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China's largest province, Xīnjiāng (新疆) is the homeland of the Muslim Uyghurs and a fast-changing region where ancient and modern clash against each other in surprising ways. High-speed railways cross the Martian landscapes linking cities in hours rather than days, and the regional capital Ürümqi is a forest of high-rise apartments and glass skyscrapers; while in parts of the Silk Road oases of Kashgar, Hotan and Turpan, life goes as it has for centuries, based around the mosque, the tea house and the bazaar.

Despite the enormous military and police presence here due to several years of unrest, Xīnjiāng is increasingly attracting visitors for its extraordinary natural beauty and fascinating Central Asian history and culture. In short, a visit to Chinese Turkestan makes for an exploration of China's past and its unsettled multicultural present, or simply a journey into some of the most sublime landscapes on earth.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Xinjiang.