Kashgar 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 Kashgar are dorm beds and you’ll find three places that offer dorm rooms. I stayed in the Qiniwak Hotel, which was decent enough. Most importantly, I paid 10 Yuan for a bed in one of their 6-person dorms, but this was in 2007, so you can expect the prices to be higher. I would figure on at least 20 Yuan for a bed and you’ll probably have to do some bargaining to pay that.
If you are looking for a little more comfort, you can try Agoda’s Kashgar page, but you will not find the cheapest beds on there. You can still use the excellent accommodation map to help you get oriented though. Here are the three places that offer dorm rooms:
- Qiniwak Hotel: 144 Seman Road; Tel: +86 998 2981158
- Kashgar Pamir Youth Hostel: Building A, Distric 7, Id Kah Mosque Bazaar, Nuo’er Beixi Road, on the 3rd floor; Tel: +86-998-2823376
- Kashgar Old City Youth Hostel: 233 Wusitangboyi Road; Tel: +86-998-2823262
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