Xinjiang Silk Road from Kashgar to Turpan

From 9100 RMB / person 10 Days

A multi-millenial Silk Road

In the far west of China, in the Uyghur region of Xinjiang, explore the paths treaded upon for more than 2000 years by merchants, caravans, explorers and peoples of the Silk Road. Here, you'll discover a whole piece of history, cultures and peoples that is completely different from the rest of China. You'll walk through the old lanes of Kashgar, explore the the old mud cities of Turpan valley, and discover Tashkurgan fort at the crossroad of Tadjik, Kirghiz and Uyghur ethnic groups. Grottoes and minarets show the vast range of cultural and religious identities across the centuries, between Islam, Buddhism and other Chinese cults.

professional-icon
The Journey to the West

For ancient Chinese dynasties whose cradle stands in the east in the Yellow River delta, Xinjiang stayed for a long time a unwelcoming land surrounded with mystery. In this way, it is beyond the western Kunlun mountains that traditionally lives a goddess of the Chinese mythology, Xiwangmu, "the Queen Mother of the West". Xinjiang province was also described in the book of the Journey to the West, one of the most famous epic saga nowadays in China: it recounts the journey of a young Buddhist monk to the western regions in the 7th century.

route-icon
Itinerary

First you'll discover Kashgar, located in the south-west of Xinjiang, and its indeniably charming old town. From Kashgar, you'll reach Tashkurgan, an ancient Tadjik capital, and cross the sublime Karakorum highway. It will take you through snowy summits and mountain lakes such as Karakul lake. Then a night train will take you to Turpan in the north-east. You'll discover many remains from different periods, as well as a still rural and traditional lifestyle.

Itinerary

From Karakul lake, a blue pearl in the middle of verdurous grasslands, to the Flaming Mountains, a hot and desertic place… Let yourself be captivated by this region, its welcoming population and fascinating landscapes! 

Day 1: Kashgar arrival

Upon arrival in Kashgar, your driver will welcome you and transfer you to your hotel. Free time for the rest of the day to wander through the old town or rest at your hotel.

Day 2: Kashgar (B)

This morning, you’ll start your visit of Kashgar with the Apak Hoja Mausoleum, also known as the Fragrant Concubine. This quiet and peaceful place is a very beautiful piece of Uyghur architecture. Then you’ll reach the live animal market of Kashgar, one of the biggest in the region where you will see livestock being traded. Have a look at these traditional bargains for sheep! After lunch, you’ll see the Eid Kah mosque, which is the biggest mosque in China. You’ll walk through the lanes of the old town and end your day in the Handicraft Street, where you’ll see craftsmen work with wood, iron and copper.

Day 3: Kashgar – Karakul Lake – Tashkurgan (B)

This morning, you’ll take the Karakoram Highway, considered as one of the most beautiful highways in the world. In the car, enjoy the scenery going by. After 1.5hrs drive, you’ll reach the Oytagh red mountain, revealing itself in front of multicolored mountains with snowy summits. After a checkpoint stop, you’ll reach the peaceful Karakul Lake (at an altitude of 3600m) located between Mount Gonger (7719m) and Mount Muztagh Ata (7546m). Finally, you’ll reach Tashkurgan for the night.

Day 4: Tashkurgan – Kashgar (B)

This morning, you’ll visit Tashkurgan fortress: this small town used to be a Tadjik capital. In the afternoon, you’ll hit the road back to Kashgar. If you have enough time, according to the driving journey and the checkpoints, you can stop at Karakul lake or other places for stunning panoramas and a short walk. Upon arrival in Kashgar, you’ll check n again at your hotel.

Day 5: Kashgar – Shipton's Arch – Kashgar (B)

This morning, your driver and guide will take you to Shipton’s Arch, the highest natural arch in the world (457m, higher than the Empire State Building). It was discovered in 1947 by the last British general consul in office in Kashgar, Eric Shipton. You can climb it in 45mn, through a lunar landscape. Some small ladders and stairs will help you on the narrowest parts.

Day 6: Kashgar – Turpan (B)

Free day, without services, to rest and enjoy Kashgar old town at your own rhythm: it is full of tiny alleys and lanes to find and roam around.

In the late afternoon, your driver will take you to the train station and you’ll take the night train to Turpan. In a four sleepers compartment, the night train is an unforgettable experience.

Day 7: Turpan

This morning, upon arrival at Turpan train station, you’ll be welcomed by your driver and guide and transferred to your hotel. Then you’ll start your visits with the irrigation system (Kariz) of Turpan, which is one of the three major engineering masterpieces of ancient China, with a history of more than 2000 years. After lunch, you’ll discover the old town of Jiaohe, which is the biggest mud town in the world. Many relics were unearthed there, including some Buddhist manuscripts. You’ll end the day at Emin minaret that was built in 1778. It is the biggest in Xinjiang, and the only Islamic tower in China.

Day 8: Turpan (B, L)

After breakfast, you’ll explore the Bezeklik grottoes, also called the “Thousand Buddha city”. Then you’ll reach Tuyuk valley, hidden behind the Flaming Mountains. You’ll discover an old tradtional Uyghur village that will make you go back in time. You’ll have lunch at a local family. In the afternoon, you’ll explore the Flaming Mountains which are one of the hottest places in China (118°F in summer with a record at 158°F). These mountains appeared as a consequence of the tectonic plates move when the Himalayan range formed itself more than 50 million years ago.

Day 9: Turpan (B, D)

This morning, you’ll discover the local handicraft and markets in the surrounding villages, with a visit to a traditional music instruments fabric for example. Immerse yourself in these lively and welcoming places! You’ll also visit the Astana tombs where several mummies were unearthed. Finally, you’ll explore Gaochang, an ancient town on the Silk Road dating back to the 1st century BC. In the evening, enjoy a dinner with live traditional music.

Day 10: Turpan – Urumqi Departure (B)

This morning, your driver will take you to Urumqi airport (~2.5hrs drive). On the way, you can stop at Urumqi Grand Bazaar. Then it will be time to take your flight back.

Information

Inclusions:
  • 3/4* hotels + breakfast (B)
  • Lunch (L) or dinner (D) when mentioned
  • Drivers
  • English-speaking guides
  • Entrance fees
  • Night train Kashgar-Turpan in soft sleeper if available
Exclusions:
  • Visa
  • International and domestic flights
  • Other meals
  • Personal expenses
  • Tips to the drivers and guides
  • Travel insurances
You like this journey?

They said

"A big thank you to Emilie, for organizing a trip to Xinjiang that will remain etched in our memories forever. Xinjiang is a Chinese region to discover because it is completely dissonant compared to the rest of China. We discovered very rich landscapes and cultures, in color, perfumes, tastes and music. The summer sun shone on everything we could admire. A difficult region to visit because of the sweltering summer heat and all the controls present throughout the trip, but Émilie knew how to manage with her guides and local drivers to perfection. Mountains, deserts, landscapes and cuisine that are really worth it, because you will be transported to the Middle East without leaving China. One of the most exotic trips we have made in China. For us it was a big YES!!!"
Xinjiang Kashgar
Raffaella - Between families
July 2021