The Silk Road becomes drier as it heads west into China, given its extreme inland location. Since the road meanders through desert and mountainous areas, be prepared for extremes in temperature. The temperature in Turpan can reach 40 °C in the summer and –20 °C in January.
The best time to travel is from May to October. Weather conditions are pleasant from late spring to early autumn, with an average temperature of 15 °C. Although summer weather can be scorching, the heat is dry and more comfortable than in the humid tropics. The scenery is ideal when the fruits ripen, the flowers are in full bloom, and green grass covers grassland areas.
A clear division of hotels exists during the peak (June to Oct) and low seasons (rest of the year). During March, hotels offer limited options for breakfast, and cut off air–conditioning because of the low occupancy of 5–10% during this time. When traveling around the most inaccessible areas (e.g., Kuche, Hetian), only one or two hotels may provide lodging for foreigners with basic facilities and standard rooms that include a private washing room and a simple breakfast.
The days are as long as 12 hours, and it gets dark very late, at about 23:00. Follow your daily sleep routine to avoid getting tired the next day.
Most of our guides are minority, and all have graduated from university. However, given the limits to their socio–economic upbringing, their spoken English might be not as fluent as people in Beijing and Shanghai, but they are eager to help and are hospitable. Moreover, they know the local people and area. When you visit local minority families, you are appreciated and well treated by them.
Our guides are pleasant and will take you to small local markets (bazaars) to avoid long driving times to larger shops for buying provisions. You’ll also stop to visit local scenic spots that provide good rest opportunities. Simple toilets can be found along the way, and bring your own tissue since there is none, nor is water provided.
Please do not talk about sensitive issues such as religion and politics when in Xinjiang. Sixty percent of the total population of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region are minorities, and their primary belief system is Muslim. Please respect their customs (no pork) and follow your guides' advice when visiting a specific family or entering a mosque.
When visiting religious sites such as mosques, women should wear long–sleeve clothes. At certain times women are not allowed to enter mosques.
Taking photos at some attractions is forbidden; please follow your tour guide's lead. When you shop at the market, bargaining is taboo if you do not intend to make the purchase.
Xinjiang comprises one–sixth of all of China, resulting in long distances between cities. When traveling to southern Xinjiang Province (Kuche, Kuele, Hetian), visitors will spend more time in a van moving from one place to the next. Road conditions are good. The following table provides a general idea of the distance and hours between cities.