The cities of Khotan and Korla – respectively on the Northern and Southern silk routes – can be linked in three different ways. The most painless option is to take the new cross-desert highway from Khotan to Aksu (阿克苏; ākèsū) on the Northern Silk Route, from where you’ll at least have the option of continuing on by train; the 440km journey across the desert takes just five or six hours, since there’s precious little chance of a traffic jam. There’s another such highway several hundred kilometres to the east of Khotan, its southern terminus the town of Niya; this is longer at 522km, and will save you a little time if you’re heading directly to Korla, Turpan or Ürümqi. Both roads cross the Taklamakan desert, and will give you a close-up of why the Uyghurs call this the “Sea of Death”. Unfortunately, most buses travelling in either direction make the crossing at night, so you don’t get a view of the impressive irrigation grid that provides water for shrubs to protect the road from the ever-shifting desert sands.

For a dustier, more interesting trip to Korla, you’ll want to catch a bus east from Khotan, continuing on the Southern Silk Road.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

China features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Hong Kong

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Hong Kong

Hong Kong floats between old China and the west; its futuristic harbour has become one of Asia's most famous views but you'll also find pockets of traditiona…

28 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
China travel tips: 8 things you need to know before you go

China travel tips: 8 things you need to know before you go

Even 20 years ago China was not a conventional tourist destination. Despite the allure of its beautiful landscapes and history-filled cities, politics, poverty,…

13 Jan 2017 • Simon Frank insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month