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Situated in a blazing environment 154 meters (505 feet) below sea level with mountains of fire extended around its perimeter, Turpan nevertheless remained relevant in its two-thousand year history.

Turpan is an ingenious town filled with ancient wonders and miracles that are alive to this day. It was here, a couple thousand years ago, where merchants and caravansary stopped by to trade and barter along the ancient Silk Road. But how did this unbearable and forsaken land become an oasis to weary travelers?

Part of the answer to this riddle is an ingenious invention that has been used for generations - the Karez Wells. Quite possibly one of the greatest feats of engineering in the ancient world, but also completely hidden, these wells serve as an underground irrigation system to the inhabitants. Transporting runoff water from the Tianshan Mountains, nearly one hundred kilometers to the north, through underground, horizontal, passageways and tunnels, the locals are able to quench the dry land. As of today, there are an astonishing 1,100 wells totaling over 5,000 kilometers in length! The landscape around Turpan has changed significantly due to these wells, where vineyards and trees abound.

Without it, its history may be vastly different. It was here where one of the largest and most wealthy cities on the ancient Silk Road was founded. Turpan also became a center for religious thought and practices with ancient grottoes dotting the countryside. The dry environment has also played a key role in restoring the remains from the Silk Road. Unlike many other Silk Road sites around the world that have been lost in time, Turpan offers a living museum of a slice of the Silk Road. Sites ranged from the Jiaohe and Gaocheng ancient cities, Bezeklik and Tuyoq caves, and the Astana tombs, each offering a tantalizing glimpse into Turpan's glorious past.

Bursa Map.jpg
Silk Road Base Map.jpg


How We Got Here

Turpan is at the second lowest spot on earth in Xinjiang Province. We arrived by a very long (30 hour plus) train from Gansu.

The Highlight

Traversing the endless grasslands flanked by snow-capped peaks outside of town was special. We followed streams and maneuvered paths, getting lost in the beauty.

Our Treasure

Visiting an ancient cave filled with Silk Road era paintings, only to find out it is restricted to do so and escorted out the desert canyons.

Explore More

     ➨  Faces of the Desert

     ➨  Ancient Oasis

S N A P S H O T S   O N   T H E   R O A D

W H E R E   W I L L   Y O U R   J O U R N E Y   T A K E   Y O U   N E X T ?

The overhwhelming heat of Turpan is getting too much to bear, but the desert still continues. Thankfully, what awaits is one of the most beautiful oases you could imagine. Step into Dunhuang and find rest.


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