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Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

In Brief: A special report from our June 2016 Silk Road trip, with photos and commentary from hiking guide Abu, who is from Kashgar.

Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Shopping for carpets in Kashgar.

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.

Day One

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.

Our first formal dinner after a long flight from Beijing to Korla. Nice decoration and every dish seems double size - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Our first formal dinner after a long flight from Beijing to Korla. Nice decoration and every dish seems double size.

Day Two

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.

Hiking off to explore some unique landscapes on the way to Kuqa - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Hiking off to explore some unique landscapes on the way to Kuqa.

Climbing was tricky since the surface was soft - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Climbing was tricky since the surface was soft

Two gentlemen have claimed the high ground - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Two gentlemen have claimed the high ground.

Hiking further into the landform - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Hiking further into the landform.

Up on top for photos - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Up on top for photos.

We went deep into the Yardang landscape - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

We went deep into the Yardang landscape.

Hiking in the Yardang landscape area on the way to Kuqa - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Hiking in the Yardang landscape area on the way to Kuqa.

Seems we are the only creatures in this area – so empty - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Seems we are the only creatures in this area – so empty.

Shrubs are the only sign of life that indicates the area on Earth - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Shrubs are the only sign of life that indicates the area on Earth.

Team photo in the wilderness - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Team photo in the wilderness.

Our jeeps were hiding somewhere behind those hills - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Our jeeps were hiding somewhere behind those hills.

Back at the jeeps and welcomed with watermelon, the best option after hot day hike - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Back at the jeeps and welcomed with watermelon, the best option after a hot day's hike.

Watermelon seems more tasty in the wilderness - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Watermelon seems more tasty in the wilderness.

We are preparing to visit the prayer hall of the Grand Mosque in Kuqa. Taking off shoes is required before entry - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

We are preparing to visit the prayer hall of the Grand Mosque in Kuqa. Taking off shoes is required before entry.

Super big naan bread (AKA ‘hemek’) in Kuqa - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Super big naan bread (AKA ‘hemek’) in Kuqa.

The naan bread we bought here lasted until the end of the trip - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

The naan bread we bought here lasted until the end of the trip.

The baker is showing off his skills - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

The baker is showing off his skills.

A hundred-year-old house in the city of Kuqa - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

A hundred-year-old house in the city of Kuqa.

Day Three

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.

A wooden path leads towards to the remains of the temple at Subashi - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

A wooden path leads towards to the remains of the temple at Subashi.

Full view of Subashi’s ruined city, including the other half in the distance across the river - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Full view of Subashi’s ruined city, including the other half in the distance across the river.

A Han Dynasty-era (206 BC-220 AD) tower stands almost 11 meters tall. It was made solely of mud and wood – well-built, to have lasted 2,000 years - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

A Han Dynasty-era (206 BC-220 AD) tower stands almost 11 meters tall. It was made solely of mud and wood – well-built, to have lasted 2,000 years.

Group photo! - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Group photo!

As we are tough hikers, we prefer to walk into the Dakizilya Grand Canyon, rather than driving in - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

As we are tough hikers, we prefer to walk into the Dakizilya Grand Canyon, rather than driving in.

Further into Dakizilya Grand Canyon. ‘Kizilya’ means ‘red cliff’ in the local language - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Further into Dakizilya Grand Canyon. ‘Kizilya’ means ‘red cliff’ in the local language.

Red cliffs indeed - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Red cliffs indeed.

Strange shaped rocks and caves in the cliffs make the canyon more fascinating - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Strange shaped rocks and caves in the cliffs make the canyon more fascinating.

Closer to the cliffs - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Closer to the cliffs.

Finished our walk at the Dakizilya Grand Canyon and ready to drive on - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Finished our walk at the Dakizilya Grand Canyon and ready to drive on.

Setting up camp - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Setting up camp.

Scenery near our campsite - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Scenery near our campsite.

Helping hand up, and it looks like the weather is changing - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

A helping hand up, and it looks like the weather is changing.

From our campsite this mountain looked like a huge castle - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

From our campsite this mountain looked like a huge castle.

This cliff with a window looks like the remains of some ancient building, but it is all natural - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

This cliff with a window looks like the remains of some ancient building, but it is all natural.

Another shot of the cliff with a window - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Another shot of the cliff with a window.

Unique scenery - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Unique scenery.

Yanjing and another tough hiker climbed up for a look at this crag - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Yanjing and another tough hiker climbed up for a look at this crag.

