Tuyoq valley, Xinjiang: “The villagers aren’t allowed to build new houses” (with pictures)


In July, 2016, I take my bump to Xinjiang for two weeks to catch up on some sleep and visit China’s Far West. My first stop is Turpan (吐鲁番 or Tulufan in Chinese), an oasis town in the Taklamakan Desert.


In Turpan, together with two others who stay at my hostel, I hire a local driver to take us around the area for the day. We visit Tuyoq valley (吐峪沟 or Tuyugou in Chinese) which features an old Uighur village that is still inhabited and located on the Flaming Mountains (the famous starting point of the Journey to the West, one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels). After we arrive at the village and walk around, we realise it’s only partly inhabited.

Tuyoq valley

I ask the driver: “Why are so many of the houses empty?”
He: “It’s a protected site, and the villagers aren’t allowed to build new houses. That’s why many families have moved away.”



The pictures don’t do the place justice. It’s just amazing and my personal favourite of the sights I visited in Xinjiang.

Have you ever been to that area? What was your experience?

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Hi, I'm Ruth, welcome to China Elevator Stories! I have been living in Kunming and Shenzhen in the past and am now staying in Northeast China with my Chinese husband and our baby and toddler son. Join us on our journey bridging worlds!


  1. Hey Ruth! Glad you were able to make it out to Tuyoq – definitely one of my favorite places in all of Turpan as well.

    I know that it’s not inhabited by many people but the place still has a charm that’s hard to escape. There’s also a mystery about it that I love: the Buddhist caves in the valley behind the village has been closed up for the last decade and they won’t let a single foreigner in there. I’ve flown a drone over the area and seen an unbelievable number of caves – it makes Bezeklik look like nothing!

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