About Dunhuang

In this article we will discover 7 of the best things to do in Dunhuang.

Dunhuang is a desert outpost in China’s far western Gansu Province and was an important trading post on the ancient Silk Road.

The city is home to some unique tourist sites including the UNESCO listed Mogao Caves (similar to the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang). The city is perched on the edge of the Gobi Desert and is a great place to explore the “singing sand dunes” and beautiful Cescent Moon Lake.

So, be sure to check out these things to do in Dunhuang if you plan on visiting this wonderful region!


Where is Dunhuang?

Dunhuang Map

Dunhuang lies in the desert of wesern China’s Gansu Province, on the border of Xinjiang.


Top Things to do in Dunhuang in 2021

1. Marvel at the Mogao Caves

Mogao Caves
The Mogao Caves – one of the top things to do in Dunhuang

Home to over 1,000 years of Buddhist Art, the UNESCO Magao Caves at Dunhuang contain a series of statues of the Buddha carved into the rock. The caves afre one of three such sites in China which also includes the Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang and the Yungang Grottoes in Shanxi Province.

Opening Hours:

  • May to October: 08:00 – 18:00
  • November to April: 09:00 – 17:30

Entrance Fee:

  • May to October: ¥258 ($40)
  • November to April: ¥160 ($25)

Time Needed to Visit: two to three hours

How to get to the Mogao Caves

  • There are buses from Dunhuang Railway Station direct to the caves.
  • A taxi from anywhere in the city should cost around ¥30 ($4.60).

2. Visit Crescent Moon Lake

Crescent Moon Lake
Crescent Moon Lake

Crescent Moon Lake sits in a basin of the Gobi Desert just outside Dunhuang and is unique in that although the sands are ever shifting, the lake remains.

There is a pleasant pavilion next to the lake which affords great views of the desert. The lake has existed in its current form since at least the Han Dynasty (202BC to 220 AD).

Opening Hours: 05:00 to 20:30

Entrance Fee:

  • May to October: ¥110 ($17)
  • November to April: ¥55 ($8.50)

Tickets include Cescent Moon Lake and the Singing Sand Dunes and are valid for three days.

Time Needed to Visit: two to three hours

How to get to Crescent Moon Lake

Take bus 3 frlm Dunhuang City to Yuyaquan Bus Stop (Visitors Centre)

  • A taxi from anywhere in the city should cost around ¥30 ($4.60).

3. Visit Echoing Sand Mountain (Mingsha Shan)

Singing Sand Dunes
The Singing Sand Dunes at Dunhuang

Another natural phenomenon at Dunhuang is the singing sand dunes or echoing sand moutnain. As the wind rushes over the sand, a gentle music-like sound can be heard.

Opening Hours: 05:00 to 20:30

Entrance Fee:

  • May to October: ¥110 ($17)
  • November to April: ¥55 ($8.50)

Tickets include Cescent Moon Lake and the Singing Sand Dunes and are valid for three days.

Time Needed to Visit: two to three hours

How to get to Crescent Moon Lake

Take bus 3 frlm Dunhuang City to Yuyaquan Bus Stop (Visitors Centre)

  • A taxi from anywhere in the city should cost around ¥30 ($4.60).

4. Ride a Camel in the Gobi Desert

Things to do in Dunhuang
Things to do in Dunhuang

See the desert the same way as travellers on the Silk Road by taking a camel ride.

Opening Hours: 05:00 to 20:30

Entrance Fee:

  • May to October: ¥110 ($17)
  • November to April: ¥55 ($8.50)
  • Camel Rides: ¥100 ($15.40)

Tickets include Cescent Moon Lake and the Singing Sand Dunes and are valid for three days.

Time Needed to Visit: around one hour

How to get to Crescent Moon Lake

Take bus 3 frlm Dunhuang City to Yuyaquan Bus Stop (Visitors Centre)

  • A taxi from anywhere in the city should cost around ¥30 ($4.60).

5. See the White Horse Pagoda (Beima Pagoda)

White Horse Pagoda
White Horse Pagoda in Dunhuang

Originally built during the 4th century, White Horse Pagoda was a shrine to the white horse of Buddhist scholar Kumarajiva.

The pagoda, which reaches 12 metres(39 feet) high was rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty 91644 to 1911). The pagoda is set within tranquil gardens and is a very peaceful places with few visitors.

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 18:00

Entrance Fee: ¥15 ($2.30)

Time Needed to Visit: under one hour

How to get to White Horse Pagoda

  • The pagoda is easily reachable from the city on foot
  • Take bus 1 to Dange Lijing
  • A taxi from anywhere in the city should cost around ¥15 ($2.30)

6. Visit Shazhou Night Market

Shazhou Night Market
Market stall in Dunhuang

Shazhou night market is a great place to try local speciality food. As Gansu is not far from Xinjiang, the food here is similar to Central Asian cuisine. One of the most famous dishes from the region is yellow noodles with donkey meat.

The night market is also a great place to browse and pick up authentic handicrafts, including locally made carpets, pottery and paintings.

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Entrance Fee: free

Time Needed to Visit: under one hour

Address: East Yangguan Road


Top Free Things to do in Dunhuang

7. Visit Dunhuang Museum

Shaanxi Historu Museum

Dunhuang Museum houses an impressive collection of relics unearthed from the Mogao Caves and other excavation sites nearby.

Opening Hours:

  • May to September: 09:00 – 18:30
  • October to April: 09:00 – 18:00
  • Closed Mondays

Entrance Fee: free.

Time Needed to Visit: one to two hours

Address: Mingshan Road

How to get to Dunhuang Museum

Take bus 3 to Bowuguan Stop (Dunhuang Museum)


Getting to the city from Luoyang International Airport

The airport is just 15km from central Dunhuang and 13km from the Magoa Caves. A taxi should cost around ¥40 ($6.20) to either.

There is an airport shuttle bus that goes to the Dunhe Hotel in central Dunhuang between 08:00 and 20:00. Ticket price is ¥10 ($1.60) and takes 20 minutes.


Getting around Luoyang

Things to do in Dunhuang
Things to do in Dunhuang

Dunhuang is a very small city and it’s easy to get around on foot. There are buses to all the main tourist sites.

Taxis are ubiquitous and make a cheap and easy way to get around.


Best Time to Visit Luoyang

Dunhuang has a desert climate with long, hot summers and cold winters. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit to avoid the highest temperatres.


Other City Guides

15 Interesting things to do in Beijng

11 Amazing things to do in Chengdu

11 Amazing things to do in Harbin

13 Interesting things to do in Luoyang

11 Incredible things to do in Xian



Steve Rohan

About this author: Steve Rohan has lived in China for six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, ancient capital of Luoyang and tropical paradise that is Sanya.

After teaching English for a number of years, he now blogs full time for this site and adventure travel blog thetripgoeson.com.