Dinner in Uyghur Family
Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves
Old town of Turpan
Imagining Xinjiang is like imagining a sea of deserts surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the world. As the Silk Road crosses Xinjiang linking India, Central Asia and China this province is different from other provinces. Whether you're looking to see the Taklamakan desert or the north pasture for nomadic herders, you will find all the information you need in our Xinjiang travel guide.
Xinjiang, which would result in New Frontier, was the subject of many conquests for thousands of years. The various kingdoms and Chinese dynasties tried to keep control over this vital region in Central Asia (Silk Road). Today, the oil wells are inserted in the middle of the desert landscapes. Located at the gateway to Central Asia, the people who settled in Xinjiang come from different cultures, including: Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and others interacting with Han while keeping a language and a culture specific to ethnic group.
Xinjiang, which is located at the northwestern region of China, is one of the largest provinces in China, but is considered to be an autonomous region, land of Uighurs. This is also by granting the status of an autonomous region that the Chinese government has gotten the support of Xinjiang. Indeed, if it wasn't offered the status of autonomy in Xinjiang, who knows how long the fighting would have continued within the region.
Before obtaining the status of Uygur Autonomous Region, Xinjiang was composed of 90 Uighurs. However, with Mao's policy to reeducate the scholars by sending them to the region. With the economic development opportunities and the many attractions of Xinjiang, the Han currently account for 50% of the population. This has not prevented the Uighurs, however, from tripling in population in the past 60 years while various other groups continue to live in accordance with their traditions.
Xinjiang is divided into two parts as follows: To the North, the mountains, the pastures, and the South, desert oasis, all separated by the chain of Tianshan Mountains. Kazakh Mongols are herds men and settle in pastures while the Uighurs have long been masters of the oasis.
With a strong identity difference, some people are reluctant to learn Mandarin, the official language in China, so it is best to prepare a small dictionary to say a few words in Uighur. This will make the locals happy and you will get a friendly smile in return.
While Urumqi is the capital of Xinjiang, this is not the place where one can find the ethnic groups in the region. To find them it is better to go to Kashgar, which is more representative of their culture.
Although today the dominant religion in the area is Islam, the various Chinese conquest and the passage of the Silk Road in Xinjiang have brought Buddhism to the region since the third century. Do not be surprised to discover some treasures of this religion lost in the desert of Xinjiang. Islam, meanwhile, is highly visible in the province. Mosques but also markets, clothing, traditions all testify to the Muslim influence.
It is in the second century BC that the Silk Road was officially opened. General Zhang Qian, from 10 years of captivity among the tribes west of the Taklamakan desert, discovered the two routes bypassing the chain of the Tianshan Mountains, as well as the famous horses of Ferghana.
The caravans began to use these two roads to trade the silk but also many foodstuffs. The northern route through Turpan, Urumqi, Karasahr, Kuqa, Aksu and Kashgar while that the south to the Tianshan Mountains takes the passage between Dunhuang, Miran, Cherchen, Niya, Khotan, Yarkand and Kashgar.
The Silk Road, started at Xi'an and continued its path to the Kazakhstan and the Kirgizhstan, which is today included in the world heritage of the UNESCO. This means that over thirty sites in China are protected and most of them are located in Xinjiang.
A trip to Xinjiang is reminiscent to a visit to ancient Silk Road. As we travel from North to South, landscapes, cultural and historical sites are abundant. The city of Urumqi is not interesting but nearby, the Tianchi Lake is well worth the trip.
Turpan region is also worth the trip with its Flaming Mountain, its Karez Water System and its Grape Valley. It is a mix of fresh air and heat in the desert. The ruins of Jiaohe are beautiful and contain the wonders of ancient civilization there.
While traveling on the Silk Road, the last step in China is often Kashgar at the Xinjiang border. The city itself is characteristic of the local culture, including the old town and local market.
In the cooler Altay region, it is the Kanas Lake and its mountains that attract many visitors.
Xinjiang is mainly a desert region, so it is not necessary to recommend a specific season. The summer is hot and its very cold in the winter as the area is swept by cold winds. In the summer, perhaps it is better to visit the northern Xinjiang with mountains and lakes that provide cool air. However, it is also possible to visit the rest of Xinjiang during that period. You must simply have good sunscreen and make stops in cities to cool down.