The area around the city, the Turpan Depression is the lowest point in China and second lowest on Earth (after the Dead Sea) at 154 meters below sea level. It is very dry and sometimes very hot, well into the 40'sC. The local people have developed karez, an irrigation system composed of wells connected by underground channels, to counter the heat and drought of the place. No place in China is hotter than Flaming Mountain in Turpan, a mountain made famous by the classic Chinese mythological novel, Journey to the West.
Turpan is famous for their grapes, grown primarily for raisins but also wine. The locals in the area are called Uygurs.
Tulufan Zhan - located in the town of Daheyan, 50 km NW of the town center
Kashgar - takes about 25 hours
Korla - takes about 8 hours
Lanzhou - takes about 25 hours
Liuyuan - takes about 8-9 hours
Xi'an - takes about 40-45 hours
The bus station with regular buses to Turpan city is just a 5 min walk from the station. Once out of the train station, walk straight to the traffic junction, turn right and walk for a couple of hundred meters. The bus station is across the road to one's left. Costs just 11RMB.
Overall, it's a bit of a hassle though, so most people travelling between Turpan and Urumqi choose to take the long distance bus instead.
The downtown area is small and you can walk around it.
Public buses, Y1.
Bus 102 - going all along Laocheng lu (老城路), you can take it on crossing Laocheng Eastern street and Qingnian pedestrian street.
Direction to East - the last stop is Su Gong Ta (苏公塔) Sugong pagoda = Emin minaret (额敏塔).
to West - East mosque, North mosque and West mosque. Take off on the last stop and walk (hitchhike) next 5km to Jiaohe Ancient City. Alternatively, from the last stop of the line 102, you can hire a vehicle for around 10 RMB to take you the rest of the way to the site if one happens to be there.
A Taxi in the city is a standard 5RMB whether or not the driver starts the meter (it won't run over 5RMB even if you start it for journeys in the downtown).
Ubiquitous drivers means the competition is higher and prices are lower for private drivers to take you on a tailor-made "sightseeing" tour around the Turpan Region. Take your pick of any 4-5 "scenic spots" from the long list in your travel guide or on the map they'll show you (complete with photoshopped pictures) and expect to pay between 200-250 for the day. Recommended places would be JiaoHe and Tuyoq Village. A lot of the places including the Karez, Astana Tombs and Grape Valley are huge wastes of time and money.
Tahir is offering a great day tour to all major spots. He speaks very good English and offers a lot of tips and can help to organize a overnight stay as home stay in the nearby villages. (price for 1 day tour in 2012: 300 - 350 RMB, if possible arrange the trip in advance.) contact data: 15026261388, firstname.lastname@example.org. There are other guides who call themselves Tahir so make sure you call him to see if he is the right one.
Turpan Grape Gully (吐鲁番葡萄沟; Tǔlǔfān Pútaogōu), (10km from the city). Nicknamed Green Pearl City, an oasis of greenery, made up of more than 200 hectares of grape. The best grapes in China have been grown here for more than 1,000 years. The area you can actually see is painfully small, full of tourists taking pictures of nothing in-particular (often you if you're a western traveller), definitely not worth the 60RMB entrance ticket. 60 Y (30 for students but they'll try every excuse under the sun to avoid selling the half-price tickets to a non-Chinese student). edit
Emin Minaret (额敏塔; Émǐn Tǎ; also known as 苏公塔, Sūgōng Tǎ). Emin Minaret was built in 1777 in honor of the heroic Turpan general, Emin Khoja; it's the tallest minaret in China.30 yuan as of August 2012. edit
Turpan Gaochang Ancient City (吐鲁番高昌故城; Tǔlǔfān Gāochāng Gùchéng), (46km southeast of the city, you can get there either by taxi or first by bus to Doushan or Sanbao Township and then by motorbike). 8AM-5PM. Ruins of an ancient Silk Road town standing isolated in the Gobi Desert. Built in the 1st century B.C. and originally called Gaochangbi, it used to be a garrison town.¥20. edit
Jiaohe Ancient City (交河故城; Jiāohé Gùchéng), (about 20km west of Turpan - take bus 102 heading west along Lao Cheng Lu from the bus station until it terminates, then walk/hitch the last 5KM). Ruins of an ancient Silk Road town. This city was established during the Western Han Dynasty and continued through from the period of Northern Wei Dynasty.40 Rmb as of August 2012. edit
Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves.
Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves (柏孜克里千佛洞; Bózīkèlǐ Qiānfódòng), (45km east of Turpan). Stand high on the cliffs of west Mutou Valley under the Flaming Mountain. Of the 83 original caves, 57 caves currently remain. The murals cover an area over 1,200 square meters in more than 40 caves. Beginning in the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the construction experienced Tang Dynasty, the Five Dynasties, Song and Yuan dynasties. The Caves had been the Buddhist center of Gaochang. Near the end of the 13 century, the royal family of Gaochang moved to Yongchang, Gansu. Around this same time, Buddhism in Turpan began to decline in popularity with the introduction of Islam. Subsequently, the religious importance of The Bizalkik Thousand Buddha Caves became less apparent. Many of the caves were destroyed during the ensuing religious clashes. Vandals dug out the eyes of many of the portraits human figures contained in the murals. Later, at the beginning of the 20 century, foreign explorers robbed the caves of much of the treasures. Despite all the destruction, the surviving parts, such as the delicate Buddha seat and the bright color of the murals, give us some idea of its past glory.edit
Tuyoq Village about an hours drive outside Turpan city. Tuyoq is an ancient Muslim pilgrimage sight and well preserved ancient town. Some local followers claim 7 trips to Tuyoq is worth one trip to Mecca. It's not on the typical turpan "tourist trail" so you won't be overrun with red-hats, flags and loudspeakers. 30RMB to get in as of Sept 2012. You can arange a sleepover at a one of the traditional Uygur houses by contacting Tahir at email@example.com. He is a reliable guide who speaks very good english.
Plenty of delicious dishes can be found in the market, in front of the bus station, or in the pedestrian zone downtown. Cheap (but spicy) food is the norm, with plenty of meat options. Vegetarians better find a Chinese restaurant, many of which are north of the main square ("Grape Girls" square)
艾力热孜快餐店 (ai li re zi kuai can dian) on a parallel alley on the eastern side of the bazaar opposite the long-distance bus station serves excellent laghman (noodles), baked dumplings and barbecue skewers. Try the tandoori lamb or lamb dumplings in black-eyed pea soup for a different taste of Uighur food you won't find in other cities in Xinjiang.
Night Market, Guanghui Street, near Bezeklik Street. An alternative to the night market outside the bazaar, this option is more for locals than tourists. edit
Most of locals sleep on their roof or on the streets (during a day you can see hundreds of bed frames all around) because of the terrible heat. You can try the same.
If you try and find a hotel for the night, be careful of the few English-speaking touts around, especially the one calling himself "John". They will make sure you pay an inflated price and will get themselves a lucrative commission on your expense. If the hotel staff tries to call one of those touts on your arrival, ask them to stop and show you a room instead.
Turpan Hotel, Qingnian Road, ☎ +86 995 522025. Three-bed dorms with A/C and attached bathroom (western toilets and hot showers). Cleaned by the hotel maid service daily and stocked with towels and toiletries. A good deal, and better than most hostels. Front-desk staff all appear to speak some English.50 yuan per bed, as of August 2012. edit
Jiaotong Hotel (Transportation Hotel), 230 laocheng west road, ☎ +86 995 6258666 or 6258688 (fax: +86 995 6258688). Widely regarded as a great value, this hotel is located directly adjacent to the bus station and across the street from the bazaar and one of the night markets, making it very conveniently located. Many travelers have recently speculated that this hotel is closed, but that is not the case. They simply changed their phone numbers. The phone number listed above is the new one, and the hotel was renovated in 2011.edit
Turpan Hotel, Qingnian Road, ☎ +86 995 522025 (fax: +86 995 522025). A solid 3 star choice. Have 3 Bed Dorms 50Y for Bed, Staff is not so nice.edit
Grand Turpan Hotel, Gaochang Middle Road 422, Turpan, ☎ +86 10-84831380. ===Splurge=== * Tuha Petroleum Hotel (吐鲁番吐哈石油大厦; Tǔlǔfān Tǔhāshíyóu Dàshà), 230 Wenhua Road (文化路230号; Wénhuàlù 230hào), ☎ +86 995 8666666 (fax: +86 995 8666668). Five star hotel with large rooms with internet access against surcharge and with safes, air-conditioners and mini bars. Business center, currency exchange, gift shop, beauty salon, ticket office, karaoke, night club, billiard, table tennis, fitness, bowling, indoor swimming pool and massage available. Chinese and Western restaurants as well as coffee shop, bar and room service. The food in the Western restaurant is great, but the breakfast could be better.Listed rates for doubles ¥1,080-1,280, including breakfast. editListed rates for doubles ¥1,080-1,280, including breakfast. edit
There are a lot of young locals who can speak some English and will ask to practise their skills with you before offering you "help" with getting around. This usually involves a lot of "friends" and "uncles" who can take you wherever you want to go, "all you need is money for gas." Of course, don't trust them!!!
A hired car or taxi will take you to the train station for 100 yuan. Alternatively, you can go to the Turpan bus station (客运站 ke yun zhan) and hop on the bus to the to the Daheyan bus station, which costs 25 yuan and takes about an hour. Plan for bad roads and delays, so do not underestimate the amount of time you will need. From the Daheyan bus station, turn right, and at the next intersection turn left, where you will shortly find the train station at the end of the road.