Xinjiang is the largest administrative region in China, located in northwest of the country. Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is vast, with many unique natural landscapes such as snowy mountains, glaciers, forests, grasslands and the Gobi Desert. There are also many relics along the route of the ancient Silk Road.
Xinjiang is also home to the Uygur people whose folk traditions and famous local cuisine can be widely seen and enjoyed. While it can take at least 12 days for an in-depth journey through Xinjiang, here are the top six things to do if you have only a few days for sightseeing.
1.Heavenly Lake near Urumqi
One of the most important things to do in Xinjiang is to visit Heavenly Lake in the Tianshan Mountains, east of Urumqi. According to Chinese legend, the Goddess often bathes here, so it is a sacred place. The lake is about 1,910 meters above sea level, so it’s cool in summer. The snow-capped Bogda Peak and the clouds surrounding the lake are often seen reflected in the lake, creating stunning views. Wandering around this beautiful lake will also give you a chance to immerse yourself in the charming picturesque forest next to the lake. In the mountains by Heavenly Lake live many precious animals and plants, such as snow cocks, roe deer and saussurea involucrate, a thistle in the daisy family known for its medicinal qualities. The mountain tops are even home to glaciers and are rich in resources such as copper, iron and mica. Otherwise, you can take a boat trip to explore the scenery. If you are going to take a boat, wear a coat because the water in the lake is very cold.
2.Kashgar Old Town
One of the best things to do in Xinjiang is to wander through the Old Town of Kashgar and explore Uygur culture and customs. Kashgar Old Town is a Uygur Islamic community, and offers a vivid picture of the local customs. Covering 4.25 square kilometers with a population of 126,000, the old town is the soul of Kashgar, reflecting both the ancient past and the peaceful present of the city. With hundreds of years of history, it has become the representative of Kashgar culture, where you can enjoy countless buildings in Islamic and Uygur styles. In addition to enjoying the colorful town, you can also visit some famous attractions, such as the Id Kah Mosque, one of the largest mosques in China. Kashgar Old Town is home to the Uygur ethnic group, and visitors will be immersed in that culture, its festivals, costumes, songs and dances. Here, you can also enjoy a variety of Xinjiang cuisine, including shashliks, roast steamed buns and a kind of crisp pancake called nang.
3.Takla Makan Desert
Takla Makan Desert is the world’s second largest quicksand desert and the largest desert in China. The desert is also known as the "sea of death" because of the danger and mystery surrounding it. One of the most important things to do in Xinjiang is to cross Takla Makan on the world’s longest highway across a desert. The best time to travel there is from late October to mid-November, when there are fewer sandstorms and mosquitoes, and the leaves on the poplar trees along the way are turning golden. You are sure to enjoy an unforgettable experience here.
Sayram Lake, 600 km west of Urumqi, is the largest alpine lake in Xinjiang. Visiting the lake is one of the most popular summer activities in the region. The snow-capped mountains on the west of the lake cool off during the hottest days, while the grasslands near the lake are full of wildflowers. It’s also worth seeing some historical sites and going on a casual horse ride.
5.Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar
Visiting the International Grand Bazaar is the first thing you should do in Xinjiang. As the largest market in China and the “window on Xinjiang, Central Asia and the world", the market in Urumqi is full of fine commodities like dried fruits, garments, essential oils and exquisite handcrafts. Meanwhile, you must not miss the tasty local snacks and dishes. In addition to the bazaar, the buildings there display a grand Islamic style, especially the Sightseeing Tower in the center of the square. Many painted stories about the Silk Road are displayed inside and if you climb to the top of the tower, you will see a stunning view of the city.
6.Tasting Xinjiang Food
Tasting the local food must be one of the most important things to do in Xinjiang. Noodles and rice are the staple foods of the local people, and beef and mutton are indispensable, as seen in the variety of local dishes. There are baked mutton kebabs available in every street. Grilled whole lamb is another favorite dish among locals. Nang is a kind of staple food, which is like a roasted pancake with a crispy skin, while rice taken by hand is cooked with carrots, onions, raisins and mutton.