Shipton's Arch near Kashgar, Xinjiang, China.

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Shipton’s Arch

Top choice in Kashgar

This extraordinary natural rock arch (the rather prosaic Uyghur name means simply ‘mountain with a hole in it’) is one of the tallest on earth. The first westerner to describe it was Eric Shipton, the last British consul-general in Kashgar, during his visit to the region in 1947. Successive expeditions attempted to find it without success until a team from National Geographic rediscovered the arch in 2000. Located 80km northwest of Kashgar, it's a half-day excursion.

The first part of the trip involves an hour’s drive towards the Irkeshtam Pass, followed by another 20km ride and then a 45-minute hike through a sublimely lunar landscape, hemmed in on all sides by sheer cliffs. At times you'll be scrambling through the narrowest part of the gorge over small ladders and staircases, until your final ascent to the arch itself, which takes you up a long wooden staircase. Kashgar-based tour operators can arrange a day trip with guide for ¥600 to ¥800, or you can simply take a taxi and walk from the car park yourself, as the route is well signposted. Bring sturdy shoes, a sun hat and water.