5 Thrilling Ways to Experience Xinjiang, China

March 19 | 4 Comments

Most people who travel to Xinjiang, China tend to see this beautiful region from the window of a taxi/bus or on our own two feet. But what if I told you there are more thrilling ways to experience the natural beauty of this remote province?

Thrilling ways to experience Xinjiang, China

Every once in a while I get an email from somebody who asks me “Is it possible to _________ in Xinjiang?”.

You can fill in that blank with pretty much any extreme sport or activity, really.

Below I’ve compiled a short list of the 5 most thrilling (and dangerous!) ways I’ve seen other people experience Xinjiang. Do I recommend you try to do any of this?

Heck no!

But is it at least possible if you’ve got the appropriate amount of money and perhaps just enough screws missing in your brain?


Here’s the video proof of the 5 most thrilling methods of experiencing Xinjiang, China:

1. Mountain Climbing in Xinjiang

Skip to 3:15 in the video to watch the climb

If this area was in the United States, it would be the most sought after climbing area around.”

From the massive boulders of Koktokay National Park (Keketuohai) up north to the beautiful Muztagh Ata Mountain along the Karakoram Highway, climbing is not a new thing here in Xinjiang.

Because it’s not very popular among Chinese as of yet, climbing is not a big part of the tourism industry here in Xinjiang. To climb here means either bringing your own gear or spending massive amounts of money to hire specialized tour companies.

For those who can’t afford to do that, I highly recommend hiking Xinjiang as an alternative. You may not get the same thrill and beautiful view but all you need is a pair of good boots and an adventurous spirit!

2. Extreme Biking in Xinjiang

Skip to 1:05 to see these extreme bikers in action.

How can we take big mountain riding to the next level?”

Quite a few people I know have biked across Xinjiang using the extensive highway system that connects most of the cities here in Xinjiang. This by itself is a very thrilling way to experience Xinjiang and I recommend you give it a try if you have the opportunity.

What these guys did under the sponsorship of RedBull however, takes “biking in Xinjiang” to a whole new level.

A lot of what you see here was shot around Turpan just south of the capital of Urumqi. The mountains you see them biking down are the Flaming Mountains.

Not only is the extreme biking very thrilling, but the video is incredibly well-produced and worth a watch.

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3. Paragliding in Xinjiang, China

Like climbing, paragliding is one of those specialized experiences (i.e. expensive) here in Xinjiang…

but it is possible!

The video you see above was taken by a paraglider who took off from the top of the mountains surrounding Kanas Lake. What you see is a view of the lake that most travelers never get to see.

4. Whitewater Rafting Xinjiang

Jump to 2 minute mark to watch these guys navigate a very narrow passage!

I’ve received a couple emails from people asking me about whitewater rafting in Xinjiang. As the video above proves, it’s been done before – but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anybody (including most tour companies) who know anything about it.

These men had to haul their own gear and were obviously very skilled with plenty of previous experience.

While I would jump at the chance to do paragliding, I think I’m perfectly content to live vicariously through this video when it comes to rafting in Xinjiang. A little too dangerous for my comfort!

5. Skateboarding Across Xinjiang

Jump to the :40 mark to see the skateboarding.

Back in 2008, a man named Rob Thomson set a Guinness World Record by skateboarding all across China. Part of that journey included Xinjiang, which you can see in the video he edited above.

It’s crazy to think that somebody would subject themselves to this kind of torture – personally I have no interest in skateboarding to the nearest grocery store, much less across the entire region of Xinjiang!

But if the thrill of dodging massive trucks on the highway and passing herds of camels on the way gets your adrenaline pumping, perhaps this is something you could do. Either that or biking.

Final Thoughts on Extreme Sports

These extreme sports that are available for those who travel to Xinjiang may not appeal to everybody, but it’s part of what makes this region so unique.

Are there any of these that you would be interested in doing?

How about any other ways you wish you could experience the Silk Road?

Everybody can jump on a train or a bus. But not everybody gets to see a place from a glider or a whitewater raft!

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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  1. Hi Josh,

    My best mate and I are flying into Urumqi from Beijing (we’re coming from Australia) and wanting to spend a few days in Urumqi before travelling onto Kashgar (by bus) and beyond to Iran (via Tashkent, Samakand, Bukhara etc). We would like to stay in an authentic yurt near Urumqi. Where can you recommend please and what things should we not miss in Urumqi. Thank you.


    Josh Summers on September 10th, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Hey Ron, thanks for the comment! For more info on Urumqi, I recommend you check out my city guide here:

    Urumqi City Guide

    As for a yurt, the two best places are either at Heavenly Lake or NanShan. They’re pretty tourist-y, but they’re pretty much the only places within a couple hours of the capital.