Getting There -- After recent repairs, the stunning drive from Kashgar to Tashkurgan along the fabled Karakoram Highway is now a smooth 6-hour journey (bar the odd landslide). Roughly two-thirds of the way to Tashkurgan is Karakul (Black Lake), over which towers the magnificent Mustagh Ata (7,546m/24,757 ft.). Buses leave for Karakul and Tashkurgan at 9:30am from Kashgar's Diqu Bus Station. The cost is ¥51. Return buses leave from Tashkurgan's neglected bus station at 8am and then again at 3pm; the station is beyond the Jiaotong Binguan on Tashkuergan Lu. Provided you have a Pakistani visa you can also continue on to Sost on the 10am bus for ¥250; the 8-hour trip arrives in town in late afternoon after many inspections. Returning to Kashgar from Karakul may be a little trickier; buses are supposed to stop on their way back from Tashkurgan, but they'll often plow ahead without stopping. The bus down to Kashgar should pass by around 10:30 or 11am, while the bus up to Tashkurgan should arrive at around 12:30 or 1pm, but check this with the locals. Or you could consider renting a taxi and driver for up to four people to take you there and back; overnight trips to Karakul cost ¥800, while overnight trips to Tashkurgan are ¥1,000 to ¥1,200 for 2 days. Uighur Tours and most agencies in Kashgar can arrange drivers, or you could negotiate with a local taxi driver; Mohammad Tursun (tel. 0/1389-913-3306) is a friendly and reliable driver who speaks a little English and is often to be found outside the Chini Bagh Hotel in Kashgar.

Nearly 4,000m (13,123 ft.) up in the Pamirs, icy Karakul Lake is surrounded by Kyrgyz yurts that take in visitors between May and the end of October. A place in a yurt can be negotiated for ¥40 to ¥50 per person. The first yurts you'll encounter belong to Nazerbik and his Kyrgyz family and are recommended. A Han company now manages the lake and charges ¥50 per person to visit; in the past staying at Nazerbik's, which is before the parking lot and official entrance, meant you could avoid this fee, but these days scouts on motorbikes may still find you here. Simple meals of stretch noodles and mutton are available at Nazerbik's, or a wider choice is available at the next (uglier) set of yurts. Inside the "official" entrance to the lake is an unsightly restaurant. Your yurt hosts can arrange horse (¥50-¥60) or motorbike (¥100) rides around the lake. A few kilometers along the road beyond Karakul lies Subash, and then a little further brings you to Point 204, the trailhead for Mustagh Ata ascents. Warning: Do not camp alone -- recently, an Italian tourist almost met an untidy end here at the lake.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.