The Kumtagh Desert is a section of the Taklamakan Desert in far western China. The name Kumtagh means “sand mountain” in Uyghur, and the desert covers 2,500 square kilometers (965 square miles).
Turpan was long an important city on the Silk Road, as the city was an oasis along the edges of a vast desert.
Heavenly Lake (Tianchi) is a clear blue lake located on the north side of the Bogda Shan Mountains in the Tian Shan range.
Tuyuk is an ancient village, an oasis in the surrounding desert. The main reason to visit the village is to taste the renowned fruits and to visit the nearby Bezeklik Caves, home to hundreds of murals of Buddha.
The Nanshan Mountains (“southern mountains”) are about 70 km (45 miles) south of Urumqi. This range is part of the Tian Shan, and is home to deep, green valleys.
As the capital and largest city of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China, Urumqi is a bustling desert metropolis. Located in the center of the Asian continent and as far as possible from any coastline, Urumqi has long served as an important desert outpost (water comes to the city through an elaborate system of underground tunnels). Urumqi has always had a diverse population, and its 1,500 year history is filled with emperors, conquerers, and travelers.
Take time to explore Urumqi and the area around it. Take day trips out to Heavenly Lake and the surrounding mountains and deserts, or visit the frescoed caves of Bezeklik Caves or the slopes of Nanshan to experience the ethnic diversity of the region. There is no shortage of corners in Urumqi itself to explore, so visitors will be sure to find something spectacular.