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Karakul Lake - Pristine Alpine Lake on Pamirs Plateau

Beautiful Karakul Lake on Pamirs Plateau

Karakul Lake (卡拉库里湖) is located in Akto County, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, on the Karakoram Highway from Kashgar to Tashkurgan County. At an altitude of 3,600 m, it is the highest lake of the Pamirs Plateau, near the junction of the Pamirs, Tianshan Mountain and Kunlun Mountain ranges. The “Father of Iceberg” Muztagh Ata (7,546 m) is in the east. The vast grassland is in the south and the continuous mountains are in the west. Karakul Lake in Kirgiz language means “Black Lake”. It gets the name because it is dark or blue black most of the time. But sometimes it will also present azure blue. It is really worthwhile to drive a couple of hours to Karakul Lake to add more good memories to your Kashgar trip.

Note: Tourists traveling to Karakul Lake needs to get a Border Permit (边防证) at Kashgar Administrative Service Center (喀什行政服务中心) with valid ID documents. Feel free to contact us for help if you have any trouble getting the permit. Besides, there is a Karakul Lake in Kyrgyzstan, too. The lake in this article is the one in Kashgar, Xinjiang, China.

Karakul Lake Karakul Lake

What to Do in Karakul Lake

Appreciate Beautiful Landscape of Clear Water & Snow Mountains

Karakul Lake is surrounded by mountains which remain snow-covered 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 lake is popular among travellers for its scenery and the clarity of the snow mountain’s reflection in the water, whose color ranges from a dark green to azure and light blue. Karakul Lake to Muztagh Ata is like what Lake Manasarovar to Mt. Kailash. They bring out the best in each other and present the most harmonious scenery. Apart from that, there are boundless grasslands and valleys near the lake. The local nomads set up their typical yurts and graze their sheep, horses and camels nearby. As not many people will travel so far, you can fully immerse yourself in the peaceful surroundings without disturbance.

Take a Road Trip along Karakoram Highway

People always say the most beautiful scenery is not at the destination, but is on the road. That’s exactly what a road trip along Karakoram Highway is like. Karakoram Highway is 1032 km in total, of which 416 km is in China and 616 km is in Pakistan. It is reputed as the most beautiful border highway in the world. You can start from Kashgar and drive along the highway to Tashkurgan. On the way, you will occasionally encounter crystal lakes, snow-covered mountains, deep valleys and endless grasslands. If you are not in a hurry, it is top recommended to take your time and fully enjoy your trip.

Karakul Lake Karakul Lake & Reflection of Muztagh Ata
Karakul Lake Karakoram Highway

Best Time to Visit Karakul Lake

Generally speaking, Karakul Lake is suitable to visit all year round. You can always see the most attractive scene of the three mighty snow mountains reflected in the clear water. The color of the water changes with weather. On ordinary days, it is as smooth as a mirror. But when storm comes, with the lightning and thunder, the lake will magically turn black. The best time to visit Karakul Lake is from May to October when the weather is relatively fine and it is neither too hot nor cold. In summer and autumn, the nearby green or yellow grasslands are also a pleasure to eyes.

Kashgar Weather & Seasons - Best Time to Visit Kashgar

Karakul Lake Karakul Lake in Autumn

Where to Stay When Visiting Karakul Lake

There are no hotels around Karakul Lake. As Karakul Lake is on the way from Kashgar to Tashkurgan, people usually accommodate in Kashgar or Tashkurgan according to their itineraries. If you plan to stay a night in Kashgar, the most recommended place is Kashgar downtown around Kashgar Old City which has convenient transportation and many hotel choices (4-star hotels, 3-star hotels and homestays). The general accommodation condition in Kashgar is not as good as that in Beijing or Shanghai, but it is better than that in Tashkurgan. Tashkurgan is a county and most hotels there are 2-star hotels or homestays.

Where to Stay in Kashgar

Karakul Lake Atour Hotel in Kashgar Downtown

Karakul Lake Location & Transportation

Karakul Lake is in Akto County, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture (新疆维吾尔自治区克孜勒苏柯尔克孜自治州阿克陶县), on the Karakoram Highway from Kashgar to Tashkurgan County. People usually get to Kashgar first and then drive to Karakul Lake. Karakul Lake is about:

  • 191 km, 4 hours' drive from Kashgar downtown;
  • 100 km, 2.5 hours' drive from Tashkurgan County;
  • 200 km, 4 hours' drive from Kashgar Railway Station;
  • 200 km, 4.5 hours' drive from Kashgar International Airport.

Step 1: Get to Kashgar First

Kashgar is near the western border of China. You can get there by flight from domestic cities such as Beijing (about 6~7 hours), Xian (about 4 hours), Chengdu (about 6~7 hours), Shanghai (about 8 hours), Guangzhou (about 8 hours), Jinan (about 7 hours), Zhengzhou (about 7 hours), Urumqi (about 2 hours), Korla (about 1.5 hours), Yili (about 1.5 hours), etc. High speed train is not available and normal train takes too long a time. You can also get to Kashgar from land border ports, such as Kalasu Port, Irkeshtam Port, Torugart Port, and Khunjerab Port. Read more about Kashgar Transportation >

Step 2: Kashgar to Karakul Lake Transfer

There is no direct bus from Kashgar to Karakul Lake. You can take a bus to Tashkurgan and get off at the lake on the way. But chartering a car is more convenient and is more chosen by tourists.

