Turpan Travel Tips

When my friend came from Switzerland to visit, I thought this was the perfect chance to do some tourism of my own. So we decided to make Turpan our first stop. I should have brought my Lonely Planet with me, at least I would have had an idea of where to stay. As soon as we got off the bus from Urumqi, we were obviously lost and, therefore, became the attraction of the local tour guides. Pushy at first, but helpful in the end. We finally decided to stay at the Traffic Hotel (Jiaotong Binguan), because it’s right next to the long-distance bus station. We got a room for about 120 RMB, although they asked for 150 RMB at first. The room was clean and the air conditioning worked.

Our Turpan Trip went as follows: Jiaohe Ruins (Yarkhoto) This ancient city really was the highlight of our stay in Turpan. It felt like going back 2000 years ! Watch for the the SUN and HEAT !!! Karez This underground irrigation system is interesting, but really touristy. The big landscape model at the entry makes the place look somewhat like a museum. That’s fair enough, but on the way out it felt like walking though a shopping mall. Bezeklik Caves – Buddhist Caves This was the furthest away in our trip and honestly not worth it. Half the caves were closed, a quarter were under renovation and the last quarter were open, but basically identical. Apparently they are empty is because western archaeologists took all the faces of the Buddhas. So if you really want to see them, go to Berlin or London.

Gaocheng (Khocho) Ruins Not as impressive as the the Jiaohe Ruins, but if you want a suntan and a ride on donkey cart driven by a young kid, well this is the place to go (see picture). Flaming Mountains If you don’t like history, then it’s just a red mountain with a cool name. What looks like a highway resting place is actually the official viewing point of the mountain. Those who don’t need a picture with a Mickey Mouse stone can stop their car along the road, but look behind before opening the door. Grape Valley There is an Alley of Fame where you ride your car under the vines, but for that you need to pay an entry. If you take the normal street that is right next to the tolled road, you will likewise end up in the Grape Valley. Lunch was overpriced, but it looked as part of a deal the restaurant had with our driver. I heard my friend mentioning sleeping in the vineyards. For that I assume you need to avoid the tourist restaurants and go directly to the local grape farmers. They can cook you dinner too. Actually, in Turpan city right at the bottom to the People’s Square there is also a Grape Alley that cuts the whole city in two. During the hot summer days this is where Turpan comes to life. Emin Minaret The building is worth seeing. From inside it’s nice, but we got the best view when we actually left the premise and were on our way back. Behind the site there are grape dryers, rooms that have holes in the walls. A local Uyghur farmer let us go in to his house and up on his roof where he was drying grapes. From on top of his house, we could see the Emin Minaret surrounded by vineyards. A beautiful sight.

Note: This article is contributed to our blog from Gallery Cafe in Kashgar when they left from Kashgar middle of  last summer. We posted this here because we thought it might be helpful for fellow travelers to make future Xinjiang travel plan. We missed Gallery Cafe!

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