Located at the northwestern border of the People’s Republic of China, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, “Xin” for short, covers an area of 1.66 million square kilometers, one-sixth of the Chinese territory. Its land border extends some 5,600 kilometers, neighboring with eight countries including Russia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, etc. With Urumqi as its capital, the autonomous region is home to 47 ethnic groups including the Han, Uygur, Mongolian, Kazak and Hui.
Xinjiang boasts unique geological environment and rich tourist resources. With Allay, Tianshan and Kunlun Mountains surrounding the Junggar and Tarim Basins, this part of the world is dotted with high mountains, basins, lakes, grasslands, Gobi desert and snow-capped mountains. Tianshan Mountains, the symbol of Xinjiang, is also known for its ice-crowns, forming unique glacier scenery. The famous Silk Road passes through the region in southern, central and northern routes, leaving behind numerous places of historical interest, such as the ruins of Ancient City of Loulan, Gaochang Ancient City, Karez Well (irrigation system of wells connected by underground channels), and the Tomb of Fragrant Imperial Concubine. These, plus a mixed culture formed in some 1,000 years, i combine to make Xinjiang a must-visit place.
Xinjiang is also richly endowed with resources. Its melons, grapes and pears are much coveted in and outside China.
Richly endowed with natural resources and blessed with beautiful landscape and mysterious culture, Xinjiang has a magnetic pull to the visitors.
Located at the northern foot of the Tianshan Mountains, Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, lies on the ancient Silk Road, playing an important role in northern and southern Xinjiang in terms of transportation. With a long history, rich culture, colorful folk customs, and picturesque and mysterious landscapes, Urumqi is a city with the farthest distance to the sea. Places of historical and cultural interest include Daban Town which is known to all, Erdaoqiao which is rich in folk customs, Nanshan Pasture which is known for its enchanting scenery, Juhuatai (Chrysanthemum Terrace) and Shuimogou Scenic Area. All these make Urumqi an ideal place to visit.
Tianshan No.1 Glacier
Hidden in Tianger Mountain 120 kilometers southwest of Urumqi City, this is the most famous glacier in the Heyuan Daxigou Area. Formed some 4 million years ago in the period of the 3rd Ice Age, it boasts typical glacier landforms and sediment, gathered in modern glacier samples. The glacier ruins are kept intact, hence called ‘living glacier fossils”.
Nanshan Scenic Area
The Nanshan Scenic Area refers to a 50-kilometer section extending from south of Urumqi to the northern slope of Tianshan Mountains. It features ice and snow, forests, mountain rocks, and alpine forest pastures, plus modern sites of cultural value. The scenic area is composed of the east- and-west Baiyanggou, Zhaobi Mountain, Chrysanthemum Terrace, Pingxiliangzi, Miao’ergou and other scenic spots.
It is a tourist resort featuring beautiful scenery and fresh air, impressing people of being harmonious with the nature and ecolory.
Changji City at the northern foot of the Tianshan Mountains is where the government office of the Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture located. Shaded by trees and beautified by flowers, the city has neat streets flanked by stores. Most of the people here is Hui and major scenic spots include the Ruins of Changji Ancient City, Miao9ergou Solpasto Scenic Area, Heavenly Pool Scenic Area, Beiting Ancient Town, Bogda Peak and Rock Carvings at Shimenzi of Kangjia Village.
Tianchi Lake (Heavenly Pool) Scenic Area
Located at Fukang of the Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture, 110 kilometers east of Urumqi, it is a scenic spot with a total area of 4.9 square kilometers. The Heavenly Pool is crystal clear reflecting the blue sky, floating clouds, and dense dragon spruces in the surrounding slopes. Major scenic spots include the Stone Gate, Dragon Pool, Three Rocks Supporting the Sky, Magic Needles, and Suspended Springs and Waterfalls.
Beiting Ancient Town
Beiting Township, located 12 kilometers north of Jimusar County seat, is a key cultural relics unit under the state protection. First built in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25- 220), Beiting lies on the hub of the northern part of the Silk Road and was one of famous towns of the ancient Western Regions then. Inside the town are the ruins of magnificent size, including those of Buddha pagodas, monasteries, government offices. The ruins of the external city wall bear signs of turrets and watchtowers on the wall.
Rock Carvings at Shimenzi of Kangjia Village
This is located in Que’ergou Town some 83 kilometers southwest of Hutubi County seat. On the rock of 13 meters long, nine meters wide is roughly carved with more than 200 figures of naked men and women in various sizes. Different in male and female postures and varied in terms of importance in social status, these figures show the daily activities of primitive tribes.
