Dunhuang Travel Guide

The national, historical city of Dunhuang is a renowned tourist city famous for the Mogao Caves. It is situated in the common boundary of Gansu Province, Qinghai Province and Xinjiang Province.

Dunhuang, long ago referred to as 'Sha Zhou' (beautiful desert oasis), was the hub of middle and eastern silk routes in ancient times. The city landmark is an attractive statue, the idea of which comes from the mural in Mogao Caves, a shrine to the culture and arts of Dunhuang.

From Mt.Qilian in the south, Mt. Mazong in the north and desert from east to west, the landform of Dunhuang City is a declining basin-plain from west to northeast, high in the north and south, and low in the middle. The western cities of China, especially those in the desert, are known for their sandstorms, so tourists should protect themselves with glasses, hats and gauze kerchiefs, etc.

In ancient times, Dunhuang was the center of trade between China and its western neighbors. At that time, it was the most westerly frontier military garrison in China. With the flourishing of trade along the Silk Road, Dunhuang was prompted to become the most open area in international trade in Chinese history. It provided the only access westward for the Chinese Empire and eastward for western nationalities.

Today, as a reminder of this historical area, we are left with the Mogao Caves, Yangguan Pass, Yumenguan Pass and many wonderful Chinese poems depicting the time. Although what remains of the two Passes are crumbling walls, one can still experience the atmosphere of that time while visiting in person.

Because of its splendid stone caves, tourism has become an indispensable industry to Dunhuang City. Surrounding establishments include various classes of hotels and restaurants for your choosing.

For a western city in China, it has become more accesible for people to come and go as they please. Transportation is much more efficient, ensuring that your wonderful trip runs smoothly.

May to September is the best time to visit, so be sure to plan your trip during these months. Including Dunhuang City in your tour is a decision you won't regret!


Situated east of Dunhuang City, Dunhuang Airport is about 13 km (about 8 miles) from the downtown area. The Mogao Caves are closer to the airport than to the downtown area. If you are pressed for time, you can go to the Mogao Caves directly from the airport.


If you bring western China to mind, it is likely that most people have an impression of deserts, bad weather like sand storms and a harsh, arid environment and maybe the mysterious murals in the Dunhuang rock caves, etc. However, most people have gained such an impression from TV or books, in fact, most of the time, the weather in Dunhuang City is not so bad. The charm of western China is a special kind of desolate ruggedness. If you want to sample the unique appeal of Dunhuang, you should base your trip in around the features of western China, but not the weather.

Gansu Province, with great length, has a pronounced difference between the climates of north and south. Dunhuang City, situated in the north of the Province is land locked, and surrounded by high mountains, its great distance from the moist sea breezes helped form its arid continental climate. The annual average temperature is 9.3C (48.74F), but ranges from 24.7 C (76.46F) in July to -9.3C (15.26F) in January. Dunhuang is fervent in summer and bitterly cold in winter with precipitation outstripped by evaporation. The fluctuation in temperature between day and night suggest tourists should bring a warm, winter clothing for use in the morning and evening. Other essentials are sunglasses, caps, sunscreen and gauze-kerchiefs.

Winter is bitingly cold season and is not suitable for traveling. March to October is suitable for visiting, with May to September offering the most clement weather, especially for visiting the caves, as there are no lighting facilities inside but the sunshine perfuse the caves with radiance at this time.

Dunhuang City general

Location: Situated in the common boundary of Gansu Province, Qinghai Province and Xinjiang Province, the far west of the Hexi corridor west of the yellow river of Gansu Province

Population: about 180,000

Area: 31,200 sq km

Nationalities: Han, Mongolian, Tibetan, Manchu, Kazak, Tu, Hui, Yugu and Korean, etc.

Postcode: 736200

Area code: 0937

Bank: Dunhuang Subbranch of Bank of China

Address: 1/F, Zhongyuan Hotel, in Yangguan Zhong Lu (Middle Yangguan Rd.)

Telephone: tourists can easily find telephone booths on the main streets and historic sites. The stores, and stalls along the roads also have privately operated public telephones.

Post office: Dunhuang Post Office
Address: No. 1 on Yangguan Zhong Lu (Middle Yangguan Road)

Dunhuang People' Hospital: 0937-8822137
Address: No.20 in Dong Da Jie (East Street)

Dunhuang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital:
Address: No. 6 in Shazhou Nan Lu (South Shazhou Rd.)

