Urumqi is a relatively young and small city of China with a population of little over two and a half million, it is the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. You can find Urumqi close to the Silk Road’s northern route but far, far away from any sea port. In fact this city holds the title for being the furthest city from the sea with a massive 2,500km of land separating the city from the nearest coast.
People only really started taking notice of Urumqi when the Dzungaria conquest arose in 1755. This tragic campaign took the lives of over a million people by way of a brutal extermination of the Dzungars as an act of ethnic genocide. Although Urumqi has developed from these days, it is still plagued with ethnic conflict, mainly between the Han and Uyghur groups. Again, these conflicts have taken more lives, with around 200 dead from the 2009 clash.
On a brighter note, there is some beautiful sites in Urumqi to visit when you are travelling. The International Grand Bazaar on South Jiefang Road is reputed as one of the more attractive Urumqi sites while there are numerous nature orientated sights to explore as well. Hong Shan Mountain in Hong Shan park showcases a temple structure that houses great photography and models of the surrounding area.
Red Hill should definitely appear on your list as one of Urumqi’s landmarks. Named for its red coloured rocks, this hill embraces a pagoda and shrines amongst gorgeous scenery. The historical sites on Red Hill are worth checking out with the Ebo stone, the Temple of the Jade Emperor and of the Great Buddha.
Heavenly Lake is another of Urumqi’s famous gems bordered by the snow-peaked west mountains. It is a great contrast to the barren deserts of much of Xinjiang and a great place for tourists to appreciate the beautiful nature that surrounds Urumqi.
You will likely stay a night or two here to fully appreciate all the city has to offer so here is a brief introduction to Urumqi hotels. If you are looking for something budget the best place to check out is the Ramada Tunhe Hotel near the city centre. Not only does this hotel have the location, it also has great amenities. Another hotel that can have cheap rooms is Hotel World Plaza in the Technological Development Zone.
If you have a bit more cash to spend on accommodation, the Hua Ling Grand Hotel is a good place to start with great service nestled in Nanhu Square. Lastly, for those ready to spend up large you can’t go much better than the Sheraton Hotel, a new luxurious Urumqi hotel in the International Exhibition Center.
Apart from the ethnic conflicts, the only other thing you should be aware of is the extreme climate. Summer brings stifling heat while winters turn temperatures below zero. So depending on the season, be sure to bring with you appropriate clothing.