Kashgar to Karakul Lake Transfer

Travel with China Discovery: If you want to get rid of hustle of public transportation and troublesome navigation, you can book a private tour package which covers sightseeing, dining and transfer from us. Our knowledgeable local tour guide and skilled driver will escort you to visit Karakul Lake with speed and convenience, and take care of all the details. You just need to focus on sightseeing. Contact us to customize a worry-free tour package now!

Karakul Lake Click to enlarge Karakul Lake Location Map
Kashgar Flights Map Click to enlarge Kashgar Flights Map
China Discovery Private Transfer China Discovery Private Transfer

How to Plan A Kashgar Xinjiang Tour

How to Get to Kashgar: From mainland cities - you can take domestic flights from Beijing (about 6~7 hours), Xian (about 4 hours), Chengdu (about 6~7 hours), Shanghai (about 8 hours), Guangzhou (about 8 hours), Jinan (about 7 hours), Zhengzhou (about 7 hours), etc., or provincial flights from Urumqi (about 2 hours), Korla (about 1.5 hours), Yili (about 1.5 hours). From the borders - you can also get to Kashgar from land border ports, such as Kalasu Port, Irkeshtam Port, Torugart Port, Khunjerab Port. If you need transfer, we can send a tour guide and driver to pick up you from the borders.

Best Time to Visit Kashgar: suitable for travelling all year around, but May to October is most comfortable and beautiful.

Top Places to Visit Kashgar: Kashgar Old City, Karakul Lake, Tashkurgan (Stone City, Golden Grassland), Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar Bazaar

Plus arrival and departure days, you’d better plan at least 4 days for your Kashgar trip. If you want to extend your trip to Tashkurgan, you need at least 5 days. You can spend 2 days exploring attractions in Kashgar city and its old town, such as Kashgar Bazaar, Kashgar Old City, Id Kah Mosque, Abakh Hoja Tomb, Ancient Tea House, etc., then have a day trip to Karakul Lake from Kashgar. If you want to experience something more authentic, Tashkurgan, about 3.5 hours’ drive from Kashgar, is strongly recommended.

☛ 4 Days In-depth Kashgar Tour to Karakul Lake
☛ 5 Days Legendary Pamirs Tour from Kashgar to Tashkurgan

After Kashgar tour, you can take a flight to Urumqi to marvel at the alluring Heavenly Lake and visit the mummy and Silk Road exhibitions in Xinjiang Regional Museum, then keep traveling to Turpan to see the grape valleys, visit historical Jiaohe Ancient City, etc. For an in-depth Silk Road journey, you can travel from Kashgar to Hotan, Kuqa, Taklamakan Desert, etc., which usually need about 8~13 days. If you love landscape, don’t miss out the Kanas Lake in northern Xinjiang.

☛ 6 Days Urumqi to Kashgar Dream Tour - Best Xinjiang Tour for the First-timers
☛ 8 Days Urumqi Turpan Kashgar Xinjiang Tour
☛ 13 Days Xinjiang Silk Road Adventure Tour

Kashgar and Xinjiang regions can also be connected to other Silk Road destinations easily, such as Dunhuang, Jiayuguan, Zhangye, Xian, etc. Qinghai, Tibet, Inner Mongolia are also some recommended extensions of Kashgar Xinjiang trip. Find recommended Silk Road tours here or contact us to tailor-make a trip of your own if you want to discover more destinations.

☛ 10 Days Classic Silk Road Tour from Xian
☛ 11 Days Wild In-depth Silk Road Adventure Tour
☛ 15 Days Classic Ancient China Silk Road Tour with Bullet Train Experience

Urumqi Tour Our clients in Kashgar Zhangye Danxia Tour Erin Family (USA) Visited Zhangye Danxia Geopark

Recommended Kashgar Tours

Top 3 Kashgar tours chosen by most customers to explore Kashgar in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.

Reflection of Snow Mountain on Karakul Lake
4 Days In-depth Kashgar Tour to Karakul Lake

Kashgar - Karakul Lake - Kashgar

Charming Tajik lady in Tashkurgan
5 Days Legendary Pamirs Tour from Kashgar to Tashkurgan

Kashgar - Karakul Lake - Tashkurgan - Kashgar

Tashkurgan Fort (Stone City Ruin) in the morning of September
8 Days Classic Xinjiang Tour including Urumqi Turpan Kashgar Tashkurgan

Urumqi - Turpan - Kashgar - Tashkurgan

Start planning your tailor-made holiday to China by contacting one of our specialists. Once enquired, you’ll get a response within 0.5~23.5 hours.

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