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Top 10 Things to Do in Xinjiang

Top 10 Things to Do in Xinjiang

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Dec. 29, 2023

Grasslands, lakes, deserts, valleys, and snow-capped mountains are scattered over the vast area of Xinjiang.

Xinjiang not only has the beautiful scenery, but also has rich ethnic culture. Xinjiang is the only province with 55 of the official 56 ethnic groups in China.

As an important transition zone on the Silk Road, Xinjiang is a good place to find some well-preserved ruins of the Silk Road era.

Here are the top 10 things to do in Xinjiang to seek out its charm.

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1. Meet the Most Beautiful Side of Xinjiang in Kanas

Kanas LakeKanas Lake

With a crystal lake whose water changes with the seasons, magnificent glaciers, vast grasslands, deep primeval forests, and wooden houses that local people live in, Kanas shows picture-postcard-perfect views, especially in autumn and winter.

When it is time to pick cotton in September and October, you can experience this local cash generator (Xinjiang is now China's No. 1 cotton base).

If you are intereted in a trip to Kanas, contact us to create a trip. Recommended tour: 8-Day North Xinjiang Tour with Kanas

2. Recall the Scenes in the Film Kite Runner in Kashgar Old City

Kashgar Old CityKashgar Old City

Because of the war in Afghanistan, Kite Runner was shot in Kashgar where the style of architecture is very similar to Kabul's.

You can see beautiful Islamic and Uyghur architecture, and observe local life there: children playing on the streets, small shops selling food and souvenirs, and craftsmen making bronzeware.

Walking from the old city to Handicrafts Street, you can touch the semi-finished handicrafts and test the timbre of exotic musical instruments.

Recommended tour: 12-Day South Xinjiang Adventure Tour

3. Take a Visit to Heavenly Lake

Heavenly LakeHeavenly Lake

Heavenly Lake (Tianchi) is a half-moon shaped lake on the north side of Bogda Peak in the Heavenly Mountains (Tianshan). Its water is clear as emerald, as if it were a jewel inlaid there. The surrounding mountains are covered with tall and green spruce and pine trees, shading the slopes from the sun.

You can take a boat trip to see the magical colors reflected on the surface of the lake and feel its beauty when silhouetted against the blue sky.

You can also hike around the lake or up into the valleys and breathe in the fresh air.

Recommended tour: 7-Day Xinjiang Highlights Tour

4. Appreciate Apricot Flowers in Ili's Xinghua Valley

Xinghua Valley

Xinghua Valley has China's largest pristine wild almond forest growing since the Middle Ages, covering an area of 20 square kilometers (8 square miles).

Every April, the vast green valley is littered with countless charming apricot flowers. The pink and white apricot flowers mixed with the huge green carpet and the winding and rolling slopes make the whole picture more layered and elegant.

5. Go Skiing in Winter


In winter, besides enjoying the beautiful snow scenery, skiing is also a highlight of winter in Xinjiang. Lying against magnificent mountains such as the Heavenly Mountains and the Altai Mountains, Xinjiang has many great ski resorts.

One of its three biggest ski resorts is Silk Road International Ski Resort, which is near Urumqi. It was the venue for the 13th National Winter Games in 2016 and is certified by the International Snow Federation to hold international events. The most challenging ski trail in China, Xuanzang Avenue, is in this ski resort.

The unique feature of this ski resort is that the slopes are hidden in the forest. You can not only experience the speed and passion of skiing, but also enjoy the snow scenery on the northern slopes of the Heavenly Mountains.

Contact us to create a Xinjiang winter tour.

6. Explore Jiaohe Ruins in Turpan — the Ancient Ruins on the Silk Road

Jiaohe RuinsJiaohe Ruins

Jiaohe is the oldest place name in Turpan. The Jiaohe Ruins are the world's largest, oldest, and best-preserved city of raw-earth buildings. It is also the most complete ancient city preserved for more than 2,000 years in China. This ancient walled city was dug out from Turpan's yellow desert siltstone.

It was built in the 2nd century BC. From the 9th century to the 14th century, due to successive wars, it gradually declined and was abandoned.

From the ruins, you can learn about the city's unbelievable construction methods as you appreciate the stark beauty of the ruined city.

Recommended tour: 11-Day Along the Great Silk Road

7. Explore Kashgar Livestock Market — Full of Xinjiang Features

Kashgar Livestock MarketKashgar Livestock Market

The Livestock Market in Kashgar is one of the biggest features of Xinjiang. Cattle, sheep, camels, and other livestock are the main things traded there. Every Sunday, people take their livestock there for trade and shearing.

These livestock are not sold by weight there. When finding a suitable sheep, the buyer will observe its teeth to see how old it is, touch it, and hold it, and finally negotiate the price with the owner. If both parties are satisfied, they will shake hands to make a deal.

Recommended tour: 12-Day South Xinjiang Adventure Tour

8. Enjoy the Cool Nalati Grasslands

Nalati GrasslandsNalati Grasslands

Nalati Grassland in Ili was once rated as one of the six most beautiful grasslands in China by China National Geographic.

It is bounded to the southeast by the Nalati Mountains as a barrier, and to the northwest by the Gongnaisi River. There are many mountain springs and streams crisscrossing each other. River valleys, mountains, deep gorges and forests form a natural summer resort.

From June to September, all kinds of wildflowers bloom on the grassland with herds of cattle and sheep.

9. Pay a Visit to Karakuli Lake

Karakuli LakeKarakuli Lake

Karakuli Lake is located at the foot of Muztagh Ata Peak, 'the Father of Icebergs'. Karakuli means 'Black Sea'. Set off by icebergs and snow-capped peaks, Karakuli's water is dark blue, and in rainy weather, black as a pool of ink.

On a calm day, the lake beautifully reflected the white peaks, green grasslands, and lakeside herds. It is great place to take photos.

10. Enjoy Xinjiang Food at Erdaoqiao Bazaar

lamb kebabsLamb Kebabs

When coming to Xinjiang, don't miss the chance to try Xinjiang food. Xinjiang is famous for its fruits and mutton dishes because of its long hours of sunshine and good pastures.

Erdaoqiao Market with its strong Islamic style is a good place to see all kinds of special Xinjiang foods and handicrafts. There is a food street bringing together more than 50 kinds of special food in Xinjiang: Xinjiang yogurt, grilled fish, lamb kebabs…

Tour Xinjiang with Us

If you are interested in visiting Xinjiang, please see our Xinjiang tours below for inspiration. All our tours can be customized.

Or contact us to create a trip according to your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements.

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