Kashgar (Kashi in Chinese) is an oasis city in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the far west of China. It is said to have the largest bazaar in Asia and has been an important trading center since the days of the ancient Silk Road, when it was the point where the two branches of the Silk Road come back together after splitting up to run along either side of the Taklamakan Desert. Unless you fly, getting to Kashgar will take time. It is well worth it though, especially if you are planning on heading to India, as the Karakoroum Highway past the beautiful Karakul Lake and through Pakistan makes for a scenic alternative to flying.
Best Time to Go
Kashgar has very hot summers and very cold winters, but virtually no humidity. Because of the dryness, summers are actually quite nice. Autumn and spring are also good times to visit, but while spring lasts a long time, autumn is very short.
Getting to Kashgar
Kashgar airport is located about 20 kilometers from the city and serves flights from Urumqi, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. To get to town, you can take a taxi for 30 Yuan, a shuttle bus for 15 (it will drop you off where you want) or a public bus (line 2) for 2 RMB.
Kashgar Railway Station is located a bit too far from the center of town to walk, but bus #28 can get you anywhere for 1 Yuan. Taxis are cheap too. Trains arrive from Urumqi and stop most places in between, like Turpan. The train is the slowest way to get to Kashgar.
The International Bus Station on Jicheng Road is close enough to the center of town to walk. It serves buses from all over Xinjiang as well as international destinations in Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Kashgar is small enough that most of it can be walked fairly easily. Public buses are another option for 1 RMB per ride. Taxis are also quite cheap.
The cheapest options in town are dorm beds and you’ll find a few hostels that offer them. The Old Town Youth Hostel is the best option, but it is far from great. You’re simply going to have to lower your expectations quite a bit when staying in Kashgar and all of Xinjiang, really.
More expensive hotels will be a bit nicer and you can find a handful on Agoda’s Kashgar (Kashi) page, along with an excellent accommodation map. I always use their maps to scout out some locations beforehand, even when I don’t book ahead.
Eating & Drinking
In the evening, food stalls set up opposite the Id Kah mosque. This is by far the best place to eat in terms of price, quality and variety. You won’t find western food sold at the stalls, but there’s really no need to look for it, considering how good the local food is.
Things to Do
- Yengi Bazaar: I’ve heard it’s the biggest in Asia; I’ve also heard it isn’t—either way it’s huge and you’ll find pretty much everything here; as a foreigner, you will be quoted very high prices, so bargain hard
- The Sunday Market: vendors from all over the surrounding area come to Kashgar to sell their goods
- Mal Bazaar: the large livestock market; take bus #16 from Renmin Square
- Old Town: tiny streets wind through fascinating architecture; the government is tearing the old areas down, so see them soon; ¥30 entrance, but it can be avoided by entering through a back entrance and it’s probably better to use your 30 RMB buying things inside as it’s more likely it will actually go to the people and not some government official
- Karakul Lake: beautiful alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains topping 7500 meters along the Karakorum Highway to Pakistan
- K2 trekking: you can trek from Kashgar to the world’s second highest mountain in 20 to 23 days
Money Saving Tips
- while taxis are cheap, buses cost even less and so does walking
- if heading to Karakul Lake, take the bus or hitch a ride on a truck; don’t bother with a taxi or other private vehicle
- eat lunch at local restaurants and dinner at the food stalls outside the Id Kah mosque
- bargain very hard at the market; the prices you are quoted will be MUCH higher than they should be
Russell McMahon says
Excellent page – many thanks.
It would be of great help if pages like this were clearly dated so that probable currency of information in general is able to be assessed . Here the date 2007 is buried in the text and may be the date at which the, to me, all important ” … the government is tearing the old areas down, so see them soon …” applies. I wish to see Kashgar before it becomes another Shenzhen – or even vaguely like unto it, and knowing if the bulldozers have beaten me would be useful.
Daniel McBane says
Thank you, Russell, for pointing out the missing dates. To be honest, I didn’t even notice that they were missing from my travel guides. All my posts in the ‘stories’ section have a date directly beneath the title and the guides are supposed to have one too. I’m planning on redesigning my site completely in the coming weeks and have added this to my list of issues to address.
As for the government tearing down the old areas, I doubt they will ever get rid of all of them. They will likely leave one or two and turn them into living tourist attractions like they’ve done in so many other places. They were already charging an entrance fee to the areas when I was there back in 2007. For now, it seems the entrance fee is gone and tourists are no longer allowed to enter, but this isn’t really enforced and many people still visit.
You probably don’t have to worry about Kashgar ever becoming another Shenzhen, but I do think it might become another Urumqi. That’s not much better, I suppose.
