Dunhuang, literally "to flourish and prosper" in Chinese, is the best stop of the Silk Road in Gansu and is the gateway to Xinjiang and the area beyond. It has a population of about 100,000, and covering an area of 3.12 square kilometers.
If you want to have a very special and unforgettable experience, you should go there by land rather than by air, though it is much more arduous. The highway is 380km long. A city ruin along the way is worth seeing. Along the highway you may also see mirages, which led many ancient merchant caravans astray into the "desert of death". In the past ancient caravans from central China to the Western Region stopped at Dunhuang to replenish before they went into the Taklimakan Desert. The caravans coming out of the desert from the other end also stopped there before they continued eastward into central China.
In ancient times, Dunhuang was the center of trade between China and its western neighbors. Emperor Han Wudi of the Han dynasty in 111 BC established Dunhuang to serve as the place to connect the Northern and Southern Silk Roads. It was also a town of military importance. Today it exists mainly because of Mogao Grottoes. Buddhist monks in that era came to Dunhuang through the Northern Silk Road, which starts from Mediterranean, passes through Kashgar of today's Xinjiang, Dunhuang, Wuwei of Gansu Province (through Wushao Ling Pass), and terminates at Xi'an, the ancient Chinese capital. Many Buddhist monks, pilgrims passing through the area brought in scriptures they collected from the west, and painted murals inside the Mogao Grottoes.
Nowadays, Dunhuang has become a typical tourist city, clean and beautiful. Because of its wonderful stone caves, tourism has become an indispensable industry to Dunhuang City. Surrounding establishments include various classes of hotels and restaurants for your choosing. As well, tourism personnel are knowledgeable and well trained these days. For a western city in China, it has become more accesible for people to come and go as they please. Transportation is much more efficient, ensuring that your wonderful trip runs smoothly. May to September is the best time to visit, so be sure to plan your trip during these months. Including Dunhuang City in your tour is a decision you won't regret!