Fire: 119
Police: 110
Ambulance: 120

Useful numbers

Dunhuang Red Cross Mogao Caves Aid Post: 0937-8869012
Address: inside Dunhuang Academe new work area

Dunhuang Red Cross Crescent Lake Aid Post: 0937-8825461
Address: inside Crescent Lake Yuequan Pavilion

Tourist Complaint: 0937-8821303
Address: No. 13 in Yangguan Dong Lu (East Yangguan Rd.)


Dunhuang Xinhua Bookstore
Address: Yangguan Dong Lu (East Yangguan Rd.)


Three Treasures of Anxi - Suoyang Wine, Guazhou Melon and Shuangta Fish, is source of Anxi dining culture. Tourists should try them; otherwise your Dunhuang trip will be not complete.

Fry Oil Cake
Stuffed sugar candy, rose-essence, walnut and sesame in an oil flour skin that are rounded, and then fried. The cake tastes fragrant, sweet and crisp.

Yellow Noodles
It is a kind of Lamian (dough stretched to form fine noodles). Yellow Noodles look like golden threads, tastes delicious and have a soft texture. They can be added to soups, or mixed with cooked vegetable dishes, and being savoury, makes a good appetitive. From the vivid painting in the Mogao Caves, we may know Lamian is a traditional food with long history.

Niang Pi Zi
It is a kind of traditional popular fast food that is both a little spicy and vinegary. Mix flour and water together into a bowl, then ladle the mixture onto an iron plate, after steaming one minute, the mixture become a wafer thin cake. Cut the cake into strips, leave until cool and flavor with mustard, garlic, capsicum, sauce and vinegar. It is similar to the tasteful Liang Pi of Xian.

Apricot Peel Water
It is a popular drink in Dunhuang City, with a sweet and sour taste like syrup of Plum. It is the cooled boiling water of dry apricot, which is very refreshing, especially for tourists.

Shazhou Night Market on Yangguan East Road is the best place to try these local flavors, such as lamb shashliks and Lanzhou (the capital city of Gansu Province) Lamian (a kind of noodles).

By Air
Situated 13 kilometers (about 8.1 miles) east of Dunhuang City is Dunhuang Airport (DNH), a small airport that offers only domestic service. Tourists can fly to Dunhuang from Lanzhou, Xian, Beijing, Jiayuguan, Urumqi, etc. In order to offer the smooth tour for tourists, there opened the tourist charter-flights of Dunhuang-Beijing, Dunhuang-Guangzhou, Dunhuang-Nanjing, Dunhuang-Urumqi, Dunhuang and Yinchuan. In peak seasons, the airport offers many more charter-flights than in off-season. When you arrive at the airport, it is convenient to take a taxi to access downtown Dunhuang. If you ask some other people to share a taxi with you, it will cost you less than if you take it by yourself.

Important notice: Taxis outside the airport will cost less than those inside.

Dunhuang Airport Consultation: 0937-8822389

Dunhaung Airport CAAC Ticket Booking Office: 0937-8822389
Address: No. 12 Yangguan Dong Lu (East Yangguan Rd.)

Grand Sun Hotel Ticket Booking Office: 0937-8825699
Address: No. 5 in Shazhou Bei Lu (North Shazhou Rd.)

Airport Code: DNH

By Train
There is no railway station in Dunhuang and the nearest station is Liuyuan Railway Station which is about 128 kilometers (79.5 miles) north of downtown area. Tourists can directly to Liuyuan Railway Station from Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Chongqing, Lianyungang, Zhengzhou, Hankou, etc. For the long distance journey between railway station and downtown Dunhuang, tourists should take the bus (15 yuan -20 yuan) leaving from Dunhuang Long-Distance Bus Station or taxi (80 yuan to 120 yuan for Santana) to get to downtown Dunhuang, which will take at least two hours. If you hire the taxi with other tourists, the cost can be shared. Liuyuan Railway Station set a station without a railway on Shazhou Nan Lu (South Shazhou Rd.) to offer a ticket booking service.

