Western China is where visitors can have real cultural experiences unlike any other place on Earth. Here, the Chinese culture of the heavily populated eastern cities fades away, and local central Asian history and lifestyles mix with the rugged terrain and varying languages of the Chinese minorities. The Silk Road passed through this area, as did the Mongols. The wild beauty of the wilderness sometimes hides the deep and long history of the region, but look closer and you'll find hidden gems and cultural surprises deep in the deserts, steppes, and mountains of this wild half of China.
Xinjiang, the traditional home of the Uighers and other Central Asian groups such as the Mongols and Kazaks, is the western most region of China. Here, recently completed railroads are bringing in more of the Han Chinese populations from the east for permanent settlement. But this historically important area is home to much of the Silk Road, so there is much to see and do, especially if you enjoy getting away from the big cities and out into nature.
Qinghai is one of China's least populated provinces. Also home to much of the Silk Road and various ethnic groups, this province is full of natural beauty, small agricultural towns along the desert plateau, and the source of several important rivers.
Gansu is as geographically diverse as it is culturally. Here you will find several terrific places to view the Great Wall, as well as more variety in the history of China as it related to its external borders. This is traditionally where ancient China gave way to other cultures to the west. Several national parks can be found in Gansu that are worth visiting, too.
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