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Xinjiang: China Far West Tour, September 2018

From the ancient city of Kashgar, through small Uyghur towns on the southern Silk Road we cross the Taklamakan Desert to Turpan, the lowest city in China at 142m below sea level.

The Xinjiang Far West tour starts in the historic city of Kashgar, closer geographically to Tehran and Damascus than to Beijing, a border town between China and the Central Asian states of Kyrgystan and Tajikistan, and the site where traditional Uyghur life hits the Chinese state head on. We visit the old town, livestock market and main bazaar and we can’t miss out on the huge statue of Chairman Mao in People’s Square.

We check out small Uyghur towns that haven’t been developed along the Kashgar model, yet, and skirt the Taklamakan Desert as we go. On the north of the desert, we spend a day at Kuqa’s amazing Thousand Buddha caves, reminding us that before the spread of Islam southern Xinjiang was the place where Buddhism entered China.

Lastly, we hang out in the Turpan, China’s Death Valley, the lowest and hottest place in China. In the countryside outside the city, it’s surprisingly green though and we wander the ruins of ancient cities and stop in a Uyghur holy village for lunch.

If you’d like to see some more Central Asia while you’re here, you could join us for the Silk Road Summer Tour, which visits Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan as well or simply the Kyrgyzstan Independence Day and Xinjiang Combo to combine the best of these two locations and one of China’s least travelled border crossings.

Tour Highlights:

Ramble around the bustling markets and old town of Kashgar, China’s farthest west city, which is closer to Tehran and Damascus than to Beijing!

  • Road trip through the oasis towns of the southern Silk Road visiting towns that are entirely inhabited by Uyghur Muslims with not a Han Chinese in sight!
  • Visit the lowest and hottest part of China, Turpan, which is below sea level, and check out 1600-year-old ruins in Yarkhoto as well as a traditional mud-walled Uyghur village.

 

Itinerary:

Thursday September 6th – Afaq Khoja, Grand Bazaar, Kashgar

  • Arrive in Kashgar and meet in the hotel at 2pm
  • Stop by People’s Square and the largest statue of Chairman Mao in China!
  • Walking tour through the windy lanes of the old town and the Id Kah Mosque
  • Dinner of Uyghur fried rice and mutton.
  • Check out the night markets and street food.
  • Overnight in Kashgar

Friday September 7th – Afaq Khoja, Grand Bazaar, Kashgar

  • Head out of town to the beautiful tomb of Afaq Khoja: a 17th century mausoleum of this important Uyghur figure.
  • Lunch of Xinjiang noodles.
  • Browse the bustling Grand Bazaar, which depending on how you measure it, is the biggest in Asia.
  • Check out Kashgar’s old town, or what’s left of it, to get a glimpse into what life in the area used to be like
  • Dinner and overnight in Kashgar

Saturday September 8th – Kashgar, Yarkand

  • Wake up nice and early to begin our drive out to the smaller Uygur oasis towns that line the Taklamakan Desert
  • We’ll make a short stop on the way in Yengisar to see the handcrafted Uyghur knife factories.
  • Then we get to Yengisar and we’ll take a stroll around the Altun Mosque complex, surrounding cemeteries and the Old Town of this Uyghur town, inhabited completely by Uyghur people.
  • Lunch of Xinjiang noodles.
  • In the afternoon we’ll head out into the desert for some strolling around or a quick camel trek (optional)
  • Drive back to Kashgar and we go looking for what makes a Saturday night in far west China!
  • Dinner and overnight

Sunday September 9th – Kashgar, train to Kuqa

  • Leisurely start to the morning, but soon after breakfast we’ll head out to Kashgar’s famous livestock market, where the locals come to trade in cows, sheep and of course camels.
  • Quick lunch in Kashgar
  • We stock up on supplies and then catch the 8 hour train to Kuqa, passing some stunning desert scenery on the way
  • Check into our hotel and get some well deserved BBQ and cold beers
  • Overnight in Kuqa

Monday September 10th Kuqa, Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves, Overnight train to Turpan 

  • Head out to the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves, one of the best reminders of the pre-Islamic Buddhist history of the whole region
  • Grab lunch out of town
  • Head to Subashi Buddhist ancient town, a remarkably unique place which will be a trip highlight.
  • Return to Kuqa for dinner and to stock up on some more supplies for the train
  • Catch the overnight train to Turpan, which takes about eight hours.

Tuesday September 11th Turpan, Yarkhoto, Tuyoq

  • Arriving in the morning, we’ll check in to our hotel in Turpan.
  • Turpan is China’s “death valley”, being the lowest and hottest part of the country at 142m below sea level.
  • Visit the Yarkhoto ruins, the site of a 1600-year-old well-preserved ancient town.
  • Leaving the town, we’ll visit the holy village of Tuyoq, a traditional mud-walled Uyghur village beneath the Flaming Mountains.
  • Drive back to Turpan
  • Farewell dinner in Turpan, expect barbecue, maybe a whole plate of chicken and plenty of Xinjiang beer to wash it down!
  • Overnight in Turpan

Wednesday September 12th – Turpan, Urumqi, End of Tour 

  • Catch the fast train back to Urumqi, which takes under two hours.
  • Arrive in Urumqi where the tour concludes.
  • We can help with onward transfer for your flights home.