Dunhuang was a popular spot for Silk Road travelers back in the day. Most used it as a place to catch some shut eye and restock on supplies, and that’s how many travelers today view this sooty town. There are many budget hostels and cafes that are used to catering to foreigners, but the majority of travelers coming here have their eyes set on the UNESCO World Heritage Mogao Caves or the other superb sights around town. There are numerous buses to reach these renowned sites, and you can also rent bikes for some off road exploring.
The Western Thousand Buddha Caves (Xī Qiānfó Dòng; 西千佛洞; ¥40) are 35 km (115 mi) west of Dunhuang city and have 16 caves from the Tang and Northern Wei Dynasties. They can’t touch the ones at Mogao, but they get bonus points for not attracting loads of tourists. Scale Singing Sands Mountain (Míngshā Shān; 鸣沙山) at 1,715m (1,065 ft) for some excellent hiking and incredible views, or hit up the giant dunes surrounding Crescent Moon Lake (Yuèyá Quán; 月牙泉) for dune buggies, sand-boarding and paragliding; more fun than just dipping your toes in the not-so-special lake.
Speak to the staff at Charley Johng's or John's Information Café for transport.