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Have you ever heard of Turpan? No?

We hadn’t either until we started researching the Silk Road. It is most likely the city’s remoteness that keeps it from being a tourist destination. Located in the province of Xinjiang in Western China, travellers need to spend many hours on a train to get here.

Yet, we highly recommend a visit. In touristy China, you won’t find many places that you can enjoy almost by yourself. Plus, there are enough things to do in this city that make a trip out here worthwhile.

Keep reading to find out about the best things to do in Turpan and why you should consider visiting this remote city!

AT A GLANCE

Are you short on time and still need to book your trip? Then check out the following resources!

Hotel options in Turpan:

Explore Turpan on a private day tour to see all of the highlights.

Top things to do in Turpan

#1 Stroll through the Ancient City of Yar

Path between ruins in the Ancient City of Yar

The ancient city of Yar, also known as the ruins of Jiaohe, is supposedly one of the best-preserved ruins in the world. Located in between two rivers, it prospered more than a thousand years ago before being destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century.

Today, you can walk through the ruins and see the layouts of houses and streets. Many walls are still standing, which makes it an interesting place to visit. At the end of the city, you will find two temples.

Overlooking the ruins, you can get a good idea of how large this ancient city must once have been. Try to imagine it filled with people going about their daily lives!

View of the ruins of the Ancient City of Yar, one of the best tings to do in Turpan

For your visit, make sure to bring enough water. Turpan is one of the hottest places in China, and the sun is merciless out here in the desert.

While you can almost reach the ruins of Jiaohe by public transport, this is not really a great option if you don’t speak Chinese. We recommend catching a taxi to visit the archaeological site.

Close to Jiaohe, you can find the Uyghur Ancient Village. We didn’t have the opportunity to visit, and it’s unclear if it’s still open, but if you go, you should take a look. It seems pretty cool, and if you’re already out here in the desert, why not check it out?

2-3h

#2 Visit the Karez Irrigation Museum

Pathway in the Karez Irrigation Museum with grapevines hanging on a structure above

We didn’t expect much of the Irrigation Museum because, well, it’s a museum about irrigation. What can you really expect from it?

Well, you’ll be surprised to learn that this is one of the coolest (and most unique) museums we’ve visited in China.

The Karez tunnel system is far more impressive than expected, stretching out over huge distances and making it possible to grow grapes in this desert area. Plus, it was built at a time when all tunnels had to be excavated manually.

We highly recommend you visit this museum while in Turpan. Plus, if you’re lucky, you can taste freshly squeezed grape juice on the grounds, too.

1-2h

#3 Go to the world’s second-lowest point

World Sculpture at the Second Lowest Point in the World, in Turpan

Located close to Turpan, you can find the lowest point in China. It is the second-lowest point in the world (the lowest is the Dead Sea) and the lowest landlocked point on Earth.

Taxi drivers can take you to a nearby saline lake, from where you have to walk the remaining distance to the monument that marks the lowest point.

Small path between reeds near the Aiding Lake in Turpan

Keep in mind that it is not only the lowest but also one of the hottest places in China, so make sure to bring plenty of water. Temperatures climb to the high forties in summer. Daniel and I went through our water bottles so quickly that we eventually ran out.

Yes, it was that hot.

1h

#4 See dinosaurs at the Turpan Museum

Turpan is not only significant because of its long human history, but it also used to be popular amongst dinosaurs, as evidenced by the fossils found in this area.

Go to the Turpan Museum to learn more about them and to see some very weirdly shaped dinosaurs. Other highlights include mummies found in the area. The oldest one is around 3,200 years old and quite well-preserved due to the desert climate.

Make sure to also stop by the room that explains the long history of the region. Humans have lived in this area since the Stone Age, so you can see lots of relics from the past.

You are not allowed to wear flip-flops or sandals in the Turpan Museum, so make sure to wear closed shoes.

1-2h

#5 Drink Turpan wine

Grapes hanging from the walls in the Karez Irrigation Museum of Turpan

Turpan is an oasis city in the middle of the desert, known for its grapes. What better way to taste them than with a bottle of local wine?

Wine has a long tradition in the area, and it’s likely that locals already produced it more than 2,000 years ago. Today, you can find around 60 wineries in Turpan, some small and some large. If you have the chance, try to find one that offers wine tasting, so you can sample different types.

The grapes grown around Turpan are relatively high in sugar, so you can get nice sweet wines here. It might not be what you’re used to back home, but it’s a unique opportunity.

Practical information for visiting Turpan

Best time to visit Turpan

Uyghur Ancient Village in Turpan

We visited Turpan in July, during the hottest time of the year.

If you have the chance, try to avoid summer. I think we could have enjoyed the city much more if we hadn’t been so hot. Temperatures can easily go above 40ºC, and you might want to stay inside during the middle of the day.

Spring and autumn (May, June, September and October) are the best months to visit Turpan. In winter, temperatures drop, making you uncomfortable as you walk around, and the end of winter can get quite windy.

How to get to Turpan

Single building at the end of a path in the Jiaohe Ruins of Turpan

The easiest way to get to Turpan is by taking a high-speed train. A train from Urumqui takes around 2 hours, while a train from Xian takes a bit more than 12 hours.

The Turpan railway station isn’t in Turpan itself. Instead, it’s located in Daheyan County, around 50 kilometres away from the city. Regular buses connect the train station to Turpan, but you can also take a taxi.

Another option is to take a bus to Turpan. This is most convenient if you want to travel to other cities within Xinjiang, like Kashgar. You can also take a bus to Urumqui, but it takes longer than the high-speed train.

As a last option, if you’re coming from further away, you can take a plane. Turpan’s airport is not very well connected, so you’ll likely have to fly to Urumqui and then take the train or bus from there.

Getting around Turpan

The easiest way to get around Turpan is by taking a taxi.

If you prefer public transport, you can take buses to move around the city. It isn’t quite as easy as taking a taxi, especially if you don’t speak the language, so make sure to ask your hotel for instructions.

Daniel and Ilona in the Second Lowest Point in the world, in Turpan
We were happy to find some shade after walking under the 48ºC (118ºF) sun

Where to stay in Turpan

You won’t have much choice when booking your hotel in Turpan, especially not if you try to book through an international platform like booking.com or Agoda. Nevertheless, you can find accommodation with great ratings and for an affordable price.

Here are some places you should check out:

  • New Dap Hostel: This guest house is beautiful! With its colourful rooms and lush gardens, it’s the perfect choice for anyone who wants to explore Turpan. While it calls itself a hostel, and you can rent a bed in a dorm here, it also offers great private rooms with a private bathroom. Click here to check it out now!
  • Lavande Hotel Turpan: This hotel offers comfortable rooms, a 24-hour reception and luggage storage if you ever need it. Check out pictures and reviews, then book your stay!
  • Ji Hotel Turpan Gaochang Road: This three-star hotel receives some of the best ratings of all hotels in Turpan. The rooms look comfortable and stylish, and you can already start checking in from 10am on. Click here to learn more!

We hope you now have a good overview of the best things to do in Turpan. It’s a fascinating city, and not many travellers make it here. If you’ve been, please leave us a comment below and let us know what you think.

While you’re here, you should check out our other articles about China that will help you plan your trip:

Until your next adventure!

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Author

Ilona is a world traveller passionate about sharing her experiences and giving advice to fellow travellers. Having visited over 70 countries, she is always excited about her next trip.

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