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Xinjiang Itineraries - 4 Top Choices with Planning Tips

Xinjiang Itineraries - 4 Top Choices with Planning Tips

Written by Ruru ZhouUpdated Jan. 29, 2024

Xinjiang offers a unique blend of diverse natural beauty, fascinating history, and vibrant culture. Xinjiang is a vast region, and it takes time to travel between cities, so it is crucial to carefully plan your tour itinerary otherwise you will waste much time on the way. Our tailor-made itineraries cater to discerning travelers, ranging from brief Xinjiang visits to in-depth explorations of the region. They immerse visitors in unforgettable experiences that truly capture the essence of Xinjiang.

How Long to Spend on a Xinjiang Journey

Xinjiang is vast and diverse, boasting a myriad of cultural and historical sites, such as Buddhist grottoes, ancient city ruins, ethnic flavors, and awe-inspiring landscapes featuring deserts, grasslands, and snow-peaked mountains. Strategic planning is essential to maximize your time and experiences.

For first-time visitors, we recommend spending a week to ten days in Xinjiang to cover classic destinations such as Urumqi, Turpan, and Kashgar. This allows you to explore key attractions like very old Silk Road ruins and cities, local bazaars, historied Buddhist caves, and ethnic villages.

Heavely Lake,Xinjiang

Typically, you would spend 2 days in Urumqi visiting highlights such as Xinjiang Grand Bazaar and Heavenly Lake, 2–3 days in Turpan exploring sites like the Karez Water System, Jiaohe Ancient City, Tuyugou Villages, and Kumtag Desert, and 3–4 days in Kashgar visiting attractions like Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar Old Town, Kashgar Bazaar, and its Ancient Tea House.

If you have less than 7 days, we recommend focusing on Kashgar to catch a glimpse of the Ancient Silk Road and experience the exotic Central Asian flavors.

With more than 10 days, you can delve deeper into Xinjiang's natural wonders and the Silk Road. This extra time would allow you to explore more remote Silk Road cities such as Korla, Kuqa, and Khotan and to embark on an adventure into the Taklimakan Desert. This extended duration also offers the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the local culture.

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Ghost city

 Best Cities to Visit in Xinjiang

  • Urumqi: The capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, is a hub for culture, commerce, and travel in the region.
  • Turpan: As an oasis city on the ancient Silk Road, Turpan is home to a rich history and some awesome landscapes.
  • Kashgar: This historic city has strong Uyghur and Central Asian flavors.
  • Kuqa: It's famous for the Kizil Grottoes, which boast unique frescoes and carvings.
  • Korla: The gateway to Bosten Lake is a destination for nature lovers.
  • Khotan: It's known for its remarkable Yotkan Ruins and exquisite jade markets.
  • Kanas: Featuring pristine alpine lakes, snow-capped mountains, and tranquil ethnic villages, it's a great natural getaway.

1. 7-Day Xinjiang Itinerary — the Essence of Xinjiang

With 7 days, you would have the opportunity to explore Xinjiang's highlights and the Silk Road. You could visit three of the most famous cities in Xinjiang: Urumqi, Turpan, and Kashgar. See a sample itinerary below:

  • Day 1: Urumqi
  • Day 2: Urumqi/Turpan
  • 3: Turpan/Urumqi
  • Day 4: Urumqi/Kashgar
  • Days 5–6: Kashgar
  • Day 7: Departure
Jiaohe city ruins

In Urumqi, visit the stunning Heavenly Lake for a refreshing, scenic experience. While in Turpan, explore the old Uyghur village of Tuyugou, where you can chat with locals and catch a glimpse of their lifestyle. Visit the Jiaohe Ruins, once a bustling city with an awesome location on the ancient Silk Road, and immerse yourself in its rich history.

Experience the exotic flavors of Kashgar, the westernmost city in China. Explore Kashgar Old Town, Kashgar Grand Bazaar, and the lively livestock market. Enjoy a cup of tea with locals in an old tea house and truly immerse yourself in the atmosphere.

