Visiting Tashkurgan, the Stone City and Khunjerab in Xinjiang

Visiting Tashkurgan, Xinjiang – Crown of the Karakoram

June 19 | 17 Comments

A monument in Tashkurgan, Xinjiang along the ancient Silk Road

For those who are adventurous enough to travel the beautiful Karakoram Highway near Kashgar in Xinjiang, the city of Tashkurgan is the proverbial “icing on the cake”.

Populated primarily by about 30,000 Tajik ethnic people, the town is situated high in the Pamir mountains along the border crossing between China and Pakistan. What used to be traveled by a few brave Silk Road merchants thousands of years ago is now traveled by only a few brave adventurers.

Although the official spelling is Taxkorgan, you’ll also see it occasionally referred to as Tashkorgan or Tashkurghan. The Chinese version is 塔什库尔干镇 (pronounced Tǎshíkù’ěrgān Zhèn).


What to See in Tashkurgan

Read more about the Karakoram Highway

Is it worth the hours of driving to visit Tashkurgan? First of all, it’s worth noting that the hours of driving to get from Kashgar to Tashkurgan represent no ordinary trip. It’s all part of the Karakoram Highway that offers stunning scenery and unbelievable vistas you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Tashkurgan represents the end of this magnificent journey unless you have arranged for a Pakistan visa to continue travel. It’s possible to stay the night here (see travel tips below), but there are a few things to see around the city while you’re here.

Khunjerab Pass

The Khunjerab is known as the highest paved international border crossing in the world. It was officially completed in 1982 and has been measured at an elevation of 4,693 meters.

The high elevation also means that it is often covered with snow. During the winter months this can be treacherous and the pass is usually closed between November and March. Throughout the rest of the year, however, if you have arranged for a visa prior to arrival (you can’t do so at the pass), it is possible to cross the border as a tourist.

The best photo opportunities here are at the massive stone gate that marks the passage between Pakistan and China as well as the mile markers and signs – examples of which you can see below:

Border Crossing for Khunjerab Pass near Tashkurgan, Xinjiang

Photo credit: Mamahoohooba

Stone marker on the Khunjerab Pass near Tashkurgan, Xinjiang China

Photo credit: l_joo

Tashkurgan Stone City

Tashkurgan's Stone Fort in Xinjiang, China

Photo credit: aussieontheroad

Probably one of the most famous and fascinating destinations in Tashkurgan is the ancient Stone Castle, also referred to as the Stone Fort.

This area has a 2,000 year history as a major caravan stop along the Silk Road and was the capital of various kingdoms. During this time it served to control these caravan routes and provide refuge for the merchants.

Now, for a mere 20 RMB, tourist can climb up the fort and view the beautiful scenery from one of the four watchtowers. From here you’ll be amazed by the breathtaking views of the mountains and grasslands that stretch out as far as the eye can see.

Over the past few years, new wooden pathways have been constructed to allow tourist to walk these beautiful grasslands, known as the Golden Grasslands. From here you can get even better photos of the Stone Fort.

The Golden Grasslands near the Stone City in Tashkurgan, Xinjiang

Photo credit: aussieontheroad

The Tashkurgan Museum

Finally, if you have the time and feel so inclined, you can also check out the small Tashkurgan Museum. It doesn’t have much, but there are a few local artifacts and beautiful photographic displays.

The big draw, however, are the two mummies they have in the basement. The woman and baby were discovered in a nearby valley and are now the pride of the museum.

The Tashkurgan Museum in Xinjiang

Photo credit: orexca

Tips for Travel to Tashkurgan

If you’re planning on taking a trip up to Tashkurgan, here are a few tips of things you should know:

  • Special Permit: It is usually required that all tourist need to either travel with a tourist group or get a special tourist permit to travel along the Karakoram Highway to Tashkurgan. You can get this permit at most travel agencies in Kashgar.
  • Entrance Fees: Be prepared to pay small entrance fees for most places you visit. Depending on the time of year, this can range from 20 RMB to 50RMB.
  • Transportation: Unless you’re going with a tourist group, your only other options are a bus from Kashgar or a private car (taxi). I recommend the taxi just because you’ll have more freedom to tour around the area on your own.
  • Hotels: You don’t have to stay the night in Tashkurgan (stay in a yurt at Karakul Lake instead!), but if you must, there are two places to hole up: the Crown Inn (relatively expensive but foreign-owned with great tourist help) or the Tashkorgan K2 Youth Hostel.

