4 Reasons to Visit Urumqi, Gateway to Xinjiang

By That's, March 11, 2017

2 0

Ah Xinjiang, that almost mythical land that resides in China’s far-flung northwest. A region famed for its rich cultural heritage, scenic landscapes and internationally-renowned cuisine, Xinjiang, in our so humble opinion, is a place that’s not to be missed.

The magic of Xinjiang comes from the diverse ethnic groups that make up its populace, including Han, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Russians, Hui, Uyghur, Kyrgyz and Mongols. Nowhere in the region is this diversity more apparent than its capital, Urumqi. 

Serving as the gateway to the rest of Xinjiang, almost every visit here (by air anyway) will mean passing through Urumqi. Even a short stay in the city can be a rewarding travel experience, offering the adventurous a glimpse into the region’s history and rich traditions.

1. The Delicious Edibles


Urumqi is not exactly a place where you'll find fancy restaurants or swish speakeasies like the ones in Shanghai, and you’d be surprised by how tranquil the bar street can be. Local food, on the other hand, could be the sole reason to make this city your favorite one.

There is no better experience than going to a local kebab shop to enjoy a sizzling plate of roasted mutton and lamp chops. At only RMB6 per skewer, your taste buds will instantly fall in love with the meat’s flavors and textures. 


If you are not too keen on grilled food, pilaf is another highly recommended option. Served in different flavors, here it is most commonly made with fried rice, carrots and mutton, while the raisins and pickles offer delicious surprises in each bite.

Finally, don’t leave without tasting the local yogurt, which, although is a bit heavier than most, is creamy, smooth and perfect for dipping skewered meats or bread. There’s a thin layer of milk on the top, and all you need to do is stir it into the rest of the bowl and enjoy.

2. The Bazaar 


Anyone that’s been to Urumqi will tell you the bazaar, referred to as Erdaqiao market, is the city’s most enticing tourist site. Admittedly, it’s a classic tourist trap, but offers some good souvenir shopping opportunities, with stalls selling everything from dried fruits to clothing, old war medals and coins. 

From a cultural perspective, the bazaar is noteworthy due to its reputation as a traditional Islamic marketplace – a feature that is apparent from the local dress, language and Arabic calls to prayer from a nearby mosque. 

3. Red Mountain (Hongshan)


A lesser-known attraction, but one equally worthwhile, is Red Mountain (Hongshan), which offers commanding views of the Urumqi skyline. A perfect stop for selfie aficionados, the mountain also hosts a Buddhist temple and, for couples and those traveling with children, a Ferris wheel. 

4. Xinjiang Ancient Ecological Park


Animal lovers can pay a visit to Xinjiang Ancient Ecological Park, an area that is home to a number of rare horse breeds, including Przewalski horses, and some rowdy cowboys. 

The cowboy shows are fun to watch and offer a glimpse into the crazier things that can be done on horseback (like riding on your head).

In addition to horses, Xinjiang Ancient Ecological Park harbors an impressive collection of artifacts and art installations that offer curious individuals a glimpse into the region’s long equestrian history. 

UPDATE (March 15, 2017 at 12.27pm CST): A previous version of this article incorrectly labelled our #4 Urumqi sight as Liyushan Park. This has been corrected to indicated the location is actually Xinjiang Ancient Ecological Park.

To read more travel related stories, click here.

more news

4 Women Shaping China's Sense of Fashion

A look at some of the powerful, talented women who serve as an essential driving force behind the country's increasingly discerning taste in style.

A Quick and Dirty Guide to China's Ski Areas

Five great places to ski in China.

The Ultimate China Travel Quiz

Think you're a China travel buff? Test your travel knowledge and see how many of these serene spots you can correctly identify.

Spotlight: Ekaterina Lambert, Founder & CEO of FashIcon

FashIcon founder and CEO Ekaterina Lambert on her app that allows a community of fashionistas to share their looks.

Inspect-a-Gadget: Playable Game Boy Phone Case

Wrapped around an iPhone 6 or newer model, this month's gadget looks like the handheld toy that set the industry standard in the early '90s.

Tap that App: SoundHound

With SoundHound, you can hum or sing the lyrics of a song to find a result – the perfect way to fine-tune your vocal skills.

#TBT: An Exclusive Interview with Fashion Legend Guo Pei

China's first couturiere and fashion empress Guo Pei talks inspiration and gravity-defying dresses.

4 Women Shaping China's Sense of Fashion

A look at some of the powerful, talented women who serve as an essential driving force behind the country's increasingly discerning taste in style.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at thatsonline for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in China With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Magazines!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.