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Mogao Caves, Dunhuang

4.5
#1 of 149 in Things to do in Gansu
Cave Ruin
Examine painted, sculpted, and chiselled Buddhist treasures at Mogao Caves, which represent centuries of cultural exchange between China and other neighboring nations. First used by Buddhist monks as a place for meditation and worship, the cave has attracted many artisans throughout history who gradually turned the holy site into a depository of art. As you approach the cave complex on plank-reinforced roads, notice how stacked, man-made openings reach heights of up to 50 m (164 ft). Inside you can find an abundance of exquisite carved relief murals, clay statues, painted ceilings, and sidewalls, as well as a vast library containing thousands of manuscripts, printed images, and literary artwork. With a daily limit of 6,000 visitors, you have to reserve a ticket in advance. Take a look at our Dunhuang trip generator to schedule your visit to Mogao Caves and learn about what else to see and do during your holiday.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
625 reviews
Google
4.3
TripAdvisor
  • We were able to get tickets with the help of a Chinese friend, but you will need to get them online from a website that is only in Chinese. You could buy them at the visitor center but they only allow...  more »
  • A very difficult place to review as this wonder of the world has become a major Chinese tourist attraction and it brings the many inherent difficulties. Firstly it is very expensive at 220 yuan and no...  more »
  • We were lucky enough to have a private tour in french because we were the only francophones this afternoon. We visited 6 beautiful caves and explanations were very good. Movies at the entrance to the site are not bad, especially those projected under dome. Too bad that exhibition sites, including the reconstitution of the caves, closes at 5 pm so that site closed later in the summer! We have not had the time to visit
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  • We visited in 2002. Of the many wonders of the ancient world I have had the privilege to visit, the Mogao Caves are my favorite. The efforts being taken to preserve these treasures are considerable. Yet every effort was made to allow me to experience the caves in the broadest possible range. I hope to return again someday. For me, one visit is not enough.
  • I am always impressed by how the Chinese preserve and protect their heritage. Sometimes this protection causes pretty limit for visitors. The Mogao caves are the proof. To Mogao area you have to take Dunhuang geopark's sightseeing bus from Dunhuang city (about 20km). Visiting is restricted to the area in front of the restored caves. Photographs are only allowed in front of the 9-storey pagoda. I was a bit disappointed that the restored area looked like a stone hotel. Most of the doors of caves are locked to protect the great heritages inside. You only are allowed to visit some special caves under the guidance of local guides. These caves are small, but inside are magnificent Buddhist mural paintings that without the explanation of local guides it's difficult to understand the meaning of them. I hope to have an occasion to come back here again.
  • Highly recommended to see history coming alive. It's amazing to see wall paintings from more than 1000 years ago, some of which the colours are still vivid.
  • Marvelous place. Sure, like many such attractions, it's expensive and crowded, and the written/audio/human guides in English (where they exist) and even in Chinese are spotty. Also, there's no guarantee which caves you will be allowed to see. That said, there's a reason this place is so famous. The manuscripts alone spawned an entire academic area of "Dunhuang Studies" that continues to contribute widely in research. The artworks are stunning, not to mention ancient. It's a once in a lifetime experience to see such a place firsthand. I'd put up with worse ticket prices, crowds, and waits to see it again.
  • Great place to visit. The local taxi drivers are crazy, but careful!

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Where to stay in Dunhuang

An oasis in the desert, Dunhuang has a history of providing a place to stay for its weary travelers. Take a look across the city center for some fairly grand hotels, a few more ordinary ones, a couple of stylish boutiques, and a number of hostels and guesthouses, providing budget-friendly simplicity. Riverside locations have particularly attractive views, while accommodations towards the city's outskirts give the feeling of being right out there in the desert, with sandbanks on all sides.
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