9-Day Urumqi, Turpan, and Ili River Valley Tour

Xinjiang Surreal Summer

9-Day Urumqi, Turpan, and Ili River Valley Summer Tour

If you visit Xinjiang in summer, the Ili River Valley must be the top destination for enjoying the natural beauty of Xinjiang.

West of Urumqi, cradled between the "two arms" of the Heavenly Mountains, the Ili River Valley embraces extremely beautiful scenery: flowers, grasslands, snowy mountains, and forests. There you will find picture-perfect landscapes that surpass even your dreams and imagination. It is also the homeland of many ethnic minorities, who you can meet: Uyghur, Kazakh, Mongolian, Kyrgyz…

During this 9-day Xinjiang tour, starting from Urumqi, you will explore the history and desert wonders of Turpan and then revel in the dreamlike Ili River Valley.(xj-13)

Tour 'Wow' Points

Find the Best-Kept Secret of the Heavenly Mountains on an Ancient Path

Enjoy a short hike on the ancient trail connecting the south and north of the Tianshan ('Heavenly Mountains') Range. Journey into an oil painting landscape of snow-topped peaks, grasslands, and forests.

Xiate ancient path horses on the grassland

Enjoy the Blue of "the Atlantic's Last Tears"

Have a relaxing walk on the banks of Sayram Lake. Warm moist air from the Atlantic Ocean travels more than 5,000 km (3,000 miles), but no further, to leave this beautiful sapphire-like lake.

A lady with white dress on the bank of Sayram Lake Walking on the grass land by the blue lake

Ride a Horse on the "3D Grassland"

Experience the lifestyle of Kazakh nomads. Visit a herdsman's yurt and enjoy a traditional meal.

Kalajun Grassland Grass land with a horse on it

Encounter the Romantic Purple in Ili River Valley

Visit the biggest lavender plantation in China. Dive in the 'ocean' of purple flowers

Kalajun Grassland Grass land with a horse on it

Meet Friendly People in a Lovely Town

Take a horse-drawn carriage to tour a traditional district where the Uyghur people live. Have a chat with local people under the grape terraces in their garden.

Men at the painting shop Kids playing on the street

Trace Turpan's Silk Road Relics to Discover Medieval Desert Developments

Explore the ruins of the ancient mesa-top city of Jiaohe, admire the marvelous murals in the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves…

the ruins of Jiaohe Ancient Town Old building in Turpan

Longji Terraced Fields

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10000+ Travelers Say

the certificate of TA excellent 2020 10000+ excellent reviews

Best experience ever!

Our tour guide Mervyn was extremely knowledgeable. We had to change our plans due to a virus closure and she found other activities that we loved! By the end of the trip we felt like we had made a close friend and would enjoy spending time together again.

Angela T from US, July, 2020


Tour Map

xinjiang tour map

Itinerary Quick Look

Here is a suggested itinerary. We are happy to customize a tour according to your interests.

Day 1 Urumqi Arrival

When you land in Urumqi, your personal tour guide will be waiting for you in the arrivals area and will be ready to transfer you to your hotel. Explore the Urumqi International Bazaar during the rest of the day to get your first impression of Xinjiang's ethnic culture.

Day 2 Urumqi to Turpan | Historical Treasures in the Desert

Head for Turpan in the morning. Visit the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, which are even older than the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang. They show the prosperity of Buddhist culture in Turpan before Islam came along at the end of the 13th century.

Visit Tuyugou Village and experience the traditional lifestyle of the Uyghurs.

Day 3 Turpan to Shihezi | The Ancient City of Jiaohe

Continue to explore the cultural relics of the Silk Road. Visit Emin Minaret in the morning. A beautiful shadow is cast across the walls in the morning sunlight. Then explore the ruins of the ancient city of Jiaohe. This remarkable city was built by digging down instead of building up from the ground!

After lunch, you will venture underground to explore the Karez Well System and discover the wisdom behind Turpan's ancient irrigation system and water supply.

Drive from Turpan to Shihezi after the day's tour. Halfway to Ili, it's an ideal stopover on the awesomely mountainous Urumqi–Yining Highway.

Day 4Shihezi to Sayram Lake | Sayram Lake and Guozi Valley

Drive from Shihezi to sapphire-like Sayram Lake. Enjoy a nice walk along the plank path on the bank of the lake and sit on the glassy land dotted by little wildflowers. Feel the breeze, perhaps carrying some of the "last tears" from the Atlantic Ocean.

Admire the spectacular scenery of Guozigou — 'Fruit Valley'. The great highway project and towering Guozigou Bridge traverse the deep gorge and add to the magnificence of the valley views. .

Day 5 Sayram Lake to Tekes | Lavender Oceans

Drive from Sayram to Tekes via Huocheng. Stop at Huocheng for the romantic lavender vistas.

Then, explore Tekes Town, which is built according to the shape of a bagua (an Eight Trigrams grid). A city with excellent fengshui and concentric octagons of roads, you will be surprised that this is a town without traffic lights.

Day 6 Tekes to Zhaosu | Kalajun Grassland and Kuokesu Canyon

Visit the most beautiful grassland in the Ili River Valley — Kalajun. Enjoy strolling on the "green blanket" with colorful flowers. The dark green forest and snowy peaks may make you feel like you are walking in an oil painting. Ride a horse to experience the life of Kazakh herdsmen, if you like.

Enjoy a typical Kazakh meal for lunch in a yurt (a big tent that Mongols and Kazakhs use).

Explore Kuokesu Canyon to enjoy the quirks of nature. Crocodile Bend (the big bend of the Kuokesu River whose promontory looks like a big crocodile) and Body Grassland (a mountain grassland with graceful hilly curves like a human body’s) are the highlights that you should not miss.

Head west to Zhaosu Town, just south of a central ridge of the Heavenly Mountains, at the end of the day to be in prime position for Day 7's hike.

Day 7 Zhaosu | Xiata Ancient Path Hiking

You will explore a best-kept secret of the Heavenly Mountains on day 7. Enjoy a hike on an excellent section of the ancient path connecting the south and north zones of the Tianshan Range for centuries.

Climb to a meadow where little wild flowers decorate the green grassland and dark green cypress trees grow on the surrounding slopes. Snowy summits will face you like a huge screen that the trail somehow penetrates. Lose yourself in the beauty of summer mountain dreamscapes.

If you want, you can go 4 km (2½ miles) further to get closer to a glacier.

Day 8 Zhaosu to Yining | Yining City Discovery

Head north through the Heavenly Mountains to Yining, capital of Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture.

Explore the Kazanqi District of Yining City, an area rich in Uyghur culture, where the residential houses are painted blue or green and have other traditional Uyghur ethnic features. Visit an old private museum where you can see more than 800 accordions. The owner of the museum will be happy to play a folk song for you.

If you are interested in some local snacks, the ice cream and the roast dumplings are recommended.

Day 9 Yining Departure

Your guide and driver will escort you to Yining Airport to catch your flight to your next destination.

Hotel Selection

—the Icing on the Cake

Boutique hotels are recommended to enrich your travel experience.

hotel room in Turpan Caravan on the lake bank the hotel in the valley
FromCNY15,460 / USD 2,420p/p Based on a private tour for 2 people. Price varies depending on program, travel date, number of people and chosen hotel

Price Includes:

  • Private air-conditioned business car with big windows and ample space
  • English speaking local guide
  • Activities, hotels, and meals listed in the itinerary
  • 24/7 helpline for while you are traveling
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