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Itinerary Name: 7 Days Essence Silk Road Tour: Jiayuguan-Dunhuang-Tulufan-Urumuqi by Train
Day 1
Arrival in Jiayuguan City
Hotel:Overnight in Jiayuguan City

You can take flight or train to Jiayuguan city by yourselves. It is around 14 KM/18 minutes van ride from Jiayuguan Airport to downtown city. 


If you take bullet train to Jiayuguan city, normally the fast train will stop at the Jiayuguan South Railway Station. It is around 9 KM/16 minutes from this railway station to downtown city.


Day 2
Sightseeing in Jiayuguan City, Early Night Fast Train from Jiayuguan city to Dunhuang City
Hotel:Overnight in Dunhuang

Today in Jiayuguan, you can visit: 

Jiayuguan Pass (UNESCO World Heritage), the First Beacon Tower of the Great Wall  (UNESCO World Heritage) and the Great Taolai River Canyon, Cantilever Great Wall, the Guoyuan-Xincheng Tombs Area of Wei and Jin Dynasty (220-420 AD.). 


At early night, tourists can take the fast train from Jiayuguan city to Dunhuang. It will take around 2.5 hours on the way.


After arriving at Dunhuang Railway Station, tourists can take taxi from Dunhuang Railway Station to the downtown Dunhuang, around 11KM/15 minutes ride.


Some information about the 4 attractions in Jiayuguan city today: 

1. The West Terminal of the Great Wall in Ming Dynasty (1388-1644 AD.) - Jiayuguan Pass  (UNESCO World Heritage), 

Located in the middle of Hexi Corridor (West Yellow River Corridor), Jiayuguan Pass was built was from Hongwu reign, Ming Dynasty (1372 AD), which lasted 168 years and was completed in 1540 AD. The Pass consists of inner city, outer city, vat city, moat and the Great Wall on both sides of the north and south. Jiayuguan Pass is the starting point of the west end of the Great Wall in Ming Dynasty. It is also the most well-preserved and magnificent ancient military Castle along the Great Wall. It has the reputation of "the first grand pass in the world".


More about the Jiayuguan Pass at Wikipedia: 


2. The First Beacon Tower of the Great Wall (UNESCO World Heritage) and the Grand Taolai River Canyon, 

This First Beacon Tower of the Great Wall, also known as the Taolai River Beacon Tower, is the beacon at the southernmost end of the Great Wall at Jiayuguan city area in the Ming Dynasty (1388-1644 AD.), and also the most spectacular and intact Beacon Tower along the Great Wall. The beacon tower stands on a cliff nearly 80 meters high beside the Taolai River, which can be called "the first dangerous Beacon tower in the world". The beacon tower is with vast desert to the west, the Grand Thaolai River Canyon to the south, and the high Qilian Mountain to the further south, to the north is the Great wall connecting to the Jiayuguan Pass.



3. Cantilever Great Wall,

This Cantilever Great Wall is about 11 KM away to the north of downtown Jiayuguan City and 7 KM away to the north of Jiayuguan Pass. It is named "the Cantilever Great Wall" because it is built on the ridge of about 45 degrees, and looks like hanging upside down. The Cantilever Great Wall is the northward extension part of Jiayuguan City and an important part of the ancient military defense system of Jiayuguan. It was built in 1539 in Ming Dynasty. It was rammed for gravel and loess that were taken locally. Now it only has 750 meters. After being repaired in 1987, it is composed of roadways, stacking walls and piers and abutments.



4. If you still have time, you can visit the Guoyuan-Xincheng Tombs Area of Wei and Jin Dynasty (220-420 AD.). This Tomb Area is a the Key Cultural Relics Site under the National Protection. There are more than 1,000 ancient tombs of Wei and Jin Dynasty in the protected area. Since 1972, 18 tombs have been excavated successively, including 9 brick tombs with painting bricks, and 760 murals unearthed.  


