If you’ve been thinking about an autumn getaway in China, now is the time to make plans for an unforgettable trip. Not too hot and not too cold, fall provides ideal weather conditions to see almost every part of the country. We’ve compiled a shortlist of our favorite fall spots in which to enjoy the lesser-known travel gems that China has to offer.
Our first pick is Xinjiang Autonomous Region, a perennial favorite known for its diverse landscapes and rich Uighur culture, which is closer to Turkic culture than Han Chinese culture. Xinjiang is home to a diverse array of lakes, mountains and deserts offering incredible sights, sounds, and a comfortable climate to boot.
No trip to Xinjiang is complete without sampling the region’s remarkable cuisine, which features rich stews, tasty breads and a mind-boggling variety of noodles from flat and wide to easily spoonable diced noodles if you’re still working on your chopstick skills.
Mutton is the meat of choice in Xinjiang, where it is generally barbecued or stewed. ‘Big plate chicken’ is one dish not to be missed – it is a mountain of tender chunks of chicken with potatoes, peppers and garlic cloves in a fragrant curry-like sauce, all served on – you guessed it – a very large plate. There are also plenty of delicious vegetarian options not found in Chinese cuisine – our favorite is the spicy Tiger Salad, which is typically made with fresh slices of tomato, bell pepper, purple onion and cucumber, all in a spicy vinegar sauce with sprigs of coriander. Wash it all down with the non-caffeinated tea drunk by the Uighurs, a local beer or a delicious glass of fresh cherry or pomegranate juice.
Most people living in Xinjiang follow a very moderate strain of Islam and are very open to visitors from afar. Their physical appearance is also quite different from what you might be expecting – don’t be surprised to meet locals with blonde hair and blue eyes. At the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Xinjiang never fails to provide a bit of the unexpected.
In early autumn, Xinjiang’s sky is deep blue and the cooler breezes blow the scorching summer away. Kashgar itself has a desert climate with long periods of sunshine and little rainfall. It also has sunshine much later into the day than the rest of China, a result of the entire country running on Beijing time. Although you haven’t left the country, a trip to Xinjiang can often make the rest of the country feel very far away.
Very hot in the summer and bone-chilling cold in the winter, Xinjiang is at its most pleasant in the autumn. During the fall months, we suggest that you venture to the Taklamakan Desert for an overnight outdoor adventure. Don’t forget Xinjiang’s current must-visit destination – Kashgar’s historic old town, which was once a vibrant outpost on the Silk Road. Sadly, 85 percent of the old town is slated for demolition, so if you’ve ever considered visiting this storied Central Asian trading town, this may be your last chance.
While soaking in the rhythmic and passion-filled music of the Uighurs, enjoy the immense vastness of the Taklamakan at dusk and watch the clear sky gradually fill with stars. For the complete experience, ride a camel there and back. In Kashgar’s old town, be sure to visit Id Kah Mosque, Abakh Khoja Mausoleum and the city’s old handicrafts street, as well as the Sunday livestock market and bazaar.