12-Day South Xinjiang Adventure Tour

Taklimakan-Pamirs Adventure

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.(xj-1)

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

Visit Tashkurgan county which neighbors Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Feast your eyes on lakes, snowy mountains, grasslands, glacier, and incredible mountain roads.

scenery on the Pamirs
A yurt on the lake bank

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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About China Highlights

travelers' choice 2021

Since 1998 we've guided everyone ranging from US presidents, Australian Geographic and retired backpackers. Our goal is to create unique trips that take you off-the-beaten path, helping you discover China in a more authentic way. Our motto: "Discovery Your Way!"

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 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.

Visit Tuyugou Village in the late afternoon and experience the traditional lifestyle of the Uyghurs.

Day 3 Turpan to Korla | Bosten Lake

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

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 are the habitat for some kinds of birds. The south bank of the lake is connected with sands.

Day 4Korla 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 Palace and Kuqa Grand Mosque. Find a combination of traditional Chinese culture and Islamic culture in the buildings.

Day 5 Kuqa to Aksu | Great Grottoes, 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 Wensu 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 6 Aksu 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.

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

Day 7 Khotan to Kashgar | The Exotic Charm of a Lost City

Drive from Khotan to Kashgar via Kargilik County.You will stop at Xitiya Ancient City, which is believed to have been first built at the end of 11th century. The mud buildings with their unique style will bring you back to medieval times.

Day 8 Kashgar | Have Fun in the Desert

Drive to the National Desert Park near Makit County. At latitude 39° north, it is on the trekking route of Swedish explorer Sven Hedin across the Taklimakan Desert, who mapped more than 3,000 km (2,000 miles) of previously uncharted territory between 1893 and 97.

You can enjoy camel rides, sand sliding, desert trekking, or desert off-road vehicle experiences.

Note: The activities in the desert are optional. The cost will need to be paid by you at the time according to what you do.

Day 9 Kashgar to Tashkurgan | Great Lakes and Mountains

Drive along the China-Pakistan Highway to Tashkurgan. 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 10 Tashkurgan | The Incredible Pamirs

Start from Tashkurgan County Town on a 5-hour circular road trip to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Pamirs Mountain Range.

First drive south on the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway (Har Goolun Highway), and then back east, climbing over the mountains to return. You will meet the most famous road section in the Pamirs. Experience countless bends in just 36 km (21 miles) as you climb to a pass between the snow-capped mountains.

Drive back north in a valley on the other side of the mountain range, passing grasslands, Tajik villages, and a beautiful blue lake (a reservoir) on your way back to Tashkurgan.

Day 11 Tashkurgan to Kashgar | Kashgar Old Town

Drive back to Kashgar and explore Kashgar Old Town in the afternoon.

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.

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

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

The wooden houses on the grassland
FromCNY18,620/ USD2,923 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
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