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Dunhuang Facts

Dunhuang Location Map

Known as Shazhou in ancient times, Dunhuang was served as a rest stop for traders as the gateway through which Buddhism, Islam and Christianity entered China.

Dunhuang is located at the western end of Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province in northwest of China. It is 2000 kilometers west of Beijing, right on the silk road that caravans would take to get from China to the Middle East. It is a small oasis surrounded by high mountain, deserts and the Gobi Desert with Dang River as the city's water supply. The city boasts 241 places of historic interests, and many of them are world-famous for its long history, such as Mogao Grottoes, one of the greatest reminders of the silk trade in ancient time. Other sights include the White Horse Pagoda, the Yangguan Pass and the Yumenguan Pass. These sights cannot rival in beauty with the caves, but it is quite some fun getting there through the desertlike landscape.

Dunhuang is the important ancient city in the Silk Road, and it is the hub of highway communication in the northwestern plateau in China.

Dunhuang means magnificent. In 11th century BC, some mineral nations lived here. In 111BC, the emperor of Han dynasty set up Jiuquan canton, and Dunhuang County was governed by it. The areas under Dunhuang's jurisdiction nowadays are the areas to the western and southern parts of Shule River in Gansu. From the two Hans to Southern and Northern Dynasties, Dunhuang was the thoroughfare between the middle part and the western part. The government of Dunhuang changed many times, but Dunhuang was always the capital of county, government office, town and province. And at that time, it was called Dunhuang or Shazhou. In Song dynasty, it belonged to Western Hsia, and province was abolished. In Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty, Shazhou was changed into a province, later on; it was changed into Dunhuang province.

In Dunhuang, there are a lot of historical relics. Such as Mogao Caves, (it is called thousands of Buddha caves), it has 1500 years' history. It is in the important place in Chinese history. Dunhuang is like an arts palace and cultural house. There are Chinese ancient buildings, paintings and carvings. The ancient place of Yumenguan was the important pass of the northern part of the Silk Road.

Basis Information 

• Chinese Name: 敦煌
• Location: Dunhuang is located at the western end of Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province in northwest of China
• Dialing code: (+86) 0937
Zip Code: 736200
Area: Dunhuang has an area of 3,120 square kilometers.
• Main attractions in Dunhuang: Mogao Grottoes, Crescent Spring and Singing Sand Dune, Yadan National Geologic Park, etc.

Administration Distribution

Administrative Division: Duhuang can be divided into 6 towns and 3 villages administratively.

Population: Dunhuang has a population of 0.1 million.


Dunhuang is situated in the very western end of Hexi Passage in Gansu Province, located in the juncture of 3 provinces, namely Gansu Province, Qinghai Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and under control of Jiuquan Region. It is a small basin with a very particular geographical environment, which links the qilian Mountains from the south, the large desert from the west, the Hexi Passage from the east. Deserts, gobi, oasis, mountains and lakes are all shown in this area, and they enhance beauty of each other with fertile farmlands and abundant natural resources. The average height above the sea level in Dunhuang is 1,138 meters. It covers altogether 312,000 square kilometers. The Danghe River, which is originated from the glacier in Qilian Mountains, runs through the whole oasis with endless stream. It is 390 kilometers in length with a runoff of 0.328 billion cubic meters per year. So it can irrigate 300,000mu fertile farmlands.


Dunhuang has a long history and splendid culture. As early as the late primitive society, people of Dunhuang were migrating to Hexi Sanmiao people and settled down after they were defeated in the central plains tribes. First they just hunted for living and later they were beginning to grasp the original agricultural production technology.

In Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasty, Dunhuang belonged to the scope of the ancient Gauzhou, where there were Sanmiao descendant, and at that time there were nomadic Qiangrong settled here. So there left many of the paintings found in Dunhuang region by nomads.

During the Warring states period and Qin dynasty, Dunhuang area inhabited by a large group of Darouzhi, Wusun and Saizhong people. Later Darouzhi became strong and mergered the original Qiangrong. At the end of the warring states period, Darouzhi drove away Wusun, Saizhong people and occupied Dunhuang until the end of the Qin dynasty and the beginning of the Han dynasty.

In the early western Han dynasty, the huns invaded the Hexi, defeat Rouzhi people for twice; forcing the Rouzhi roamed the west in two river basin (Syr Darya, Amu darya).The Hexi corridor as the huns’ territory. Later, Emperor Wu of Han dynasty ascended the throne, in Jianyuan period second years (A.D.138), emperor sent Zhangqian on a diplomatic mission to the western regions for the first time to contact Rouzhi, and Wusun converging attack the huns. Han dynasty Yuanding second years (A.D. 115), Zhangqian went to the western regions for the second time and opened the Silk Road to the western regions.

