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Xinjiang Province, 295km (183 miles) SW of Kashgar

Nestled in a basin 3,100m (10,171ft.) up in the Pamirs, Tashkurgan marked the end of the Silk Routes for Chinese traders arriving from Kashgar or Yarkand. Their goods would be transferred to Bactrian, Persian, or Sogdian caravans, which continued on to Gilgit and thence either south to the Indian Ocean along the Indus River, or west through Kabul, Herat, and Meshed, ultimately reaching the Mediterranean Sea at Antioch or Tyrus. Described by British consul Eric Teichman as the "storm centre of Asian politics," the town has a strong military presence, but it is still a traditional Tajik town and you'll see plenty of elaborately dressed local women sporting distinctive cylindrical headgear.