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Top Things to Do on the Silk Road

On the Silk Road, there are many fun things to do and hot attractions to visit. We listed the following top attractions to visit, respectively in Shaanxi, Gansu, Xinjiang.

Top Attractions to Visit on the China Silk Road

1. In Shaanxi Province

A. Xian Terracotta Warriors

To visit Terracotta Warriors is the first choice for tourist coming to Xian. The Qinshihuang ( First Emperor of Qin) attempted to recreate and maintain his imperial status in the afterlife and created these clay soldiers and horses.

The statues of the infantry soldiers range between 5 foot 8 inches and 6 foot 2 inches; the commanders are 6 and half feet tall. The lower halves of the kiln-fired ceramic bodies were made of solid terracotta clay, the upper half hollow. It is evident that the statues were vividly painted including a color called Chinese purple.

Terracotta Warriors and Horses

B. Xian Ancient City Wall

Xian Ancient City Wall is the second popular attraction in Xian. It is the best-preserved landmark of Xian that used to be one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world, dividing Xian into the inner part and the outer part.

The Wall is high and wide, with a road on the top, and it is safe as there are no vehicles. Visitors love to cycle here. In addition, the South Gate ( Yongning Gate ) is the important one among all the gates. There is bicycles for rental up to the South Gate.

Cycling on the Xian Ancient City Wall

2. In Gansu Province

A. Binglingsi Monastery in Lanzhou

Binglingsi Monastery, also known as the Bingling Grottoes, is a series of Buddhist caves that are situated on a not easily accessible cliff face ( only by water ), some 80km from Lanzhou. Love China's ancient cave culture, a day trip here should not be missed.

Within and on the cliff are a series of winding walkways and stairs that will lead you around the site. The caves, which carved out of the cliff's porous stone, contain over 700 statues of both clay and porous rock, and hundreds of frescoes. The largest is a giant 27-meter-high seated Maitreya, and the smallest is only 25 centimeters.

Go there: take a bus from Langzhou West Bus Station to Yongji and get off at Liujiaxia Port, and then take a boat to the Monastery.

Lanzhou Binglingsi Monastery

B. Jiayuguan Pass in Jiayuguan

Jiayuguan City is a combination of Great Wall and Silk Road. It boasts many historical relics, including Jiayuguan Pass, the Overhanging Great Wall, the First Watchtower of the Great Wall and Weijin Art Gallery.

The Jiayuguan Pass was constructed back to 1372, representing the western starting point of a section of the Great Wall. The pass lies at the foot of a narrow valley and its name from Jiayu Hill. It was composed of defensive walls, gates and army camps.

Jiayuguan Pass

C. Maogao Grottoes & Crescent Lake in Dunhuang

Situated near the western mouth of the Hexi Corridor, where Gansu Province borders Xinjiang, Dunhuang has a military history that parallels its Silk Road trade history. Dunhuang has the other nickname a stopover point on the Silk Road. Maogao Grottoes and Crescent Lake are the top attractions here.

a. Maogao Grottoes

Maogao Grottoes, also known as Mogao Caves, are famous for the Chinese epithet – "a glittering pearl that adorns the Silk Road". They are a series of grottoes situated about 25 kilometers southeast of the city of Dunhuang, Gansu Province.

The grottoes are carved out of the sandstone cliffs of Mingsha Mountain, extending around 1600 meters from north to south, with a history of several thousand years. In the caves, there is the greatest treasure-trove of Buddhist art, including countless sculptures, murals and manuscripts.

Maogao Grottoes
b. Crescent Lake

The Crescent Lake is another natural wonder in the world because it is a spring surviving in the Gobi Desert for thousands of years. Although given many surprise attacks by sandstorms, Crescent Lake still remains clear and is worthy as the first spring in the desert.

Here, you will enjoy not only the rare view where an oasis meets the desert, but also some fun sand adventures, such as riding camels, dune surfing and sand sliding.

Crescent Lake

3. In Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

A. Heavenly Lake in Urumqi

The Heavenly Lake, also known as Tianchi, is a crescent-shaped water area, around 110km east of Urumqi. With the water of melted snow from the top of Heavenly Mountain, the lake enjoys crystal water.

