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Dunhuang Weather — Best Times to Travel, Things to Do

Written by Phoebe RanUpdated May. 20, 2024

Dunhuang has a very arid, temperate continental climate — it's in the Gobi Desert! The desert weather is usually dry, and temperature differences are big. Dunhuang has a warm and windy spring, a hot summer, a cool and mild autumn, and a freezing winter.

The average temperature range for a (middle-season) day in Dunhuang is roughly 3–19°C (37–66°F). The coldest month is January with average daily low temperatures of around -15°C (5°F). Conversely, average daily highs are 35°C (95°F) in July.

Sunshine in Dunhuang is strong and long in daily duration, making it easy for you to get sunburned. So use a parasol or clothing to cover your skin, or put on sunscreen, when you go out. Also, as Dunhuang has Muslim and Buddhist areas, modest clothing is advised.

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Best Times to Visit Dunhuang

The best times to visit Dunhuang are from May to October.

spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) are peak travel seasons, as the weather is neither too cold nor hot. You may feel cool and comfortable outside as you enjoy the spectacular natural scenery in Dunhuang.

Dunhuang in Spring (March to May)

Temperature averages: March 0–16°C (32–60°F), April 6–23°C (43–73°F), May 11–28°C (52–82°F)

Good to know: Spring in Dunhuang is windy and virtually rainless. Occasionally there will be a sandstorm. March and April are less crowded than May. Both outdoor and indoor activities are suitable.

Clothing: Bring a jacket/coat, shirts/sweaters/hoodies, and other clothing appropriate to the month's temperatures above, factoring in a possible wind chill of -10°C (14°F) or more. There are big temperature differences between morning and afternoon, afternoon and evening, so bring layers that can be stowed in a backpack and put on again as the day goes on.

Related reading: Silk Road Weather in May

Things to Do

Dunhuang Mogao Caves The Mogao Caves

The warm and windy weather is ideal for outdoor visits. The Mogao Caves are less crowded than in summer and you will get a better experience without queuing for a long time.

  • Visit the Mogao Caves — renowned as the "Oriental Louvre".
  • Ride a camel on the Singing Sand Dunes.
  • Go to Yardang National Geological Park — known as 'Ghost City'.

Dunhuang Summer (June to August)

Mural PaintingMural painting

Temperature averages: June 17–33°C (63–91°F), July 19–35°C (66–95°F), August 17–33°C (63–91°F).

Good to know: Dunhuang has long days of strong sunshine in summer. Sun protection is important. Avoid arranging outdoor visits around noon. Crowds are expected, especially during the summer vacation from mid-July to late August.

Clothing: Bring light and breathable clothes and shoes. Prepare a hat, sunglasses, sunblock, and lip balm. Drink enough water and eat lightly.

Things to Do

Indoor activities can be arranged for late morning and the afternoon. Some outdoor activities can begin after 5pm as the time of sunset in Dunhuang in summer is around 8:30pm to 9pm.

  • Learn mural painting at Dunhuang Research Academy.
  • Camp in the desert dunes of the Singing Sand Mountains.
  • Appreciate art in peace at the Yulin Caves — less crowded than Mogao's.

Dunhuang in Autumn (September to November)

Temperature averages: September 10 - 28°C (50 - 82°F), October 2 - 20°C (36 - 68°F), November -6 - 9°C (21 - 48°F)

Good to know: September and October are the peak season. For a better experience, we recommend booking a private tour so that you can use travel agency entrances, enjoy less queuing time, and avoid large tour group crowds.

Clothing: Bring light layers for September, some warm clothes for October, and winter clothes for November. Don't forget sun protection and hydration.

Things to Do

Comfortable weather and plenty of sunshine make autumn a good time to do everything.

  • Discover the Mogao Caves — amazing medieval art.
  • Visit Yumenguan Pass — remote 2,000-year-old Great Wall desert fort.
  • Appreciate sunset at Crescent Spring — oasis within pristine golden dunes.

 7-day Dunhuang, Zhangye, and Ejina qi Photography Tour

Dunhuang in Winter (December to February)

Temperature averages: December -13–1°C (9–34°F), January -15–-1°C (5–30°F), February -10–5°C (14–41°F).

Good to know: An uncrowded environment and favorable prices are the advantages when traveling in winter. Indoor heating is available, but you'll need to wrap up warm when going out for sightseeing. Snow is rare and light: less than 4 mm (0.2 in) a month.

Clothing: winter boots, sweaters, overcoat/ down jacket, gloves, hats, and scarfs: basically, desert winter clothing with moisturizer for the dryness and shades for the glare.

Things to Do

It sometimes snows in Dunhuang's winter. You may see startling snow-covered desert landscapes and there are plenty of interesting things to do indoors.

  • Go to the Mingsha Mountains (Singing Sand Dunes) and maybe see remarkable snow scenery.
  • Visit the Mogao Caves — deep grottoes can be surprisingly warm in winter.
  • Visit Dunhuang Research Academy and learn mural painting.

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