How to Get to Dunhuang

Planning your Dunhuang Tour? Dunhuang (敦煌) once commanded a very important strategic position at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road along the narrow Gansu Corridor which was extended to the north Chinese plains and the ancient capitals of Chang’ans and Luoyang.

Dunhuang is a small town with wide sidewalks and easy walking narrow lanes connecting markets and squares. You can easily explore the downtown area of Dunhuang on your own. most of the highlights in Dunhuang are out of the town such as Dunhuang Museum, Mogao Caves, Crescent Lake, Echoing Sand, Yadan National Geopark, Yumenguan Pass and Yangguan Pass.

Now Dunhuang is easily accessible by flight, rail and road. Xian, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Jiayuguan and Turpan remain the most visited cities where you change for flights, trains and even buses coming to Dunhuang.

Rail Travel to Dunhuang
Rail travel is a most popular way of travel to Dunhuang. Dunhuang Railway Station is located 12km in the northeast of Dunhuang city center. Currently overnight trains are available from Lanzhou and Xian to Dunhuang. Getting on the trains in the evening and arriving at Dunhuang in the morning next day, a good time for planning a day trip in Dunhuang.

Dunhuang Railway Station
Tel: 0937 – 5959562

Dunhuang Railway Station
Dunhuang Railway Station

Get from the Dunhuang Railway Station to Dunhuang city center
1) Public Bus: Exit from the station, on our right side, there is a special shuttle bus ( Bus No.03 ) from the station to Shazhou Market (Fengqing Street), the most commercial area and the city center of Dunhuang. Bus fare: 1 yuan.
2) Taxi: 5 yuan

Note: 128km to the north of Dunhuang is located Liuyuan Railway Station (柳园火车站). There are more trains arriving at Liuyuan Railway Station from Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Jinan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xian, Lanzhou and Urumqi. You may take a taxi ( 100 yuan ) or share a car ( 30 yuan ) from Liuyuan Railway Station to Dunhuang.

Flight Travel to Dunhuang
Dunhuang Airport is located 15km in the east of Dunhuang. There are flights available from Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xian,Urumqi, Lanzhou and Jiayuguan. Among them, the flights from Xian and Lanzhou are fixed and run all the year round; other flights are not available in winter season and you should check in advance.

The flights to Dunhuang are usually expensive without any discounts and you may take trains or travel overland instead.

Dunhuang Airport
Tel: 0937-8866133

Dunhuang Airport
Dunhuang Airport

As a small airport, the airport has airport shuttle buses only there are coming arrival flights, bus fare 15 yuan and 20 minutes. There are no shuttle buses from the city of Dunhuang to Dunhaung airport, and you have to take a taxi, 40 yuan for the 15km taxi ride.

Overland Travel to Dunhuang
Dunhuang Bus Station is located at No.25, Mingsha Road, just opposite to Feitian Hotel ( 飞天宾馆 ) in Dunhuang. Tel: 0937 – 8822174.

There are daily buses from Dunhuang to Crescent Lake and Echoing Sand, Jiayuguan. There are also buses to Qiuquan, Xian, Hami, Golmud and Urumqi.

Dunhuang Bus Station
Dunhuang Bus Station

Jiayuguan: about 4.5 hours
Lanzhou: about 20 hours
Golmud: about 15 hours

When to Visit in Dunhuang
All the attraction sites in Dunhuang are open all year round. The best time to visit Dunhuang falls between May and October, but avoid visiting Dunhuang during the public holidays such as May 1-3 for Labor Day Holiday and October 1-7 for National Day. The summer temperature can reach 30 or 40 degrees, so be well prepared for the hot weather, bringing your hat, long-sleeve clothes, sun glasses and sunblock cream.

Dunhuang in Winter
Dunhuang in Winter

The low tourist season from November to April is not suitable for traveling Dunhuang, with potential sandstorms. All the sights in Dunhuang offer discounted half prices. There are very few vendors in the downtown area and even some big stores are closed.

Where to Stay in Dunhuang
Budget Hotels
Charley Johng’s Hostel: 3F,11 Qingcheng Tel: 13893763029
Dune Guesthouse: Tel: 13893763029
Five Rings Hotel: 20 Ming Shan Road. Tel 0937 -8836574
Feitian Hotel: Dunhuang, 22 Mingshan Road. Tel 0937 -8822726

Standard Hotels
Grand Sun Hotel Dunhuang: 5 North Shazhou Road. Tel: 0937 8829998
Dunhuang Hotel: 14 Yangguan East Road. Tel: 0937 8822538
Dunhuang Legend Hotel: Mingshan Road Tel: 0937 – 8853888

Deluxe Room at Building 8 of Dunhuang Hotel
Deluxe Room at Building 8 of Dunhuang Hotel

Deluxe Hotels
Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel: Dunyue Road. Tel: 0937 8882088

What to See in Dunhuang
Dunhuang is a small town with wide sidewalks and easy walking narrow lanes connecting markets and squares. You can easily explore the downtown area of Dunhuang on your own. most of the highlights in Dunhuang are out of the town such as Dunhuang Museum, Mogao Caves, Crescent Lake, Echoing Sand, Yadan National Geopark, Yumenguan Pass and Yangguan Pass.

Dunhuang Museum: Located at Mingshan Road and it is a 15-minute walk from the central town ; 8:00am – 6:30pm. This newly opened museum displays the artifacts ranging from prehistorical to Qing Dynasty. It is free, but you need to bring your passport for registration.

