Stretching vast distances across oasis-studded deserts and snowy mountain peaks, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, slightly larger than Western Europe or Alaska, is home to a population on par with that of Shanghai, with just under 20 million people living in cities and towns that go back to the days of the Silk Road. Of those 20 million, a 45% majority are Uyghur, with Kazakh, Hui Chinese (ethnic Chinese Muslims) and smatterings of other ethnic minorities mixing with a Han Chinese population that has shot up in the last 50 years from around 8% of the total in 1949 to nearly 41% today.
For travelers, Xinjiang (Xīnjiāng, 新疆) makes for a fascinating experience. In a few weeks, you can stay with quasi-nomadic Kazakhs in traditional yurts on the shores of Tian Chi (Heavenly Lake), explore the ruins of the desert city of Jiaohe, haggle over a silk carpet or finely wrought knife in a Kashgar bazaar and see caves full of ancient Buddhist statues and frescoes near Kuqa. You'll find that Xinjiang is like no other place in contemporary China, the people and culture retain a distinct Central Asian quality despite many centuries of Chinese influence.
The Flaming Mountains (Huǒyàn Shān, 火焰山) get their name from the way the light reflects off the mountains red rocks and surrounding desert, especially toward sunset and..
Grape Valley (Putao Gou) stretches outside of Turpan toward the nearby Flaming Mountains. Turpan and its surrounding karez-fed agricultural lands are known for their..
The ancient ruined city of Jiaohe (Jiāohé Gùchéng, 交河故城) lies 10 km (6 mi) to the west of Turpan, situated on an island in the middle of river..
A high altitude respite from Urumuqi's heat in the summer, Tiān Chí (天池), or "Heavenly Lake," is a lovely Alpine lake 2,000 m (6,600 ft) up in the Tian Shan mountain..