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Jiaohe Ancient City - Best-preserved City Ruins in the World

World Heritage Site - Jiaohe Ancient City

Jiaohe Ancient City (Yarkhoto) is the world's largest, oldest and best preserved earth building city. It is also the most complete urban heritage in China with a history of more than two thousand years. Anxidu Prefecture, the highest military and political institution in the Western Regions of the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907), was first set up in Jiaohe Ancient City. On June 22, 2014, at the 38th UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting held in Doha, Qatar, Jiaohe Ancient City, as a site of "Silk Road: Road Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor" jointly applied for World Heritage by China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, was successfully included in the world heritage list.

History of Jiaohe Ancient City

Jiaohe Ancient City was founded and built by Cheshi people from the 2nd century B.C. to the 5th century, and reached its peak in the Southern and Northern Dynasties (A.D. 420-589) and the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907). From the 9th to the 14th century, Jiaohe City was caught in successive wars for its important strategic position, which led to its gradual decline. During the Chahetai period at the end of the Yuan Dynasty (A.D. 1271-1368), Jiaohe City was seriously damaged and finally abandoned. The whole city has been in use for nearly 2000 years and has been abandoned for 700 or 800 years. Walking in the ruins, it seems that you can hear the camel bells of the caravan in the ancient times.

Jiaohe Ancient City Jiaohe Ancient City

Layout of Jiaohe Ancient City

Jiaohe Ruins is on the 30-meter high loess platform at the intersection of two rivers, that’s also why it is called Jiaohe (means the place where two rivers meet in Chinese). It is a willow leaf shaped city with a length of about 1650 meters. It is narrow at both ends, and about 300 meters wide in the middle. The ancient city is surrounded by cliffs. Three gates are built on the cliffs in the east, west and south. All the buildings are made of rammed earth, and the layout is similar to that of Chang'an City in the Tang Dynasty. Clay Bodhisattvas, government offices, Buddhist temples, pagodas, streets and alleys, as well as workshops, dwellings, military training grounds can all be found in the city.

Jiaohe Ancient City Bird's-eye View of Jiaohe Ancient City

Visiting Jiaohe Ancient City

It needs about 2 hours to tour around Jiaohe Ancient City. At the entrance stands a museum, where you can see a replication of Jiaohe Ancient City and have a basic understanding of the city in advance. Then you can get into the ruins and have a closer look at this ancient city.

After thousands of years of ups and downs, the main structure of the city is still miraculously preserved, which should benefit from the dry and rainless climate of Turpan. The total area of the ancient city is 470,000 square meters, and the existing building remains cover 360,000 square meters. Most of the buildings in the city were built in the Tang Dynasty, and the whole city retains the architectural characteristics of the Central Plains before the Song Dynasty.

A central avenue running through the city divides the residence into the east and west parts. Walking on the weathered path, you can roughly feel the glorious past of Cheshi Kingdom. At the north end of the avenue is a large-scale temple with an area of about 90,000 square meters. In the eastern part is a large residential area of about 78000 square meters, a small residential area, and an official district. In addition to the dwellings, there are also many handicraft workshops in the west area. On both sides of the avenue are high and thick walls with no doors and windows facing the street. Because the city is built on a 30-meter high cliff, there is no need to build a city wall. The south gate was the main channel for transporting supplies and troops in ancient times. Due to the unique position, it is said that one man at the south gate is able to resist an army! The traffic network, gate and other buildings all reflect the defensive guiding ideology of the construction. It is fair to say the whole ancient city is a huge military fortress.

In addition, it is incredible that most of the buildings in the city, regardless of their size, are basically excavated from the high platform in a way of "reducing the land and retaining the walls". The temples, government offices, city gates and houses all have raw earth walls. The streets and alleys are long, narrow and deep, like winding trenches. It can be said that this city is a huge ancient sculpture. Its architectural technology is not only unique in China, but also rare in foreign countries, reflecting the wisdom and great creativity of ancient people.

TIPS: It is most recommended to visit Jiaohe Ancient City in the late afternoon so that you can avoid the strong sunlight at noon and it is possible to catch the grand sunset.

Jiaohe Ancient City Present Jiaohe Ancient City
Jiaohe Ancient City Raw Earth Walls Left in Jiaohe Ruins
Jiaohe Ancient City Jiaohe Ancient City Sunset

Jiaohe Ancient City Location & Transportation Map

Jiaohe Ancient City is located at Jianggelemaisi Village, Ya'er Country, Turpan 吐鲁番市雅尔乡将格勒买斯村, about 11 km to the west of Turpan downtown. As it is a famous attraction in Turpan and not far away from downtown, it is convenient to get there. Jiaohe Ancient City is about:

  • 11 km, 25 minutes' drive from Turpan downtown;
  • 7.5 km, 15 minutes' drive from Karez System;
  • 49 km, 70 minutes' drive from Gaochang Ancient City;
  • 40 km, 50 minutes' drive from Flaming Mountains;
  • 16 km, 30 minutes' drive from Turpan North Railway Station;
  • 18 km, 35 minutes' drive from Turpan Jiaohe Airport.

