When the leaves are falling and the shadows of snow are curling like the sky in winter, it's the most wonderful time to visit Dunhuang! Expectations for this little Silk Road town, waiting in the clear sunshine until its energy gradually explodes - Dunhuang in winter, different! Stunning, different warmth. If coming to Dunhuang at other times of the year is considered a trip, then coming to Dunhuang in winter is truly bringing the heart home.
Day 1 Arrive in Dunhuang
You will either fly or taken the train into Dunhuang, and upon arrival you will be met by your English-speaking travel guide. You will then be taken to your hotel for the night.
Dunhuang, long ago referred to as 'Sha Zhou' (beautiful desert oasis), was the hub of middle and eastern silk routes in ancient times. 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.
Following breakfast, we will explore Dunhuang’s premier attraction, the Mogao Grottoes. The Mogao Grottoes, commonly named Thousand-Buddha Caves, and praised as "a glittering pearl that adorns the Silk Road", are the most famous grottoes in China. Located 25km southeast of Dunhuang County, these caves are carved out of the sandstone cliffs of Mingsha Mountain, extending some 1600m from south to north. Constructed in 10 dynasties from the fourth to the 14th century, its 45000 square meters of mural paintings and more than 2000 color statues are regarded as the greatest treasure-house of Buddhist art existing in the world. Today, 492 caves are still standing. Altogether there are 2,000 statues and over 45,000 separate murals.
Nearby the city of Dunhuang is Echoing Sand Mountain, our next point of interest. Have you ever heard of a mountain that echoes to the sound of sand as you slide down its slopes? Can you image a perennially limpid lake in an area of desert sand? Here you will have the chance to enjoy the wonderful spectacle of the Echoing-Sand Mountain. Seen from afar, the mountain is just like a golden dragon winding its way over the horizon. As you approach you become aware that the sand has many colors ranging from red to yellow, green, black and white. On days when a strong wind blows, the fast shifting sand roars; but when the wind is little more than a light breeze, the sand produces gentle, dulcet sounds akin to music. It is the same when you are sliding down the mountainside. At first, the sand under your feet just whispers; but the further you slide, the louder the sound until it reaches a crescendo like thunder or a drum beat. Some say that the sand is singing, while to others it is like an echo and this is how the mountain gets its name.
Encircled by the mountain, there is the Crescent Moon Lake, so called because of its shape. The water in the lake is so pure and sweet that it looks like an emerald set in the sand. Many of the visitors who have made their way down the mountain like to drink from the lake. According to historical record, the lake has been in existence for hundreds of years without ever being buried by the sand; it is really a geological wonder.
There is also a story about the lake. In the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC- 24), a general called Li Guang, together with a group of soldiers, captured a powerful and swift horse from Dawan, a western state of China at that time. When passing the Echoing-Sand Mountain upon their return, the soldiers became too thirsty to continue their march. General Li drew his sword and thrust it into the side of the mountain causing water to spring forth and so formed the lake.
You will then be taken back to your hotel for the night.
Day 3 Dunhuang-departure (B)
After breakfast you will be taken to either the Dunhuang airport or train station, and you will travel on to your next destination.