Unique experiences await you in western China, a region straddling the crossroads between East and West, unrecognizable to what most of the world considers “China”.
Epic, untamed landscapes roll out across these western destinations, comprising lush green prairies, unforgiving deserts and desolate Himalayan plateaus meeting huge, unforgettably blue skies. This is a place for the curious, the world-wanderers and the wild traveler with a burning sense of wanderlust.
Read on to discover the best places to visit in western China.
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Best Places to Visit in Western China – Kashgar
Kashgar in Xinjiang holds an unmistakably Central Asian flair, so much so that it was used as a stand-in for Kabul during the filming of the movie “The Kite Runner.”
You can amble through the fast-disappearing Old Town, a maze of tight alleyways, chancing upon Uighur workshops and 500-year-old mud brick dwellings; or visit the riotous Sunday Market, which sees hordes of traders descend upon the town to trade livestock. With the help of your WildChina guide, you can barter for Kashgari dishes like the large “naan” flatbread and rare trinkets.
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Worth visiting are Abakh Khoja Mausoleum and the Id Kah Mosque, some of the most exquisitely decorated Islamic shrines in all of China. A few hours outside the city, you can find Karakul Lake, which offers breath-taking reflections of sky and mountains, all in the lap of beautifully desolate scenery. If you’d like, WildChina can organize a private picnic for you at the lake where you can soak in the sunshine.
Setting out into China’s modern-day Wild West has never been easier thanks to our Marco Polo Silk Road journey.
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Best Places to Visit in Western China – Qinghai
Once a part of the ancient Tibetan kingdom, Qinghai Province offers many of the wonders of the roof of the world – without all the restrictions.
Xining is the diverse provincial capital, where the Islamic call to prayer echoes through streets brightened by the orange-robes of Buddhist monks, and tantalizing market bazaars come alive after sundown.
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At Kumbum Monastery in Xining, pilgrims prostrate vigorously in sight of golden-tiled temples, housing treasures like yak butter sculptures and miniature Buddha’s numbering in the thousands.
Tongren is the place for Tibetan art lovers, where monks can be seen working on brilliant Thangka (Tibetan paintings) to the flicker of yak butter candles. Also worth exploring is the unique Muslim community of Xunhua, and the Dalai Lama’s former home at Dangcai.
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Best Places to Visit in Western China – Dunhuang
Few places can rival the Silk Road vibes of Dunhuang, a thriving oasis town deep in the Gobi Desert.
A treasure trove awaits history-lovers at the Mogao Caves, housing countless murals and relics – nothing short of a spiritual journey into the history of Asia. We can arrange two experts to accompany you through the caves: the Executive Director of the Mogao Caves and a scholar of medieval Buddhist art.
These experts will enrich your experience with their fascinating tales of ancient monks and roaming pilgrims, and they will guide through caves that are normally off-limits to visitors.
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On camelback, you can climb towering dunes of the Gobi; bask in the warm sand and then watch the sun set over Crescent Moon Lake. The mighty landscapes and buzzing oasis towns of Marco Polo’s Silk Road can today be enjoyed in comfort and style with WildChina.
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Best Places to Visit in Western China – Gansu
The southwestern part of Gansu Province rewards you with a hassle-free getaway in a quiet corner of China.
The animated gestures of monks deep in philosophical debate meet you at Labrang Monastery; one of the country’s biggest outside of Tibet. Many choose to do as the pious do, with a 3km kora (Tibetan pilgrimage) around the site.
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The Gyenjia grasslands welcome you with their big open skies, clean air and sense of solitude. You can even “glamp” in a luxury yurt, learn handicrafts or visit a local cooperative.
Hiking or riding horses in the surrounding hills is the ideal way to understand just how boundless this landscape is. Once the sun goes down, what better place to go stargazing than from the so-called “roof of the world”.
WildChina’s Tibetan Camping Retreat makes an ideal short break for couples in China.
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Best Places to Visit in Western China – Tibet
Western Tibet represents the center of the world to over a billion Hindus and Buddhists, as Mount Kailash waters south Asia’s most important rivers, including the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus. Thousands of pilgrims come each year to make a three-day circuit of this striking, pyramid-shaped peak.
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Hiking on the shores of sacred Lake Manasarovar, within view of the mighty peak offers unmatched sacred ambience. Also, drinking or bathing in its waters is meant to cleanse one of all sin and sorrow.
What’s more, the lost kingdom of Guge promises to bring out the Indiana Jones in you, with its ruins, tunnels and fine murals; a once prosperous place that met a tragic and bloody ending during the 16th century.
Unforgettable experiences spent in the company of pious pilgrims await intrepid travelers to Tibet’s West. Planning a trip to the Tibetan Autonomous Region on your own can be a bit of a headache. But when you travel with WildChina, we take all the guesswork out of the equation and let you focus on the fun parts.
Change is sweeping through the regions of Western China, making now the time to plan a trip.