The first area you will visit is the exhibition area. But this exhibition has only one big room, with wooden coffins and some pictures


Behind here is the cemetery area. Tourist will visit the tome where once unearthed the "Postmaster Painting Brick". (But the original brick now is in the Gansu Province Museum in Lanzhou city.). Tourist can drive their own van or walk to the cemetery area. But if by waling, it will take around 10 minutes. This tomb is not big. And tourists must bend down to enter the tomb chamber.  


Its very famous in China. But for people who are not interested in archaeology, dont know "Postmaster Painting Brick", maybe can skip this place. 



* These 4 places are located outside of the downtown area of Jiayuguan city. So we suggest tourists can rent a whole day taxi to visit these places.

Day 3
Tour in Dunhuang
Hotel:Overnight in Dunhuang

Today in Dunhuang, You can visit the West Side to Dunhuang city for the following attractions: Ancient Dunhuang City, the West Thousand Buddha Cave, the Site of Ancient Yangguan Pass, the Site of Ancient Yumen Pass (UNESCO World Heritage), Yadan National Geological Park. All of them are located to the west of Dunhuang city and can be easily reached by private van one by one in sequence. 


Some useful information about the attractions today in Dunhuang:  


From near to far

1. Ancient Dunhuang City, 

This Ancient Dunhuang City is 16km west of Dunhuang City and backed by Mingsha Mountain (Echo Sand Hill). It was co-built by China and Japan in 1987 for a large-scale historical film "Dunhuang". The city was modeled after the ancient city of Shazhou (the old Dunhuang city), based on famous ancient painting, the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival of Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD.). Now it is the base of film and television shooting. It used to be the scene of the film Dunhuang. The ancient city reproduced the splendor and magnificence of Dunhuang in the Tang and Song Dynasties. 


The architectural style of the Ancient Dunhuang City has a strong western Chinese style, with three gates in the east, west and south of the city. The city is composed of five main streets with the architectural style representing the style of one of the 5 ancient cities along the Silk Road: Gaochang, Dunhuang, Ganzhou, Xingqing and Bianliang. Tourists can find Buddhist temples, pawnshops, stores, wine shops and residential buildings on both sides of the streets. The city covers an area of 150,000 square meters and a building area of 15,000 square meters. The standard tour time in this Ancient Dunhuang City is 1 hour. 



2. The West Thousand Buddha Cave,

The West Thousand Buddha Cave is located to the west of Mogao Grottoes, hence the name. It is only separated from Mogao Grottoes by Mingsha Mountain (Echo Sand Hill). It is located on the cliff beside the Mother River of Dunhuang area - Dang River Valley. The cliff top is equal to the highway and the Gobi desert. The tour bus stops at the cliff top and tourists can  walk along the steps down to the Dang River valley.


Tourists should be guided by the local guide of the cave to enter the caves, and it is strictly forbidden to take photos inside the caves. 


The building time of the West Thousand Buddha Cave is earlier than that of the Mogao Grottos. So it has high historical and cultural value. 


Of course, although the West Thousand Buddha Cave has 16 complete caves at present, because most of them were built in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD), with a long history and serious damage, there are only 9 caves which visitors can be allowed to visit, while the other caves can only be looked up under the cliff. 


Under the eastern seat of the central pillar of Cave 6 in the Northern Wei Dynasty, there is a prayer written by Buddhist disciple Xinzang for his deceased grand parentsand parents. There are still more than 70 words to identify. This handwritten authentic handwriting in the Northern Wei Dynasty is extremely precious and of high historical value. 


Among the existing caves, the earliest is the caves of the Northern Wei Dynasty. There are 1 cave built in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD), 3 caves built in the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557-581 AD), 2 caves built in the Sui Dynasty (581–618 AD), 3 caves built in the Early and Prosperous Period of Tang Dynasty (618-766 AD), 1 cave built in the Middle Tang Dynasty (766-836 AD), 1 cave built in the Five Dynasties (907-979 AD), 3 caves built by Uighur of ancient Shazhou (Dunhuang) city, 2 caves built in the Western Xia Dynasty (1038-1227 AD) and the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368AD), and 2 caves with unknown ages.