Turpan, a beautiful pearl located on the Silk Road, is now in the list of famous tourist cities, featuring a combination of ancient civilization and modern glamour. Sitting in a intermont basin in east Xinjiang, Turpan is above 40°C in summer, with the land surface temperature reaching as high as 80°C, hence called “land of fire”. Major scenic spots include the Gaochang Ancient City, Jiaohe Ancient City, Bezeklik Thousand-Buddha Grottoes, Sugong Pagoda, Aiding Lake, Grape Gully, and Karez Well.
Flaming Mountain and Grape Gully
The Flaming Mountain lies in the northern part of the Turpan Basin. It is so called mainly because it takes the purple red color which looks like burning fire under scorching sun. The Grape Gully in the mountain, 15 kilometers from downtown Turpan, is shaded by green trees. It is famous for seedless grapes.
Karez Well is a very delicate irrigation system in Gobi Desert, made up of vertical wells, underground canals, and water-logging dam. The depth of vertical wells changes gradually from 90 meters at the canal head to a few meters in the fields. The system extends 5,000 kilometers in length, and visitors are accessible to the underground irrigation canal with a history of hundreds of years for a visit in the Folklore Park in the western suburbs of Turpan.
Jiaohe Ancient City
Located 13 kilometers from the city of Turpan, Jiaohe was the site of Anxi (Kuqa today) Pacification Commissioner’s Office in the middle period of the 7th century. Inside the ancient city, monasteries, pagodas and streets are well preserved, making it the best preserved earth- constructed ancient city in the world.
Astana Ancient Tombs
Located 40 kilometers from the city of Turpan, this is the cemetery for officials and civilians of the Gaochang Ancient City. All the tombs were arranged according to tribal names. Archaeologists found mummies and a great number of cultural relics here.
Located 471 kilometers to the north of the city of Urumqi, it is a hub of communications from southern Xinjiang to Urumqi and to the hinterland. Major scenic spots include the Bayanbulak Grassland, Swan Lake, Iron Gate Pass, Bosten Lake, Ancient City of Loulan, Lop Nor, Altun Mountain Nature Reserve, Baluntai Lama Temple and Yadan Wonders.
Ancient City of Loulan
Located in northern Ruoqiang County, it is seven kilometers from the southern bank of the Peacock River. Covering 120,000 square meters, it more or less resembles a square with a side length of 330 meters. City wall made of clay, reeds and tree branches is still visible. According to historical records, early before the 2nd century, Loulan was a famous “state of city walls” and the first pass on the ancient Silk Road, enjoying economic prosperity. Nevertheless, it disappeared all of a sudden after the 4th century. In the early 19th century, Sven Hedin, Swedish explorer, discovered the city and this aroused the great interest of the world. It is now the go-go place for Chinese and foreign archaeologists and outdoor explorers.
Bayanbulak Swan Nature Reserve
Located in the central part of Tianshan Mountains, Bayanbulak Grassland covers 1,000 square kilometers and is known as a beautiful nature reserve with swans and other rare water fowls under the state protection. The period from late April to early October is the golden time to visit it.
Located on the southern slope of Tianshan Mountains in west Xinjiang, it is known for melons and other fruits. Noted scenic areas include the Kizil Thousand-Buddha Grottoes, Qiuci Ancient City, Diversiform-leaved Poplar Forest and Tarim River.
Kuqa and Baicheng used to belong to Qiuci, one of the 36 Western Region states during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). It boasts old grottoes complete with unique frescos.
Kizil Thousand-Buddha Grottoes
Located in the quiet mountain valley of Quetak Mountain lying inbetween Kuqa and Baicheng, the site, one of the four major Buddhist grottoes in China, was first chiseled in the 3rd century in the late period of the Eastern Han Dynasty and is known for its frescos, which hold an important place in the Oriental art. Of the extant 236 grottoes, some 70 still keep the remnants of frescos.
Located in southwest Xinjiang, it is 1,040 kilometers from Urumqi. Major scenic spots include the Shule State Ruins, Muztag Peak, and Aoyitake Glacier.
Shule State Ruins
Located in Nanmo Shahe Village in Artux, it covers an area of 10 square kilometers. Major places of historical interest include beacon towers of Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), castles of Tang Dynasty (618-907), ruins of Kalahari Palace, temples and pagodas of Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), and Pillboxes of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Located in southwest Xinjiang, Kashi was called Shule in ancient time. It sits at a place where the northern and southern routes of the Silk Road met, being the political and economic center of southern Xinjiang. Kashi is known for its beautiful scenery, unique culture, strong ethnic flavor carved patterns, arts and crafts and ethnic songs and dances. Major scenic places include the Id Kah Mosque, Abakh Hojia Tomb, Muhammad Kashghari Ibmb and Grand Bazaar.