2. 12-Day Xinjiang Itinerary — The Heart of the Ancient Silk Road

If you're seeking an adventurous trip to explore the heart of the ancient Silk Road and venture into the splendid landscape of Xinjiang's deserts, this 12-day itinerary is perfect for you. During this journey, you'll have the chance to visit major Silk Road trade cities, including Urumqi, Turpan, Korla, Kuqa, Shaya, Khotan, and Kashgar. You'll also explore the unusual landscapes of the region.

Here is a sample itinerary in brief:

  • Day 1: Urumqi
  • Days 2–3: Turpan
  • Day 4: Korla
  • Day 5: Kuqa
  • Day 6: Shaya
  • Days 7–8: Khotan
  • Days 9–11: Kashgar
  • Day 12: Departure
Xinjiang bazaars

During this itinerary, you'll drive through "the Sea of Death" — the Taklimakan Desert, and witness the stark desert landforms created by wind and water in the red sandstone of Wensu Grand Canyon。

Come face-to-face with valuable murals in the Kezil Thousand-Buddha Caves.

Visit Silk Road city ruins and explore the disappearing kingdoms of the Silk Road.

Walk through local bazaars and experience the exotic Uyghur flavors. Explore a famous street with shops selling handmade crafts such as woodwork, copperware, and traditional instruments. Learn to make a handicraft that was a popular Silk Road product. Venture into the rugged heartland of the Pamirs and appreciate the striking mountain-scape.

 Recommended tour: Taklimakan-Pamirs Adventure 

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3. Xinjiang Itineraries of Less Than 1 Week

If you have limited time to see Xinjiang (less than a week), we recommend focusing on Kashgar, the most highlight-filled region, where you can experience the absolute best that the Silk Road has to offer.

In Kashgar, you can indulge in exotic Silk Road charm, learn more about the splendid history of the Silk Road, meet friendly ethnic people, and explore the hidden natural beauty in the desert.

A sample itinerary is as follows: 

  • Day 1: Kashgar arrival
  • Day 2: Kashgar Old Town, visit an Uyghur family, Handicrafts Street, Kashgar Grand Bazaar
  • Days 3–4: The Great Pamirs, explore the stunning natural scenery
  • Day 5: Departure
Kashgar Grand Bazaar

Kashgar — this is really where West meets East: to ancient Chinese, it was the first place in the mysterious West across the Great Desert; to ancient Central Asians it was the gateway to the Orient! Go from the Taklimakan's baking desert depths to the Pamirs' soaring summit snows; explore a melting pot of Central Asian peoples, various ethnic cultures, and Chinese hinterland authority. 

Recommended tour: Kashgar In-Depth Exploration 

4.  An 8-Day Xinjiang Itinerary — North Xinjiang Exploration

If you like the breathtaking natural scenery of North Xinjiang — crystal-clear lakes, vast grasslands, rugged mountains, and diverse flora and fauna, then this itinerary is for you.

With this 8-day itinerary, you would travel through the vast land of North Xinjiang, experiencing incredible landscapes and meeting local people.

Our ready-to-be-tailor-made itinerary is as follows:

  • Days 1–2: Urumqi
  •  Day 3: Burqin
  • Days 4–5: Kanas
  • Day 6: Karamay
  • Day 7: Return to Urumqi
  • Day 8: Urumqi Departure

From Urumqi, journey upwards to marvel at the beautiful Heavenly Lake, have a ride on the lake, and enjoy the magnificent Heavenly Mountain scenery around.

At Burqin, explore Keketuohai National Geopark, touring a beautiful canyon with granitic mountains and colorful forests.

Then, take an 8-km (5-mile) hike to enjoy the three beautiful bays of the Kanas River. Explore Hemu Village, a fairy-like village home to the Tuva people.

At Karamay, visit the "Ghost City", the No. 1 Yardang landform area in China, before returning to the most inland city on Earth, Urumqi. 

Recommended tour: North Xinjiang Fairylands 

Let Us Tailor-Make Your Own Xinjiang Itinerary

All our suggested itineraries can be customized according to your preferences, such as the tour length and the cultural/scenic/accommodation/transport experiences. Alternatively, we can create a new itinerary for you — a personalized journey, tailored specifically to your interests and desires.

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