Khotan (和田; Hétián; also known as Kotan or Hotan), is a town on the southern (Jade) Branch of the Silk Road in Xinjiang Province in China. Khotan was once center of a Buddhist empire. The old capital, Yoktan, is about 10 km west of the current city.
While the main Silk Road route from here goes west to Kashgar and on toward Central Asia, an important branch cuts off here over a pass to Leh in the north of India. That pass is thought to be the route by which Marco Polo reached China.
The airport can be accessed by taxi (despite the meters, fares to/from the airport are shared among passengers and negotiated, typically ¥20-30 a person) or by bus #9. The bus stop is across the highway from the airport. Note that as of mid-2017 there were strictly no restaurants or stores in the airport either airside or outside security, only water dispensers. However, a small convenience store is located right across the highway, over the canal. Sometimes there is a food cart outside the airport.
Daytime trains at least once a day from Kashgar – did not have night trains as of 10/2011.
The Long Distance Bus Station is north of the city center on the main highway.
- Kashgar – takes 7-10 hours (express buses are faster)
- Yarkand – takes about 6 hours
- Korla – takes about 15 hours
- Kuqa – takes from 9 to 10 hours. Departures at 12.00 and 15.30 Beijing time.
- Turpan – takes about 20 hours
- Urumqi – 6 24 hour buses leave daily (260RMB), 1 18 hour bus (310RMB) and 2 fast luxury buses (unsure of times, no longer than 18 hours, most expensive bus option).
- Yecheng – takes about 8 hours
- Yining – takes about 40 hours (shorter as soon as buses start using the new Hotan – Aksu highway)
- Qiemo – takes 11 hours — daily morning bus leaves from East Bus Station, not Main Bus Station
There is a road west to Kashgar, about 500km, or east via Dunhuang and on toward Central China, a long way away. There is also the cross-desert highway (which passes by the desert viewing area just north of town) which is now paved and goes to Kuqa.
CITS (China International Travel Service) phone: 09032516090 –> Organizes trips and transportation to local sights.
Bus 101 (be aware there are different variants of this bus, so ensure it goes where you plan to) passes in front of the Main bus station and goes to the sunday bazaar and the sunday animal bazaar (a couple of stops after “New Hotan…” monument roundabout. 1¥.
Buses have a late-night surcharge but otherwise cost 1¥.
Hiring a taxi to show you the sights outside of town, especially given many travel agencies have closed, is a good way to get around. It will cost in the hundreds of yuan depending on the number and distance of destinations, many of which are geographically close but may not be well known or quick to access, given the long lineups for checkpoints. Finding a taxi driver that speaks Chinese (if you speak do) and knows his/her way around can be a challenge but they do exist. It wouldn’t hurt to ask your hotel staff to write down the names of your major destinations in Uyghur (a good idea in any case, even if your driver speaks Chinese) but even more experience drivers may not know many of the destinations due to the sharp fall-off in tourists in recent years.
- Khotan Market. Almost as large as the Sunday Market in Kashgar but more chaotic and free-spirited. Open every day, busiest in the early afternoon (XJ time), and on Sundays. Not to be confused with the “International Bazaar” which is a tall landmark building near the bus station and more like a mall than a market.
- Jade Factory (At the intersection of GuJiang BeiLu and JiaMai Lu, near the Hotan Market), ☎+86 9032035281. Free entry to see people carving Jade with modern tools and intricate Jade pieces for sale. No tours, but you can look and ask questions if you speak Mandarin.
- Khotan Museum (Take bus 2 or 6 West from the center of town on BeiJing Lu. On the corner of Beijing Lu and XiHuai Lu.). Free entry to look around, all items have tags in Chinese, Uyghur and English. Tours available in English for 10RMB. Museum has one floor of artifacts including two 2500 year old mummies. Closed for lunch so helpful to get their early enough to orient yourself vis-a-vis local architectural sites.
- Melikawat Ruins (玛利克瓦特) (south of the Melikawat village). Fascinating and eerie. Pay your entrance fee to unlock the gate to the site, where you’ll also get a sell on electric carts to take you around the site for an added charge (unlike fees to unlock the gate, you can bargain on the cart costs). Be ready for dust and be aware that the carts aren’t strictly necessary and won’t go all the way to some of the interesting buildings but are likely to make the friendly folks at the gate even happier to see you.
- Rawaq Stupa (热瓦克佛寺). Better preserved than most buildings at Melikawat but smaller and northeast of town, east of the cross-desert highway. A visitor center is under construction, but until it is completed then 20¥ ticket fees are paid on entry to the stone path leading to the boardwalk around the stupa. In mid-2017, the direct road was under construction but the site was accessible via the cross-desert highway, demarcated by a large sign to direct drivers who may not be familiar with the route.
- Desert Vista “Platform” (North of town at the speed checkpoint, where the cross-desert highway enters the desert proper). It is free to walk up to the “platform,” a scenic vista point situated on top of a large dune, and down to the restrooms. Camel rides are also available on request, for a fee. Can combine with a trip to Rawaq, which is accessible by turning off the highway north of the desert viewing platform.
- Khotan Public Square — TuanJie GuangChang (Pretty much in the center of town and walkable from most places.). There is communal dancing by both the Uyghur and Han communities and a great Uyghur night market on one of the corners (think it was the SW?).
- Khotan Carpet Factory (There are several buses that go this route, including but 5 and 10 – it’s just past the river on the edge of town, try to ask the bus driver when to get off because it is not immediately obvious from the road.). An industry over 2000 years old in Khotan, carpets woven by hand in a small workshop, tours and sales of carpets available. Seems to be free, without many services for visitors, especially in the off season.
- White Jade River. Locals search the riverbead for rare white jade but beauty lies in all the other stones left behind.
- Silk Workshop (In nearby Jiya township northeast of the center, you can get there by taxi or by bus. To take the bus, take bus 2 on BeiJing Rd to the end of the line, which is a traffic circle and then take the 110 bus from the traffic circle. The bus driver will most likely be able to tell you when to get off if you say Atlas, but if you keep your eyes open its pretty obvious from the road.). Free tours, only in Chinese, of the local silk workshop, where Atlas Silk is made entirely by hand. Even if you don’t speak Chinese it’s an interesting place to wander around. Opens at 9AM XJ time, 11AM BJ time, though that may also vary by season.
- Imam Asim Tomb (Last stop on the 110 bus listed above is about .5km from the tomb. If you say ‘mazaah’ a local will be able to point you in the right direction, you can also try to get a ride from one of the many three wheeled vehicles that carry people going to pray – the locals are more than friendly.). Imam Asim Ancient Tomb is located in Jiya Township of Lop County. It is about 23km from Khotan city. The tomb is just 1km inside of the desert where the farmland and desert merged. Best time to visit the Imam Asim tomb is during April and May on Thursday. Local people will come from different part of Khotan as well as other part of Xinjiang. In this occasion you can enjoy the local wrestling and Legend telling with music. This is not really a tourist destination, but a site of religious worship. Women should bring head scarves.
- Silk Factory (Northwest of the center, take the #1 bus from the bus station to the last stop, walk about 150m). Tours of the local Shatuo Silk Factory can be made, a larger and more mechanized factory.
- Khotan Winery (Supposed to be down the road from the Silk Factory listed above.). Produces specialty pomegranate and rice wines.