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In Xīnjiāng's capital, Ürümqi (乌鲁木齐; Wūlǔmùqí), high-rise apartments form a modern skyline that will soon dash any thoughts of spotting wandering camels and ancient caravanserais. The vast majority of its inhabitants are Han Chinese, and the city is one of the least typical of Xīnjiāng, though glimpses of the distant Tiān Shān mountains provide a taste of the extraordinary landscapes awaiting you elsewhere.

As a fast-growing Central Asian hub, the city does business with traders from Běijīng to Baku and plays host to a diverse mix of people. Indeed, it's hard to imagine where else in the world you'll see Chinese, Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic script so commonly side-by-side. This truly is Central Asia.

Ürümqi is not a historic city, but its museum is excellent and there are some atmospheric Uyghur districts. Most travelers pass through the provincial capital at some point, and many find their stay to be surprisingly enjoyable.

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