Liuyuan Railway Station Booking Office: 0937-8823095

By Bus
Dunhuang Long-Distance Bus Station is located at No. 24 Mingshan Road, Shazhou Town, opposite Feitian Hotel. There are bus routes to Xining, Xian, Hami, Turpan, Urumqi and Golmud, etc. If you want to visit Tibet from Dunhuang City, you can first take the bus to Golmud, and then transfer to the bus for Lhasa.

Dunhuang Bus Station and Dunhuang Passenger Transport Center, located at No. 25 Mingshan Road, offers local services between Dunhuang and other cities or regions inside Gansu Province, which including Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, Zhangye, Jiuquan and Wuwei, etc.

It is very convenient and easy for tourists to take a taxi. There are many taxies driving around the city, or parked at the airport, bus station, hotels and historic sights etc. The flag-down-rates of taxies are range from RMB 5 to 10 according to the different taxi types. Beyond the first 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles), the extra fee will be charged which is about RMB 1 for mini taxies and RMB 1.2 for a sedan. Tourists may take a taxi to Echoing-Sand Mountain (about RMB 10 and RMB 20 for round trip), which is 6 kilometers (about 3.7 miles) away from downtown Dunhuang. Generally, tourists travel to sights of interest by taxi or minibus, the fair is negotiable, which will be reasonable. You can hire the taxi for the day to visit Mogao Caves, Echoing-Sand Mountain and Crescent Lake, the cost (including the waiting time and parking) in total is about RMB 100 to 120 for a sedan.

Buses in Dunhuang City are mostly of a medium size running along fixed routes in the downtown area; and operate between the hours from 7:00 until 22:00. There are three bus routes from Dunhuang City into the countryside heading in three different directions. With departures every 15 minutes costing RMB 1 for the through trip, bus No. 3 will take you to Echoing-Sand Mountain Jinrikisha.

Such vehicles run through the streets and lanes making your trip flexible and convenient. Generally, RMB 1 for 1 kilometer (about 0.6 miles).

Bicycle rental
On Mingshan Road, there are several rental services, the fee can be negotiated, generally RMB 1 per hour.

Dunhuang, which is located at the juncture of three provinces - Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang, is the oasis of the natural basin formed by three grand mountains and the Great Takla Makan Desert. The particular location and the warm, dry climate bestow upon Dunhuang marvelous natural sceneries, such as the Yadan landforms, Sand Hill and Moon Spring, etc. In addition, the splendid culture of ancient times, especially the tridimensional artistic treasure of Buddhism, namely the Mogao Grotto, enchants every traveler to set foot on this mysterious land.

In order to meet different needs of travelers from all over the world, Dunhuang has more than 40 hotels of various grades. They are mainly located in the city center, near Sand Hill and near Mogao Grotto. Generally speaking, hotels in Dunhuang are mainly divided into three styles: the courtyard style presents beautiful surroundings; the traditional style conveys the profound culture of Dunhuang; while the modern style boasts the elements of international modern hotels. Due to the relatively slower economic progress of Dunhuang City, hotels of Dunhuang are comparatively inexpensive.

Terminal Building: Covering an area of about 12,000 square meters, the Terminal Building holds a throughput of about 600 person-times at the peak hour.

Airport Inquires: 0937 - 8825292

Airport Ticket Office
Tel: 0937 - 8822389 0937 – 8825699
Address: No. 12 Yangguan Dong Lu

Airport Transportation: From the airport to downtown Dunhuang, the most convenient vehicle should be taxi. The starting rate for taxies in Dunhuang ranges from 5 Yuan to 10 Yuan depending on the type of taxi. For the detailed information on taxis, please refer to Dunhuang Transportation.

Moderate Hotels:

The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel
(4 star) Sand Hill
The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel is an international 4-star hotel located at the foot of the famous Sand Hill, which is about 3 km away from the city center. With a traditional northwest castle style exterior and Ming reproduction furniture equipped in all the guest rooms, the hotel intends to show its guests the richness of Silk Road's culture and bring them a lifetime memorable experience. The hotel was opened in 1995. There are 300 guest rooms in total.

Budget Hotels:

Grand Sun Hotel, Dunhuang
(4 star) City center
Grand Sun Hotel, Dunhuang is the highest building of Dunhuang City, which is located just a stone-throw away from the city center. The location of the hotel wins convenient transportation for travelers stay in this hotel. It was opened in 1997 and boasting a total of 220 guest rooms.