain flexible so we can adjust to unexpected problems and take full advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Please note: three meals a day are included in the cost except for first and last days.

Day 1, August 25: Xian

Jock Montgomery and Michael Yamashita will meet you at our designated hotel in Xian for an orientation meeting at 5 p.m. followed by a group dinner and a discussion about your photographic interests.

Day 2, August 26: Xian

We drive to the eastern outskirts of of the city to visit one of the most remarkable discoveries in modern time, the Terracotta Army. This vast archaeological area, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains life-size sculptures of Qin Dynasty soldiers. Later we will visit the Big Goose Pagoda, a striking 1400 year old structure, and the Muslim quarter, where modern life still connects to the ancient cultures of Central Asia.

Day 3 – 4, August 27 – 28: Zhangye

We fly to Zhangye, a place conquered in the 13th century by the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan and now a starting point to visit the Danxia Landform. We will have a full day to explore this unique and captivating setting where sandstone layers of red, white, blue, purple, brown, and gold form pillars, towers, and valleys that look like earthen rainbows.

Day 5 – 6, August 29 – 30: Turpan

We take a high-speed train to Turpan. Early the next morning we visit Jiaohe, a Han Dynasty city of walls, watchtowers, huts, and monasteries set on a plateau surrounded by a deep, fertile valley. Later, we visit the Tuyugou valley, an ancient oasis valley on the edge of the desert, a local Uyghur grape-farming famil, and the ancient city of Gaochang, once an important garrison town on the Silk Road.

Day 7 – 9, August 31 – September 2: Kashgar

We visit the Emin Minaret, the tallest minaret in China, Karez Well a very interesting ancient Han irrigation project. Later we travel overland to Kashgar. We visit the old town, known for its bazaars, Abakh Hoja Tomb, a magnificent tomb filled with history and symbolism, and the Id Kah Mosque, the largest in China. On Sunday morning, we explore the livestock bazaar, a massive gathering of farmers and merchants from across the area, and then an international bazaar, the largest in Central Asia.

Day 10, September 3: Yarkand (Sache)

We drive to Yarkand, once a caravan town hub for the trade of cashmere. Today the city has a modern appearance mixed with an impressive collection of mosques and mausoleums.

Day 11 – 12, September 4 – 5: Khotan

We drive to Khotan, the center of an ancient kingdom and an important trading point on the Silk Road for jade, silk and carpets. The modern city is still known for its Jade Market, beautiful mosque, and traditional silk workshop. Later, we will view camel caravans crossing the dunes of the Taklimakan Desert and explore small Uyghur towns east of Khotan.

Day 13, September 6: Urumqi and homeward bound

We fly as a group from Khotan to Urumqi. The trip ends at the Urumqi airport and you head home from here.

Payment Schedule

Deposit: $1,000 (non-refundable) At the time of registration, a $55 non-refundable registration fee will also be collected by Maine Media.  All further communications, billing, etc will be handled directly by Compass Rose Expeditions. Balance Due: 90 days prior to departure

Cancellation Fees

  • 61-90 days prior to departure 50% of trip cost
  • 60 days or less prior to departure 100% of trip cost


What is Included

  • All ground transportation
  • All entrance fees
  • All meals, except on the first day (only dinner is included), and on the last day (only breakfast in included)
  • Bottled water
  • Accommodations as specified

What is not included

  • International airfare and visas
  • Customary and optional tips for local guides
  • Immunizations
  • Personal expenses including laundry, snacks, drinks, alcohol, etc.
  • Overweight luggage charges


1. Reservations & Payments

  • A deposit as indicated on the registration page is required to confirm your reservation for the workshop.  Final payment in full is due 45 days prior  to the start date of  your workshop unless stated differently in the course description..  Maine Media Workshops + College (“Maine Media”) reserves the right to cancel a reservation if full payment has not been received by the due date.

2. Cancellations

3. Basis of Rates

  • All prices are quoted in U.S. dollars; all payments must be made in U.S. dollars.

4. Insurance

  • It is strongly advised that you purchase Trip Cancellation, Baggage, Emergency Medical Evacuation, and/or Accident and Sickness Insurance Protection. Camera equipment, computers, and baggage are carried entirely at the owner’s risk. Maine Media shall have no responsibility for any lost, damaged, or delayed property, or for an individual student’s medical needs, accidents, injuries or illnesses. You can find our travel insurance recommendations here.

5. Itinerary Changes

  • The itinerary for your workshop is subject to change without prior notification.

6.  Passports and Visas

  • A valid passport is required for all international travel. You are required to notify Maine Media as to the nationality under which your passport is registered.  Participants are responsible for obtaining their passports and visas. To participate in the workshop, you must have a passport that is valid until at least six months after the date on which your trip is scheduled to be completed.

7. Medical Issues

  • All participants must be in good health.   You must advise Maine Media of any health condition, physical condition, or emotional or mental condition that may require special attention or that may adversely impact the other participants in your workshop. All students are required to complete a “Waiver of Liability” form and submit it at the time of registration.  This document may be found on the course description page.

8. Liability Waiver

  • Every participant is required to sign Maine Media’s Waiver of Liability before departure for their workshop.   Click here to download.

9. Responsibility & Photography

  • To ensure a safe  experience, you are required to obey local customs and be considerate when photographing people or sensitive locations.  The faculty member for your workshop has the right to expel any person from the workshop for behavior that is in violation of the law; that is disruptive; or that compromises the group’s safety or enjoyment.  No refunds will be made to any person expelled from a workshop. Maine Media shall have no obligation to pay any costs incurred by a person as a result of that person being expelled from a workshop.


All photo credit © Jock Montgomery

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Instructor: Jock Montgomery

Jock Montgomery is a professional photographer and adventure guide who works for clients such as The New York TImes, National Geographic Adventures and more.

Instructor: Michael Yamashita

Michael Yamashita has been shooting for National Geographic of over 30 years, combining his dual passions of photography and travel.