Despite its small size in very big China, Dunhuang is a city of great importance. Historically, this oasis marked the beginning of Chinese civilisation to those coming across the Silk Road from Central Asia and Europe. These days, Dunhuang is alive with action and offers a real chance for tourists to experience the Chinese element of the Silk Road. Not too mention, Dunhuang renders the Gobi Desert very accessible. Dunhuang’s hostels are expanding, with a noticeable increase in quality. Travelers are quickly rediscovering the magic of Dunhuang, an essential destination in any pan-China or Gansu province trip!
Most visitors come to Dunhuang for two main sights. The first, the awe-inspiring Mogao Caves -- essentially, these caves are amongst the world’s greatest depositories of Buddhist artworks and manuscripts. Even those not artistically inclined can’t help but be wowed by the Mogao Caves. Guided tours are compulsory, so make sure to ask your Dunhuang hostel when the English (or French) guide is available, as times change regularly. Those with a deeper historical interest will be excited by the adjacent Dunhuang Research Centre, with a life-size reproduction of the Mogao Caves -- allowing for greater inspection and scrutiny of this site of cultural synthesis. As the Mogao Caves are twenty-five kilometers from Dunhuang, just ask your Dunhuang hostel for the closest bus stop with regular departures.
The next "big" site of Dunhuang is the Singing Sands Mountain and Crescent Moon Lake, both within the Gansu section of the Gobi Desert. Here, the desert dunes are accessible via camel trips. Should you want to spend an overnight in the desert, most Dunhuang hostels will be able to organise such a trip at short notice. The first rays of sun appearing over the gargantuan dunes has become an essential Dunhuang experience. For the more adventurous, some Dunhuang hostels can also arrange a longer multi-night trip to Liuyuan or Xinjiang province. Regardless of whether you spend an afternoon or an evening, a trip to the dunes by Dunhuang is not to be missed.
As seems to be the rule in most of China, Dunhuang hostels will fill up very quickly over summer (June to August) and particularly during Chinese holidays. If you’re traveling during this period, early recommendations are almost certainly required. However, for those braving the Dunhuang winter -- keep an eye out for Dunhuang hostels’ reduced prices.
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