Although desolate and forlorn in its present condition, Jiayuguan historically was known for inspiring sorrow and fear in those threatened with exile; Jiayuguan is the last vestige of Chinese civilization, the final settlement in ancient China's western reaches.
Located in central Gansu province, Jiayuguan was an important stronghold in feudal China's line of defense against the barbaric tribes beyond China's western-most borders.
Today, Jiayuguan is more sedate, towers and turrets have been replaced by iron smelts and shopping malls. In terms of tourism, the city's top attraction is the ancient fort, a storied symbol of safe passage for merchants transporting the Silk Road's coveted riches into the city. Entrance through Jiayuguan's 10-meter high gates offered safety and protection from raiders and enemies.
While Jiayuguan doesn't attract too many long-term visitors, the areas around the city offer some excellent hiking on the July 1st Glacier (Qi Yi Bingchuan). Visitors can also walk along the Overhanging Great Wall (Xuanbi Changcheng) and take in sweeping views of the desert and mountains, or visit the 2000 year old Wei Jin Tombs to see the surprisingly well-preserved wall paintings there.