Step 1: Get to Turpan First

Turpan is on the Lanzhou-Urumqi High-speed Railway. Therefore, it is convenient to get to Turpan by high speed train from cities on the Silk Road such as Urumqi (1h), Dunhuang (3.5h), Zhangye (5h), Jiayuguan (6.5), Lanzhou (9.5-10h), Xining (8-8.5h), Xian (12.5h), etc. You can also fly to Turpan from Lanzhou (2.5h), Beijing (5.5h), Chengdu (5.5h), Changsha (4.5h), Zhengzhou (4.5h), etc. But the flight schedule is not stable. It is also available to get to Urumqi (the capital of Xinjiang) first, which has more flights between major cities in China, and then transfer to Turpan. Read more about Turpan Transportation >

Step 2: Turpan to Jiaohe Ancient City Transfer

The fastest and most convenient way is no doubt taking a taxi or chartering a car. From April to October, you can take a tourist bus (about CNY 20) to Jiaohe Ancient City. On ordinary days, city bus is also available to Yaer County, and then you need to take a local tuktuk to the site.

Travel with China Discovery: If you want to get rid of hustle of public transportation and troublesome navigation, you can book a private tour package which covers sightseeing, dining and transfer from us. Our knowledgeable local tour guide and skilled driver will escort you to visit Jiaohe Ancient City with speed and convenience, and take care of all the details. You just need to focus on sightseeing. Contact us to customize a worry-free tour package now!

Jiaohe Ancient City Click to enlarge Jiaohe Ancient City Location Map
Turpan Flights Map Click to enlarge Turpan Flights Map
China Discovery Private Transfer China Discovery Private Transfer

How to Plan A Turpan Tour

How to Get to Turpan: There are high speed trains to Turpan from Xian (about 12.5h), Lanzhou (about 9.5h), Xining (about 8h), Zhangye (about 6.5h), Jiayuguan (about 5h), Dunhuang (about 3.5h), etc. and flights from Urumqi (1h), Beijing (5.5h), Lanzhou (2.5h), Changsha (4.5h), Korla (1h), Burqin (1h15min), etc. Many travelers also travel to Urumqi by flight first and then transfer to Turpan.

Best Time to Visit Turpan: May to October is the best time to visit Turpan. It is cold in late autumn and winter (November ~ next February) and rather windy in early and mid-spring (March and April). The temperature is high in summer, but you will get a lot of sweet fruits.

Generally, a classic Turpan tour takes 2 ~ 3 days. If your time is limited, you can focus on the essence of Turpan City. We suggest you spend 1 day touring the highlights of Turpan City, such as Karez System - a magic project bringing out underground water to this barren land, Turpan Museum where lots of historical exhibits including mummies are collected and Jiaohe Ancient City - the world's largest and oldest city ruins, and another day exploring its attractive surroundings, including Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Cave with exquisite murals & profound Buddhist culture, Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon with breathtaking landform, and peaceful Mazar Village (in Tuyuk Valley) where people still live traditionally. If you have one more day, don't miss Kumtag Desert, a beautiful desert offering amazing desert landscape and many interesting activities (like jeep safari, desert hiking, desert surfing, etc.).

☛ 2 Days Turpan Essence Tour from Urumqi

Of course, it's far from enough if you just visit Turpan. Travelers always travel Turpan with Urumqi - the tourist center in northern Xinjiang together. It needs about 1~2 days to visit landmarks of Urumqi City, like Xinjiang Regional Museum, Red Hill Park and Erdaoqiao Grand Bazzar. Heavenly Lake, only 70 km away from Urumqi downtown is a must. If you are interested in Muslim culture and Silk Road culture, don't hesitate to go to Kashgar, one of Xinjiang's golden triangle tourist cities together with Turpan and Urumqi. In Kashgar, there is time-honored Kashgar Old City, yellow-tiled Id Kah Mosque, busy Grand Sunday Bazaar, etc.

☛ 5 Days Urumqi Discovery to Turpan and Heavenly Lake
☛ 6 Days Urumqi and Turpan Highlights Tour
☛ 8 Days Xinjiang Classic Tour (Urumqi - Turpan - Kashgar)

If your time allows, traveling along China's Silk Road is strongly recommended. You can trace the footprints of ancient travelers from Xian - China's old capital city of 13 dynasties, to Qinghai (Xining, Qinghai Lake), Gansu (Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang) and Xinjiang (Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar). An in-depth Silk Road tour can be 2 weeks long, but you can spend a shorter time admiring the essence at your own pace.

☛ 10 Days Classic Silk Road Tour (Xian - Dunhuang - Turpan - Kashgar)
☛ 11 Days In-depth Wild Silk Road Adventure Tour (Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang - Urumqi - Kasgar)
☛ 12 Days Silk Road Tour from Beijing (Beijing - Xian - Dunhuang - Turpan - Urumqi)

Turpan Tour Mazar Village in Tuyuk Valley Heavenly Lake of TianshanPotala Pa Heavenly Lake of Tianshan Zhangye Danxia Lanform Mrs. Chan's group from Canada visited Matisi Temple along the Silk Road

Recommended Turpan Tours

Top 3 Turpan tours chosen by most customers to explore Turpan in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.

Jiaohe Anicent City Sunset
2 Days Turpan Essence Tour from Urumqi

Urumqi - Turpan

Taking a relaxing cruise on Heavenly Lake
11 Days In-depth Wild Silk Road Adventure Tour (Cultural Relic & Unrivalled Landscape)

Lanzhou / Zhangye / Jiayuguan / Dunhuang / Turpan / Urumqi / Kashgar

Tashkurgan Fort (Stone City Ruin) in the morning of September
8 Days Classic Xinjiang Tour including Urumqi Turpan Kashgar Tashkurgan

Urumqi - Turpan - Kashgar - Tashkurgan

Start planning your tailor-made holiday to China by contacting one of our specialists. Once inquired, you’ll get a response within 0.5~23.5 hours.

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