12-Day South Xinjiang Adventure Tour
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.
Venture into the Rugged Heartland of the Pamirs
Drive along the China-Pakistan Highway. Feast your eyes on lakes, snowy mountains, and glacier.
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.
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.
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!
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
"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.
Why Choose Us
Your Wellbeing is Our Priority.
- 1-to-1 travel expert
- Vaccinated guides
- Private Rides
Your Trip is Perfectly Planned.
- Less crowded
- Exclusive Exciting Experiences
Your Booking is Risk-Free.
- No cancellation fee (up to 22 days before departure)
- Free changes
Finish Your Booking in as Quick as 1 Day
2. Work out your unique plan with 1 to 1 expert advice
13 days in China
We booked a 13 day’s tour of China with China Highlights. Our travel advisor, Ms Leah Zhou organised an itinerary that suited what we wanted. She was really helpful and patient will all our needs. Leah helped us organised our 30th Wedding Anniversary Dinner and my 60th Birthday celebration?? in Beijing. For this to be possible, she had to liaise with our guide in Beijing. The flowers and cake were a real surprise. My husband and I, were really touched at the good service provided by China Highlights and Ms Leah Zhou. Thank you China Highlights and Ms Leah Zhou for your constant care of your customers. I will certainly recommend China Highlights to my friends.more
Nov 2023, Eda Adams
Do Beijing like a local
They organised my trip very quickly and efficiently. On the day, Anna was very friendly to me, my mum and my baby. Very accommodating to our needs. The car was immaculately clean and very comfortable. We visited everything we initially wanted and more. Also, Anna took us to the best meal we had in China. It makes a difference to have a local choosing the dishes!more
Nov 2023, Natali A
Beijing 2 day tour
Spent 2 days in Beijing with Ethan as my guide and had a fantastic experience. Ethan is very knowledgeable, easy company and takes excellent photographs. The organisation was excellent as well including the driver for the tour as well the airport pick up.more
Nov 2023, Tam
Excellent Two Weeks Across China
We used Asia Highlights (China Highlights in China) to help plan two weeks across China: Beijing, Xian, Guilin, a Yangtze cruise and Shanghai. Albee helped put it all together and was a huge help. She was very responsive and all the guides in each city were excellent! The hotels were perfect. We would definitely use the company once again for other trips to Asia.more
Oct 2023, Charles
Great Experience with China Highlights
Over at Beijing, Angela met us at the train station and ensured we were well settled in our hotel. We spent 2 days with her as our Guide. Angela is well informed and also adapted the itinerary to cover areas we wanted to take advantage off, e.g. apple picking at the orchard! The driver we had on both legs were good and friendly.more
Oct 2023, Edwin
China Round Trip in October 2023 Family FT & G Braun from Germany
Here in Beijing we got Jack as a tour guide who is very knowledgeable and supportive as well as flexible when there is a change in the program needed. Communication with him is easy as he is fluent in English. It is difficult to say which attraction is the greatest as all are outstanding being it the Forbidden City, the Great Wall or the Summer Palace as well as the Temple of Heaven. The driver, Mr. Hu needs also to be mentioned very positively as he politely took special care of us and his driving style was safe and patient with all the heavy traffic situations.more
Oct 2023, Franz-Theo Braun
I engaged Roger Li at China Highlights to arrange a One Day Beijing Tour for my clients from Brazil and the UK after our business meetings last week. Not only did the clients have a fantastic time visiting Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Palace and the Great Wall all in one day; but they came back with rave reviews on how well the day was organised and commented on the expertise of the tour guide too. I had 4 very happy clients then meet me in Shanghai for part 2 of meetings - thanks to Roger and Felix! Many thanks again.more
Oct 2023, Bobby Tsang
Jinshanling amazing hiking trip
We took the hiking trip Jinshanling package, we like it because the view was amazing, not much crowd and our tour guide arrange everything perfectly. We like it.However please be aware that this hiking trip will involve challenging stairs step and inclination, but still suitable for someone that exercise regularly.more
Oct 2023, Frans A
Awesome experience touring Beijing with China Highlights. My tour guide, Jennifer, was knowledgeable, professional, friendly, and very accommodating. It was like taking a tour with a friend. My favorite part of the tour was walking the Great Wall of China. Jennifer made sure to take me to a remote area, not just the crowded tourist area near Beijing, so I could get a more authentic experience.more
Oct 2023, Consumer
Awesome personalized tour. Well worth the money.
Lily Liu was our guide. I highly recommend using her. She helped us check out several local places that we absolutely loved and was great at answering all our questions and helping us experience Peking duck, Hawthorne and other things we were curious about.more
Oct 2023, Jessica P
Two great weeks!
