Top Silk Road Destinations – Xian, Urumqi, Turpan and Lanzhou
The magical and mystical Silk Road consists of a number of ancient routes which connected the Far East with the West and was used by traders, missionaries, adventurers, explorers, pilgrims, nomads and soldiers from 206BC until approximately 1453AD. Today travelers and adventurers still discover the wonder of these routes by taking Silk Road tours along various stretches of the 6,437km trails. The Silk Road has many highlights (33 historical sites) but there are certain destinations which stand out.
Xian – This is where the ancient route began, at the time Xian was called Chang’an and from this point the routes divided into three directions going south, north and the central route through the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and on to the subcontinent and the Mediterranean. Chang’an was a capital city for more than 10 ancient Chinese dynasties. Today’s visitors starting their adventure along the Silk Road from Xi’an can visit the UNESCO Terracotta Army and Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang. Other top Xi’an sites include the 14th century city walls; Bell Tower and Drum Tower; the city’s Muslim Quarter’; Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and the Stele Forest.
Urumqi – this is the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The city is nestled at the foot of the Tianshan Mountains and is home to many minority ethnic groups. It is a prairie city known for the magnificent greenery and scenery surrounding the city center. Urumqi was a major stop along the Silk Road during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). While in Urumqi tourists should visit the Grand Bazaar; Hongshan Park where the Hong Shan (Red Mountain) is located; People’s Park; the nearby Glacier #1 which is the origin of the Urumqi River; People’s Square and the magnificent Heavenly Lake Scenic Area.
Turpan – The history of this city goes back as far as 6,000 years. The word Turpin comes from the Uygur word for “lowest place” or the Turki word for “fertile land.” The city is blessed with water from the karez canal system and produces delicious fruit. The city is located in the Turpan basin and is the lowest city in China. It is also one of the hottest places in China with temperatures often reaching 40°C. There are 21 ethnic groups living in Turpan with the majority being Uygurs. Among the attractions in Turpan there is the Emin Minaret, the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves and the nearby Ayding Lake.
Lanzhou – This exciting city is the capital of Gansu Province and the Yellow River runs through the city providing ample water for the rich farm produce in the region. The city was not only a key point along the ancient Silk Road but today it plays an important role as a hub for Silk Road tourism. The many attractions in the area include the Maiji Caves, Bingling Temple Grottoes, Labrang Monastery and the Dunhuang Mogao Caves. Tourists should be sure to see the Five Spring Mountain Park, the Yellow River Bridge and the Baita Mountain Park. Lanzhou was an important stop on the Northern Silk Road since the 1st century BC and the Great Wall of China was extended to protect Lanzhou which was called the “Golden City.”