Here’s a report from our June 2016 Silk Road trip, made extra interesting with commentary from hiking guide Abu, who is from Xinjiang.
His report takes the form of a trip diary, with text and photos from each day grouped together.
Our journey began with the flight to Korla. On arrival in Korla we met our jeep team, and headed straight to the first stop on the itinerary – Iron Gate Pass (Tiemenguan).
Iron Gate Pass was the main way from Northern Xinjiang through to Southern Xinjiang on the ancient Silk Road.
According to Uyghur folklore, real characters of a famous love story among local people once lived here.
We took an hour to explore, and then headed back to Korla city to visit a traditional style bazaar, a very interesting place to visit on our first day in Xinjiang.
After our visit to the bazaar we had a giant dinner, which was needed after a long day travelling about.
We set out for Kuqa, the next stop for us on the Silk Road.
On the way we stopped for a hike in the Yardang landform area. It was a hot day, but we were rewarded with beautiful blue skies and delicious sweet watermelon prepared for us by our drivers.
At Kuqa we visited the King’s Palace and the Grand Mosque.
The last king of Kuqa passed away in 2014. Even though we were not able to see the king, we learned a lot of the history of the Kuqa kingdom at the King’s Palace museum.
We also visited a riverside bazaar in the old quarter of Kuqa, finding it full of people who were stocking up on food for Ramadan.
We drove from Kuqa to the Dakizilya Grand Canyon, a scenic location on the way to Aksu. On the way we took a look at the ruined city of Subashi, and a beacon tower from the Han Dynasty
After visiting the canyon we drove to our campsite, set up our tents, and then headed off to explore on foot.
We spent most of the day out in the wilderness. The mountains in the area had so many different colours and shapes we felt we could be exploring Mars.
We got an early start and drove to the Kizil Thousand-Buddha Caves in Baicheng County, on the outskirts of Aksu.
The caves are found in a cliff above a river, and they’re so serious about conserving the artwork that cameras are not allowed. So we only took memories, no photos.
After visiting the caves we drove on towards Aksu, stopping for a short hike on the way.
It was early evening when we arrived in Aksu. We checked into our hotel, had dinner, and then went for a stroll in the city. It was cool at night compared to the heat of the day, and we enjoyed a pleasant walk.
From Aksu we continued on our way to Kashgar. It is a long drive, and we’d packed gear for a picnic lunch. The problem was that there was no shade anywhere for our picnic, and the only place we could find was under a bridge on the highway. Not your usual location for a picnic.
While our jeep team drivers were getting lunch ready we took a short walk to look at some nearby mountains. The mountains looked plain from a distance, but when we got closer we found amazing and different colours and shapes.
We came back to find that our drivers had prepared a true feast for us. Such good food prepared in the middle of nowhere.
After lunch we set off again, with Kashgar our destination.
We woke up in Kashgar, and set out on a day of exploration.
In the morning we went to the Tomb of Xiangfei, near Kashgar City. Xiangfei was a concubine of Emperor Qianlong, a Qing Dynasty Emperor.
After our visit to the tomb we went to the Grand Bazaar in the center of Kashgar City. The official name of the bazaar is the Central Asia Grand Bazaar, and it is truly huge. We browsed for an hour and decided we might need to come back later to explore more.
Our next stop was the Old City of Kashgar, where we walked about the narrow lanes to see the traditional Uyghur-style architecture and all types of different shops and stores.
Next up was lunch, and we visited a fancy restaurant. The food was great, and as we ate we were fortunate to enjoy the live performance of local folk music.
After lunch we visited Id-Kah Mosque, the largest in Xinjiang.
In the afternoon we were left with free time, and split up to explore on our own.
On the last day of our trip, we visited the livestock market just outside Kashgar city. The market was filled with sheep, cows, donkeys, and people who were selling or buying livestock.
After we spent an hour at the market we went to a local house to have our lunch. The house was decorated in the traditional local way and the food was delicious, served under the shade of grape vines in a covered courtyard.
Then it was farewell to our drivers and local guide, and off to the airport to fly back to Beijing.
Thanks for the write up, Abu!