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Turpan (吐鲁番; Tǔlǔfān) is China’s Death Valley. At 505 ft below sea level, it’s the second-lowest depression in the world and the hottest spot in China. In July and August, temperatures soar above 40°C and even 50°C, forcing the local population to sleep on their roofs and visiting tourists into a state of semi-torpor.

Despite the heat, the ground water and fertile soil of the Turpan depression has made this a veritable oasis in the desert, evidenced by the nearby centuries-old remains of ancient cities, imperial garrisons and Buddhist caves. The city itself has a mellow vibe to it, and recovering from a day’s sightseeing over a cold Xīnjiāng beer under the grapevines on a warm summer evening is one of the joys of traveling through the province.

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