With nothing but 1.3 million-square-kilometer desert for company, Dunhuang really feels as though it’s in the middle of nowhere. But it’s the desolation that makes the desert town so attractive. With a population of 180,000, Dunhuang (the name means “big and grand”) is located in the Gansu province of western China. Today, the wildest activities in and around the old trading hub revolve around accessing the desert that travelers once feared.
1. Horseback riding to Yangguan Pass
The pass once protected Dunhuang from invaders coming from the west; and though it has been reduced to a heap of rock with traces of design and architectural details, the view near the pass remains breathtaking: bleak but beautiful desert stretches as far as the eye can see. Admission is RMB 50 (US$8), which includes a guided tour of the Yangguan Museum. Visitors have the option of going up to the Yangguan Pass on a tram or by horseback. The horse, of course, feels far more epic. [Read more...]