Ürümqi is the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a city of Han Chinese, Uyghur, Hui and other nationalities. The climate is very dry (laundry always dries within a day) with plenty of sunshine as it’s located furthest from any ocean coastline of any other city on the planet.
I visited Ürümqi twice, staying for one week in total during my traveling period: the first time as a transit stop on the way to Kashgar and the second time on the return journey from Kashgar.
Ürümqi’s multi-lingual, multi-national, multi-ethnic character is clearly obvious in the varied scripts: Chinese characters, Cyrillic Russian, and the Uyghur alphabet are visible throughout the city. Walking the streets of Ürümqi, the diversity of the people seems to rival a global city such as New York City. Ürümqi shatters the impression of Xinjiang as a sparsely populated desert; it’s a surprisingly developed metropolis with KFCs, Carrefour and a Sheraton Hotel (but no Starbucks nor McDonalds).
The city’s major attractions that I visited are the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum, which has on display mummies found in the Xinjiang region dating to more than 3 millennia ago and the International Bazaar, a shopping complex built in traditional Uyghur architecture with a KFC and Carrefour on site, a historical 红山 (Red Mountain) park with panoramic views of the city and a thriving night market offering everything from food to souvenirs and fashion items.
The outdoors surrounding Ürümqi feature natural sights. The largest glacier close to a major city in China is near Ürümqi, named the Number 1 Glacier; I did not visit the Number 1 Glacier but did visit the mountainous 白杨沟 region.
Ürümqi not only serves as a transit stop to other regions in Xinjiang and central Asia, but features worthwhile attractions in and of itself.