Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
Being an autonomous region like Tibet, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is one of the more remote areas of China and therefore does not receive the tourist influx of other regions. Its history is intriguing while its current development has continued to transform the area from a closed land to a revived region.
Main Xinjiang Cities:
With eight different countries bordering the region, and covering a massive one-sixth of China’s land, Xinjiang is a major subdivision. Unfortunately Xinjiang has always been known for its ethnic tensions, largely the result of its large population of major ethnic groups. These troubles have caused many deaths and continue to cause unease for those who live here. 2009 saw some of the worst violence in China since Tiananmen Square with rioting, attacks and hundreds expected to have died with over a thousand injured in the conflict. The military hardened their forces to deal with the increased violence. The aftermath left little of the trading kingdom that once was.
However little by little, this Wild West of China is picking up and opening itself to the world once more. This north-western area has always been a world apart from the rest of China, though much could be used to its advantage. When communism entered Xinjiang, the province lost its commerce post as Mao closed its borders until capitalism seeped through reviving trade and encouraging development. Today the borders are open and people are encouraged to “invest in the west”. While the province’s ethnic troubles are not completely forgotten, it seems that Silk Road is back for the time being.
As Xinjiang has developed it has become more tourist-friendly with more frequent flights and many tour operators able to converse in English. There are several highlights of travelling to this area with the Tian Shan Range, the Heaven Lake and the amazing Silk Road towns.
The Torugart Pass is the most well known range that passes between Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan on the Tian Shan Range. This mountain range is one of the world’s greatest exposing some of China’s most stunning scenery. With snow covered peaks, profound gorges, deep green trees and pristine mountain streams, it is a fantastic nature’s paradise.
Heavenly Lake can be visited on your trip to the Tian Shan as it is found half way up Mount Bogado surrounded by fantastic alpine scenery.
Established in 1953, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Museum houses everything from Tang-dynasty paintings to ceramics and ancient tombs. There is even a 4,000 year old mummy, though not chemically treated, still remains well preserved. For those interested in the regions history the museum has exhibits with information on the archaeological discoveries, customs, lifestyles and ethnic groups of Xinjiang.
The only other thing to make sure you include in your exploration of Xinjiang is the famous Bazaars. Bazaars have come back to life in Xinjiang with markets popping up all over the place. These markets are places where you can purchase clothing, meet friends, experience the cuisine or just come to people-watch. Look out for the enormous indoor market, arguably the largest of its kind.
Visiting in the seasons of winter and summer is not always the best idea as the climate can reach extremes from very cold to extremely hot. The best time to visit Xinjiang is during autumn when temperatures are moderate, the days are long and the region’s attractions are reachable. During autumn Xinjiang has an abundance of wonderful melons and fruits in season to add to your experience.