• Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com


Turpan, which means "the lowest place" in Uyghur, lies in a desert basin at the southern foot of the Heavenly Mountains. Part of the basin lies 505 feet below sea level, the hottest spot in China and the second-lowest point in the world after the Dead Sea. In summer, temperatures can soar to more than 122°F (50°C), so come prepared with lots of water and sunscreen.

Turpan's claim to fame is its location between the ruins of two spectacular ancient cities: Jiaohe and Gaochang. Thanks to the high-speed train, Turpan is an easy day trip from Ürümqi, but there's enough to see here to occupy two or three days of touring. Surrounded by some of the richest farmland in Xinjiang, Turpan's vineyards are famous for producing several varieties of candy-sweet raisins popular throughout China.

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