Dunhuang Caves: Tickets, Maps, Guide, How to Get There 2024/2025

Dunhuang is not only a name for a place, but also a noun with rich cultural connotation. Dunhuang is originated from the East Han Dynasty: Dun, means grand; Huang, means abundance. Therefore, Dunhuang is named after its grand and vast land. Besides the name itself, Dunhuang is a cultural term based on the silk road. Many cultural relics related to the Silk Road were found there. What we call Dunhuang Caves is a large category, which refers to the collection of the Mogao Caves and other grottoes sites around Dunhuang.

Dunhuang Grottoes or Dunhuang Caves include Mogao Caves (735 caves), Western Thousand Buddha Caves (16 caves), Yulin Caves (43 caves), East Thousand Buddha Caves (23 caves), Xiadongzi Caves (8 caves), Five Temples Caves (19 caves), One Temple Caves (1 caves) and Yumen Changma Caves (4 caves). Among these grottoes, the most famous one is the Mogao Caves. Currently, the cave areas opening to tourists are the Mogao Caves, Western Thousand Buddha Caves, and Yulin Caves. Other caves are not open to tourists for their remote location and cave conservation.

Dunhuang Caves Dunhuang Caves Location Map

Mogao Caves 莫高窟 - Top Recommended & The Greatest Hoard of Buddhist Arts

Known as the most valuable cultural discovery in the 20th century and praised as the “Oriental Louvre”, the Mogao Caves located in the southeast Dunhuang owns 735 grottoes, 2415 colored sculptures and more than 45,000 square meters' murals. It was first excavated since 366 AD and hundreds of caves were built in the coming millennium. In modern times, the library cave was found by a local Taoist, Wan Yuanlu who dwelt there and visited by the British explorer Stein who brought the Dunhuang scriptures back to his home country and the Mogao Caves got famed soon after that. It is a wondrous Archaeological find of ancient architectures, sculptures, and murals. Due to their different functions, the caves were built in different shapes and sizes; the sculptures are the highlights of Mogao Grottoes, which were placed in a prominent position in the grottoes; murals are full of the walls of the grottoes, which vividly represent the Buddhist thought and philosophy with plenty of colors and rich details. 

Though it has suffered from a lot of painful damages, many delicate and numerous artworks from over 10 dynasties and different nations along the silk road are still well kept in the caves which you can not find any comparable caves in the other places. Even a new study in the archaeological field, the academy of Dunhuang was established due to the great discovery.

Recommended Dunhuang Tour: >>3 Days Best Dunhuang Culture and Scenery Tour

How to Get to the Mogao Caves

Since there is no parking lot in the cave area, you can not drive to the Mogao Caves area directly. The only entrance to the Mogao Caves is the Mogao Caves Digital Exhibition Center, the ticket office, from which you can take a shuttle bus to get the cave area. 

The Mogao Caves Digital Exhibition Center is only about 2km to Dunhuang Railway Station, 4km to Dunhuang Airport, and 12km to the Dunhuang Downtown area. You can easily grab a taxi and get there. The shuttle bus from the Digital Center departs according to your scheduled visiting time. The distance between the cave area and the ticket office is about 16km and it takes about 20min to get to the cave area by bus.

Useful Link: >>How to Get to Mogao Caves

Dunhuang Caves

Ancient Scriptures from Mogao Caves

Dunhuang Caves

Giant Reclining Buddha Sculpture in Mogao Caves

Dunhuang Caves

Murals of Mogao Caves

Magao Caves Digital Exhibition Center Opening Hours

• Peak Season: 07:30 - 15:00 (Apri 1st to Oct. 31st ); 08:30 - 15:00 (Nov. 1st to Nov. 30th)

• Off-Season: 08:30 - 15:00 (Dec 1st to Mar. 31st)

Entrance Fee Entrance Fee for Foreign Visitors: CNY 258 (Type A); CNY 120 (Type B); CNY 50 (Type C); CNY 160 (Type D); CNY 120 (Type E); CNY 40 (Type F)

Useful Link: >>Mogao Caves Tickets

Notice of the Mogao Caves

• Scheduled Opening Caves: 9, 16, 17, 25, 29, 46, 55, 61, 71, 94, 96, 171, 334, 148, 202, 203, 231, 237, 244, 246, 249, 251, 257, 259, 292, 296, 314, 329, 332, 335, 340, 341, 384, 397, 407, 409, 420, 427, 428, 445

• Caves for Irregular Events: 12, 23, 44, 79, 100, 103, 138, 146, 152, 204, 172, 201, 256, 311, 323, 328, 331, 386, 390, 419

• Special Caves: 45, 57, 156, 158, 217, 220, 254, 275, 321, 322

Yulin Caves 榆林窟 - Numerous Stunning Murals

The Yulin Caves or Yulin Temple (Chinese: 榆林窟; pinyin: Yulin kū) is a Buddhist cave temple site located about 160 km east of the oasis town of Dunhuang and the Mogao Caves. It was named after the elm trees (Yulin in Chinese) lining the River, which flows through the cliffs from which the caves have been excavated. It was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage sites as part of the Chinese Section of the Silk Road.

There are 43 existing caves in the Yulin Caves, with a total of 5,200 square meters of murals and more than 259 colored sculptures.

Because the Yulin Caves are connected with the Mogao Caves, and the construction history, grotto architecture, colored sculpture and mural are the same. Therefore, it is called "sister caves" of the Mogao caves.

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How to Get to the Yulin Caves

The Yulin Caves is about 72 kilometers away from the south of the Guazhou downtown area, Gansu Province. The road condition is good all the way. You can drive directly to Yulin grottoes from Guazhou. Also, there is a direct bus to Yulin Grottoes from Guazhou county. If you depart from Dunhuang (about 170km from Yulin Caves), you need to take a train or coach to Guazhou before your transfer to Yulin Caves. It will take about 2 hours and 30 minutes by car, but the taxi fee is expensive.