Abakh Hojia Tomb
This is also called the Tomb of Fragrant Imperial Concubine. It is also a public tomb yard for the Fragrant Imperial Concubine and her families. Seventy-two people of five generations were buried here, with Abakh Hojia being the second generation who won the hereditary rule of the Yarkant Kingdom. The Fragrant Imperial Concubine was the favorite of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1911), as she always emitted a strong fragrance, hence the name. The tomb here only contains her personal effects.
The tomb was built around 1640, which is a paragon of architectural art of China’s ancient Uygur ethnic group. It is now a key cultural relic under the state protection.
Id Kah Mosque
Located in downtown Kashi, the mosque was first built in 1426 or the 846th year of Hui calendar, which is an Islamic ancient building. The mosque is the largest of its kind in China and its Prayer Hall, the major part of the building, covers 2,600 square meters large enough for 4,000 people. The Id Kah Mosque is not only an important place for religious activities, but also a famous tourist destination.
Kashi Grand Bazaar
Located at the northeastern part of Kashi, this is the largest rural open market in Xinjiang. Legend has it that, some 2,000 years ago, the business activities were thriving, today it is a good place for tourists to observe and learn more Kashi’s real life. The dazzling variety of goods available here tell visitors past prosperity in the city.
Located in southwest Xinjiang and sitting at the southern rim of the Tarim Basin, Hotan was called Khotan in ancient times. It was one of the earliest Buddhist centers in the Western Regions. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Khotan was famous for Tang palace music and dance. Silks, jade and carpets were the most famous products of Hotan and Hotan was once the “silk capital” on the Silk Road. Major scenic spots include the Yuetegan Ruins, Malikewate Ancient City, Niya Ruins, Eastern Han Tombs and Sangzhol Rock Carvings.
The ruins are located in the desert some 150 kilometers north of the Minfeng County seat, which is around 22 kilometers long from north to south and 10 kilometers wide from west to east. They are dispersed in some sporadic sand dunes, where one sees traces of ancient canals and ditches. Large numbers of documents, ancient coins, wooden slips and silk and linen fabrics are discovered in the ruins.
Located in eastern Xinjiang, Hami has since the ancient time been an area of strategic importance for the Western Regions and the bridge between east and west, being the first town on the route from the Central Plains to Xinjiang. Hami is in a basin which is high in north and low in south and declines from east to west. It is also the center of the Hami Oasis, enjoying temperate continental dry climate. Hami melon is known to all and people here have been growing the quality melon ever since the ancient time. Major scenic spots include the Baiyanggou Ruins and the Islamic King Tombs.
Islamic King Tombs
Located 500 meters west of Hami City, this is the tomb yard for Hami kings of various generations and royal family members. Of the tombs, the 7th Islamic King Tomb is the largest. It is an important cultural relics of the Chinese Islamic architectural art and also the place visitors yearn to see.
Located in west Xinjiang, it derives its name front the Hi River. It is home to many ethnic minority groups, featuring strong minority customs and natural landscapes. Major scenic spots include the Guozigou Scenic Area, Gongnaisi Grassland and Huiyuan Ancient City.
lli General's Office
This Office is located on the northern bank of the Hi River some 10 kilometers to the southeast of the Huocheng County seat and some 30 kilometers from Yining City. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Emperor Qianlong set up the Office and built Huiyuan City to beef up the rule over Hi. The city and eight others built later are called “Nine Citys of Hi”. Huiyuan was obviously the most important of the nine, being the military and political center of China’s western border and where the Office was located. It enjoyed booming business for 150 years.
Located at the northwestern rim of Xinjiang, it borders the Republic of Kazakhstan, being one of the cities closest to the frontier. In history, Tacheng has been a major business port on the Silk Road. Major scenic spots here include the Badan Almond Nature Reserve, Salkule Lake and Baketu Port Trade City.
Baketu Port Trade City
Located 17 kilometers from Tacheng, the port is built on an open land and is close to a grass beach. The port facilities are gradually perfected, and the trade city is thronged with stream of people and vehicle when the port is opened.
Located in the northern rim of Xinjiang, Altay boasts beautiful landscapes Major scenic spots include the Kanas Lake and Kanas Grassland.
Kanas Nature Reserve
Located 155 kilometers to the north of Burqin County seat this is a compete comprehensive nature reserve and a unique tourist attraction, covering an area of 5,588 square kilometers. Kanas Lake s.ts in the middle of the nature reserve, covering 37.7 square kilometers w.t 188 meters at the deepest part. Lake water changes color with the change in the four distinct seasons here.
