you would more likely be thinking of Beijing, Shanghai, or even Hong Kong. China stretches far from east to west and there are hidden treasures beside the familiar names. Dunhuang fits the profile as the unseen treasure of China, and we love to take you on a journey to explore the natural and historic beauty of this fascinating ancient desert city.

Located in the northwest of Gansu province, Dunhuang has a long history that dated back thousands of years. The ancient city was an important stop along the famous silk road, making it the crossroad between eastern and western cultures.

The UNESCO World Heritage city also boasts magical natural wonders like dazzling sand dunes, crescent lake, and Mogao caves, as well as the largest and well-preser ved collection of Buddhist artifacts.

Mingshashan and Crescent Lake

Turn on the magic of Gobi Desert and be amazed by the ever changing sea of sand. The sleepless sand dunes of MingSha Shan sit just 6 kilometers away from the city and can be xplored in many ways, including walking and camel riding! A camel ride gives you a taste of how people travel along silk road before cars and trains were invented, and a ride along the sand dunes will cost you around 100 Yuan. For a more extreme experience, a sand buggy and glider will give you a different view of the desert, plus a little adrenalin rush. Sand sliding is also a popular fun activ-ity and a great way to enjoy the sand.

The main attraction of MingSha Shan is the enchanting Crescent Lake in the middle of the vast desert that raise your curiosity how this beautiful lake exists among this desert land, and with the sand dunes continuously shifting, it is also a mystery how the lake survives being swallowed by the sand. However, the growing demand for water in the area is sucking the groundwater dried.

As the result, Crescent Lake is merely a meter deep, compared to 5-meter depth half a century ago. The future of the lake is uncertain, but today it is still nourishing lives around the lake and bring tourists to MingSha Shan. The Han Chinese temple by the lake offers a quiet place to rest and enjoy the lake.

Address: Dunhuang, Jiuquan, China
Opening Hours: Daily 8.00 – 17.00
Ticket: (May – October) 120 Yuan / (November – April) 80 Yuan for 3-days, unlimited entry to MingSha Shan and Crescent Lake.

Keep in mind

Dunhuang is a desert region, which means extreme temperature range. Be prepared for extreme heat during the day and freezing night, as well as sudden sandstorm. Bring a hat, sun block, scarf, and sunglasses with you during the trip. The best times to travel is between May to October when the temperature is less extreme.

Mogao Cave

Mogao Cave, or locally called Qian Fo, is one of the greatest Buddhist heritage in the world. Perched on MingSha mountain overlooking the sand dunes in Gobi Desert, Mogao Cave was honoured as UNESCO’s World Heritage site in 1987 for its cultural importance. The 1,600 meters deep cave took centuries to complete (4th – 14th century) and houses over 45,000 square meters of religious murals. Most murals date back to Tang dynasty and depict good vs evil and eternal bliss in the heaven.

Besides the murals, Mogao Cave also houses 5 wooden architectures from Tang and Song dynasties, as well as thousands of manuscripts, books, and sculptures. The cave was dubbed as “Library Cave” for its religious and cultural importance that reflect the role of Dunhuang on the ancient silk road. The city was not just a rest stop to cross-continental travelers and merchants, but also a cultural melting pot between Chi-nese, Indian, Greek, and Arabian. Although there are many caves waiting to be explored, only a few are opened to public with strict “no photo” and “no light” rule to preserve the relics as much as they can.

Address: Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Gansu, China
Opening Hours: (May – Oct) everyday 8.00 – 18.00 / (Dec – Apr) everyday 8.00 – 18.00

Recommended Hotel

Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel

Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel offers a luxurious stay in the perfect location to explore the landmarks. The ho-tel’s old city wall exterior may give you the impression of an ancient fort, but the interior is truly a palace with charming unique nomadic touch. The room also has a direct oversea call if you need to call home.

Address: Dunyuet Road, Dunhuang, China