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The Silk Road Travel Guide

  • Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com

Xinjiang

The vast Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, covering more than 1.6 million square km (640,000 square miles), is China's largest province. Even more expansive than Alaska, it borders Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Only 41% of Xinjiang's 21.8 million inhabitants are Han Chinese. About 43% are Uyghur (a people of Turkic origin), and the remainder

are mostly Kazakhs, Hui, Kyrgyz, Mongols, and Tajiks.

Xinjiang gets very little rainfall except in the northern areas near Russia. It gets very cold in winter and very hot in summer, especially in the Turpan Basin, where temperatures often soar to 120°F. Visitors usually forgive the extreme weather, however, as they're charmed by the locals and awed by the rugged scenery, ranging from the endless sand dunes of the desert to the pastoral grasslands of the north.

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