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Mongolia-Xinjiang-Kazakhstan itinerary sketch

Posted: Sun May 31, 2015 3:23 am
by WorldWideWebster
Getting closer to when I is looking like I will have just over 2 months for central Asia. I will leave Mongolia around 13 July. I decided to save time and money and use airline miles to get from Ulan Bataar to somewhere in Xinjiang instead of overland, then take bus etc to 'stans (it's half as many miles). I was going to go to Urumqi but I then realized I could alternatively go to Kashgar. Or both potentially. I've heard mixed things about Urumqi and Kashgar has deteriorated a lot too (though not as much). I have local contacts for Kashgar though. Is it worth it to hit both or just choose one? My plan in either place would be a day or two in town then get out to the country (Karakul Lake, Tianshan range, etc) for 2-3 days. Kashgar to Urumqi is a day, and onward transit would also be a day.

Then it brings me to the question- where next? Originally I planned to go from Urumqi to Almaty and spend about a week applying for visas, day hikes, etc. Then I would head south through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, through Uzbekistan westward, transit through Turkmenistan, and then get to Aktau where I would train it back east again. Originally I thought I'd have 3 months for this but now a volunteer thing I'm doing elsewhere is going to require me to leave about a month early. If I can I was hoping to be in Samarkand around Aug 25-30 for Sharq Taronalari festival (don't have to be there all 5 days). There are a couple local festivals in Kyrgyzstan in July and in Tajikistan early-mid August, but I'm sure there are things going on everywhere.

If I am in Kashgar does it make most sense to cross through and head towards Osh and head north?, then loop down again and follow other itinerary? Or should I apply for visas in Bishkek and then just head south and west from there? At any rate my flight out of Central Asia is from Bishkek so I will have to end up there by mid-September.

Re: Please help my itinerary sketch

Posted: Mon Jun 01, 2015 12:35 am
by bwv812
If you're going to fly into Xinjiang, and given you need to collect visas, I think it would make most sense to fly into Kashgar and work your way north to Urumqi, cross to Almaty/Kazakhstan from there, then head to Bishkek (which is the most popular place to get visas, as it's cheaper to wait there and you can do more while waiting) before making your way south to Osh and the Tajik Pamirs. Next, cut back up through Dushanbe and enter Uzbekistan after the Fann mountains and/or Khojand. From there your route will probably be pretty straightforward as you head west. before looping back to Bishkek

I think Xinjiang is hugely under-rated, as the Uyghurs retain a more traditional/stereotypical (non-nomadic) Central Asian culture than you really see in any of the CIS 'stans (and is also much easier to get around, as it has real infrastructure and buses that run on schedules). A couple of days in Kashgar, a trip up to Tashkurgan to whet your appetite for the Pamirs is essential, and then maybe visits to places like Hotan, Kuche, and Turpan (you can take overnight buses between them) on your way to Urumqi (where I wouldn't spend a minute longer than you have to). I haven't seen the mountains around Urumqi but I hear they can be nice (so long as you can get away from the Chinese tour groups).

Re: Please help my itinerary sketch

Posted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:27 pm
by savannahgator
It is also possible to fly straight from Ulan Bator to Bishkek on Turkish Airlines, if that suits your fancy--I'll be taking that flight in early September.
Would like to hear a report on Kashgar/Urumqui--would love to make it to Kashgar, but I fear I'm going to have to cut it out of the trip...and maybe have a day or two in Urumqi

Re: Please help my itinerary sketch

Posted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 4:08 pm
by WorldWideWebster
I ended up taking a flight from Ulan Bataar to Beijing to Urumqi (15,000 united miles +$20) then bus to Almaty ($50ish). The Turkish flight was a couple hundred dollars, I'd discounted that before-way too expensive and I would still have to get to Almaty.

I'm not finding it to be all that expensive here: brand new hostel next to Arasan baths (wifi, AC) is $8/night, doner is 5-600 tugrik, other food cheap to reasonable. Will try for Uzbekistan visa tomorrow.