Immerse yourself in over 2000 years of rich history in Dunhuang, the former crossroad of two trading routes on the Silk Road. Behold the wonder of the Mogao Caves, a world heritage site that is delicately adorned in beautiful sculptures and paintings on the inside of the caves. Explore the Crescent Moon Pool, a former desert oasis watering hole during the Silk Road era. Wonder in amazement while gazing at the unusual Yadan National Geological Park where sandstone formations protrude out of the ground, recreating a scene from a far away planet. Dunhuang holds charm, history and nature in the cusp of her hand and it’s time that you paid a visit.
Easily accessible by plane, train and bus, Dunhuag makes an excellent destination in China. While many Silk Road tours are available, they are expensive and it is easy to see the best of Dunhuang independently on your own schedule and budget. Hiring taxis is very inexpensive, and they cost less than the bus journey would cost in a western country. There are far reaching public buses; check with your hotel for more information. Hotels are easy to find and can be very cheap, starting from as little as $20, if you’re seeking luxury there are a few options for you. Dunhuang is an easy choice, but the rewards of visiting are incredible.
Composed of over 400 caves, the Mogao Caves are an impressive work of art. Referred to as Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, they are the best caves in all of China; despite this they are still relatively unknown making them a hidden gem. The caves were actually carved out of the mountain and are essentially an elaborate, beautiful Buddhist shrine. Your entry free includes a tour around a selection of the caves; most of the caves remain covered up and on rotation as to protect the fresco. Still, a handful of caves are enough to explore the history, religious significance and outright beauty of these caves.
As a little tip: the tour guides will take your group on a visit of certain caves, once finished it’s possible to tag on the end of another group to see more caves.
Nestled between two mammoth sand dunes, the Crescent Moon Pool is a natural wonder in the Gobi desert. Surprisingly, despite the surrounding dry desert, the pool doesn’t dry up. It was here that many travelers, including Marco Polo, would stop when traveling along the Silk Road in order to restock and replenish themselves. A famous old saying in Dunhuang is: “The skill of man made the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, but the Hand of God fashioned the Lake of the Crescent Moon”. Enjoy the striking contrast between the giant sand dunes and the small, but beautiful crescent oasis.
There are few places in the world that ignite as much wonder as Yadan National Geological Park, it appears to be taken out of a scene from a science fiction movie. Located 180km outside of Dunhuang, this wind-eroded landform is sure to amaze and captivate people of all ages. The eccentric landforms are often referred to as a “Ghost City” by local people, referring to the unusual howling sounds made by the wind. Visiting Yadan National Geological park is like visiting an incredible natural architecture exhibition of mammoth proportions.
Dunhuang holds as much natural wonder as it does man-made history. In the past Dunhuang was a rich, cosmopolitan city serving as the only gateway to China along the Silk Road. Now Dunhuang serves as a place to be captivated by wonder, while immersing yourself in the rich history and culture of China.
Have you been to Dunhuang before, what did you think of the incredible sites? If you haven’t made a visit yet, what would you like to see most?