In summer, here is an ideal summer resort. Visitors can see the ever-changing silvery mountains soaring into the blue sky, their slopes highlighted with verdant pasture and flamboyant wild flowers. In addition to natural sceneries, the mysterious legend is the other reason for you to explore.

Heavenly Lake

B. Jiaohe Ancient Ruins, Karez Wells, Flaming Mountains in Turpan

a. Jiaohe Ancient Ruins

Located in the Yaernaizi Valley on the Silk Road, about 10km west of Turpan, Jiaohe Ancient Ruins was of great military significance and played an important role in the economic communication between Western and Eastern countries.

Jiaohe, named from "the point where two rivers meet", has three features:
1) Only two gates: the South and East Gates ( The South Gate was the main one and has vanished long ago. The East Gate cut by the cliff was virtually non-existent. )
2) Three sides of the city were cliffs and so no city walls which commonly were seen in other ancient cities.
3) All the buildings were dug from earth and wood was rarely used.

Jiaohe Ancient Ruins
b. Karez Wells

As an underground irrigation system, Karez Wells are the life source of Turpan. Without them, there would be no Turpan culture. It was built by ancient farmers from the various ethnic minorities of Turpan. The construction was made to adapt to the natural basin of the region while taking into account solar radiation and the atmosphere of this dry region.

A well was built by first identifying an available underground water source, then digging out upright wells above the water source at a certain distance from each other, and lastly, connecting the bottoms of the wells by underground channels so that the water flows from a higher well to another lower one.

Karez Wells
c. Flaming Mountains

The Flaming Mountains is a very famous tourist attraction, due to a Chinese classical novel, "Journey to the West". The other reason is that it is one of the hottest places on earth, with harsh but unique natural conditions, as well as abundant cultural heritage. In summer, the region gets so hot that you can "hard boil" an egg by burying it in the sand for just several minutes. With strong direct radiation from the sun, the highest temperatures can reach 47.8℃ .

The mountain is located on the northern edge of the Turpan Basin, around 10km east of Turpan city. It stretches up to 100km from east to west and about 10km from south to north, with average altitude is about 500 meters.

Notes:
1) Best time to visit: not to go there in hot summer and winter may be good time.
2) Prepare ample drinking water, a good sunblock and a hat.
3) The temperature difference between day and night is large, even you go there in summer, you should take a coat or a sweater.

Flaming Mountains

C. Taklamakan Desert in Minfeng

The Taklamakan Desert is the largest desert in China, located in the middle of the largest Tarim Basin in Xinjiang. It is the world's second largest shifting-sand desert, covering an area of over 33,700 square kilometers. In Uygur language, Taklamakan means "enter and never return". Another name is "the Sea of Death".

The desert is crossed at its northern and at its southern edge by two branches of the Silk Road. It is rich in natural resources, such as groundwater, oil and oil gas. Nowadays, many oilfields are opened up, and a cross-desert highway has built to connect the cities of Hotan ( on the southern side ) and Luntai ( On the northern side). If you drive a car to traverse the desert here, you can choose to stay overnight at the hotel in Minfeng.

Notes:
1) Best time to visit: October and Nevember
2) Take a train to Urumqi and then to Korla. You can take shuttles from Korla to different parts of the desert: in Aksu, Kucha, Hotan and Luntai.
3) Make preparations in advance, such as tour guide, money, provisions, coat and so on.
4) Protect your photographic apparatus from sand.

Taklamakan Desert

D. Sunday Bazaar in Kashgar

Bazaar means market and trade place in Uygur language. Traditionally, it is held on Sundays, but in fact, it is just one of the sections. The other section is an ordinary area, especially busy on Sundays but opened each day.

Located at the East Gate of Kashgar is the largest one. The bazaar is also named "International Trade Market of Central and Western Asia". At the fair, you can buy many things in China, such as general merchandise, handicrafts, livestock, local specialties, vegetables, coat, as well as a large number of foreign merchandises, such as arts and crafts of Pakistan, scarves of Turkey, and dry fruits of Saudi Arabia and so on.

Notes:
1) Etiquette: If you don't want to buy the thing that you have had a look at, because of the price or other reasons, please remember to put your right hand on your heart to say "I thing I will leave it. Thank you just the same."
2) Local specialties: carpet, clay pottery, jewelry, folk musical instrument, guava, almond, fig, grape and melon.
3) Best time to visit: August and September

Sunday Bazaar

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