Cave 1-16 islocated on the Bank of Danghe River, and Another 3 caves are located in the north of Nanhudian (南湖店). The shape of the cave is basically the same as that of the Mogao Grottoes in the same period. It can be roughly divided into four types: central tower pillar grottoes, duplicate top grottoes, flat-top square grottoes and big open vertical rectangular niches. However, the shape of the Cave 11 built in Sui Dynasty (581–618AD) is similar to the circular tent of nomadic people, which is an only one case in Dunhuang Grottoes. There are 34 statues and 800 square meters of murals in the West Thousand Buddha Cave. The sculptures were mostly reconstructed in the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China, but there were also a few original sculptures. The style of the murals was basically the same as that of the murals of the same period in the Mogao Grottoes. The West Thousand Buddha Cave has its own characteristics in its grotto art. Many time renovations on caves of many generations make the style characteristics of many generations appear in one cave. 


3. The Site of Ancient Yangguan Pass, 

Yangguan Pass (Yang means south) is the throat of ancient land transportation in the northwest China and the pass which passengers must pass along the southern Silk Road. Because it is in the south of Yumen Pass, hence the name. 


Yangguan Pass was built in the period of Emperior Wudis "Establishing Four Counties and Protecting Two Passes" as early as 121 BC, the West Han Dynasty. In order to resist the harassment of the Huns to the frontier, to control the Western Regions of China steadily. The emperior set up Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan and Dunhuang counties in the Hexi Corridor (the middle of west region of Gansu Province), and established Yangguan Pass and Yumenguan Pass, both of them are important passes along the Silk Road.


After the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), due to the gradual decline of land transportation with the West, this pass was abandoned. 


Now there is only one very big ancient Beacon Tower standing on the Gobi and sand desert. Tourist can visit one newly built Yangguan Pass city, take the battery van to the big ancient Beacon Tower, walk on the Gobi and sand area where the ancient Yangguan Pass once stood.



4. The Site of Ancient Yumen Pass (UNESCO World Heritage), 

The Yumenguan Pass site is centered on Xiaofangpancheng Castle (Small Square Castle), including 2 castles, 20 beacons and 18 sections of the Great Wall sites (built in Han Dynasty, 202 BC–AD 220). It was linearly distributed in an area about 45 kilometers long and 0.5 kilometers wide. 


The Great Wall changes their appearance with the time, whether because of material or function, it condenses the defensive history of the Western Han Dynasty. After thousands of years of wind and rain erosion, the Great Wall of the Han Dynasty (202 BC–AD 220) still stands in the Gobi Desert. It is one of the most well-preserved Great Wall of the Han Dynasty in China, and this wall proves the indomitable spirit of the Chinese nation. Along the city wall, tourists can step on the broken sandstone under your feet, touch the sand gently, to see whether you can feel the feeling from thousands of years ago.




5. Yadan National Geological Park, 

The landform in the Geo Park is like a fossil standing on the ground, with all kinds of weathered bare rocks, which makes the desert more mysterious and smart. With about 100,000 years of geomantic erosion, the Quaternary sediment "sculpture" has become large-scale today. But in fact, magnificent Yadan bodies of ridge, wall and tower pillar forms provide an excellent natural classroom for the study of Yadan landscape formation enthusiasts. Three-thirds of the scene, seven-thirds of the imagination, tourists can insert wings to the imagination, to fantasize, to feel the magic of nature!  




In the Geo Park, tourists will also take the shuttle bus to stop at the following places along the road, for tourists to come down and take photos for sightseeing: 


1) Golden Lion Welcoming Toruists, 

2) Sphinx,

3) Standing Peacock and West Sea Fleet; 


Tourists will also enjoy the desert sunset here! 



Today tourists will come back downtown Dunhuang very late, say around 11 PM. 


