Located at the far west end of the Hexi Corridor, Dunhuang is an important thoroughfare on the ancient Silk Road. With Sanwei Mountain in the east, Mingsha Mountain in the south, desert to the west, and the Taklimakan, and Gobi to the north, Dunhuang is connected to the Tianshan Mountains.
The unique mix of elevation, together with the desert oasis environment provides the setting for extreme temperature variation. On any given day while exploring on a Dunhuang tour, you can find yourself scorched by daytime highs of 40°C and freezing at night in sub-zero lows.
If you’re ‘unlucky’ enough to find yourself in Dunhuang on a day that it rains, you needn’t be concerned. There is an average of just 21 rainy days each year during which very little rain falls (a mere 42 millimeters!).
The good thing is, this hot, dry climate is perfect for preservation – and it’s the very reason the world-famous Mogao Caves, displaying arguably the finest collection of Buddhist art, have survived in such pristine condition for over a thousand years. The caves alone, which are rich in history, scholarship, and art are worth the visit, so be sure to time your arrival so it coincides with a time of year when the heat is most manageable, namely from May to October.