Getting to Know the Cultural Center of Turfan

One of the lowest points on earth (150 meters below sea level) and one of the most remote oasis on the planet, the city of Turfan is full of interesting history and fascinating culture. Extreme temperatures in the middle of the desert make the existence of ancient life seem impossible here. However, the local people developed intriguing ways of staying alive and even growing crops in this arid desert landscape. As a result, this city became an important stop on the Silk Road, and is still a thriving site today!

Find out how to immerse yourself in the beautiful desert culture of Turfan, China!

Karez System Museum

The system known as Karez was developed by the ancient western Chinese civilization. It actually saved the lives of the people who lived here. This incredibly expansive underground system of small shafts were dug about 100 feet under the ground. Thus picked up the water that seemed so inaccessible in the heat of the desert. This network of over 170,000 tunnels is testimony to man’s incredible will to survive.


This museum details exactly how the Karez system worked, and the profound impact that it had on the lives of those who inhabited this area. You’ll be able to see examples of how this fantastic underground canal system is still functioning today.

Entrance to the museum costs 40 yuan.

Emin Minaret

Standing tall at over 40 meters, this minaret is known as the tallest in China. Incredibly, it has been standing for almost 250 years although the materials used to build it were just mud and brick.

Up close to this beautiful construction, you’ll see the influences of both Muslim and Chinese designs. The pattern which decorates the outside is a mixture of shapes and floral design. Standing here takes you back to a time when these two cultures were starting to blend into what is now the traditional culture of this area. Though not fully Chinese nor fully Islamic, this minaret is a tribute to another era.

Emin Minaret in Turfan

Source: Anythinglily

Entrance to the minaret will cost 45 yuan, although you will not gain access to inner stairwell. You will, however, be able to see the beautiful grounds and also a nearby mosque.

From the Turfan Museum in the center of Turfan, take the bus number 1 or 6 to travel to the minaret.

Local Wine

Unusual as it may sound, Xinjiang is actually known for its fantastic wine production. If you head to Grape Valley, just 7 kilometers outside of the center of Turfan, then you’ll find a lovely green valley that is covered by acres and acres of grapes!

In fact, more than 10 different varieties of grapes are grown here. Although many are later sold as raisins, there is a good amount that is used to make wine.


This area is also known for growing other delicious fruits, such as apricot, peach, pomegranate and more! Try local foods to truly have a cultural experience.

Visit Grape Manor or the Folk-Custom Park of Darwaz to get the full cultural feel of this area. To get there, take the bus number 5 bus, or a taxi from Turfan for about 20 yuan.

The Jiaohe Ruins

Hidden 10 kilometers to the west of Turfan, this ancient city is full of fascinating history that spans over 2000 years. The truly stunning part of this ancient Silk Road stop is how well preserved it is after hundreds of years left abandoned in the desert. The walled city is a spectacular place to visit to understand the history of the Silk Road in Xinjiang.

Wander the streets of what was once a thriving town, and see where the common people lived as opposed to the higher class neighborhood. You’ll also see ancient temples, all built in the style of the Tang Dynasty.

The cost to enter the ruins is 40 yuan.

Jiaohe City

Source: BootsnAll

With so much to see and do, Turfan truly is a fantastic destination for those who wish to embrace the culture of Western China. Here, you’ll be able to really see what life is like for the Uyghur minority people who make up the majority of the population in this hidden corner of China. Explore this magical location and you never know what treasures you’ll find!

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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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