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Ruoqiang County or Charklik

Charklik (Ruoqiang County) (若羌县) is in Tarim, in southeastern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.



Ruoqiang or Charklik is probably the first town of significance in terms of size and population when entering this desert region from Qinghai province. You can’t avoid going through this town if you follow the traditional Silk Road.

Get in


By plane

  • 1 Ruoqiang Loulan Airport (若羌楼兰机场), National Highway 315 (315国道) (16 km southwest of the town center; an airport bus service is available - call +86 996 7104191 for bookings; the bus terminates at the square opposite the Huyang Hotel), +86 996 2364033. Flights are available from Urumqi, Qiemo, Korla, and Zhengzhou. Ruoqiang Loulan Airport (Q16258278) on Wikidata Ruoqiang Loulan Airport on Wikipedia

By car


The 315 National highway (Guodao 315) leads east towards Qinghai and its capital Xining, which is the eastern terminus of the namesake highway, although it’s 1500 km. Westward, the road goes through the old Silk Road towns of Qiemo (Cherchen), Hetian (Khotan) and Kashgar (Kashi).

No roads go south, but the intrepid traveller might find jade rocks in the Kunlun mountains that form Xinjiang's border with Tibet!

Highway 218 (Guodao 218) has its southern terminal at this town. Heading north, you pass through Kuerle (Korla) and Wulumuqi (Ürümqi).

There are several police checkpoints on these highways. And the tricky one might be going through the first checkpoint near Korla, as it is forbidden for foreigners to enter this desert area. Unless you are taking a bus directly to Ruoqiang from Korla, you have to be really lucky if you are hitchhiking and your car doesn’t get stopped. There is a chance that the police will let you go if you explain to them you only want to go to Ruoqiang.

Highway 315 is prone to sandstorms and the highway sometimes just disappears.

By rail


The Golmud–Korla railway was completed in 2020. Passenger trains are now available from Korla and Urumqi. As of February 2023, however, there are still no passenger trains from Golmud.

The Khotan-Ruoqiang railway was opened in 2022. Trains from Khotan take about 10 hours to reach Charklik.

  • 2 Ruoqiang Railway Station (若羌站) (about 10 km east of the town center; public buses are available).

By bus


There are buses from Cherchen, Korla and Golmud. From Korla costs around ¥130 (8 hours), and from Golmud costs around ¥230 (14 hours).

Desert landscape on the 315 National Highway Silk Road

Get around


A public bus service began operating in Ruoqiang Town in January 2021.


  • 1 Loulan Ruins (楼兰遗址, 楼兰故城遗址, Ruins of the Ancient City of Loulan), +86 996 7103641 (Ruoqiang County Cultural Heritage Administration Office). A ruined city in the Lop Desert. The city was the capital of a small kingdom of the same name, which began to flourish from the 2nd century BC onward. In the 1st century BC, the kingdom came under Chinese control and was renamed Shanshan, but the city itself continued to be known as Loulan. The city was abandoned in the 4th century AD, apparently due to the Tarim River changing course and depriving the city of its water supply. Visiting Loulan today is extremely difficult. Indeed, this is probably one of the hardest places in China to visit. A special permit is required from the Ruoqiang County government. Getting the permit is said to require a lot of paperwork and you will likely have to get the approval of the Chinese military, as the area is under military control. The permit is also very expensive, particularly for foreigners. The permit costs ¥3500 for Chinese nationals but foreign visitors are expected to cough up ¥300,000 (no joke). The authorities are no doubt mindful that many artefacts from the site were spirited out of the country by foreign archaeologists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even if you succeed in getting a permit, your trip to Loulan is likely to be rather challenging as the Lop Desert is very inhospitable and prone to violent sand storms. Hundreds of people have reportedly died in the desert, including some eminent Chinese explorers. Solo travel is too dangerous and will not be approved by the authorities. Visitors are expected to travel in convoys consisting of multiple off-road vehicles, but even off-road vehicles are susceptible to getting stuck in the sand. Loulan Kingdom (Q1057551) on Wikidata Loulan Kingdom on Wikipedia
  • 2 Loulan Museum (楼兰博物馆), 966 Tuanjie Road (团结路966号), +86 996 7105392. Summer: 09:30-13:00, 16:00-19:30; Winter: 10:00-13:30, 16:00-19:00. This museum holds artefacts excavated from archeological sites associated with the ancient kingdom of Loulan. Free.











Only the following three hotels are permitted to accept foreigners:

Loulan Hotel (from ¥300 for doubles) Longdu Hotel (doubles at ¥120) Zhewen Hotel (from ¥200 for doubles)



Go next


Highway 315 is great for hitching long-distance trucks returning to eastern China. Just check out their plates and ask for a ride. The majority of trucks in China are subjected to a maximum of 2 passengers including the driver. This means a group of 2 or more hitchhikers will probably be passed by. Trucks go to virtually every province within China, including Shandong, Gansu, Qinghai, Henan, and Jilin.

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