HomeChina Guide Places to Visit in Western China

10 Top Places to Visit for Western China Tours

west chinaSilk Road

Western China tours are full of curiosities and unique experiences. In this magical land, glacial snow ridges and mysterious desert wonders coexist, mirror-like alpine lakes are adjacent to boundless forests, and thousands of miles of rivers are like the vast expanse of green waves on the prairies.

Western China is also an important passage of the Silk Road and is home to a rich culture of ethnic minorities. Read on to discover the top 10 places to visit in Western China.

1. Lhasa

lhasaYamdrok Lake

Lhasa is a mysterious place with brilliant Tibetan culture, a pure sky, thin air, rolling snow mountains, and quiet lakes. In this Buddhist holy land, there are various temples and devout believers.

The breathtaking beauty of the nature in Lhasa will fire your imagination. Yamdrok Lake glows turquoise when the sun is shining.

Explore the majestic Potala Palace, approach Everest Base Camp, observe monks debating at Sera Monastery, visit Jokhang Temple — the spiritual center of Tibet, and take a stroll around Barkhor Street where you’ll see some Tibetan handicrafts.

2. Dunhuang

dunhuangRide a camel in Singing Sand Dunes

Dunhuang used to be an important city along the ancient Silk Road, which led directly to the Western Regions, Central Asia, and Europe. It’s celebrated all over the world for its grottoes and frescoes.

You can have an adventure at the Mogao Caves where you can marvel at the exquisite murals and lifelike sculptures. Appreciate the Rainbow Mountains in Zhangye National Geopark.

Appreciate the desert scenery at the Singing Sand Dunes and Crescent Moon Spring. Ride a camel in the desert and imagine how caravans crossed the desert over 1,000 years ago.

3. Kashgar

kashgarKashgar Old Town

Along the Silk Road, Kashgar has been the center of regional trade and cultural exchange for more than two millennia. It is a place where gems and jade are concentrated in Uyghur.

Pay a visit to the Id Kah Mosque, the biggest mosque in China. Walk along Handicraft Street to see the amazing range of handicrafts. Have a break at an ancient teahouse and visit the captivating Kashgar Old City.

4. Urumqi

Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, has beautiful natural scenery and strong Uyghur customs. The name ‘Urumqi’ means a beautiful pasture in Mongolian.

You can appreciate fabulous natural scenery at Heavenly Lake. Go to Erdaoqiao Market – the biggest bazaar in Urumqi – and be amazed by the dazzling array of goods. Visit Xinjiang Regional Museum to see the well-preserved collection of 4,000-year-old corpses.

5. Turpan

turpanKarez Well System

Turpan is a mostly Uyghur city and is close to interesting, exotic, and beautiful natural scenery and ancient remains. It is also a “fruit basket” of China — one of the country’s top grape growing areas.

Go to Turpan to unveil the secrets of the Karez Well System. It is a special irrigation system in a desert area. Explore the ruins of the ancient city of Jiaohe and visit a local vineyard where you can relax under the grapevines.

6. Guizhou

Located in the hinterland of Southwest China and landlocked, Guizhou features various landscapes, a colorful Miao village culture, and unique ethnic architectures.

guizhouFanjing Mountain

You can visit the cloud-wrapped Mushroom Rock at the UNESCO World Heritage Site — Fanjing Mountain. Find peace at Zhenyuan Ancient Town with a horseshoe-shaped river running through it. Hike across the hills and view breathtaking rice terraces between the clouds.

Explore mysterious villages of minority people hidden deep in the mountains. Join in minority festivals and watch a series of special events. Learn about traditional handicrafts, such as making batiks, making paper, and designing silver ornaments.

7. Lijiang

lijiangLijiang Old Town

Lijiang is located in western Yunnan. It enjoys spectacular natural scenery varying from snow mountains and highland glacial lakes to majestic canyons. Meanwhile, it has ancient sites that add a sense of history to the city.

Stroll along narrow cobblestone streets in the Old Town of Lijiang to step back in time. Take a cable car to the peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and enjoy beautiful scenery. Go for a hike along Tiger Leaping Gorge for exhilarating natural scenery.

8. Qinghai Lake

qinghai lakeQinghai Lake

Qinghai Lake is the largest inland saltwater lake in China, located in Qinghai Province.

Qinghai Lake is like a sapphire set in the earth and shining in the sun — it is quiet and endless. It is called the "blue ocean on the plateau" by Tibetan people. Every year in July, the Tour of Qinghai Lake (an international cycling race) is held there.

9. Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou is located in western Chengdu. Jiuzhaigou is a picturesque fairyland, featuring charming natural scenery of colorful lakes, spectacular waterfalls, and mountains.

jiuzhaigouJiuzhaigou

It is green in spring — the mountains are capped with verdant trees and the lakes are peaceful and quiet. The pure blue sky rests against colorful oceans of flowers in summer. Fall has the best scenery in Jiuzhai Valley, with golden foliage. In winter, the mountains are snowcapped.

10. Jiayuguan

Jiayuguan is the western starting point of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty. It has a history of more than 600 years and is an important city of tourism on the ancient Silk Road.

jiayuguanJiayuguan

Visit Jiayu Pass, which is known as "the First and Greatest Pass Under Heaven", the suspended section of the Great Wall, the beacon tower relics, and the Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum.

See the Xincheng Fresco, Qiyi Glacier, the Gobi Desert and its landscape, the Wenshu Mountain Grotto, the Heshan Mountain Grotto, and the International Gliding Base.

Tips for Western China Tours

Compared with other regions of China, the tourist conditions in Western China are not as good, so we’d like to offer you some tips and hope these will be helpful for your Western China tour.

Respect Ethnic Customs

Most of Western China is comprised of ethnic regions. They have their own habits and customs. Make sure you are aware of the etiquette and taboos. For example, don't photograph seniors without permission, don't touch a Tibetan on the head, and cover up when visiting mosques, etc.

You can get more information about Chinese Etiquette — Do's and Don'ts in China. Your local guide will tell you what you can and can’t do before your visit.

You Need to Get a Tibet Permit If You Travel to Tibet

Because of the special political situation in Tibet, foreign travelers are required to apply for special Tibet permits as well as a China visa. Read Tibet Travel Permit — Who Needs One and How to Get It to get some useful information.

May to October Is the Best Time for Traveling

During this period, weather conditions are pleasant with an average temperature of 15ºC. Although the 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 the grassland areas.

The Length of a Western China Trip Depends on Your Needs

It will take at least 9 days for a Silk Road tour (including Lanzhou, Zhangye, Dunhuang, Turpan, Urumqi, and Kashgar). A Tibet tour needs at least 4 days. Guizhou is suitable for a 6-day visit.

Lower Your Expectations

Western China is less developed than East China. The standards of tourism are not as good as that of Beijing or Shanghai. So, before you start your Western China tour, you’d better know the local conditions.

Book a Private Tour

The highlight of a Western China tour is to experience the colorful ethnic culture and see unique landscapes, which appear in some remote villages and cities.

No public transport can reach these areas. It is difficult for foreign tourists to find these places if you cannot read and speak Chinese.

Booking a private tour will make your tour easier. We will arrange your hotel and restaurants, which will be of the highest local standards. A private car will escort you. Your local guide will accompany you all the way, making you feel relieved.

Recommended Western China Tours

dunhuangExplore western China with us!

See our popular Western China tours for inspiration:

Alternatively, you can tell us your preferences and needs to tailor-make a unique Western China tour.