* These 5 places are located outside of the downtown area of Dunhuang city. The farthest attraction, Yadan National Geological Parks, is around 170 KM/2 hours van drive from downtown Dunhuang. So we suggest tourists can rent a whole day taxi to visit these places.

Day 4
Tour in Dunhuang, Early Night Fast Train from Liuyuan Railway Station (Dunhuang) to Turpan
Hotel:Overnight in Turpan

Today in Dunhuang is the highlight of this itinerary. Tourists canl visit the famous Mogao Grottos (UNESCO World Heritage), Crescent Lake and Echo Sand Hill.


At early night, tourists can take taxi for around 130 KM/2.5 hours ride from downtown Dunhuang to Liuyuan Railway Station to take the fast train from Liuyuan Railway Station to Turpan. It will take around 3H15M in the train.


Please note that you should buy the train ticket to Turpan North Railway Station. This station is right by the north side of downtown Turpan. If your train arrives at Turpan Railway Station, this station is around 50 km to the northwest of Turpan! 


After arriving at Dunhuang Railway Station, tourists can take taxi from Turpan North Railway Station to the downtown Turpan. Turpan is a small city. So tourists can arrive the hotel very soon. 


Some useful information about the attractions today in Dunhuang: 

Constructed over a millennium, from the 4th to the 14th centuries, the Mogao Grottoes (UNESCO World Heritage) hold the worlds richest treasure houses of Buddhist sutras, murals and sculptures. There are about 30 caves open to the public, but usually the tour consists of 5 - 8 which provide a representation of the total. The selection is at the discretion of the local cave guide. 

More about Mogao Caves at UNESCO World Heritage: 

More about Mogao Caves at Wikipedia:  

Although the Mogao Grottoes is in the middle of desert, all tourists to Mogao Grottoes must go to the Digital Exhibition Center of Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in the eastern part of the city at first. There tourists will buy the entrance ticket and enjoy two movies about the Mogao Grottoes,


then take the local shuttle bus (included in the entrance ticket) to visit the Mogao Grottoes in the middle of desert.


After disembarking the shuttle bus at Mogao Grottoes, tourist will walk along the wide road until finding a big archway on your right.


Turning right and walking across the Daquan River Bridge, passing the big archway and some flying girl statues,


tourists will arrive at the cliff where the Grottoes exist. Lining up in front of the cliff at the small archway, which is near the cliff of the grottoes, tourists will wait for the local Grottoes guide to guide you into the Grottoes. Each group will have 15-20 tourists and the guide will guide tourists to visit 5 - 8 caves. The tour time is around 50 minutes.




After the visit, tourists will take the shuttle bus again to return to the Digital Exhibition Center of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang city. 


The Digital Exhibition Center of the Mogao Grottoes is very near to the Dunhuang Railway Station, around 11KM/15 minutes ride to downtown Dunhuang. 


* Tourists can take taxi or bus to the Digital Exhibition Center of the Mogao Grottoes. 


The Echo Sand Hill and Crescent Lake Area is right to the south of downtown Dunhuang. In fact, it connects to the city. It is a very big park by the south side of the city. Dunhuang is not a big city. Tourists can walk or take bus to this park.


After Getting into the Sand Park, you may found big sand dunes are located kind of far away. The Crescent Lake is behind the right high sand dune. You can walk there or take the shuttle van to there. But I suggest tourists can walk there. It is because the shuttle van also stops a little far from the Crescent Lake.


If tourists want to get to the high place of the sand dunes, there are three ways: 

1) Riding camel, but it will not get to the highest place of the sand dune. It will take around 1 hour back and forth, 

2) Taking SUV, you can reach the highest place of the sand dune. But there should be 3 people together to take one SUV. 

3) Taking motorcycle. 


Walking to the top place of the Echo Sand Hill (sand dunes) is tiring, so walking is not recommended.  