Mogao Caves: Mogao grottoes is synonymous with Dunhuang, the junction of Silk Road and a must to see. Some of the most amazing art works of buddhist sculptures
& wall paintings with history dated back 1700 years over 10 dynasties.

Murals from Mogao Caves
Murals from Mogao Caves

Echoing Sand Mountain: The Mingsha Mountain, or Echoing-sand Mountain, is located 7 kilometers away from the city center of Dunhuang.
The reason that it is called Echo Sand Mountain is due to the fact The sand produces some echo or noise when the wind blows, hence the name of the Singing or Echoing Sand Mountain or Sand Dunes. People can have a fun of sand surfing or camel riding on the desert.

Crescent Moon Lake: The Crescent Moon Lake is an amazing place where you can see desert meeting the oasis in the most spectacular fashion.
A spring in the middle of the sand dunes in a shape of the moon and a temple built on the side of it, a breath-taking scene.

Yadan National Geopark: Yadan National Geological Park ( Yadan Landforms or Ghost City) is located on 185 km northwest of from Dunhuang city center. “Yadan” means “steep hill” Uyghur. The locals call the area Ghost City because you can hear the sand whispering when the wind blows especially at night. Your entrance ticket allows you to be on a bus tour to stop for 4 locations – peacock, lion, sphinx and armada of western sea and you need your own imagination to enjoy the natural arts.

Yadan National Geopark
Yadan National Geopark

Yumenguan Pass: Yumen Pass (Jade Gate Pass) was origally built by Emperor Wudi of Han dynasty soon after 121 BC. Yumen Pass was one of the two most west fortresses
(Yumen Pass and Yuanguan Pas) on the ancient Silk Road. Once you pass these two gates, you are in the Western Regions and it was part of the road connecting Central Asia and
China. You may stop on your way to Yadan Geopark and you need a lot of imagination and knowledge to fully appreciate the historical site.

Yangguan Pass: Yangguan Pass is the 2nd pass of the two most west fortresses (Yanguan Pass and Yumen Pass) of the ancient Silk Road. It was established at the same time
as Yumen Pass by the order of Emperor Wudi of Han dynasty. Yangguan Pass is 70 km to the southwest of from Dunhuang city center. Now the only remain is the broken beacon tower. Yangguan Museum is built onsite based on the old Yang Guan of the Han Dynasty.

Yulin Grottoes: Also known as Yulin Caves, located about 180km south of Dunhuang with 40 caves ( 9:00am – 5:00pm). The grottoes are opposite to each other perched in a valley with a history over 1500 years from Northern Wei to Qing Dynasty. The frescoes here are bettered preserved than those in Mogao Caves with little oxidation.

Local Cuisines in Dunhuang
Local people like to eat Lamb and mutton, and are good at making noodles. The food in Dunhuang is a bit spicy. There are many food vendors at Shazhou Night Market, where you can taste the flavors from all Gansu Province – nooldes, barbecue, skewers and etc. Small eateries are also found in the narrow lanes nearby.

If you prefer a quiet place to dine out or drink, you may go to the restaurants near Feitian Hotel on Mingsha Road.

What to Buy in Dunhuang
Dunhuang is not only a tourist destination, but also a shopping paradise where you can find numerous souvenirs and special products. Most of the shopping malls and markets are located in the city center, like Feitian Department Store, Tianma Department Store, Shazhou Market, and Nanguan Zhonghe Market.

Dunhuang Walking Street ( on Mingshan Road ) and Shazhou Market (on East Yangguan Road) are the most popular places for shopping. Dunhuang Colored sculptures, Dunhaung dates and Dunhuang wine are the special local products.

Nightlife in Dunhuang
In summer, the Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel hosts a beer garden at the entrance to the grounds. The lane behind Charley’s Johng’s Hostel has a row of stylish bars and cafes.
John’s cafe (22 Mingshan Road) in the parking lot of the Feitian Hotel with Reasonably priced western meals available. Oasis Cafe is on the Pedestrian
Street has good coffee, milkshakes, and a small menu with pizza and hamburgers.

Dunhuang Goddess is an 80-minute performance based on the story from Mogao Caves. It is held at the Dunhuang Theatre.

Dunhuang Travel Tips
1. Don’t travel alone in the desert or Yadan National Geopark. Well prepared for the changeable temperature on the desert.
2. Bring with you an aid kit while you travel on the west region in China.
3. Leave nothing but prints and photos.
4. Respect the local customs and traditions.
5. Be always vigilant against possible tourist scams and theft.
6. Well-prepared for your travel plan.
7. Dunhuang Hospital: No.20, Yangguan East Road Tel: 0937 – 8859088
8. Dunhuang Pst Office: No.01,Yangguan East Road Tel: 0937 – 8822986
9. Tourist Information Center: No.08, Xinjian Road, Dunhuang Tel: 0937 – 8851578

Tip:  Hassle-free Dunhuang Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for Dunhuang Guided Tours:

Dunhuang Highlight Day Tour    from US$ 119 p/p
Dunhuang Excursion Day Tour   from US$ 89 p/p
Dunhuang 4 Day Tour  from US$ 159 p/p

Further Readings

How to get to Dunhuang
Dunhuang Trip
Top 10 Places in Gansu

Any questions, just drop a line.

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