"The Great Desert - Part II" Jiayuguan Favorite Tip by mke1963

Jiayuguan General: 12 reviews and 14 photos


Favorite thing: The experience of leaving old China is not so much of an experience anymore at Jiayuguan: the lines of railways, roads and power lines leading west and the pipeline furrows leading west are all too obvious from the Great Wall here. A sulphuric acid factory a few kilometres away and the supply lake for the steelworks to the north-east leave the visitor under no illusion that all around is now China. But even here, by walking straight west from the front door of Jiayuguan, the earthwork fortifications quickly hide the modern, and the desert quickly feels forbidding and dangerous. The heat in summer or the biting cold in winter is all-encompassing, and there is a sense of isolation within a kilometre or two of the great steel city. To the north, the craggy sharp cliffs of the Heishan are bare and ominous; to the south across the plain lies the Wenshushan, the foothills of the great Qilianshan mountains, unknown to most Westerners but significant mountains considerably higher and more demanding than the Alps or the Rockies. The unloved Aurel Stein spent some time exploring these giant mountains, which were then referred to as the Richthofen range after the German explorer who was the first European to set eyes upon them in modern times.

Fondest memory: One of the great modern journeys, both arduous and dangerous is the route from Jiayuguan through to Xining in Qinghai, matching the infamous West Tibet Highway for remoteness and awesome dinner-table conversations subsequently in Boston or Putney. But equally spectacular are the many small roads and tracks leading north from Jiayuguan and Jiuquan into the serious deserts beyond the Heishan Mountains. This area matches the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang for serious remoteness, with not much until the Inner Mongolian border is reached, even less before the Republic of Mongolia, then expanses of virgin mountains and forests in Mongolia itself before the icy, silent grey forests of Siberia. North of Jiayuguan, walking and swimming in a straight line, you will pass maybe 20 people before you reach northern Michigan. On a busy day. If you are lucky. Take care. And wrap up well...it'll be a cold journey.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Feb 20, 2006
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