The ancient building complex by the side Crescent Lake, now called Mingyue Pavilion (Singing Moon Pavilion), was actually rebuilt after the Cultural Revolution. The original building was a temple, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The model of the original building is now displayed in a palace in the Crescent Spring building complex.


If tourists want to take a panoramic view of the Crescent Spring, you can walk up the sand dune a little, then you can take the photo there. 


According to the local guide, because of the special environment, no matter how many footprints people leave on the mountain during the day, the wind will erase all the footprints by the night. The reason why Echo Sand Hill rings is that the sand grains here are empty, so they can ring, and the sand here is of many colors and can be taken home by tourists.

Day 5
Tour in Turpan, Early Night Fast Train from Turpan to Urumuqi
Hotel:Overnight in Urumuqi

Today in Turpan, tourists can visit the Ruins of the Ancient City of Jiaohe (UNESCO World Heritage), Grape Valley,Karez Well (also known as Kaner Well), Suleiman Minaret (also known as Sugong Tower or Emin Minaret). 


At early night, tourists can take taxi to Turpan North Railway Station to take the fast train to Urumuqi. It will take around 55 minutes in the train.  


Urumuqi Railway Station is in the wast of downtown Urumuqi.


Some useful information about the attractions in Turpan today: 


1) The Ruins of the Ancient City of Jiaohe,   

As the worlds biggest, oldest and best preserved adobe building city, and the most complete ancient urban site, Jiaohe was built by the ancient Cheshi people in the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC) and the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). The highest military and political institution in the Western Regions of Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) is also in this city. Located on an island platform in Yar Township, 13 km west of the central city of Turpan, the river flows around the city, hence the name Jiaohe, means river juncture. It was the capital of Cheshi Qianguo, one of the 36 countries in the Western Regions of China. It is about 1650 meters long, narrow at both ends, and about 300 meters wide at the middle. It is a willow leaf-shaped island.  

The drought and lack of rain in Turpan made the old city well preserved. All the buildings were made of rammed earth plates, and the shape and layout were similar to that of Changan City in the Tang Dynasty. Government offices, Buddhist temples, pagodas, streets and alleys, as well as workshops, folk houses, military arenas, hidden solider caves, mud Buddha statues in niche still can be found in the city. The monastery area covers an area of 5,000 square meters, with 3 monasteies, one well and 101 pagodas. 


The buildings in the city were generally built in Tang Dynasty, which are mainly concentrated in the southeastern part of the platform within a range of about 1000 meters. The ancient city is surrounded by 30 meters cliffs, and three gates are built on the cliffs on the east, West and South sides. 


The architectural layout of Jiaohe Old Town is mainly composed of three obvious parts. A central road running through the north and South divides the residential area into East and West parts, and the northern end of the main road is the huge monastery area. The building area of this areais about 90,000 square meters. The buildings are mostly rectangular courtyards with the courtyard doors facing the streets. From the layout of each courtyard, it should be a monastery, because there is a square earth pillar in the main room, which should be a shrine or tower pillar. 


* After entering the gate, tourists can take the shuttle bus to Jiaohe ancient village, an imitation of the ancient Uygur village,



then take the shuttle bus to circle the platform of ancient Jiaohe city, and finally to the main entrance of Jiaohe ancient city – the South City Gate.


The Central Scenery Viewing Platform is in the middle of the ancient city ruins, after the government office building site.


This central scenery viewing platform is on the top cliff of the Central Avenue. So tourists should walk along the Central Avenue, then according to the guide board, turn to the sub-main road, continue to go northwest for a little while, tourist will find the government office building site.



Not far from here, tourists can find the large Central Scenery Viewing Platform, where you can find a deep gully which separats the viewing platform from another side of the ancient city. But there are actually roads leading to the northwest of the ancient city. 


* In my opinion, Jiaohe Ancient City is the most worthwhile scenic spot in Turpan. 


