Dunhuang, "City of the Sands", is located in Gansu, northwest of China. It was a former terminal of the ancient Silk Road, perched on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, one of the world's largest deserts (272,000 sq km). Dunhuang is home to the Mogao Grottos, one of the richest collections of ancient Buddhist murals and statues in China. These grottos were carved into a 1600-meter high cliff and created during over nine dynasties (4th - 14th centuries). They contain 492 caves, each housing murals (45,000), Buddhist paintings and terra-cotta statues (2,000).
Best Time to Visit
March~October is suitable for visiting Dunhuang, with May to September offering the most clement weather, especially for visiting the caves. Therea re no lighting facilities inside the caves but the sunshine lends a hand during this time adding light in the caves.
How to get there?
Beijing to Dunhuang
Shanghai to Dunhuang (No direct flight between Shanghai to Dunhuang - we recommend you fly to Xi'an first and than transfer to Dunhuang)
Shanghai Pudong to Xi’an FM9203(08:15-10:35)
Xi’an to Dunhuang CZ6896(13:35-15:55)
What to see
The Mogao Grottoes (Mogao Ku) are also known as the Thousand Buddha Caves. Dating back to the Han Dynasty, the caves contain Buddhist sculpture and frescoes from ten dynasties ending with the Tang. Despite the ravages of time, the winds and sand, 492 caves are still in existence and about thirty can be visited. They contain thousands of square meters of frescoes.
The Echoing-Sand Mountain, located 25km south of Dunhuang, is famous for the sounds the wind makes when blowing over the dunes. Especially the sunset at these Mountains, some are more than 100m high, is amazing.
Between two large mountains lies the Crescent Moon Spring, a beautiful oasis with a small pool of spring water which has a crescent moon shape.
The Yang Pass (Yangguan) sits 75m southwest of Dunhuang and was built up in the Hang Dynasty and has been ruined with great sections buried in the shifting sands. But still today one can see the foundations of some of the walls.
The Yumen Pass, 90km northwest of Dunhuang, was once a critical defensive pass protecting Dunhuang from invasion from the West. Today, there are two gates at the western and northern sides of the pass built with yellow clay.
We recommend that you take a great flashlight to enjoy the caves and frescoes. There are some low-powered flashlights available for rent outside the main gate, but they are not of great quality and you may be dissapointed..
Cameras are not allowed into the Grottoes.
Visit Mogao Grottoes in the morning to avoid crowds and take advantage of the best lighting conditions.
Before entering the Grottoes, if you do not have a guide we recommend you research the history and information as you will enjoy it more.
Dunhuang food revolves around wheat flour noodles as the main staple of the local diet. Noodles are served with lamb, chicken, or beef. Dunhuang Rang Pizi has long been one of the most popular dishes in the city. These noodles are actually made from pea flour and are clear, white, cool and slippery . The noodles are seasoned with hot peppers for a cool, yet has a spicy feel that is just perfect for desert weather (as least that's what the locals would say!).
Souvenirs famous to the area
Dunhuang City was called 'Gua (melon) Zhou' in ancient times, meaning the hometown of fruits. Dunhuang City is teeming with many kinds of fragrant sweet fruits; some excellent kinds are particular to Dunhuang City that you may not find in other places.
Handcrafts of carpet, painted sculpture, craftworks of camels, luminous cup, calligraphy and painting and Dunhuang wax printing, etc are the most famous.
Luminous Cup, known as a Yangguan Jade Cup, is also a famous souvenir. A rare drinking vessel that glows in the dark, hence the name. The cup is made of the fine jade quarried from Mt. Qilian containing abundant mineral substances. Using the cup to drink is good for people's health.
Camels are the most important animal for transportation on ancient Silk Road, which is called the pride of desert and people venerate its grittiness and hardworking, make flannelette effigies of it. It has been taken as the mascot of the China Art Festival. Now it is a specialty local tourist souvenir.