For this seven-day adventure we followed a less well-known strand of the Silk Road, making our own ‘journey to the west’ as we passed by several oasis towns also visited by the monk Xuanzang on his journey to India in search of Buddhist scriptures to bring back home.
We started out in Korla, and drove all the way over to Kashgar, passing through places like Kuqa, Subashi, and Aksu, and stopping off for a night in tents near the Baicheng Landform.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words – keep reading to see about 100,000 words worth of pictures!
(Like the look of this trip? See the full itinerary of our Korla to Kashgar Silk Road trip here.
Journey to the West
We travelled by jeep along the Silk Road, breaking up long distance drives by stopping for picnics and walkabouts.
We drove from Korla to Kuqa after flying in from Beijing via Urumqi.
The mosque in the old town of Kuqa.
You can just see the man on top of the roof. You can't hear what he's doing though – blowing the call to prayer.
Inside the mosque.
He had a strong sales pitch for the stone bracelets on the table.
In Kuqa we saw a lot of donkey and cart arrangements.
We had to get a photo with the man responsible for this huge piece of nan bread.
Here’s how they cook it.
The finished product.
Colourful clothes for a spot of shopping.
Outdoor barber in Kuqa.
We bought some of this lamb to cook at our campsite.
Soup for sale.
A pretty lady taking a break from her store at the market.
We met this man at a market.
Dinner at the hotel.
Baicheng Landform and the ruined city of Subashi
Not far from Kuqa are some amazing landscapes and Silk Road relics.
The hiking team in the Baicheng Landform.
We hiked through here for around an hour.
Another angle of the large tower at the center of the ruins, with layers of rammed earth visible where the brickwork has fallen away.
We took a good walk about the ruins, walking between different parts.
A smooth stone from the river. Some of us like to collect interesting rocks.
A different angle of the main area of the ruins.
Quite a large site.
More ruined buildings on a cliff above the river.
Kizil Grand Canyon and 'Ghost City' camping
To break up the long drive between Korla and Aksu we spent a night camping.
The Kizilgaha Beacon tower, an impressive Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD) structure near the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves.
Red cliffs at the Grand Canyon near Kuqa.
Yanjing’s high jump.
They say the lines in the rock are caused by rain, wind, and sand blown by the wind.
From when we visited the big canyon: just enough room to squeeze in for a group shot!
We decided to set up camp by the 'Ghost City'.
View of the campsite.
Here's that lamb we bought earlier on the trip.
In China, the words for watermelon translate roughly as ‘melon from the west’. Very appropriate to find them here.
It's dinner time!
Setting off on a hike through the 'Ghost City'.
After a night of camping we drove on to Kashgar, passing by Aksu on the way
Aksu and the Yardang Landform
We arrived in Aksu on the fourth day of the trip.
Noodles and ‘Dapanji’, which translates as ‘Big Plate of Chicken’ – another very appropriate name.
One of the group modelling some of the local fashion.
Happy salesperson and a happy customer.
Big cliffs at the Yardang Landform.
A lonely shepherd (and herd) below the cliffs.
We seemed to find this kind of rock all along the way.
The drivers swore this was a natural mineral, not just some broken glass.
Coloured cliffs in the distance.
A really interesting mix of colours in the rocks.
We hiked up into the hills for a closer look.
And then along the ridgelines.
Our hike took us closer to the cliffs.
Looks a little like the Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu.
Coming down from the ridge.
Our road west went right below the cliffs.
A much-needed rainstorm in a very dry area of the world.
We arrived in Kashgar on the evening of the fifth day of the trip, leaving us plenty of time to explore the city in the next day-and-a-half.
Apples and peaches for sale.
We're about to visit the Tomb of the Fragrant Concubine.
The Tomb of the Fragrant Concubine.
Sheep lined up for sale at the Kashgar livestock market.
A herd of sheep, having their tails trimmed.
A young girl at the market.
More things for sale at the market, including whips and bells.
A youngster hiding behind his mother's skirts.
A kind of dumpling, being sprinkled with water before baking.
We noticed these were a hot item.
Chipping off ice for a yoghurt concoction.
Taking the sheep to market.
Camels at the livestock market.
Kashgar's Old City
Plums for sale.
Shopping for hats.
Shopping for scarves.
Young friends out for a walk.
Really colourful clothes.
Ceramic jars and pots in the old city of Kashgar.
The wares of a ceramics store.
In the narrow streets of Kashgar's old city we chanced on a wedding.
Kids having fun.
We visited a local family for lunch on the last day of the trip.
A lovely setting.
Plenty of food, too!
Cheers for a fun trip!
We flew back to Beijing via Urumqi, a long journey that took us back over the areas we crossed on the way to Kashgar.
Flying back, we passed over some familiar coloured mountains.
Views of mountains.
This area looks very dry.
Mountains beside a lake and a town.
If you like lizards, then we've got a few photos for you!