This atmospheric Uyghur oasis town on the northern Silk Road owes its existence to a 3000-mile network of irrigation tunnels and wells, known as Karez, that collect and channel meltwater from nearby mountains. Turpan’s elevation, at 30m below sea level, ensures freezing winters and scorching summers which, combined with the ample supply of water, have always made it a perfect place for growing fruit, notably grapes.
A succession of large, walled cities sprang up here over the centuries, whose eroded ruins may still be visited on the outskirts. Artefacts from these, including an impressive collection of mummies, are displayed at the town’s excellent museum (the best on the Silk Road), along with a superb array of dinosaur fossils.
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