Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan

Kashgar, Xinjiang, China

Changi airport

This adventure is: #tastebud tickling, #far far away, #scenic

Kashgar: Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road t...

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“Hi, it's u­­­s, Georg­i­n­a, Bri­tt­a, and ­Lee­ Lin­g­”

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“I have always been interested in art and history, as a travel photographer, gives me a perfect blend of these two passions. I have traveled to forty six countries and still counting. Shooting for events and commercial product launches in the last couple of years has also provided the opportunity to tell compelling stories about the world of photography. I prefer to work with natural light for my travel photography, and I am interested in representing the natural world in abstract, rather than figurative ways. I love traveling and travel photography is still my forte over event and commercial product shoot. My other main passion is cycling, I am still an obsessive cyclist and am constantly tracking with Strava.”

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Highlights

When people talk about Silk Road, what is the first thing that comes into your mind?  For me it has always been the bazaars with lots of people from around the world coming together to trade for goods.  Fortunately, the Old City of Kashgar, a 2000 years old important silk road city has remained relatively unchanged.  Join me in discovering the silk road, from the bazaars to the nomads of Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang Kashgar.  



  • Visit Kashgar in western China, a 2000 years city that has remained relatively unchanged until the last 10 years

  • Visit Karakul Lake, well-known for its beautiful scenery and its reflection

  • See Shipton's arch, the tallest natural arch in the world (twice as high as MBS) that was discovered only in 1947

  • See Tash Rabat Caravanserai, a stone castle built along the silk road in the 14th century located at 3200m

  • Explore Son Kul Lake, the highest alpine lake in Kyrgyzstan, situated at an altitude of 3013 meters above sea level

  • See and experience the local family way of life and even learn how to make a felt carpet

  • Visit Issyk Kul Lake, the second largest alpine lake in the world

  • See petroglyphs that were made more than 2000 years ago by shamans

  • Stay in a yurt like how the nomads used to


We will begin our journey from Kashgar, exploring the 2000 years old city of Kashgar, visiting the beautiful Karakul Lake, then to the tallest arch Shipton’s Arch.  After spending 3 days in Kashgar we will move westward to Kyrgyzstan.

When walking along the streets of its Old City, you will get a sense of what this legendary Central Asian hub was like in the days when the Silk Road was at its peak.  The old city of Kashgar built from mud-brick buildings with narrow alley ways, this place still holds a special place in the heart of the Uyghurs in Kashgar.
 
Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaChildren excited to see foreigners in Kashgar. Photo by Gusjer / CC BY 2.0

Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaDonkey carriages are still used as a form of transportation. Photo by Todenhoff / CC BY 2.0

Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaLivestock market in Kashgar, China. Photo by Dmitry P / CC BY 2.0

The next day we will visit Karakul lake driving along the China and Pakistan highway and enjoying the Pamir landscape.  The same highway that leads to the highest international road in the world!

Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaThe Karakol Lake, also called Karakul or Karakuli Lake meaning black lake, photo by Yunsheng Bai licensed under CC BY 2.0

At an altitude of 3,600 m, it is the highest lake of the Pamir plateau, near the junction of the Pamir, Tian Shan and Kunlun mountain ranges.  It is surrounded by snow-capped mountains throughout the year, the three highest peaks visible from the lake are the Muztagh Ata (7,546 m), Kongur Tagh (7,649 m) and Kongur Tiube (7,530 m).


The following day we will visit the Shipton’s Arch, Shipton’s Arch is located at the junction of the Kunlun Mountain and the Snow Mountain, The Stone arch stands on the Pamirs Plateau. It is shaped like “∩”.  There are many stone caves at the right side of the stone arch. People can hear the echoes in front of the right side. 
Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaShipton's Arch, located near Kashgar, is the world's tallest natural arch at 460m (more than twice as tall as MBS).  Photo by sigonpunkid / CC BY 3.0

Today we will cross the border and continue our journey to Kyrgyzstan.  We will drive to Tash Rabat Caravanserai on the Great Silk Road (Stone Castle from the 14th century). The building is unique. Tash Rabat is located at the very heart of Tian Shan Mountains.  Tash Rabat was built of stone blocks inside a mountain at an elevation of 3200 m above sea level. In total there are 31 rooms in the mountain. The walls are 1 m thick. There are also underground prison cells formerly used to incarcerate thieves in ancient times.

Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaTash Rabat, photo by WikiTofu / CC BY-SA DE 3.0

The next day we will drive to the second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan the Son Kul Lake. This lake is surrounded by mountains and it is the highest alpine lake in Kyrgyzstan, situated at an altitude of 3013 meters above sea level.  The road trip to Son Kul Lake I think is amazingly beautiful, passing through green rolling hills, streams meandering with the road, at times we can see horses drinking by the streams.  The road trip to Son Kul Lake will be a long one and when we reach Son Kul Lake let's take a stroll along the Son Kul Lake.

Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaThe Karakol Valley, Kyrgyzstan. Photo by Prashant Ram / CC BY-ND-2.0

Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, China
You may mistaken this to be the Swiss Alps but this in Kyrgyzstan and is not an uncommon scenary.
 
Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaYurts in Son Kul Lake

The next day we will ride our horses along the lake to explore its nature, relax and soak in the calm atmosphere of the lake side wilderness. Also you will have time to communicate with nomads and have a glimpse into their way of life.


Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaHorse riding trip by Son-Kul lake


The next day we will drive to the village of Kochkor which is situated right in the gorge. The drive to Kochkor traverses over one of the most beautiful passes, along the top of a mountain. In Kochkor village a local family will show you how our national felt carpets are made.

We will continue our journey to the celestial Issyk Kul Lake, the second largest alpine lake in the world. The lake is called "the pearl of Central Asia". For more than 1500 years the locals have considered the lake to be a sacred lake.  We will then move on to Jeti Oguz the Red Rocks, then overnight at Karakol Town.
Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaTienshen mountains behind Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. Photo by Thomas Depenbusch (Depi) / CC BY 2.0 

Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaJeti Oguz the Red Rocks

The next day we will make our way to Bishkek the capital of Kyrgyzstan.  We will drive along the northern shore of Issyk Kul Lake. This is a great chance to see the whole lake from all sights. We will make a short break to give you the opportunity to visit the ancient stone inscriptions (dating back to 800 B.C.). These petroglyphs were made more than 2000 years ago by shamans.

Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, ChinaAncient stone inscription located near Issyk Kul. Photo by tjabeljan / CC BY 2.0  

When we reach Bishkek, the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan, you will notice that it is surrounded by Tian Shan mountains as Bishkek is situated at about 800 meters (2,600 ft) altitude near the northern range of the Kyrgyz Ala Too range. This range is an extension of the Tian Shan mountains, which rises up to 4,855 meters (15,928 ft) and provides a spectacular backdrop to the city.  Depending on our interest we can walk around the majestic government buildings, and its beautiful public parks, or explore the interesting local markets.  Our trip will end the next day.


Tracing the footsteps of the ancient silk road traders - Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan starting at Kashgar, Xinjiang, China
A market in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo by neiljs / CC BY 2.0

Itinerary

Day 1: Kashgar
Id Kah Mosque, Apak Hoja Mazar, Kashkar Old Town. Overnight in hotel. 

Day 2: Kashgar – Karakul – Kashgar
Visit Karakul Lake. Overnight in hotel. 

Day 3: Kashgar – Shipton’s Arch – Kashgar
Visit Shipton’s Arch. Overnight in hotel. 

Day 4: Kashgar – Torugart – Tash Rabat – Naryn
Cross border into Kyrgistan, visit 
Tash Rabat Caravanserai (Stone Castle), Drive to Naryn, overnight in guesthouse.

Day 5: Naryn – Son Kul Lake
Drive to Son Kul Lake, free and easy time at Sol Kun lake, overnight in yurt 

Day 6: Son Kul – Kochkor
Horse-riding, drive to Kochkor, Overnight will be in a homestay.

Day 7: Kochkor – Issyk Kul southern shore – Karakol
Drive to Issyk Kul Lake, visit Bokonbaeva village with an eagle-hunting demonstration, drive to Jeti Oguz gorge, view Broken Heart Mountain, drive to Karakol,  overnight is in a guesthouse.

Day 8: Karakol – Issyk Kul northern shore – Bishkek
Drive to Bishkek, see Issyk Kul Lake, visit ancient stone inscriptions, short city tour of Bishkek, overnight in a hotel.

Day 9: Bishkek
transfer to the airport for return flight to Singapore.