Travel to Urumqi; One of the frontier cities in China on the Silk Road.
On the other side of the Tianshan Mountains from Kazakhstan is the most inland city in the world – Urumqi. The geographical center of Asia, it is the capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the largest land area in the country. Very little of this region is habitable, consisting of the Taklamakan Desert, placid Heavenly Lake, divided by the snow capped TianShan mountains and some of the most spectacular scenery in China. Truly part of Central Asia, it is populated with colorfully dressed ethnic Uygur, Hui, Kazakh and Kyrgyz people. About 12 ethnic minorities reside in this region. The Shaanxi Great Mosque is the largest and well worth a visit. The bustling modern city of Urumqi was once a strategic point on the ancient Silk Road. On the banks of the Urumqi River and overlooked by the mountains, the city has beautiful parks and vistas. Red Hill, once a thriving sacred hill topped with temples is still the city's landmark with its single surviving pagoda. The fascinating Xinjiang Regional Museum features artifacts and treasures from the area's Silk Road history. It is an archaeological showcase for culture and ethnic diversity. It houses an astounding collection of preserved mummies.
The International Grand Bazaar created to be like the one in Kashgar offers a chance to experience the festival-like atmosphere of a traditional bazaar and fascinating shopping. You will find vibrant Atlas silks, hand loomed wool carpets, carved jade, charming laminated dowry boxes, Uygur nuts and dried fruits and hand-kitted clothing. Right beside the bazaar is the Xinjiang Silk Road Museum where you can learn about this extraordinary trade route. Make sure you take the time to savor the tantalizing range of flavors of the region in the charcoal grilled kebabs, nang pancakes, stuffed buns, soft, hand-pulled noodles dressed with spices and vegetables, fresh yogurt and milky tea.
Just outside of Urumqi is Tianchi – Lake of Heaven. In contrast to the surrounding desert landscapes below, Tianchi is an alpine lake of crystal waters reflecting the surrounding pines and snowy peaks. The Southern Pastures area offers travelers green river valleys and rushing streams in the summer home of the nomadic Kazakhs. Visit traditional Kazakh grazing pastures in the nearby valleys. It is here that the region's long hours of sunshine produce delicious melons, grapes, pomegranates, apples and more.
Urumqi is the last frontier of this vast region; let your imagination wander over the next mountain pass along the great Silk Road.