Kashgar and Lake Karakul, Xinjiang | Lake Karakul
Lake Karakul.

Kashgar and Lake Karakul, Xinjiang (6 days)

Explore Kashgar city, visit Lake Karakul and do a three-day trek in the foothills of Mt. Muztagh-Ata.

Level 3
We reach elevations of 3,500-4,000m on this trip after two acclimatisation days at 1,200m in Kashgar. (Can I do it?)

This trip is not currently scheduled

Contact us for schedule updates or set up a private trip

Trip overview
Day One main activities Meet up in Kashgar, visit Id Kah Mosque and bazaar, night market.
Day Two main activities Visit the big pagoda/tower, then tour Kashgar’s Old City, with free time to explore.
Day Three main activities Visit Tomb of Xiangfei in the morning, drive to Lake Karakul after lunch, hike and then camp overnight near a seasonal settlement used by nomads.
Day Four main activities Trek through the foothills of Mt Muztagh-Ata to the next nomad settlement, set up camp, free time to explore nearby.
Day Five main activities Hike back out to the main road, drive back to Kashgar after lunch.
Day Six main activities Visit the Livestock Market in the morning, transfer to the airport after lunch.

Highlights

Kashgar

Kashgar is an ancient city in the far west of China, with many historically interesting sites and a strong Muslim influence from the large Uyghur community.

The earliest recorded mention of Kashgar can be found in Han Dynasty records that date back to 125 BC. At that point it was already one of the many stops on the Northern Silk Road, and, despite wars and battles, has been populated ever since.

In Kashgar, we will visit many of the most interesting sights.

A street scene in Kashgar
A street scene in Kashgar. (Click for larger image)

Kashgar Old City

Known as an excellent example of a traditional Islamic city, Kashgar’s Old City has undergone significant changes in recent times—some parts have been knocked down due to new regulations about building to meet earthquake and fire codes, and some sections are undergoing reconstruction.

While the Old City might not be totally as aesthetically pleasing as it used to be, it’s still very much worth a visit just to get a look at the daily life of the local residents, and to sample a little bit of the naan bread sold at streetside stalls.

The Id Kah mosque, in Kashgar
The Id Kah mosque, in Kashgar. (Click for larger image)

Id Kah Mosque

With a history that stretches back until at least the 14th century, the Id Kah Mosque is an active mosque and perhaps the largest in China. While we can’t enter during the times of prayer, we’ll try to time it so we can get a look inside.

Grand Bazaar

Kashgar’s Grand Bazaar covers a huge area and sells a little of everything—carpets and silk, spices, dried fruit, animal skins and fur, hats, clothing, trumpets, drums, and other musical instruments, and much more!

We did hear that the Grand Bazaar was closed at some point during 2022, for either renovations or rebuilding. If it’s not open again by the time of this trip, we’ll find other markets and/or activities.

The Tomb of Xiangfei, in Kashgar
The Tomb of Xiangfei, in Kashgar. (Click for larger image)

Tomb of Xiangfei, the ’Fragrant Concubine’

Commonly known as the Tomb of the Fragrant Concubine, it is more accurately described as the tomb of Afaq Khoja, a religious and political leader said to be a relative of Muhammad, and is one of the key Muslim sites in Xinjiang.

The mausoleum was built around 1640 for Muhammed Yusuf, the father of Afaq Khoja, and is a domed structure with four corner minarets and a beautiful cladding of glazed tiles.

The key points of the story of the Fragrant Concubine differ greatly, depending on which side is telling it. One side has it that her captivating scent caused her presentation as a gift to the Emperor, who she grew to love until her death. The other side has it that she was kidnapped and held against her will in the Forbidden City, where she plotted to kill him until she was murdered by the Empress Dowager.

Livestock Market

The livestock market is where local shepherds and farmers meet up to sell and trade livestock. We’ll visit* for a look at this very interesting slice of local culture on the last day of the trip, and see if we can spot anyone using the secretive method of agreeing on a price.

* If the market is not open we will offer a different activity.

Trekking in the Karakul and Muztagh-Ata area

The tall and snowcapped mountains in this remote and relatively unpopulated area form a superb backdrop for our high-altitude hike between small settlements and seasonal nomad camps.

Lake Karakul

The peaks of Mt. Muztagh-Ata reflected in Lake Karakul
The peaks of Mt. Muztagh-Ata reflected in Lake Karakul. (Click for larger image)

The long road from Kashgar up and over the Karakorams and on to Pakistan passes by Lake Karakul, a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. On a clear day, it’s possible to see the 7,500m-plus peaks of Kongur-Tagh, Kongur-Tiube, and Muztagh-Ata pointing up from the line of mountains in the distance. We’ll stop at Karakul to take a walk by the lakeside before heading on to our first campsite

Mt. Muztagh-Ata

Starting out on the trail to the basecamp
Starting out on the trail to the basecamp. (Click for larger image)

With a peak at 7,546m, Muztagh-Ata is the second-highest mountain in the area, and will form an impressive backdrop for much of our trek. Our hike will be along trails in the foothills of the mountain, following part of the path climbers take up on the way up to the basecamp.

On the fourth night of the trek, we’ll camp at a nomad settlement near the stream that runs down through the basecamp from the mountain’s glacier. The large boulders strewn over the foothills of Muztagh-Ata give an indication of the previous size of the glaciers in the area – very large! If you’re feeling up for it, we can hike up to the basecamp for a look.

While trekking, we’ll have camels with us to carry all our equipment—you’ll just need a day pack to carry your snacks and water. If there’s a spare camel, we can all have a go at travel-by-camel.

Health warning – high altitude

During the trekking part of this trip we will be at high altitude, and will arrive without a whole lot of acclimatisation.

If anyone has serious problems with the altitude, one of the BJH guides will take them back to Kashgar straight away. If anyone has problems after that, they’ll be transferred back and met by the guide. Any extra costs incurred for transport/medical assistance are to be paid by participants. We will purchase insurance on your behalf, but you must be prepared to cover any up-front costs.

At high altitude, the weather may change suddenly for the worse. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary to ensure the safety of all participants.

Altitudes
Kashgar city: 1,286m above sea level
Karakul area: 3,648m
Nomad settlement 2: approx. 4,000m above sea level.

Getting to Kashgar and back home again

You’ll meet your guides at the Kashgar Airport or our hotel between 4-5pm on the first day of the trip.

The itinerary will finish in Kashgar on the last day of the trip, and we plan to drop you off at the airport around 2pm.

Flights to and from Kashgar typically transfer at Urumqi Airport.

Please do not purchase your flights until we are able to confirm the departure of the trip.