We had Olivia as our tour guide in Beijing and Mervyn in Xi'an. They were both fantastic at their job and made us feel so welcome and added to the great experience we were already having. So grateful to their professionalism and wide knowledge as well as their friendliness. We're glad that China Highlights took us to the Mutianyu Wall instead of the crowded Badaling Wall. Less crowded and great views all around!more
Oct 2023, Road36501241284
Beijing 4 day trip
Silvia arranged my itinerary which included buying the high speed train ticket from Shanghai to Beijing and airport transfers. I did not have to think about anything. She added places to the itinerary which I would not have known to visit .more
Oct 2023, Wing Yee Cheung
Amazing 2 weeks because of China Highlights
We had Olivia as our tour guide in Beijing and Mervyn in Xi'an. They were both fantastic at their job and made us feel so welcome and added to the great experience we were already having. So grateful to their professionalism and wide knowledge as well as their friendliness.All in all, we are so glad for China Highlights. Affordable and really value-for-money kinda tour.more
Oct 2023, Elisabeth Zackrina
One Day Beijing Trip (Great Wall, Summer Palace) With Jennifer
My tour guide Jennifer made this quick one day trip to Beijing great! The day started out a bit overcast and rainy when I landed, but Jennifer’s positive attitude and kind communication (along with her being able to keep up/put up with my jokes) made it fine.Despite this, Jennifer and our driver Chen were able to swing an extra photo shoot stop at the Olympic Stadium. I guess it gives me an excuse to come back to visit again, and when I do - I will use China Highlights and this great fantastic team.more
Sep 2023, Alan Landau
Best Great Wall experience
Used China Highlights for a private all-day tour of Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall. One of the best days of my life! Tour guide Alan and a driver met me at my hotel and the ride was very comfortable. Alan was extremely knowledgable and friendly, I really enjoyed talking with him. The scenery was astoundingly beautiful; this is a less touristy portion of the Wall. The hiking was fun, Alan brought plenty of water, and showed me things I would not have noticed by myself. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch that Alan had arranged - delicious! Once in a lifetime experience.more
Sep 2023, LZviajera
Non-standard private China tour
I booked a 4 weeks private China tour with ChinaHighlights covering landscapes and cultural sites between Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Zhangjiajie, Hangzhou and Shanghai. The entire tour was set up accurately, very fast and in the light of all relevant personal preferences by Mrs. Carol Wang, an expert in organizing hand made voyages in China. Due to her knowledge and immediate responses the tour was scheduled comfortably and straightforward, including all transfers and authentic hotel bookings. I highly recommend ChinaHighlights and in particular Carol Wang for organizing any extraordinary, non-mainstream travel to China.more
Sep 2023, Dr. Manfred Leubner
Alisa was very helpful tailoring a trip to China for my wife and I.Alisa was able to put together a great itinerary at a reasonable cost.Alisa is very conscientious and pays attention to detail.Example - We had a midnight flight into Shanghai on one segment of the tour. Alisa followed the flight until an earlier flight became available. Alisa changed the flight, guide and driver. Alisa has great attention to detail. Thank you Alisa. Al and Debbiemore
Sep 2023, AI Cluett
Best way to see Beijing
Our guide Lily Liu was lovely - super patient, warm, knowledgeable about Chinese history, and great English skills. Would definitely recommend this service!more
Sep 2023, Stephanie N
Our guide, Linda, was by far the best person to have for our tours of The Forbidden City, Tianamen Square, and Mutianyu Great Wall. She was an encyclopedia with great knowledge of Chinese History and was able to explain every detail of what we were seeing. She picked us up with a very nice car and driver from our hotel both days, at the time most convenient to us, and dropped us back off wherever we wanted at the end of our tours. Both the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are marvels of human and Chinese achievements and are a must to see in Beijing. Visiting them both with a tour guide that feels more like a friend was certainly helping enjoying it even more.more
Sep 2023, Robin Z
Beijing is AMAZING
Linda Wang our amazing tour guide helped us to have an unforgettable trip to all the best of Beijing. From organizing the driver (also excellent) to drop us/pick us up exactly when we were leaving busy tourist sites, excellent food recommendations, fascinating knowledge relevant to us and our children (13yo and 11yo) making The Forbidden City, Tiannamen Square, Great Wall, Beijing Zoo and The Hutongs thoroughly enjoyable. Handling all the entrance/exit passport and ticket requirements, interpreting, answering any questions we had about local culture, we were so comfortable and happy, never rushed, everything you could want and more.more
Sep 2023, Michelle A
Here is a suggested itinerary. We are happy to customize a tour according to your interests.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Say goodbye to amazing Xinjiang. Your guide and driver will escort you to the airport.
—the Icing on the Cake
Boutique hotels are recommended to enrich your travel experience.
- 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