An oasis town surrounded by inhospitable desert, DUNHUANG has been a backpacker favourite for decades, with two main claims to fame. Colossal sand dunes – among the world’s largest, reaching hundreds of metres in height – rise along its southern flank, while the nearby Mogao Caves boast a veritable encyclopedia of Chinese artwork on their walls. The town has become something of a desert resort for visiting these imposing sights, though there’s little to actually see in Dunhuang itself bar the well-presented City Museum (敦煌市博物馆, dūnhuángshì bówùguăn; April–Dec Tues–Sun 8.30am–6.30pm; free) on Mingshan Lu, which houses a small collection of scrolls, pottery and statues that survived the twentieth-century depredations of foreign archeologists.

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