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Urumqi Travel Guide

Urumqi is a landlocked city full of surprises for newcomers-in fact, the world's most landlocked, over 2,500 km from the nearest seacoast-surrounded by vast areas of harsh wilderness. The resident Muslim Uygur often look more Central Asian or European than Chinese, and their culture is just as distinct.Get a taste of old Silk Road commerce by shopping at the Grand Bazaar and Erdaoqiao Market, explore the history of Xinjiang and see the famous 3,800-some-year old "Loulan Beauty" mummy at the Xinjiang Museum, head into the Tian Shan for a hike or horseback ride before spending the night in a Kazakh yurt on the shores of Tian Chi (Heavenly Lake), then return to the city to spend the next night in luxury at one of Urumqi's modern hotels.

Major Attractions

Tianchi (Heavenly Lake)

Picture of Tianchi Heavenly Lake

A lovely alpine lake 2,000 meters up in the mountains. The pine-clad surrounding hills and snow-enameled mountains are picturesque to be sure. The summer months bring crowds, who pay a day-visit to the lake or spend the night in Kazahk-run yurts. Some of the accommodations are more authentic than others, but the whole experience can be rewarding. Camping is okay, too, as is hiking up to the snowline.

Nanshan Grassland-Baiyanggou

Picture of Nanshan Grassland Baiyanggou

A natural paradise, with scenery and surroundings similar to that at Heaven Lake. This area, 75 km south of Urumqi city is located at the base of the Tianshan Mountain range. This is a great land for hiking, with gushing valleys and waterfalls falling down the hillsides and the ginseng herb growing on the hillside. The Kasakh people like to spend their summers here and travelers can take a horseback tour with a Kasakh guide, climb over the mountains or stay in the traditional yurt.

Xinjiang Museum

Definitely worth a visit. This museum houses an impressive collection of exhibits, covering artifacts and relics from more than 12 minority groups. The layout and presentation of the exhibits is imaginative and the preserved bodies of men, women and babies found in tombs in Xinjiang, along with the 3,000-year-old mummies, enable you an insightful (if a little spooky) visit! The museum is divided into different sections: a Mongol wing, a Tajik exhibition, a Kasak exhibition and a Dauer people and relics display, many of which with English interpretations.

Grand Bazaar

Picture of Xinjiang Grand Bazaar

The Big Bazaar, a traditional Islamic market area. In the summer time, the Da Bazar at night is a rather lively place, if you come just as it is getting dark you can see tight rope walkers walking from one side of two the next with the tall minaret in the background.

Red Mountain (Hong Shan)

A pleasant spot to visit to get your bearings when you first arrive in this city. The views of the surrounding countryside and breathtaking mountains from the top of the mountain make the steep (but short) climb worthwhile. The mountain peak stands 1,391 meters above sea level. Climbing up to the top, you can sit down for a drink and enjoy fabulous views over the city with the snow-capped mountains behind.

Numerous legends are associated with the mountain, including a few scary tales about a dragon that inhabits the hillside. A Qing pagoda (Zhenlong Ta) can be found half way up the mountain. This was built by one of the emperors to ward off the evil dragon and his spirits. There is also a lake and you can do some boating if you like.

How to Get in?

By plane

Urumqi Diwopu International Airport is 20km north-west of the capital city Urumqi. Regular flights flying to Urumqi from Chengdu (3 hrs), Guangzhou (5 hrs), Zhengzhou (3.5 hrs), Chongqing (4.5 hrs), Changsha (4 hrs), Dalian (5 hrs), Fuzhou (6 hrs), Haikou (7.5hrs), Hohhot (3 hrs), Hangzhou (5.5hrs), Yinchuan (2.5 hrs), Kunming (5.5 hrs), Lanzhou (2.5 hrs), Nanjing (5.5 hrs), Nanning (5.5 hrs), Beijing (3.5 hrs), Shanghai Hongqiao (4.5 hrs), Shijiazhuang (3.5 hrs), Sanya (7 hrs), Shenzhen (6.5 hrs), Qingdao (5 hrs), Jinan (3.5 hrs), Taiyuan (3.5 hrs), Tianjin (5 hrs), Wenzhou (6 hrs), Wuhan (5 hrs), Xi'an (3 hrs), Xiamen (6.5 hrs) and Xining (2 hrs)

Within the Region of Xinjiang Province, flights are available between Urumqi and the cities of Aletai (1 hrs), Aksu (2 hrs), Hetian (2 hrs), Qiemo (3 hrs), Kuche (1.5 hrs), Kashgar (1.5 hrs), Korla (1 hrs), Karamay (1 hrs), Tacheng (1.5 hrs) and Yining (1.5 hrs)

By train

Urumqi Train Station is in the southwest of the city. To and from Urumqi, you'll find direct trains to Beijing, Shanghai, Lanzhou, Xi'an, and Chengdu. Express trains to take a few days. Trains to and from Beijing take around 45 hours, and to and from Shanghai takes around 48 hours.

Best Time to Come

Between June and October is the best time to visit Urumqi in terms of the scenery and sights. During this time, the flowers and trees on the mountains blossom and the peaks of the mountains in the distance covered in snow, can be seen clearly.

In winter too, the scenery is spectacular, although the cold makes things here a little hard to bear. Heavenly Lake, to the north east of the city, is almost deserted in the winter months with the cold making this spot accessible only to the very hardy traveler.

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