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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  1. Josh, are you sure that the official spelling in latin alphabet is Taxkorgan? The Arabic-script Uyghur reads تاشقورغان, which is rendered in Latin script by Tashqorghan. “x” used to render the sound “sh” in the Yéngi Yéziq, the short-lived latin alphabet introduced by Beijing in the 60’s and abandonned in 1982. So “Taxkorgan” might be an older rendering.
    And for the sake of accuracy, I’ll grab the opportunity to mention that the official labelling of Tahskurgan inhabitants as Tajiks is a bit confusing. Tajik usually refers to Sunni, Persian speaking populations in Central Asia (Tajikstan of course, but also Afghanistan and Uzbekistan). Tashkurgan county inhabitants are Shia and speak East-Iranian languages (namely Sarikoli and Wakhi, Persian being an West-iranian language). Pamiris would probably be more appropriate on a scientific point of view. And as East-Iranians, these persons are the closest relatives of Sogdians, to whom Central Asia owes so much.

    [Reply]

    zuzah on July 12th, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    I totally agree with Xemitjan!

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  2. I just came back from Tashkurgan. The ride IS stunning. I took the local bus from Kashgar and back. No permits needed. There is a police checkpoint along the way, but it was no big deal. The Chinese all showed their ID cards (electronically read) and I showed my passport (details copied into a ledger).

    I found four hotels in town but not the youth hostel.

    The people were friendly and tried to be helpful despite no common language (English and Uyghur did no good–I don’t know more than a couple words of Chinese so I can’t say how helpful it is with the local population).

    The Stone Fort was 30 RMB to enter. Explore the grounds a little and see what appear to be unexcavated walls. You can also get some views of the remaining neighborhoods that have not been bulldozed and modernized.

    The Chinese are upgrading the city and the region as a tourist destination for domestic tourists.

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on March 26th, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Thanks for sharing, Mark! Glad you enjoyed your time in Tashkurgan and hope you’ll have a chance to come again.

    Hopefully the “upgrading” of the city doesn’t diminish its intrigue.

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  3. Josh,

    How far is Kashgar to Tushkorgan and Tushkorgan to Karakul Late?

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on June 11th, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Hey Rhea, thanks for the comment! It’s hard to tell just because of all the different factors involved – weather, car, etc. It’s quite a few hours up to Karakul Lake from Kashgar but only another hour to Tashkorgan usually.

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  4. I was just reading this. Do you really need to get a permit before you can travel from Kashgar to Tashkurgan?

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    Josh Summers on December 16th, 2015 at 2:17 am

    If you’re traveling by public bus or a certified vehicle (travel agency) then no. But if you’re trying to make it up by yourself – let’s say in a hired vehicle or on a bicycle – there are some cases in which they will require a permit. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer.

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  5. Hope you can help me. — need recommendations for where to stay in Taxkorgan for October 17th to the 20th. Any help is appreciated. Thank you, Tony Saladino

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on September 12th, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    Hey Tony, you need to get a copy of the FarWestChina Xinjiang travel guide! It has all those recommendations and more.

    The quick answer to your question is that the K2 hostel is a good cheap place and the Crown Inn is an excellent higher-end option. Enjoy!

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  6. Hey Josh,

    Amazing information on your page. I am planning to hire a car from Kashgar to explore the highway, during the first two weeks of April;
    1) do you think its late enough in the season that we won’t have to worry about closures? we were hoping to go hiking along the way and just not sure if its still too wintery
    2) would you think 4 nights is sufficient?
    3) Roughly how much should it cost to hire a car to travel along the highway to Tashkurgan? either per day or overall?

    Thanks! looks like an amazing place!
    Andrew

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  7. Great Article! I am curious though, about what I will need for a trip up the Karakorum highway I’m planning next November. I have heard that you can’t pass Khunjerab pass without a guide (I am planning on starting on the Pakistan side) but a few comments on this thread state otherwise. Nonetheless I may still want one but I’m curious as to where I can get in contact with one if it comes down to that. Otherwise Thanks for sharing!

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