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5 Beautiful Views of Urumqi, Capital of Xinjiang

March 12 | 12 Comments

Urumqi, the capital of China’s western region of Xinjiang, is not as bad as everybody says it is. At least I don’t think so and I hope to prove that to you with these recent photos I’ve taken.

Travel guides generally steer you away from Urumqi in favor of other Silk Road outposts and unfortunately with all the bad international press the city has received lately many people never get a chance to see the beautiful side of the capital. I’m not going to lie and say that Urumqi is my favorite city in Xinjiang even though I live here, but I believe in making the best out of my current circumstances.

I’m going to begin with the most popular view of Urumqi – the view from the top of Hong Shan (红山) – and then move to what I consider to be more beautiful, but less common views of the city.

Urumqi cityscape as seen from Hong Shan Park in Xinjiang
Photo credit: Didier Marti

It’s interesting to note that this photo was taken several years ago. I need to go up and take an updated photo because there is a lot that has changed, including two massive towers that many have named the “Twin Towers” (also home to Xinjiang’s first Burger King)

Earlier this week I took another trek up the Yamalike Hill on the southeastern portion of Urumqi.

It was a clear day and my goal was to capture this photo of the city at dusk with the beautiful TianShan range in the background.

From a higher vantage point, here is a panoramic shot of the city – and this is just the bottom half of the Urumqi! Click on the photo to get a bigger view.

Now if I could only find this same photo taken 20 years ago, that would be incredible to compare!

One of the most visible sign of Urumqi’s recent growth is series of connecting elevated highways that encircle the city.

Mostly they’re eyesores but I’ve found that at night when it is lit up and backed by a beautiful, clear blue sky…it’s actually quite nice.

Did you know that Urumqi has two of these pagodas? The most famous is in Hong Shan Park, of course, but a kilometer to the west there is another pagoda. The Urumqi river, which has since dried up, used to flow between the two massive rocks where these pagodas now live.

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. The pictures that you posted on your e-mail are always so interesting and the places are so beautiful. I get transported to Xianjiang each time I see them.It’s like the Arabian Nights One day, I will come. I am a real fan of yours. Keep up the good work, Josh !

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    Josh Summers on May 30th, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Thank you, Donald! I really appreciate your comment and your kind words :)

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  2. Hi Josh,

    Thank you for giving us the current inside view of Urumqi. Your pictures serve to refresh our memories from our October 2012 visit to Xinjiang. The mountains surrounding the City as well as Heavenly Lake are some of the greatest views in the Province. Love your panoramic shot of the city.

    Also, glad to learn that you and your family have not had any negative impact from the recent terrorists activities.

    All the best of luck and peace.

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    Josh Summers on May 30th, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Thank you George! I’m glad to hear you have fond memories of this area from your trip in 2012. Hopefully you have a chance to come back and visit someday.

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  3. “Travel guides” that “generally steer away” from Urumqi are just being politically correct about Han economic development in the city, imagining a purer and more ennobling tourist experience elsewhere.

    I really like that this blog is more moderate and sensible in its outlook, not avoiding the modern, even if it is associated with the Han, simply because…well, it’s associated with the Han. Let others hypocritically preach “cultural genocide” and “gentrification” while preferring telegenic impoverished locals for their souvenir photos.

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  4. We hope to travel farther west and see your great city someday! Until then, we are blogging from Hohhot! Get in touch with us if you’re coming this way!

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    Josh Summers on June 6th, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Sounds good. Thanks for the comment, Jill and I hope to make it out to Hohhot sometime in the future!

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    Your Name on June 8th, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Xiamen1
    Jill,
    What’s your blog’s address? My fiancee is from Hohhot, and we’ll be heading back up there soon (in Xiamen now), so would love to check it out!

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  5. Hi Josh. My wife and I are coming to Urumqii and Kasi in May/June and I am wondering if you could help us a bit to find some interesting experiences. However, I am not sure exactly what your remit is.
    We plan on a week to 10 days but could be more if we like it
    We are well travelled and although a bit ‘long in the tooth’ are fit and well. I am Aussie and wife is Thai.
    Regards
    Malcolm

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