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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. 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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Along the abrupt mountains and continuous low hills, a fast and turbid stream can be seen. Further on, the canyon and cliff with many elms on both sides of the canyon, the oasis in the desert just comes in front of your eyes. There are plank paths on the cliffs on both sides. Looking along the plank path, there are caves dug along the canyon, and these amazing caves are Yulin Caves.
Yulin Grottoes have been excavated before the Sui Dynasty. From the Tang Dynasty to the Yuan Dynasty, there are many excellent artworks left here. Although the area of murals is not as large as Mogao Caves, many murals are more exquisite and delicate than Mogao Grottoes. Among them, cave 25 is known as the most prominent cave in the middle Tang Dynasty, and it is also one of the most excellent work in Dunhuang frescoes. In addition to cave 25, the mural about the Monk Xuanzang in cave 3 is also a representative work during Xixia Period. There are large-scale delicate ink landscapes paintings respectively, which can easily remind people of the painting style in the Southern Song Dynasty.
Staying untouched from the outside world, Yulin Caves seems lonely for centuries, for which these precious murals and sculptures have been well preserved. Currently, the Research center has also been established here.
During the peak season, Mogao Caves can only host 6000 visitors per day. You can often see many people queuing up for a visit. However, in Yulin Cave, there are only 20,000 tourists every year. The murals and sculptures follow the same spirit of the Mogao Caves and some murals in Yulin Caves are even more colorful than Mogao Grottoes because of their remote location and no excessive tourism development.
• 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 (Entrance fee: CNY 40 + Guide for Foreign Visitors: CNY 15)
• Scheduled Opening Caves: 5, 11, 12, 13, 17, 19
• Caves for Irregular Events: 14, 16, 21, 23, 26
• Special Caves: 2, 3, 4, 25
*Extra Fee for the Special Caves: CNY 200 Per Person for Cave 35; CNY 150 Per Person for Cave 3; CNY 100 Per Person for Cave 4;
Note: ❶ 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. ❷ The special caves only open by 3:30 pm.
The Yulin Caves is located in the northwest of Gansu Province, about 170km away from Dunhuang, 72km from Guazhou.
Location: By Yulin River, 75KM south of Guazhou County, Jiuquan City, Gansu Province甘肃省酒泉市瓜州县南75公里榆林河
There is no direct bus to Yulin Caves from Dunhuang. Since the distance is too long for most taxi drivers in Dunhuang, you may need to charter a car to get there, and you can always contact us to book a comfortable and licensed private car! The whole driving duration is about 2.5 hours.
There is no direct bus to Yulin Grottoes from Guazhou County bus station. If you depart from Dunhuang (about 170km from Yulin Caves), you need to take a train or bus to Guazhou before your transfer to Yulin Caves. After getting to Guazhou Railway Station/Guazhou Bus Station, you can charter a car/taxi to reach Yulin Caves, and the duration from Guazhou to the caves is about 1.5 hours.
Every day there will be about 7 trains (2 bullet D trains and 5 normal K trains) running between Dunhuang and Guazhou. The duration is about half an hour for the bullet train and 1.5h for the normal train.
Dunhuang Railway Station 敦煌火车站
• Location: 314 provincial road, Dunhuang City, Jiuquan City 酒泉市敦煌市314省道
Guazhou Railway Station 瓜州火车站
• Location: Yuanquan town Guazhou Avenue, Guazhou County, Jiuquan City 酒泉市瓜州县渊泉镇瓜州大道
About 10 buses are departing from Dunhuang bus station to Guazhou between 8:00 am to 18:30 pm. Duration is about 1.5 hours. The bus fee is about CNY 26 per person.
Dunhuang Bus Station 敦煌汽车站
• Location: 2 Yingbin Avenue, Dunhuang, Jiuquan City, Gansu Province 酒泉市敦煌市迎宾大道2号
Guazhou Bus Station 瓜州汽车站
• Location: 210 Guazhou Avenue, Guazhou County, Jiuquan City, Gansu Province 甘肃省酒泉市瓜州县瓜州大道210号
Yulin Caves Location Map
Besides Yulin Caves, many other caves are opening to the public, including the famous Mogao Caves and Western Thousand Buddha Caves.
Mogao Caves, also known as Thousand Buddha Caves or Mogao Grottoes, listed in the world heritage site, is a group of ancient caves that were built in different dynasties. It is famous for exquisite murals and various sculptures kept inside the caves. With 735 caves, more than 45,000 square meters of murals, 2,415 colored sculptures of different size, Mogao Caves is one of the greatest repositories of Buddhist art in the world from which you can trace the development of Chinese art over 1,600 years from one dynasty to the next.>>Learn More about Mogao Caves
Located on a cliff about 33 kilometers southwest of Dunhuang City, to the west of the Mogao Caves, some caves are also known as the "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas", therefore they were 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.>>Learn More about Dunhuang Caves
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① Best Time to Go - Seasonal Advice
It is dry and has little rain all year round at Yulin Caves. The temperature varies a lot between the daytime and night. Summer and autumn(May to October) are the best seasons for travel. Whenever you are planning to visit there, be fully prepared for the strong sunlight and wind.
② Ticket & Fee
The ticket is only valid on the day you purchase it and it can be used for visiting regular caves. For special caves, you may need to pay extra fee accordingly.
③ No Photography in Caves
Taking photos is not allowed when visiting inside the Yulin Caves. But you can take photos outside the caves.
④ Prepare Some Light to Visit the Special Caves
To well protect the historical relics, it is very dark in the special caves. And you can take your electric torch to see the paintings and statues.
⑤ Visiting Route
It is recommended to drive or charter a car to get to Yulin Caves. There is a free parking lot outside the scenic area. At present, there is only one tour route to visit the caves on the east cliff. In the peak season, there are 30 people in one visiting group.
⑥ Yulin Caves Accommodation
There is no hotel around the Yulin Caves, and if you are planning to stay there, the nearest accommodation place is in Guazhou City, about 70km away from Yulin Caves.
Though the Yulin Caves do not belong to Dunhuang City, it is still recommendable to travel Yulin Caves with Dunhuang for the short distance between them. Usually, 2~4 days are needed to explore highlights of Dunhuang. The world heritage site Mogao Caves and the stunning landscape of Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Lake are two Must- Go attractions which need a full day to visit. You can then spend one more day to explore the western region of Dunhuang to explore the history and Gobi landscape at the ruin of Great Wall, Yumenguan Pass, Yandan Landform, etc. As for the downtown sites, if time allows, don't miss the Shazhou Night Market and Dunhuang Museum.
Some travelers usually travel Yulin Caves and Dunhuang with other destinations in Gansu, such as Jiayuguan, Zhangye, Lanzhou, etc. One can even travel from Dunhuang to Turpan, Urumqi and Kashgar of Xinjiang.
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[Important] Travel News for Expats: China travel is reopening now! Travel with China Discovery and learn about where to visit & requirements for each destination! Read Details >