Silk Road of Han dynsty started from Chang’an, passed through the Hexi Corridor to Dunhuang, via the Yumen Pass and Yangguan Pass, along the north of Kunlun Mountains and south of Tianshan Mountain, divided into two routes of north and south. Han and Song dynasties, the Silk Road is main gateway to the west, Dunhuang has thus become a shinning pearl of the Silk Road. Along the Silk Road, Chinese silk and advanced technology continuously spreaded westward to central Asia, west Asia and even Europe, and the products from the western regions also were transmitted to the central plains region of China.


Dunhuang, being surrounded by high mountains, has an arid, continental climate. The annual average temperature is 9.3 °C (48.7 °F), but ranges from 24.7 °C (76.5 °F) in July to −9.3 °C (15 °F) in January. Dunhuang is extremely hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter. Precipitation occurs only in trace amounts and quickly evaporates.

Best Time to Visit

♦ Spring (March to May): Dunhuang in Gansu province is the most western part where belongs to the warm temperate typical arid climate, annual average temperature is 9.3 , July average temperature is 24.7 , and 9.3 in January. Dry and little rain all the year round, day and night temperature difference is great. Every spring here is the dry-hot wind and black sandstorm two natural disasters, if travel at this time, should prepare early.
♦ Summer (June to August): When coming to summer in July and August, people can eat fresh fruit in Dunhuang which is very sweet, and Crescent Spring in summer night is good, people can lie down watching the stars in the top of the mountain.
♦ Autumn (September to October): Travel to Dunhuang the best season should be roughly at the end of August to October, autumn is the most beautiful season in Dunhuang. The blue sky without clouds, gray Gobi, yellow sand hill, golden poplar leaves, and very sweet grapes, fresh air, travel at that time tourists will have a good mood!
♦ Winter (November to next February): Dunhuangis in the north of China, in western Gansu province, the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter is very obvious. The weather from November to April that a few of people will not adapt to, and in winter the most low temperature is - 20 . And Dunhuang is a typical tourist city, part of the scenic spots will not be opened from November to April in the next year, so travel in the off-season the open time is a big uncertainty.

• Dressing Tips 

♦ Spring (March to May): Every year from March to May belong to the wind season, so there might be sand storms. Temperature about 10 to 25 degrees, there will be a sandstorm and frost, wear a garment of charge plus fleece is enough. In addition, the time from Dunhuang to every attraction is long, and in scenic spots there are sand-gravel road, so it is better to wear a comfortable pair of shoes.
♦ Summer (June -August): Dunhuang is located in the northwest, dry little rain throughout the year, morning and night temperature difference is very big, the highest temperature in summer can be up to 40 with strong UV, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hat, lipstick, outdoor scarf is indispensable. During the summer, in daytime can wear short-sleeved, and to wear a coat so as not to catch cold at night. Girls can take moisturizer and facial mask.
♦ Autumn (September to October):
Dunhuang autumn is from August to October, the temperature is about 13 degrees to 32 degrees, will encounter sandstorm weather. Be careful heatstroke, and to wear a jacket and fleece is enough.
♦ Winter (November to February): Climate of winter in Dunhuang is around an average of 3000 meters above sea level, so the temperature is cooler than plain area. Sunny day and night temperature difference is very big, the winter climate at high noon time can rises to above zero, but has dropped to a decade or two decade degrees below zero at night. And it will snow, so travel to Dunhuang people need to wear down jacket and warm underwear, paying special attention to keep warm in winter.


Dunhuang is in the intersection of Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang three provinces (area).The city's economy mainly on agriculture, and tourism services rank second. Dunhuang, Pingyao, Fenghuang Ancient Town, Jiuzhaigou, Wuzhen, Lijiang, Wuyuan and Xinjiang Burqin Baihaba village was rewarded as the eight most beautiful towns to visit for honeymoon in China.

• Best Places to Visit

♦ Mogao Grottoes–The Mogao Grottoes, also known as the "Thousand-Buddha Grottoes", located 25 kilometers southeast of Dunhuang county of China and at the foot of Singsing Sands Dune. Because it is located in Mogao town so the grottoes named Mogao Grottoes. It is China's largest and most famous Buddhist grotto art. It distributes in the Singing Sand Dune precipice of third and forth floor, total length of one thousand six hundred meters. The existing grottoes are 492, murals with a total area of about 45000 square meters, argillaceous sculptures are 2415, is the world's largest and most abundant content buddhist art. In 1987, Mogao Grottoes has been included in UNESCO's world heritage site. It is one of China's four big grottoes.

