Karakol Lake Travel Guide

Discover the best places to visit, hike, eat, stay and more in Karakol Lake. Read our comprehensive guide to plan your perfect trip.

Introduction to Karakol Lake

Karakol Lake is located in the picturesque town of Tarim in the Xinjiang region of Northwest China. The crystal clear lake is surrounded by the majestic Tianshan Mountains and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists.

List of Places to Visit in Karakol Lake

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Karakol Lake Museum: This museum has a collection of artifacts that showcase the history, culture and traditions of the Uighur people who live in the region.
  • Tarim Basin Mummies: These mummies are over 4000 years old and are perfectly preserved due to the dry desert climate.
  • Id Kah Mosque: This is one of the largest mosques in China and is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture.

Natural Attractions of Karakol Lake: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Tianshan Mountains: These mountains are a paradise for hikers and nature enthusiasts with scenic views, beautiful landscapes and diverse flora and fauna.
  • Karakol Lake: The crystal clear waters of the lake and the surrounding landscapes provide stunning views for photographers, hikers and campers alike.
  • Grazing Yurts: These traditional yurts are a popular attraction for visitors who want to experience the traditional way of life in the region.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Karakol Lake

Beginner Level

  • Karakol Valley: This is one of the easiest hikes in the region and is perfect for beginners.
  • Shipton’s Arch: This is a beautiful natural arch formed in the Tianshan Mountains.

Intermediate Level

  • Karakol Lake: This is a moderate trail with stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
  • Muztagh Ata: This is a challenging trek that takes around two weeks to complete.

Expert Level

  • K2 Base Camp: This is a difficult trek that takes over a month to complete and is only recommended for experienced trekkers.

Best Things to Do in Karakol Lake: Activities and Tours

  • Horse Riding: Take a leisurely horse ride through the scenic landscapes of the Tianshan Mountains.
  • Camping: Experience the wild outdoors and camp under the starry skies next to the crystal clear waters of the lake.
  • Photography Tour: Capture the stunning landscapes, unique architecture, and the traditional way of life of the Uighur people with a photography tour.

Week-Long Itinerary for Karakol Lake

Day Activities
1 Arrive in Korla, transfer to Tarim, visit Karakol Lake Museum
2 Hike to Karakol Lake, camp overnight
3 Explore the Karakol Lake area, visit a traditional yurt
4 Hike to Shipton’s Arch, visit the Tarim Basin Mummies
5 Horse riding tour, visit Id Kah Mosque
6 Day trip to Muztagh Ata
7 Photography tour, cultural dance show, return to Korla

Food and Drink Scene of Karakol Lake

Must-Try Dishes

  • Lagman: This is a popular dish made with hand-pulled noodles, meat, vegetables, and spices.
  • Kawaplar: These are grilled lamb skewers, a delicacy in the region.
  • Uighur Polo: This is a rice dish with lamb or chicken, raisins, and carrots.

Local Beverages

  • Boza: This is a thick, fermented beverage made from millet or wheat.
  • Green Tea: This is a common beverage in the region and is often served with meals.
  • Xinjiang Black Beer: This is a popular beer made with black rice, Chinese hops and barley.

Where to Stay in Karakol Lake: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • Karakul YHA Hostel: This hostel has a cozy atmosphere and stunning views of the lake.
  • Kashgar Pamir Youth Hostel: This hostel is a great option for budget travelers.
  • Tianyuan International Hotel: This hotel offers luxurious accommodations and excellent amenities.

What to Buy in Karakol Lake: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Silk Products: The region is famous for its high-quality silk products, including scarves, pillowcases, and clothing.
  • Rugs: The handmade rugs in the region are a great souvenir to bring home.
  • Apricots: Xinjiang apricots are famous for their sweet and juicy taste, making them a great foodie souvenir.

Local Culture and Customs of Karakol Lake

The Uighur people are warm and hospitable and place great importance on family and community. Visitors are advised to dress modestly when visiting religious sites and to respect the local customs and traditions.

Best Time to Visit Karakol Lake

The best time to visit Karakol Lake is from May to October when the weather is pleasant and the landscapes are in full bloom.

Do’s and Don’ts of Karakol Lake


  • Respect the local customs and traditions.
  • Dress appropriately when visiting religious sites.
  • Bring sunscreen, hat, and comfortable shoes for outdoor activities.


  • Take photographs without asking permission.
  • Disrespect the local cultures and beliefs.
  • Waste water as it is a precious resource in the region.

Safety and Health

Safety in Karakol Lake

The region is generally safe for travelers. However, visitors are advised to take precautions while hiking, camping or engaging in outdoor activities.

Health in Karakol Lake

Visitors are advised to drink only bottled or boiled water and to avoid street food to prevent foodborne illnesses. It is recommended to carry a first aid kit and to consult a doctor before traveling to the region.

Getting to Karakol Lake: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Karakol Lake

  • Korla Airport: This is the nearest airport to Karakol Lake, and it is located approximately 3 hours from the lake by car.

Bus Stations Near Karakol Lake

  • Tarim Bus Station: This is the main bus station in the town of Tarim and offers regular services to Korla and other nearby cities.

Other Options

  • Private transfers and taxis are widely available in the region.

How to Get Around in Karakol Lake

The best way to get around in Karakol Lake is with a private car or hired taxi. Visitors can also rent bicycles or motorbikes for short trips.

Where to Go Next from Karakol Lake: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Korla: This is the nearest city to Karakol Lake and is a great destination for those who want to explore the culture and history of the region.
  • Kashgar: This is a historic city located approximately 500 km from Karakol Lake and is renowned for its unique Uighur culture and traditions.
  • Turpan: This is a desert oasis located approximately 300 km from Karakol Lake and is famous for its grapevines and ancient ruins.


Karakol Lake is a stunning destination in Northwest China, with something to offer every type of traveler. Whether you want to hike through the scenic Tianshan Mountains, explore the unique Uighur culture, or simply relax by the crystal clear waters of the lake, Karakol Lake is a must-visit destination in Asia.