Mushroom-shaped pinnacle formed by the erosion of constant wind - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

A mushroom-shaped pinnacle formed by the erosion of constant wind.

Yardang landscape by our camp site - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Yardang landscape by our camp site.

Another mushroom-shaped pinnacle. We thought we could see the face of a sad old man in it - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Another mushroom-shaped pinnacle. We thought we could see the face of a sad old man in it.

From a distance, the whole area looks like a unique city filled by different buildings - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

From a distance, the whole area looks like a unique city filled by different buildings.

Heading down to the valley to get back to our camp site - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Heading down to the valley to get back to our camp site.

We could have been on Mars right here - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

We could have been on Mars right here.

Day Four

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.

Heading towards the mountain in the distance. It looks very near, but actually not at all! - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Heading towards the mountain in the distance. It looks very near, but actually not at all!

Crossing the dried river by the road that leads to Aksu City - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Crossing the dried river by the road that leads to Aksu City.

Blue sky over the wilderness - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Blue sky over the wilderness.

Exploring more in the mountains near a town called Shiker Kol, which means sugar lake in Uyghur - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Exploring more in the mountains near a town called Shiker Kol, which means sugar lake in Uyghur.

Hey! - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Hey!

Lizard with long tail in hiding - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Lizard with long tail in hiding.

Walking the dried riverbed to find the way out - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Walking the dried riverbed to find the way out.

Day Five

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.

Exploring some mountains on the way to Kashgar while our drivers are preparing lunch for us - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Exploring some mountains on the way to Kashgar while our drivers are preparing lunch for us.

Having our fancy lunch in the “fancy restaurant” – a shady spot under the highway on the way to Kashgar - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Having our fancy lunch in the “fancy restaurant” – a shady spot under the highway on the way to Kashgar.

Day Six

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.

The Tomb of Xiangfei - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

The Tomb of Xiangfei.

Our local expert in Kashgar is giving information about the Tomb of Xiangfei - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Our local expert in Kashgar is giving information about the Tomb of Xiangfei.

The cloth and material section of the Central Asia Grand Bazaar in Kashgar - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

The cloth and material section of the Central Asia Grand Bazaar in Kashgar.

A restaurant in Kashgar with nice decoration and authentic Uyghur food. First time in a while we’d been to a restaurant that offered knives and forks! - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

A restaurant in Kashgar with nice decoration and authentic Uyghur food. First time in a while we’d been to a restaurant that offered knives and forks!

3D mural of the old city - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

3D mural of the old city.

Carpet shop located in the old city in Kashgar. The building is was used during the filming of the movie Kite Runner - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Carpet shop located in the old city in Kashgar. The building is was used during the filming of the movie Kite Runner.

Kids are playing in front of their houses in the old city area of Kashgar - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Kids are playing in front of their houses in the old city area of Kashgar.

We stopped for a rest in the old city. Great spot for people-watching - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

We stopped for a rest in the old city. Great spot for people-watching.

‘Bean Jelly’ for sale in the old city - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

‘Bean Jelly’ for sale in the old city.

Working in traditional way in his pottery workshop - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Working in traditional way in his pottery workshop.

Architecture in Islamic style located in the Id-Kah square in Kashgar - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Architecture in Islamic style located in the Id-Kah square in Kashgar.

Young local guy with his horse in the city - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Young local guy with his horse in the city.

A sculpture of a traditional kettle in Kashgar - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

A sculpture of a traditional kettle in Kashgar.

Day Seven

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.

Negotiating the price of sheep at the livestock market - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Negotiating the price of sheep at the livestock market.

Busy! - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Busy!

Man is waiting for a buyer for his donkeys - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Man is waiting for a buyer for his donkeys.

Sheep for sale at the livestock market nearby Kashgar city - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Sheep for sale at the livestock market nearby Kashgar city.

Lunch at the local people’s home outside of Kashgar City - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Lunch at the local people’s home outside of Kashgar City.

Group photo with our drivers at a family home in Kashgar - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Group photo with our drivers at a family home in Kashgar.

Group photo of the whole team before we leave Kashgar - Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, June 2016

Group photo of the whole team before we leave Kashgar.

Thanks for the write up, Abu!

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Along the Silk Road from Korla to Kashgar, 2014/06

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In Brief: Photos from a seven-day adventure along the Silk Road in Xinjiang Province.

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