Turpan (written Tulufan in Chinese) is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China’s far northwest. The area surrounding the city is the second lowest on earth and the hottest region in China. Apart from that, Turpan is famous for its desert irrigation system and the fruit it produces, most notably grapes.
Unfortunately, it is not an especially welcoming place for travelers. You’ll have a really hard time getting a fair rate for accommodation and options are extremely limited. The sites are all overpriced too and they are not easily accessible without joining a tour or hiring private transport.
I would recommend skipping Turpan and spending your time elsewhere. Xinjiang province has many places that are far more welcoming and with far more to see and do. Personally, I arrived in the early afternoon and ended up leaving first thing the next morning.
Best Time to Go
Turpan is the hottest city in China with long, hot summers, but no humidity. The winters are short, but very cold. Spring and autumn are the most comfortable seasons, but are unfortunately also short.
Getting to Turpan
The train station is located 50km outside the city and not especially convenient. You’re better off arriving by bus at the Long Distance Bus Station, which is right downtown on Laocheng Road. Most likely, you’ll be arriving from Urumqi or elsewhere in Xinjiang, like Kashgar, but you’ll also find trains or buses from as far as Lanzhou and even Xi’an.
The main part of town is small enough to walk around, but you can also take public buses for 1 RMB or taxis for 5. To see many of the outlying sites, you’ll have to join a tour or hire private transportation.
I spent over two years in China and have traveled all over the country. Turpan is the absolute worst place for accommodation I encountered in that time. Apart from having very few places that will accept foreigners, all of those places will quickly call a tout (mine was called ‘John’ and he’s apparently notorious—there are others though) to ‘help’ you out. The tout’s presence will more than double your rates and you’ll have to either pay or sleep outside. That’s not as bad as it sounds though, as most locals do the same in the summer.
The tout problem could be solved by booking ahead, but that’s not all that easy either. Your best bet is the Turpan Hotel (Qingnian Road, Tel: +86 995 522025) which offers a few dorm beds for 50 Yuan. I know that sounds high, but it’s the best you’ll find here and they fill up quickly.
Apart from that, you could check out the Turpan page on Agoda, but they only have one listing so far (as of Feb, 2013). it’s a mid-range place, not budget-priced and it only has five rooms. The accommodation map on Agoda is excellent though and can help you get oriented.
Eating & Drinking
I ate all my meals at the market across from the Long Distance Bus Station. They’ll try to overcharge you, but you can bargain them down; even if you don’t, the food is still quite cheap and very good.
The biggest problem here are the touts. Mostly they’re just annoying, but they can increase your costs quite a bit as well.
Things to Do
- Turpan Grape Gully: China’s best grapes are grown here; only a small area can be visited and there is not much to see; the Chinese tourists will be more interested in you than the site; entrance is 60 RMB
- Emin Minaret: China’s tallest minaret; 30 RMB entrance fee
- Jiaohe Ancient City: ruins of an ancient Silk Road town; 40 RMB entrance
- Turpan Gaochang Ancient City: ruins of an ancient Silk Road town; entrance is ¥20
- Tuyoq Village: an ancient Muslim pilgrimage sight and a well preserved ancient town; 30RMB to get in
- Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves: caves full of murals, similar to the ones near Datong and Dunhuang, both of which are better than the ones here, as many of the caves have been looted and destroyed
Money Saving Tips
- the best tip I can give you here is don’t go to Turpan
- if you do go, try to get a room without the ‘help’ of a tout, but it won’t be easy as the hotels generally call them in
- there’s one western cafe in town—avoid it; it’s overpriced and the food did not look especially good
- eat at the market across from the Long Distance Bus Station
Photo courtesy of Randomix.
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