Top ChoiceMuseum in Ürümqi

Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum

Xinjiang’s massive provincial museum is a must for Silk Road aficionados. The highlight is the locally famous ‘Loulan Beauty’, the first of half a dozen 3800-year-old desert-mummified bodies of Xinjiang's...

Top ChoiceRuins in Turpan

Jiaohe Ruins

Also called Yarkhoto, Jiaohe was established by the ancient Jushi kingdom as a garrison town in the 2nd century BC. It’s one of the world’s largest (6500 residents once lived here), oldest (1600 years old) and...

Top ChoiceCave in Turpan

Bezeklik Cave Complex

This cave complex, which dates from the 6th to 14th centuries, is located in a mesmerising desert landscape. Bezeklik means ‘Place of Paintings’ in Uyghur and the murals painted in the 11th century represented a...

Lake in Tian Chi Lake

Tian Chi Lake

Two thousand metres up in the Tian Shan range is Tian Chi, a small, long steely-blue lake nestled below the view-grabbing 5445m Peak of God (博格达峰, Bógédá Fēng). Scattered across the alpine pine and spruce-covered...

Islamic Site in Turpan

Emin Minaret

Built to honour Turpan general Emin Hoja, this splendid 44m-high mud-brick structure is the tallest minaret in China. Named Sūgōng Tǎ after Emin’s son Suleiman, who oversaw its construction (1777–78), its...

Village in Turpan

Tuyoq

Set in a green valley fringed by the Flaming Mountains, this mud-brick village offers a fascinating glimpse of traditional Uyghur life and architecture. It has been a pilgrimage site for Muslims for centuries, as...

Mountain in Turpan

Flaming Mountains

Near the Bezeklik Caves in Turpan are the Flaming Mountains, which appear at midday like multicoloured tongues of fire. The Flaming Mountains were immortalised in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, in...

Museum in Turpan

Turpan Museum

Xinjiang’s second-largest museum houses a rich collection of relics recovered from archaeological sites across the Turpan Basin, including a superb collection of dinosaur fossils, dinosaur eggs and various...

Tomb in Hami

Hami Kings Mausoleum

The chief reason to visit Hami is for this wonderfully serene complex of tombs containing the nine generations of Hami kings who ruled the region from 1697 to 1930. The blue- and green-tiled main tomb is the...

Cave in Kuqa

Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves

This is the largest cave-art site in Xinjiang and the earliest major Buddhist cave complex in all of China. In its day, the site would have been comparable to the Mogao Grottoes, although sadly only a handful of...

Ruins in Kuqa

Subashi

Subashi was a Buddhist complex that thrived from the 3rd to 13th centuries. It's less visited than other ancient cities in Xinjiang, but with its starkly beautiful desert setting it's worth the 23km trip...

Ruins in Turpan

Gaochang

Dating from the 1st century, Gaochang rose to power during the Tang dynasty in the 7th century and became the Uyghur capital in AD 850. It was a major staging post on the Silk Road until it burnt in the 14th...

Lake in Hami

Barkol Lake

If the summer heat of Hami is unbearable, take a day trip out to the cooler climes of Barkol Lake (Bālǐkūn Hú), on the north side of the Tian Shan. Kazakh herders set up their yurts here in summer and offer horse...

Mosque in Kuqa

Great Mosque

Kuqa's Great Mosque, rebuilt in 1932 on the site of a 16th-century original, is the second largest in Xīnjiāng. (The largest is the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar.) It's a wonderfully quiet and meditative space, with a...

Park in Ürümqi

Hongshan Park

More of an amusement park than a natural wonder, Hongshan Park is nevertheless a great place to stroll and enjoy the good city views, particularly from the 18th-century hilltop pagoda, which has become something...

Market in Kuqa

Sunday Bazaar

Every Sunday, a large bazaar is held next to the bridge over the Kuqa River on Renmin Lu, which leads into the Uyghur Old Town – about 2.5km west of the modern town. The market is no rival to Kashgar’s, but you...

Museum in Hami

Hami Museum

This mildly interesting three-floor museum spotlights mummies and dinosaurs found in the region, including several impressively preserved fossilised nests of dinosaur eggs, and, for a reason we were unable to...

Park in Ürümqi

People’s Park

A green oasis with manicured grounds and a ceremonial pagoda in its centre, around which visitors may paddle little boats in the summer months. Like most parks here, its perimeters are sealed with high fences and...

Mosque in Kuqa

Rasta Mosque

The charmingly painted Rasta Mosque, about 2.5km west of the modern town, draws a throng of worshippers at Friday lunchtime. The rest of the time it's quietly neglected and you're welcome to wander into its...

Museum in Kuqa

Kuche Royal Palace

Located in the old town, 3.5km west of the centre, is the rebuilt Kuche Palace, the residence of the kings of Kuche until the early 20th century. The exhibits tend towards the mundane and are slightly bizarre,...