Xinjiang is about three times the size of France, and just a little smaller than Alaska. It has diversity to match – mountains, the vast and dry Taklamakan Desert, the Turpan Basin, which is about 150 metres below sea level (but safe from oceanic flooding for now - the Pacific, Indian and Arctic Oceans are all at least 2400 km away).
The diversity of landscapes is matched by that of people. It’s a Central Asian crossroads with people of Turkic and Russian descent living alongside Kazakhs, Mongols, Han Chinese, and others. Its international borders are with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
Driving all night, and into the dawn at the heart of the world’s greatest landmass.. Lanzhou, in neighbouring Gansu Province, is a 40 hour drive.
Fortunately, the long distance roads across the vast emptinesses are of a high standard, thanks to China’s approach to infrastructure.
Driving all night and into the dawn, on the long, long roads of Central Asia
Hand-crafted goods, with personal delivery, Urumqi
The Grand Mosque in Urumqi and a Buddhist shrine at Tian Chi Lake – religions coexisting.
In Turpan there is a museum (LEFT) celebrating the ingenious irrigation system, first developed two thousand years ago, with 5000km of channels at its peak, and still used now to create life in the desert.
Why are there so many buildings made of bricks and … holes? So that the dry desert air can turn sweet grapes into sweeter raisins.
Recommendations: Xinjiang is photographers’ heaven. It’s best to get a group together and then arrange travel with car and driver. Check your own country’s travel advice. Expect frequent passport inspections.