Thanks again for bringing the issue with the dates to my attention.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..A Well-Deserved Day Off in Upper Pisang
Hi- thanks for such useful information. It’s quite hard to find details on Kashgar and Xinjiang province overall. I plan to travel solo from Oct 13-25 in Kashgar with the intention to visit Karakul Lake. As a solo female traveler, would you recommend just going by public transport to the lake and then overnight in the yurt for 1-2 nights? I see that there are some tours being offered (such as by Old Road Tour agency) but it can get a bit pricey. I’m also into trekking but obviously K2 is out as it requires 20 plus days. I heard there are some mountains to trek by the lake as well. If you have any suggestions for overnight treks, I’d appreciate it. With the almost 2 weeks I have in the area, I’m thinking of heading to Urumqi but only to see the Heavenly Lake. I hear that place has gotten very touristy though but perhaps it’s still worth checking out as an overnight excursion. If you have any other trip ideas (2-3 days) around Urumqi, please share. My flight out is from Urumqi to Chengdu so I figure I better do some sightseeing near Urumqi as well.
Daniel McBane says
If you’re just going to Karakul Lake and spending a night or two, I’d definitely go with public transport. If you plan on doing some trekking, you might want to arrange everything in Kashgar, but you’ll be able to find a guide at the lake, too, for basic treks. It really depends how big of a trek you want to do. If it takes a lot of preparation and equipment, get it set up in Kashgar.
I don’t know how experienced a trekker you are, but Mutgaza Ata (also spelled a bunch of other ways) is one of the easiest 7000 meter mountains on earth to climb and even amateurs can do it, so that might be worth looking into.
Heavenly Lake is probably the best thing to see around Urumqi if you only have a few days. If you have more time, the Hanas (or Kanas) Lake or Sayram Lake areas seem really nice. They were closed to foreigners when I was there, so that might be a problem. Both might be pretty expensive these days, too.
Actually, with the government trying to do away with Ramadan, there might be an increase in violence in Xinjiang over the next few months (there’s been a few incidents already), which might lead to the whole province being closed. I don’t know if they’ll do that like they do with Tibet, but it might be worth staying up to date as much as possible.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Sweating Away at Shenzhen’s Meilin Reservoir
Thanks for the detailed response. I will try to talk to a few agencies in Kashgar then when I get there to see what hiking options I have. I typically trek/backpacking for days. I actually have done Annapurna Circuit in 2009 at which time road constructions just begun. I see you have recently posted blogs on that trek. It’s one of my favorites along with the Andes mountains in Peru & Patagonia in Chile and Argentina. I do plan to go back to Nepal after visiting Xinjiang and Tibet to do the Everest Base camp trek. I heard about Mutgaza Ata. I’ll check it out.
I had no idea about the imminent safety issues that is developing in Xinjiang. I know there were incidents in various parts of China as a result of the tension and the old city of Kashgar is rapidly changing. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the current safety level of this part of China. Thanks for the heads up on that.
Daniel McBane says
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find out exactly what is going on in Xinjiang, since the government keeps such tight control over any communication from the area and doesn’t allow access to foreign reporters. They will let you know if it’s closed, though. Usually when you try to board the train or plane.
I hope you get to go. It’s a beautiful area and my favorite in China.
I loved the Annapurna Circuit trek, too and also want to get back to Nepal to do more trekking, before they replace all the trails with roads.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..How I Enjoyed a Terrible Terracotta Warrior Tour in Xi’an
Hi, I think you are right about not knowing much about what’s happening in that area of China. I have read on the news that more restrictions are being imposed. I don’t see this situation getting any better in the next 2 months. I decided to skip Xinjiang altogether and just do more traveling around Sichuan. It turned out to be an equally great decision. From Chengdu, I plan to head west to visit Kangding, Tagong, Yading and the do the 2 day trek in Yanding Nature Reserve. I know you went to Danba which is in the same region. It is a bit out of the way but I’ll try to see if I can make it there. The awesome thing about this is Yading appears to be less crowded compared to Jiuzhaigou as getting there is rough; however, a new airport was built in Daocheng Yading late last year which is the highest airport in the world to date. I have to beat the crowds and see it for myself sooner than later 🙂 I appreciate the blogs you are writing; it certainly helped my planning. I heard from a guy I met in Colombia about the area near Pakistan border but he couldn’t give me names of cities etc… with my researching online, I found the specifics I needed through your blog. So, kudos! Also, I hope one day you add Philippines to your list (I’m bias being a Filipina)! There are lots of places to see there- mostly off the beaten path. I myself will be spending 2 months there after the Nepal segment to check out the trekking and isolated, off the beaten path beaches!
Daniel McBane says
I’ve actually been to the Philippines, but only Manila and Boracay. I loved the island, but didn’t really care for Manila. I was only there for two days though, so I didn’t get to see much of the city.
I did go to Danba (and loved it) and actually planned on exploring the rest of western Sichuan, but they closed it all off to foreigners, so I had to change direction and headed north instead.
I hope you have a great trip and enjoy the area. It’s a great way to get a feel for Tibetan culture–far better than going to actual Tibet, since your ‘guide’ will only let you visit certain destinations and will keep you from having any real interactions with locals.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Real and Fake Leg Rowing Fishermen on Inle Lake
Kashgar’s position as a nexus point of cultures is reflected not only in trade, but also in it’s religious history. Kashgar’s Grand Bazaar is located right off the east gate. Though there are many different bazaars located throughout Kashgar, this one is the largest, and also one of the largest bazaars in Asia.