This area of China has become a favorite destination of travelers thanks to its lush vineyards, sparkling springs, local archaeological ruins, colorful ethnic Uygur culture and delicious local food. Peaches, apricots, apples, pears and melons are the specialty. The unique Karez irrigation system dates from 1032 AD and is a series of wells, aqueducts and reservoirs referred to as "The Underground Great Wall". Set in the Turpan depression to the south of the Bogda Mountains, it is the second lowest point on the earth. There are sand dunes to climb, salty Lake Aiding nearby and the ruins of the ancient cities of Gaochang and Jiaohe. These are the two best preserved cities of China. Gaochang was a garrison town in the first century BC, a key point along the Silk Road. By the 14th century it was damaged in the warfare between the Uygurs and the Mongols and then abandoned. A Christian church was found outside the city and other archaeological evidence in the region points to earlier Caucasian populations. After 2,000 years the gates, parts of the walls and the outlines of the buildings and the imperial palace are still visible. Jiaohe, another garrison town, lay between two rivers, its buildings cut from earth. It was built on a small peninsula, so had no need for city walls and was abandoned the same time as Gaochang. Tourists can take the fun donkey cart ride around the ruins.
"Grape Valley" is found in the Flaming Mountain; acres of grapes of incredible variety. Enjoy the bounty under the overhanging vines and see the Wei musical display. Legend has it that the destruction of a fiery dragon colored the barren hills, its scars becoming its valleys. The Bezekik thousand Buddha caves here carry unique paintings showing both Caucasian and Asian monks.