Located in northwest Xinjiang, it is an oil industrial city that rose in the 1950s. It is rich in mineral resources and features unique scenery. Major tourist attractions include the Heiyoushan Park, No. 1 Oil Well and Urho Ghost Town.
Urho Ghost Town
Gobi Desert in the Junggar Basin is dotted with Yadan Landform which is attractive to visitors for its mysteriousness. What is the most marvelous is the Ghost Town some 96 kilometers northeast of Karamay City. Exposed to wind and rain for thousands of years, naked rocks have been carved into different shapes and the land was criss-crossed with “wind-dug” ditches. In windy days, this is a world of flying sand and dashing small rocks, plus “ghost cries”.
Located at the northwestern rim of Xinjiang, Bole is 455 kilometers from Urumqi. Bole in Mongolian language means grayish green grassland. Bole scenic spots include the Alataw Pass, Ebinur Lake, Strange Rock Gully, Harituluke Scenic Area, Say ram Lake, and Alcarte Stone Figure Tomb.
When the majestic Northern Tianshan Mountains zigzags the area some 78 kilometers northeast of Bole City, it stops all of a sudden to create a gap, known as the Alataw Pass, the “windy pass” where cold and wet air current comes from northern Xinjiang. It lies at the second Eurasian Continental Bridge, and is the only national port of first category featuring railway and highway transportation.
Located about 90 kilometers southwest of the city of Bole, and it sits by the one side of the Urumqi- Yining Highway, Sayram Lake features vast blue lake inlaid in the grassland where the Mongolian and Kazak herders hold their activities. The Nadam Fair is held here from July 13-15 every year.
Located in central north Xinjiang, Shihezi is 135 kilometers from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Known for its beautiful environment and unique culture and bright civilization, it is like a dazzling pearl shining over the Gobi Desert, Major tourist attractions include the Monument to Zhou Enlai, Ningjia River Grassland and Mongol Temple.
The Silk Road refers to a major road traversed to transport silk and other products to the Central Plains and various states in the Western Regions. It went westward from Chang’an (present-day Xi’an) to the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Within the Chinese territory it has three sections: Eastern Section is from Chang’an to Liangzhou (present-day Wuwei in Gansu); Central Section is the Hexi Corridor in Gansu; and the Western Section is within Xinjiang. The Xinjiang Section comes of the Southern, Central and Northern routes, extending some 2,000 kilometers, scattered with many ancient city ruins, cultural relics, beacon towers and other places of historical interest. Major cities of Xinjiang on the Silk Road include Urumqi, Turpan, Kashi, Kuqa, Hotan and Tashkurghan.
Festivals and Celebrations
Xinjiang Grape Festival
Time: August 25-31
What’s on: Uygur wedding ceremony, merry Maixilaifu, humorous Nazikumu, Gaochang music and dance, and other performances; Hami melon contest, business and trade talks, visit to Grape and Melon Street, 2000-year-ago Silk Road Camel Caravan.
Time: 10th day of 12th Islamic month
Venue: Uygur, Hui and Kazak-inhabited areas
What’s on: Muslims gather in the mosque for mass and animal butchering ritual. This is followed by door-to- door celebrations and visitors will be entertained with beef and mutton. Dining and chatting, hosts and guests are like one family. There will also be singing and dancing parties, as well as recreational activities such as sheep-grabbing, horseracing and “girl chase”.
Time: First day of the 10th Islamic Month
Venue: Uygur, Hui and Kazak-inhabited areas
What’s on: Eid Festival is also called the Roza Festival. Early in the morning, adult Muslims gather in the mosque for bathing and mass. This is followed by visit to relatives and friends, saying good luck to each other. Some nomadic herders hold horse-racing, sheep-grabbing and other activities.
Recommended Tourist Itineraties
Day 1: Visit Tianchi Lake (Heavenly Pool) in the morning, and the Hongshan Park in the afternoon.
Day 2: Visit the Nanshan Pasture in the morning and the Museum of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous
Day 1: Visit the Jiaohe Ancient City in Turpan and Karez Well in the morning. Visit the Sugong Pagoda, Flaming Mountain, and Grape Gully in the afternoon. Enjoy folk songs and dances in the evening.
Day 2: Visit the Gaochang Ancient City, Bezeklik Thousand-Buddha Grottoes, and Astana Ancient Tombs in the morning. Visit the Tuyugou Mazar and Turpan Museum in the afternoon and return to Urumqi.
Day 1: Visit the Tomb of Fragrant Imperial Concubine and Id Kah Mosque in the morning, and visit the Grand Bazaar, Uygur folk houses, and hand-workshops in the afternoon.