Dunhuang Caves

Yulin Caves

Dunhuang Caves

Murals of Yulin Caves

Opening Hours:

• Peak Season (May 1st to Oct 31st): 9:00 - 17:30 (ticket office gets closed by 16:30)

• Off-Season (Nov 1st to Apr 30th): 10:00 - 17:00 (ticket office gets closed by 16:00)

Entrance Fee Entrance Fee for Foreign Visitors: CNY 55 per person

Notice of the Yulin Caves

• Scheduled Opening Caves: 5, 11, 12, 13, 17, 19

• Caves for Irregular Events: 14, 16, 21, 23, 26

• Special Caves: 2, 3, 4, 25

Note: The tickets are only valid for one time on the day you purchased. Once printed and sold, the tickets are not refundable and exchangeable. Each 1-25 visitors are in a group, and the professional guide will lead the group to visit the caves.

Western Thousand Buddha Caves 西千佛洞 - Less Crowded & Close to the Downtown

The Western Thousand Buddha Caves (Chinese: 西千佛洞; pinyin: Xī Qiānfó Dòng) is a Buddhist cave temple, located on a cliff about 33 kilometers southwest of Dunhuang City, Gansu Province. It is to the west of the Mogao Caves, also known as the "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas", therefore it was named as Western Thousand Buddha Caves. The cave was built on the South and North cliffs of the valley which was scoured by Danghe River. There are 22 caves with a total length of 2.5km. According to the experts and archaeologists, the western thousand Buddha Caves should be built earlier than the Mogao Caves, or at least at the same time as the Mogao Caves.

Among the existing caves, the earliest was built in the Northern Wei dynasty. There are 34 painted sculptures and more than 800 square meters of murals.

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How to Get to Western Thousand Buddha Caves

The Western Thousand Buddha Caves is located near the Danghe reservoir to the west of Dunhuang City, about 35 kilometers away from it. Since there is not any bus to get to the cave area, you can drive there. There is a parking lot in the cave area. It takes about 40 minutes by taxi.

Dunhuang Caves

Murals of Western Thousand Buddha Caves

Opening Hours:

• Peak Season (May 1st to Oct 31st): 8:30 - 17:15

• Off-Season (Nov 1st to Apr 30th): 9:00 - 17:00

Entrance Fee Entrance Fee for Foreign Visitors: CNY 40 per person

Notice of the Western Thousand Buddha Caves

• Scheduled Opening Caves: 4, 5, 11, 16, 18 

Note: The tickets are only valid for one time on the day you purchased. Once printed and sold, the tickets are not refundable and exchangeable. Each 1-25 visitors are in a group, and the professional guide will lead the group to visit the caves.

Other Conserved Dunhuang Caves

Eastern Thousand Buddha Caves 东千佛洞

The Eastern thousand Buddha Caves also belongs to Dunhuang Caves. There are 23 existing grottoes, including eight Grottoes with both murals and painted sculptures, three caves in the east, five caves in the west, and most of them are single-chamber grottoes. Among them, cave 2, 4, 5, and 7 were rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. Only the fourth grottoes are the statues of eminent monks in the Xixia dynasty, which are well preserved. According to the contents, the murals can be divided into four categories: classic Buddha paintings, scripture story paintings, decorative patterns and portraits of the benefactors. The mural is the most completely preserved in cave 2. The artistic style and content of some caves are the same as the grottoes of Yulin Caves.

Five-Temple Caves & One-Temple Cave 五个庙石窟 & 一个面石窟

The Five-Temple Caves is located in Guazhou, Gansu Province, about 100km away from the Mogao Caves, on the cliff on the West Bank of Danghe River. The cave is excavated on the sand cliff formed by the erosion of the Danghe river. The height of the cliff is about 30 meters and the cave is about 12-15 meters from the ground. There are 19 existing caves on the cliff stretching 300 meters long from the south to the north. Only five caves in the middle are accessible, so it is called "Five-Temple Caves". One of them has been destroyed in the modern times. On the East Bank of Danghe River, opposite to the five-temple caves, there are four grottoes. About 5 kilometers from the five temples, there is a cave, commonly known as "One-Temple Cave".

Recommended Dunhuang Tour: >>4 Days Classic Dunhuang Tour

Dunhuang Caves

Eastern Thousand Buddha Caves

Dunhuang Caves

Five-Temple Caves

How to Plan a Dunhuang Caves Tour

Among all the caves in Dunhuang, the Mogao Caves is the most recommended one and easily accessible from Dunhuang Downtown. It takes about half a day to visit there and another half a day to visit the nearby Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Lake, which are two Must-Go attractions in Dunhuang.

If you are fond of these wonderful caves, you can also spend one day to explore the Yulin Caves in the east of Dunhuang. Also, the Western Thousand Buddha Caves in the west of Dunhuang is reachable by car from Downtown within only 33km, and you only need half a day to visit there.

After visiting the caves you are interested, you can then spend more day to explore the western region of Dunhuang which also has a lot of attractions, such as the ruin of Great Wall, Yumenguan Pass, Yardang Landform, etc. As for the downtown sites, if time allows, don't miss the Shazhou Night Market and Dunhuang Museum.

Some travelers usually travel Dunhuang with other destinations in Gansu, such as Jiayuguan, Zhangye, Lanzhou, etc. One can even travel from Dunhuang to Turpan, Urumqi of Xinjiang.

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Dunhuang Caves

Sculptures, Murals, Facade of the Mogao Caves

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