While much of Kashgar’s incredible old town has now been demolished, the surrounding region still boasts some spectacular landscapes that have remained largely untouched for generations. Tours out of Kashgar up into the mountains near the border with Kyrgyzstan and along the Karakoram Highway, the highest paved international road in the world, make for breathtaking experiences, with most taking in the beautiful Lake Karakul, 3,600 metres above sea level.
A small village has been developed on the lake shore to accommodate tourists, but stopping here often means incurring an ‘entrance fee’ from the local authorities. Instead, you can take a private tour that allows you to stay in a small clutch of Kyrgyz family yurts on the opposite side of the lake. From this base, you can wander around the lake and take motorbikes up toward the nearby glaciers.
For a full-on trek, you can head via Tashkurgan and its old stone fort toward Muztagh Ata, a 7,546 metre-high peak that is a relatively straightforward climb (often with the help of a camel to take your luggage some of the way) compared to most mountains of its size. En route, accommodation is often with local ethnically Kyrgyz families in yurts and facilities and food are basic to say the least, but the reward is seeing the second highest mountain in the Tibetan Plateau (the northernmost edge of which stretches to Xinjiang), which lives up to its imposing Uyghur name of ‘the ice mountain father’.
Return flights to Kashgar from Shanghai cost from 3,080RMB with China Eastern
. Alternatively, you can fly to Urumqi (from 1,750RMB return) and take a 23-hour train journey along the northern arc of the Silk Road. Daily buses run from Kashgar to Tashkurgan if you want to attempt the journey yourself (contact Kashgar CITS for details on 0889 298 3156), but we recommend travelling with Waheed Tours who can make all the appropriate bookings and provide an English-speaking guide. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
for a quote.