Increasing curiosity from foreigners has led to Turpan’s rise in popularity among travellers as it contains some incredible sights, a unique nature and ancient cultural treasures. History saw Turpan as an important trading centre largely because of its location along the northern reaches of the famous Silk Road. Today however, it is famed for its sugary grapevines, red rocks and unimaginable heat.
The name Turpan means ‘the lowest place’, representing its actual low-lying elevation, it is also the hottest area in the whole of China. With over 150 summer days, several of which reach temperatures above 40degrees Celsius, their melon and grape produce is one of the best. With these conditions the fruit here have idyllic conditions in which to grow and increases their sugar content making them super tasty. It is because of this that Turpan got its nickname ‘Hometown of Grapes’ as the residents take pride in their vast vines of over 100 different varieties.
Once the vines are overlooked and you have digested enough grape-goodness you will soon come to realise that the city entwines both Western and Eastern cultures in a harmonious union. Also sitting between the east and west China upon Silk Road has gifted Turpan its historical relics which add to the city’s unique landscapes and cultural sites.
One of the new favourite tourist destinations here is Flaming Mountain. As China’s hottest place at Silk Road’s northern route, visitors can gaze at the glowing red rocks that span nearly 100km in length. In contrast to the hot and barren Flaming Mountain, you can head towards the Grape Valley with its green foliage, beautiful springs and canals, all found a mere 15km from Turpan’s city centre.
For a cultural escape, 48km from Turpan’s centre and within Mutou Valley in the Flaming Mountain is the Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves. In total there are 77 grottoes, several of which contain interesting murals. In particular, grotto 33 holds extraordinary mural pieces illustrating deep inner feelings through images with detailed characteristics.
Close by these caves are the Gaochang ruins, an ancient city built back in 1BC. Unfortunately the city was destroyed toward the end of 13AD by the hands of war however visitors can still see to this day the city’s outline and miraculously the city wall which stands impressively at the foot of Flaming Mountain.
If you have time for more sight-seeing, there is the Emin inaret, Xinjian’s largest ancient Islamic tower, the Astana-Karakhoja Ancient Tombs and the Turpan Museum to keep you entertained.
Staying in Turpan can be rather enjoyable in itself as most hotels have their own vines spread across their properties creating fantastic wineries. There is also a choice for those traveling on a budget to those with some extra spending money as Turpan offers both cheap accommodation right up to the higher end hotels.