Day 2: Visit the Mo’er Pagoda, and Ethnic Kindergarten in the morning, and visit the museum and orchard in the afternoon.
Day 3: Visit the Karakul Lake, and view the Father of Ice Mountains 一 Muztagh Mountain.
Day 1: Visit the Kizil Thousand-Buddha Grottoes and Qianlei Spring in the morning. Visit the Kizilgaha Beacon Tower in the afternoon.
Day 2: Visit the Big Dragon Pool and Small Dragon Pool, Kyrgyz Yashan Stone Carvings, Kuqa Temple, and Ruins of Zhaohuli Temple.
Day 1: visit Yotkan Ruins, Malikewate Ancient City, and Hotan Museum.
Day 2: Visit Inelik Desert, carpet factory, jade factory, and silk factory.
Day 1: Visit Diversiform-leaved Poplar Forest, oil field, Taklimakan Desert, and Iron Gate Pass.
Day 2: Visit Bosten Lake, and Korla City.
Xinjiang local food features beef and mutton, and pasta. Xinjiang kebabs are known throughout the country and are divided into pit barbecue, skewer barbecue and pot barbecue. Hand pilaf is also one of local food for treating guests. Other local snacks include Kaoyoupi, horse milk, Youtazi, Yousanzi, Niangpizi, Nang, flavor mutton chop, Ququ Soup, etc.
There are over ten night markets concentrated in Urumqi, mainly distributed at the Grand Cross, Small Cross, North Gate, South Gate, Erdaoqiao, Wuyi Rd., Hongshan Shopping Mall, and Youhao Shopping Mall in the downtown area. What is the most attractive to visitors is Erdaoqiao night market, the area around which has always been the Uygur neighborhood. There are famous local products such as Uygur hats, Aidelisi silk musical instruments, jade, Yengisar knives, Hotan carpets, raisins, Badanmu, figs and so on.
Grassland, wetland, forest, desert, Gobi, and oasis are all over Xinjiang, which is the ideal place to carry out mountaineering, desert exploration, automobile and motorcycle rally, self-driving, camel-riding, cycling and hiking. The Swan Lake and Sayram Lake are the tourist destinations for bird-watching.
Xinjiang has always been enjoying the reputation of being the “land of songs and dances”, the origin and essence of which are gathered in the Qiuci music and dance of Kuqa. The Qiuci music and dance were introduced to the Central Plains in the Han Dynasty, and then to Japan, Korea, Myanmar, India, Vietnam and other countries through the Silk Road, which had a significant impact on the development of music and dance in Asian countries.
The Museum of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is located in Xibei Rd., Urumqi, and is the cultural relics collection and research center of Xinjiang. It has an exhibition area of 7,800 square meters, and the collection of 50,000 pieces of cultural relics. The exhibition consists of three parts: Exhibition of historical and cultural relics, the display of ethnic customs, and the exhibition of cultural relics of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
[No Throwing Water]
Living habits popular among Uygur people. Uygur people love pilaf. They must wash their hands before meals, can not throw water after washing hands, and should use cloth to wipe water, otherwise, it is disrespectful to the host.
Uygur, Kazak, Hui, Qirghiz, Tajikistan, Tatar and other ethnic minorities who believe in Islam in Xinjiang abstain from eating pork, lard and all food made with pork, and abstain from talking on swine.
Funeral customs of Kazak in Xinjiang. Annual sacrifice held for the dead is called “Asi”.
There are currently Urumqi, Kashi, Yining, Korla, Altay, Aksu, Hotan, Tacheng, Kuqa, Qiemo, Karamay, and Kanas airports in Xinjiang, which have formed the air routes network layout with the Urumqi International Airport as the core. Urumqi International Airport has more than 100 international and domestic air routes to Beijing, Shanghai and other domestic cities and Moscow, Islamabad, Almaty and other foreign cities. It also has flights between Urumqi and major cities in Xinjiang.
Urumqi has express trains directly to Beijing, Shanghai, Zhengzhou, Xi’an, Chengdu and Lanzhou. Every place in the country with railways can reach Urumqi.
Xinjiang has a typical continental arid climate with four distinct seasons, hot summer and cold winter and is dry all the year. Its temperature difference between day and night is large, the highest temperature in Turpan reaches 48.9°C, and the lowest temperature in Altay reaches -51.5°C.
The months from May to October are the best time for travelling to Xinjiang, which is the fruit harvest season. In addition to snow-blocked mountains in the winter, tours to basins, deserts and oases are basically not subject to seasonal effects.