Exploring China’s Grand Canyon

For those who have had the chance to experience the Grand Canyon in the western United States, you know what an awe-inspiring experience it is to stand at the top (or the bottom) of this cavernous path that cuts through the earth.


This breathtaking experience can also be had in other parts of the world, where other giant canyons take your breath away with their immense beauty. Here, we’re going to detail the experience of visiting the Tianshan Grand Canyon in Xinjiang Province, China, and how you can get a taste of this incredible sight!

What is the Tianshan Grand Canyon?

Located about 70 kilometers from the town of Kuqa (also known as Kuche) in far western China, this incredible canyon sits right at the foot of a mountain. It is one of many beautiful canyons in China, but each one is special in its own way, including Tianshan.

Due to the power of water and wind, this canyon was shaped into stunning formations. It has a length of over 5 kilometers, and the average altitude of its many peaks is over 1600 meters.

Tianshan Grand Canyon

What makes this beautiful canyon truly unique is the colors that it portrays. Deep reds and browns run through the rock façade, and this has earned the canyon its Uygur name Keziliya, which means ‘red cliff.’ If you’re looking for a place to enjoy natural beauty without the herds of tourists that other attractions draw, then Tianshan is perfect for your next adventure!

Entrance to the Tianshan Grand Canyon Scenic Area is 40 yuan, although if you are a student, you can get in for 20 yuan.

What to See and Do in Tianshan Grand Canyon

At the Bottom of the Canyon

When wandering through the cavernous base of the canyon, you’ll find tunnel-like passes between the huge cliffs on either side. While the canyon is at times over 50 meters wide, other places are so narrow that they are nearly impossible to pass through.

You’ll be able to hear the echo of your own voice as it bounces off the sides of the canyon, along with other mysterious sounds that science has yet to explain.

Thousand Buddha Caves

Hanging 35 meters above the canyon floor, you will find an incredible tribute to the past with the Thousand Buddha Caves. Over 300 caves were encountered relatively recently, and it has been determined that they were built during the Tang Dynasty, over 1500 years ago.

Buddha Caves

At the Top of the Canyon

The highest peak in Tianshan Grand Canyon is over 2000 meters high, thus offering you some absolutely incredible views. If you’re interested in photography, standing at the top of the canyon is a great way to capture incredible reds and browns from the canyon, and the intense blue of the sky, along with the backdrop of the Tianshan mountains. The strange and twisted shapes of the peaks feature intense colors and give the place a fanciful atmosphere.

When to Visit

The months of June to August are highly recommended to visit Tianshan Grand Canyon and the surrounding areas in the Xinjiang Province. Since temperatures fluctuate significantly during the day even in summer, we suggest you bring clothing that you can layer to protect you from the cold.

To get the best views of Tianshan Grand Canyon, we suggest including either the sunrise or sunset in your visit and watch as the red rock formations are lit on fire by the sun.

Where to Stay

The nearby town of Kuqa is a great place to base yourself for your visit to Tianshan. This lovely city also has many attractions, including interesting ancient history and a fascinating Bazaar. You will pay between 150 and 200 yuan per night for an average hotel.

There are many things to do in and around Kuqa, including visiting the beautiful Big Dragon Lake, which rivals the famous Heavenly Lake but is less known by tourists.

The Tianshan mountain range is home to some incredible sights, and the beautiful Grand Canyon here is absolutely worth the excursion. Unlike much of eastern China, the province of Xinjiang is home to natural sights that are mainly untouched by tourists, thus offering you an incredible experience which feels like a private tour of earth’s many beautiful creations.

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Cez Krol

Travel blogger at eTramping
Cez lives in China like a local for the past 4 years. Apart from speaking the language, he loves to discover more about this unique country of extreme contrasts. He shares his China experiences here at Sublime China and on his blog eTramping, so go and check out what's out there for you in China.
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