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.
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:
Photo credit: Mamahoohooba
Photo credit: l_joo
Tashkurgan Stone City
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.
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.
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.