We especially enjoyed the opportunities we had to go off the beaten path ... and look forward to sharing even more authentic experiences.
Once upon a time Turpan was an important outpost on the Silk Road. Today, it has a strong agricultural industry, with a focus on grapes, an export of the region. Located in eastern Xinjiang province, the village of Turpan is situated in a depression and is one of the few places on earth below sea levels. A long, narrow stretch of land hemmed by mountain ranges to the north and south, Turpan sits at a negative altitude of more than 500 feet. The area boasts a fascinating array of terrain, vegetation and wildlife because of the differing altitudes from valley bottom to top. Perpetual snow blankets the mountain summits, while at the depths of the valley lies a lush, green landscape. An oasis in the midst of desert land, Turpan provides a welcome break from dry heat and miles of sand.
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Our co-founder & COO Jay Tindall is a former China resident and a true China expert. He loves visiting remote rural areas and meeting China's ethnic minorities.
Northeast of Turpan are a series of breathtaking grottoes. Built during the late Northern and Southern Dynasties, between 420 and 581, fifty-seven grottos known for their brightly colored murals that cover their stone-walls. The murals tell Buddhist legends and reflect the close relationship between Mongolian, Uyghur and Han ethnic groups. Evidence of western Chinese influence is also present in the artistic style of the murals.
Buddha Cave at Shengjinkou
North of Turpan County lies a 7th-century Buddhist temple site. Mud-brick caves swathed in murals depict lotus blossoms, symbols of royalty, trees laden with grapes, rows of willow trees and Buddhist portraits. Many of the paintings are accompanied by Uyghur annotations. Buddhist scriptures written in Sanskrit and Han, along with coins from the Tang Dynasty were recovered at this site. A history buff’s dream!
Prefect Sulaiman Minaret
Built between 1736-1795, Sulaiman Minaret (also known as Emin Minaret) is a fascinating feat of ancient architecture. The sleek, round minaret is nearly 150-feet-tall. Built of yellow brick, the structure is adorned with an intricate floral pattern. The exquisitely formed minaret with its domed top is of the most famous examples of Muslim architecture in the region.
Just east of Turpan, the Flaming Mountains stand tall, spanning more than six miles from east to west. Towering, reddish-brown sandstone faces when illuminated by the sun, the mountains appear to be bursting into flames. The coloration of the mountains morphs with changes to solar radiation and ambient temperature; giving the impression that the mountains are living, changing masses.
Gaochang City Ruins
At the foot of the Flaming Mountains is the ancient ruins of Gaochang City, scattered over a massive expanse of land. Thanks to the preservation of most of the ancient city’s dividing walls it is evident the site is divided into three parts; inner city, outer city and imperial palace. Visitors can view the crumbling remains of houses, earth pagodas and a network of streets. This once great city in a state of constant deterioration is a fascinating testament to man’s ingenuity throughout the ages as well as his beautifully tragic impermanence.
A truly world-class facility, Turpan museum brings to light the city’s important role as a crucial stop along the ancient Silk Road. Visitors will find millennia-old corpses, well-preserved by the dry climate, along with artefacts from the various ethnic groups who lived and passed through the area.
The ancient city of Jiaohe was once the capital of the Jushi Kingdom. The city was built in 2 B.C., and its ruins, worn down by time and tear, remain standing today, waiting to be explored by visiting travelers who are welcome to step inside some of the homes and see how these people lived so long ago.
The Astana Tombs allow visitors a peak into the ancient burial places of locals who inhabited the area. Guided by a caretaker, it’s possible to descend into the depths of the tombs to explore – though unfortunately many of the corpses have been moved to the Turpan Museum.
Karez Irrigation System
A visit to the Karez Irrigation System usually entails a trip down into the ancient Karez well, where inquiring minds can discover how the water system worked in ancient times, being brought from as far as the neighboring mountains to the desert area.
Chateau Tuoling/Vineyard tours
Many aren’t aware that Turpan has a surprisingly vibrant wine culture, due to the area’s hot, dry climate allowing for hundreds grape varieties to thrive. Chateau Tuoling is one such vineyard offering wine tours and tastings – but be sure to visit during the summer season, when the trees are not covered by snow, if such a tour is of interest.
This 12-day luxury private jet journey tracing China’s ancient Silk Road is sure to leave you spellbound, as whisks you to historic and breathtaking destinations at your own pace. Hop from Xian’s Terracotta Warriors to the colorful cliffs of Zhangye Danxia, while sleeping in luxury hotels across the region.
Covering three countries in 11 days, this adventurous overland trip takes you from the heart of Siberia in Russia, through to the remote Gobi Desert and over the recently opened border between Mongolia and China.
Three different countries in only a week-and-a-half, this epic overland journey takes you from China, over the recently-opened border with Mongolia, through the Gobi Desert and along the breathtaking Chuysky Tract to Russian Siberia’s unofficial capital, Novosibirsk.
Navigate China’s historic Silk Road on this 6-day luxury tour from Urumqi to Turpan. You’ll cross paths with the country’s ancient and natural beauty, with stops in the scenic Southern Pastures and the Flaming Mountains, as you float down the waters of the legendary Heavenly Lake and visit the ancient ruins of Gaochang City.
This new hotel is the best the Turpan area has to offer. Well-situated, the hotel is just two minutes from a bustling market and walking distance to other attractions, including a museum and traditional shops. The highlight of the hotel is its location at the commercial heart of Turpan, a vibrant little town with much to offer. Spacious, comfortable rooms, WiFi, air conditioning and facilities including a covered pool and spa, bowling alley, karaoke, billiard tables, and more, are available to guests. Buffet breakfast is provided in the mornings to help guests start their day off well, while Chinese and Western cuisine are served up on-site for lunch and dinner. An on-site bar and lounge provides an ideal spot for guests to meet up with friends and colleagues for drinks after a long day of travel.