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12-Day South Xinjiang Adventure Tour

Taklimakan-Pamirs Adventure

If north Xinjiang is a beautiful dream, then south Xinjiang is an exciting adventure.

Surrounded by great mountain ranges — Tianshan, Altun, and Kunlun (the Pamirs) — south Xinjiang holds China's biggest desert (the Taklimakan). Historically, it has cultivated 36 ancient kingdoms and carried the Silk Road's toughest trails.

This 12-day south Xinjiang adventure tour starts from Urumqi. Travel through the Tianshan Mountains. Drive across the Taklimakan Desert. Discover traces of splendid civilizations on the ancient Silk Road. Journey into the incredible Pamirs. And finish in Kashgar.

Tour 'Wow' Points

Drive across "the Sea of Death" — the Taklimakan

Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime road trip across the biggest desert in China.

highway in the desert
drive in the desert

Venture into the Rugged Heartland of the Pamirs

Drive along the China-Pakistan Highway. Feast your eyes on lakes, snowy mountains, and glacier.

scenery on the Pamirs
Baisha Lake

Discover Master Pieces of Nature and Culture

Witness the stark desert landforms left by wind and water in the red sandstone of Wensu Grand Canyon, and appreciate valuable murals in nearby grottoes.

red sandstone canyon
murals in the grottoes

Find Traces of Mysterious Lost Kingdoms

There have been 36 ancient kingdoms in the mysterious western region of China. They were important stops on the ancient Silk Road, secluded civilizations in the desert.

Islamic buildings
Islamic building in Xinjiang

Be a Foodie of Xinjiang Delicacies in a Night Market

Taste typical Xinjiang food and snacks, such as lamb shashlik, roast dumplings, roast eggs, or even incredible watermelon pigeon soup!

Roast lamb in the night market
Xinjiang snacks in the night market

Learn Xinjiang Craftsmanship with a Local Artisan

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

Men in a shop
A craftsman in Kashgar

"Steal" the Business Secrets of a Livestock Merchant

Experience a bazaar that has existed for centuries on the Silk Road — the Kashgar Livestock Market. Learn how to do successful business the Xinjiang way.

Livestock bazzar in Kashgar
A Uyghur man in the bazzar

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Itinerary Quick Look

Here is a suggested itinerary. We are happy to customize a tour according to your interests.

Day 1 Urumqi Arrival

When you land in Urumqi, your personal tour guide will be waiting for you in the arrivals area and will be ready to transfer you to your hotel.

Day 2 Urumqi to Turpan | A Key Silk Road City

Head for Turpan in the morning. Visit Tuyugou Village in the late afternoon and experience the traditional lifestyle of the Uyghurs.

Discover the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves and view the Flaming Mountain on the way

Day 3 Turpan | A Key Silk Road City

Visit Emin Minaret in the morning. A beautiful shadow is cast across the walls in the morning sunlight.

Visit the ruins of the ancient city of Jiaohe. This remarkable city was built by digging down from on high instead of building up from the ground!

After lunch, you will venture underground to explore the Karez Well System and discover the wisdom behind Turpan's ancient irrigation system and water supply.

Learn more stories about Turpand and the Silk Road in the Turpan Museum.

Day 4 Turpan to Korla | Bosten Lake

Drive southwest and get close to the edge of the Taklimakan Desert. Visit the Bosten Lake which is the biggest indand freshwater lake. It is the site of an ancient kingdom which was an important spot on the ancient Silk Road. Now, the lake is a habitat for some kinds of birds. The south bank of the lake is connected with sands.

Day 5Korla to Kuqa | Find Traces of Ancient Kingdoms

Leave Korla for Kuqa, where the ancient Qiuci (Kuqa) Kingdom once thrived. Visit the Ruins of Subashi Ancient Temple in the gravel desert — a representative relic of the ancient Qiuci Kingdom. And then admire the beauties of Kuqa Grand Mosque. Find a combination of traditional Chinese culture and Islamic culture in the buildings.

Day 6 Kuqa to Shaya | Great Grottoes and Grand Canyon

Continue driving along the edge of the desert. Visit Kezil Thousand-Buddha Caves and witness the exchange and integration of Buddhist culture in the broken but beautiful murals.

Explore Tianshan Grand Canyon, which is a combination of Antelope Canyon, Arizona and the Grand Canyon of Colorado. The red sandstone mountains are a masterpiece of wind and water erosion. You will feel the primitive, wild, and desolate temperament of Xinjiang in this less touristy site.

Day 7 Shaya to Khotan | Drive across the Taklimakan

You will drive across the "Sea of the Death" — the Taklimakan Desert. The vastness of the desert brings out human's tininess and mortality. But the Euphrates poplars will show you the tenacity of life. Wheatgrass squares (China's secret for fixing the sands and reversing desertification) along the road display dividends from the wisdom and hard work of China's people.

Day 8 Khotan | The Pearl on the South Silk Road

When you get to Khotan, you will come back to civilization. Have a relaxing walk on the old street of Khotan. Feel the rich Uyghur flavor when admiring the traditional residential houses on the street.

Explore the local Jade Bazaar. It is interesting to see how people present their jade treasures and how they negotiate to buy the most beautiful stones. The friendly and exciting atmosphere must be very enjoyable to experience. Then trying to look for a real jade stone in Khotan River could be a unique experience.

Trying some traditional snacks in the busy Khotan night market might be another highlight of the day.

Day 9 Khotan to Kashgar | Discover a Hidden Kingdom Yarkant

Drive from Khotan to Kashgar via Yarkant County. You will stop at Yarkant Palace. The original Yarkant Palace was destroyed when the Dzungar Khanate conquered Yarkent. The palace is an accurate copy according to historical records, and the great buildings, exquisite decoration, and lovely blue color show a rich Islamic flavor.

Then visit the mausoleum of a Yarkant princess, Amani Shah Khan. The soft white of the building and its light blue and light green features might create an image of a gentle and beautiful lady in your mind. You can see poems written by Amani Shah Khan and pictures of traditional Uyghur instruments on the walls of the building.

Day 10 Kashgar | Kashgar Old Town

Explore Kashgar Old Town. Walk from the old city to Handicrafts Street. Go into the shops, touch the semi-finished handicrafts, and test the timbre of exotic musical instruments.

Have a break at an old teahouse that has a history of over 100 years. Many locals gather there to chat, enjoy a tea break, play music, and to dance, often spending a whole afternoon there.

Experience the region's religion in Xinjiang's biggest mosque. Enjoy the beauty of Islamic architecture in a quiet atmosphere.

If it is Sunday, you can also choose to explore the Kashgar Livestock Market. Learn how the local people do their livestock business.

Day 11 Kashgar | The Incredible Pamirs

Drive along the China-Pakistan Highway to the Pamirs. Enjoy the seldom-seen scenery of the westernmost point of China.

View the impressive Baisha ('White Sand') Lake and Karakul ('Black Lake'). Snow-capped Muztag Ata and other very tall mountains look like a row of strong guards protecting this land.

Day 12 Kashgar Departure

Say goodbye to amazing Xinjiang. Your guide and driver will escort you to the airport.

Hotel Selection

—the Icing on the Cake

Boutique hotels are recommended to enrich your travel experience.

hotel room in Turpan
A colorful hotel
hotel lobby
FromCNY26,500/ USD3,870 p/p Based on a private tour for 2 people. Price varies depending on program, travel date, number of people and chosen hotel

Price Includes:

  • Private air-conditioned business car with big windows and ample space
  • English speaking local guide
  • Activities, hotels, and meals listed in the itinerary
  • 24/7 helpline for while you are traveling

Tour code: xj-1

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