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218 runs from Charkilik to Korla along the former course of the Tarim forming an oval whose other end is Kashgar.The Tarim Desert Highway, a major engineering achievement, crosses the center from Niya to Luntai.Along it runs the modern highway and railroad while the middle Tarim River is about 100 km south.Kashgar was where the caravans met before crossing the mountains.The Yarkand, Kashgar and Aksu Rivers join to form the Tarim River which runs along the north side of the basin.Formerly it continued to Loulan, but some time after 330AD it turned southeast near Korla toward Charkilik and Loulan was abandoned.Xinjiang consists of two main geographically, historically, and ethnically distinct regions with different historical names, Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin (Altishahr), before Qing China unified them into one political entity called Xinjiang province in 1884.

At the time of the Han Dynasty conquest it shifted to the center (Jade Gate-Loulan-Korla).

Beyond that is Dunhuang with its ancient manuscripts and then Anxi at the west end of the Gansu Corridor.

South side: Kashgar; Yangi Hissar, famous for its knives; Yarkand, once larger than Kashgar; Karghalik (Yecheng), with a route to India; Karakash; Khotan, the main source of Chinese jade; eastward the land becomes more desolate; Keriya (Yutian); Niya (Minfeng); Qiemo (Cherchen); Charkilik (Ruoqiang). There is no current road east across the Kumtag Desert to Dunhuang, but caravans somehow made the crossing through the Yangguan pass south of the Jade Gate.

With the best in river activities, the arts, food and drink, and places to stay around every heritage corner, it easy to take your Murray adventure one day at a time.

But with a bit of planning, you can make sure you soak up this spectacular region without missing a thing.

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