More about Jiaohe Ruins at Wikipedia:  


2) Grape Valley, 

Located at the west end of Flaming Mountain, the Grape Valley is 8 km long from south to north and 2 km wide from east to west. The Buiruk River (the Putaogou River, as shown on the local map, is called the Peoples Canal) runs through it (the river is actually very small, just like a stream). The valley is lush, and plants nearly 100 kinds of grapes, such as seedless white, mares milk, white currant, red rose, soxo and so on, forming a natural grape museum.


Tourist will take the shuttle van to visit the attraction points in the valley. From north to south, they are Grape Valley Amusement Park (the most important one and also the landmark of the valley) - 1.2 km – the Museum of Mr. Wang Luobin’s Music and Art - 1.2 km - Dawazi Folk Customs Park - 2.1 km - Avati Manor (Avati Custom Park) - 1.5 km - Oasis Vineyard (Grape Valley Folk Custom Village). Here shows the Uygur architectural characteristics, folk customs. Tourists will meet Uygur people and ethnic villages where farmers live, enjoy all kinds of grapes.


3) Karez Well (also known as Kaner Well), 

This irrigation system of wells connected by underground channels is considered to be one of the three great ancient projects in China. The Karez Wells Paradise is located adjacent to Turpan, 3 km west of the city center. The famous fruit and vineyards of these hot, dry desert communities owe their existence to the Karez wells, ancient underground irrigation channels fed by wells that tap into the snowmelt from surrounding mountains. These systems are still maintained and functioning today. A small museum provides an insight into their intriguing history and construction, and takes you below ground for a first-hand view. 


There are another place to appreciate Karez Well in Turpan, DengGong Jing (means Mr. Dengs Well). On August 20, 1981, Deng Xiaoping, the leader of China, visited Karez Well here. The total length of Karez Well here is around 2,500 meters long, with 85 wells, a flow rate of 15 litres per second. The original ecological Karez Well is still preserved here. Here you can see the original underground canal and open canal of Karez, not being developed for tourism. The scenery here is very beautiful. 


More about Karez Well at Wikipedia: 




4) Suleiman Minaret: 

Suleiman Minaret, also known as Sugong Tower or Emin Minaret, it is the biggest ancient tower existing in Xinjiang Province and the only ancient Islamic minaret in the country. It is located 2 km southeast of Turpans center.


More about Suleiman Minaret at wikipedia:  




* Tourist should rent a van for one day to tour to these places in Turpan.


Day 6
Tour in Urumuqi
Hotel:Overnight in Urumuqi

Today in Urumuqi, you can visit the Heavenly Lake, a lake on top of the Mt. Tianshan (Heavenly Mountain and the UNESCO World Heritage) 


Some useful information about the attractions in Urumuqi today: 


In the morning, you can rent a car to drive for around 2.5 hours to the Heavenly Lake, a lake on top of the Mt. Tianshan (Heavenly Mountain and the UNESCO World Heritage).


After purchasing the entrance ticket and checking in it, tourists can take the shuttle bus to up to the mountain to the lake. But after the shuttle bus stop, tourists still will walk for around 500 meters to the Heavenly Lake.


Tourists can take boat to cruise in the lake (paid additionally). The blue lake water is finely contrasted with steep forested hills, high meadows and snowy Heavenly Mountain peaks behind.


Tourist can also take cable car to the peak behind the Heavenly Lake to enjoy the birds eye view of the lake.




After drive back to Urumchi. If time permits, tourists can also visit the Erdaoqiao Grand Bazaar in Urumuqi.


I suggest tourists can stay at the 4-star Tumaris Hotel (突玛丽斯大饭店) in Urumuqi. It is with the Russian palace style lobby, hearty breakfast, good room, and only 500 m to the west of the Erdaoqiao Grand Bazaar. If you stay in this hotel, you can visit the bazaar at early night.


Day 7
Leave Urumuqi

You can take taxi or shuttle bus for around 20KM/30M ride to Urumuqi Airport.  


* If you have any problem to book the hotel or tour in these cities, please feel free to contact us. Thank you very much!