Home > China Tours >China Desert Adventures > 12-day Xinjiang Desert Discovery

12-day Xinjiang Desert Discovery

Tour code: ETC-Q70   

Traveling the ancient Silk Road in Xinjiang and taking adventure to the largest desert of China – Taklamakan. Hiking or riding in this area, travelers have chance to witness the beautiful desert landscape as well as the local fold lord.

Tour Date City Tour Brief
1 Urumqi
Arrival in Urumqi
2 Urumqi / Turpan
Jiaohe Ruins, Karez irrigation system, Grape Valley
3 Turpan
Aydingkol Lake, Flaming Mountain, Gaochang ancient city, Emin Minaret and Bezeklik Caves
4 Turpan / Korla
Drive to Korla, Tianshan Mountain, Bostun Lake, Lop Nur Village
5 Korla / Kucha
Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves,
6 Kucha
Kizil Kagha Grotto and Kizil Kagha beacon tower, Kizilya Valley, Subash ancient city
7 Kucha / Hotan
Taklamakan Desert, Tarim River
8 Hotan
Jade River, Silk Village and a local Mosque in Hotan, camel riding in desert
9 Hotan
ruins of Rawak Temple
10 Hotan / Kashgar
Yarkant King’s Tomb
Idkah Mosque, Handcraft Street, Kashgar Old Town to local Urgur family
Kashgar / Urumqi
back to Urumqi by flight
Day 01    Arrival in Urumqi (no meal)
Arrival in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It is the geographical center of Asian continent and the farthest city from the ocean in the world. Overnight at Urumqi
Day 02    Urumqi – Turpan (B, L)
Drive to ancient Turpan town, an oasis town 154 meters below sea level. Full day tour in Turpan, including the Jiao He Ruins (with a history of over 2500 years), the Karez underground irrigation system, Grape Valley (Turpan is famous for its grapes, especially the seedless variety, called sultanas when dried). Overnight at Turpan.

Day 03    Turpan (B, L, D)
Go and explore the lowest elevation in China – Aydingkol Lake. Only about 50 km from Turpan city, while the road condition is poor and bumpy. 4WD will be ready for you to get to the lake. In the afternoon, continue to explore the Flaming Mountain, the ruins of Gao Chang - an ancient Chinese Silk Road garrison town (where you will be taken by donkey cart to visit the temple area), the Emin Minaret and the Bezeklik Caves, where “Bezeklik” means “a place with beautiful decorations”. The final stop today is Tuyoq Village where it is an oasis-village in the Taklamakan desert, with a well preserved Uyghur orientation with very few outsiders’ footprints.

Day 04    Turpan – Korla (B, L, D)
Drive 5 hours to Korla via express way (380km). En route we pass by Tianshan Mountain and also Bostun Lake - the largest reed base in China. Visit the Lop Nur Village after arrival in Korla, where you will learn about the lost kingdom – Loulan.

Day 05    Korla / Kucha (B, L, D)
Drive about 3.5 hours to Kucha (280km), a quaint oasis town, once the center of a Buddhist civilization in the Tarim Basin. You will see the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves or Kizil Grotto Temples, where boasts some of the most impressive Buddhist art in Central Asia and date to the third century. The surrounding countryside is with mulberry and poplar trees and streams.

Day 06 Kucha (B, L, D)
Explore Kizil Kagha Grotto and Kizil Kagha beacon tower - the oldest one now in China. On our way to the Kizilya Valley, where the rocks in the red mountain appear to be the result of a huge explosion, you will visit the ruins of the ancient city of Subashi, or "old Kucha."

Day 07    Kucha – Hotan/Khotan (B, L, D)
A long day ride (650km) to Hotan through Taklamakan Desert – the largest one in China. Estimated arrival time to Hotan is about 1800 pm. This road was the second desert highway in Taklimakan built in 2007. En route you will pass by Tarim River - the longest in-land river in China, and also possibly see some of the desert-surrounded local villages.

Day 08 Hotan – Taklamakan Desert (B, L, D)
Take a half day tour of Hotan including the Jade River, Silk Village and a local Mosque. In the afternoon, drive half an hour deep into the desert and hop on a camel ride (3 hours). Camp overnight in the desert we sit beneath the enormous desert night sky, warming ourselves around a campfire.

Day 09    Rawak ruins – Hotan (B, L, D)
Today, continue the camel ride to visit the ruins of Rawak Temple, where you will see the ruin of the oldest pagoda of China. It is the only temple of Gandhara style (similar form as an Indian temple) which is quite well preserved in Hotan district. The Uygur word "rawak" means "pavilion". The Buddhist temple was in the center of a group of Buddhist pagodas. The temple was surrounded by a courtyard wall. Outside and inside the courtyard there were large numbers of frescos, clay sculptures and Buddha figures scattered around. Also some wall paintings were found. On them some stories about Buddhism were painted such as a map of Samsara. After driving back to Hotan city, visit the smallest Buddhist temple in the world called Damko temple ruins (120km, 1.5 hours ride).

Day 10  Hotan – Kashgar (B, L, D)
Drive about 10 hours to Kashgar (520 km), on the way, pay a short visit to the Yarkant King’s Tomb and have lunch at Yarkan (Shache). Free time at leisure after arrival.

Day 11    Kashgar (B, L)

Kashgar is an oasis in the hostile Taklamakan Desert, which is a cultural and commercial crossroads.
Take a city tour to the Idkah Mosque, Handcraft Street, like its name Kashgar was so called as the center of hand crafts such as iron, wood, cooper and gold products. Visit the unique local Bazaar. Then take a walk at the Old town of Kasghar and visit a Urgur family.

Day 12    Kashgar – Urumqi departure (B)

Transfer to the airport and fly to Urumqi, connecting your flight to your next destination.


As all of our holidays are tailor-made it isn’t possible to give anexact price on the web-site as the final cost is dependant on a number of factors. These include the number of people in your party, the season you travel, the standard of hotel (we offer a variety of standards from three-star to super-luxurious) and duration of your trip. However, as aguideline you should expect to pay from US$ for the opposite itinerary.

Included Services

Private transfers airport/hotel/airport;
Private tours escorted by an English-speaking guide;
Accommodations with daily breakfast;
Meals specified in itinerary as B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner;
Domestic flights and trains listed;
Admission fees.

Non-included Services,
Visa arrangement;
Excess luggage charge(the luggage allowance at economy class is 20kg);
Personal expense;
Any meals not specified as "B, L or D";
Gratuities to guides and drivers.

Tailor-made Suggestions

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I have no idea of how many minority villages I have visited in the mountains of Southwestern China. But I still feel the urge to explore more unknown areas.


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