♦ Crescent Spring–Crescent Spring, surrounded by the Singing Sand Dune, about 150 meters long, about 50 meters wide, named because of the water like a crescent moon. Under the Singing Sand Dune, there are a lot of apocynum, Chinese wolfberry medicinal materials in scenic spot. Since the Han dynasty it was one of the "eight sights" in Dunhuang. Crescent Spring, north and south are 100 meters long, about 25 meters wide from east to west. The spring is deep in the west and shallow in the west and the deepest place about 5 meters deep, curved like crescent moon. It is regarded as "the first spring in the desert”.

♦ Yadan Landform–Yadan Landform, Dunhuang Yadan Landform (Dunhuang Yadan National Geological Park) is located in the 200 kilometers west of Dunhuang. The park stretches twenty-five kilometers from north to south and about two kilometers from east to west. Also known as Sanlongsha in Han dynasty where located outside the ancient Yumen Pass that the Silk Road North Route passed through. Sanlongsha Yadan landform, its trend is vertical with and the prevailing northwest wind, and is in the same direction with mountain flood.

♦ Yumen Pass–Yumen Pass, also called small square city, was built around 111 BC. It is the strategic pass from the Silk Road to the western regions, is located in the northwest of Dunhuang city, 90000 meters in the Gobi Desert. Pass is square, loess base is 10 meters high, and the wall is well preserved, 24 meters long, north and south 26.4 meters wide, covers an area of 633 square meters, and there is a door in the west and north.


Handmade carpets, sculptures, craft camels, luminous wine glass, crystal glasses, calligraphy and painting, wax dyeing, Dunhuang apocynum tea and textiles are Dunhuang local specialties. And the most famous specialty is sweet melon and fruit, Dunhuang apocynum tea and luminous wine glass. Dunhuang also known as "melon state” where is a fruit of the township since early time, and it is rich in various kinds of sweet taste of fruits and grapes.


The most convenient way to Dunhuang is by plane, in domestic cities there are direct flights to Dunhuang, Jiayuguan or Lanzhou. The flight arrived at Dunhuang is less and the price also more expensive. Dunhuang railway station has a train from Lanzhou/Xian to Dunhuang.


Dunhuang Airport
♦ Address: Mogao Town, Dunhuang City, Gansu Province
♦ Official website: www.dhjichang.com/index.asp
♦ Tel: (0937)8866133; 400-730-0022

Dunhuang Airport is located about 12 km east of Dunhuang city, has opened fixed flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xi'an, Urumqi, Lanzhou, and Jiayuguan. The flights fly to Lanzhou, and Xi’an is operated the whole year but the flights from other cities may be suspended in winter, and during operation time there is not necessarily has a flight every day, please check it in advance.

A direct flight to Dunhuang is very expensive, almost no discount, tourists can choose to fly to Xi'an and Lanzhou first and then transfer to the train.

Airport shuttle bus
Dunhuang airport is small, no shuttle buses after off the plane, people need to walk to the terminal. Because of there is a few flights so as long as there is a flight to Dunhuang airport, there will be a bus drive to downtown, 15 yuan/person, 20 minutes. But there is no bus to the airport from downtown, people can take a taxi.

The taxi
Taking a taxi from Dunhuang airport to downtown is about 15 km, 40 yuan.


Dunhuang Railway Station
♦ Address: 10km east from Dunhuang downtown
♦ Tel: (0937) 5959562
♦ How to get: taking bus No.3 costs 1 RMB, and taking taxi costs 5 RMB.

Dunhuang Railway Station is located in 10 km from downtown Dunhuang, facing to Wenhua crossing that lead to the Mogao grottoes. Currently there are trains from Lanzhou, Xi'an and other places, generally need to drive over ten hours. The departure time is very good that is getting on train in the evening, and the second day morning will arrive in Dunhuang. If visitors come from other places take the train to Dunhuang can choose to take train to Lanzhou station or Xi'an station and then to transfer.

There are buses from Dunhuang to Jiuquan, Lanzhou, Xi’an, Hami, Turpan, Urumqi, Golmud, etc. In the Dunhuang city, expect Yumen Pass is gobi sand road, there are straight and wide bituminous street to other attractions.


Dunhuang Bus Station
♦ Address: No.25 Minshan Road, Dunhuang City, across the Feitian Hotel
♦ Tel: (0937) 5959562
♦ How to get: taking bus No.3 costs 1 RMB, and taking taxi costs 5 RMB.

There are daily buses sent to Lanzhou, Dunhuang Crescent Spring and Singing Sand Dune, South Lake (Yangguan Pass), and Jiayuguan, etc. Driving bus from Dunhuang to Jiayuguan takes about 4.5 hours. From Dunhuang city to Anxi Dunhuang Railway Station there is coach and mini bus departs on time. And Dunhuang Bus Station also provides car rental business.