Urumqi (Pronounced: Y-RYM-chee) (乌鲁木齐; Wūlǔmùqí; Uyghur) is the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, located in the Tian Shan mountains. The city has an urban population of around 2.5 million (2014).
Historically known as Dihua or Tihwa, the name “Urumqi” is actually a Mongolian word that means “beautiful pasture”. Those beautiful pastures have now been replaced by a sprawling metropolis and a hub of trade between China and Central Asia.
Urumqi is a city that is geographically located in a valley among the TianShan, the mountain range that essentially cuts Xinjiang in half. Over the past couple decades it has become a crowded city which is thankfully not a far drive from beautiful nature like the Heavenly Lake or the Southern Grasslands.
If you’re planning to visit the province of Xinjiang, chances are that you’re going to have to spend some time in the capital of Urumqi. Most every flight into the Xinjiang province at least makes a stop in Urumqi and most of the tour groups make this their starting point.
Most people are either scared of the unfamiliar surroundings or unaware of what the city has to offer so they disregard Urumqi, China as a place to pass through, not enjoy. The good news is that there is plenty to see and do in and around Urumqi.
It’s also a great place to shop for those last-minute souvenirs and the variety of food is incredible. Best of all, Urumqi is home to the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum, a must-see prior to any other travel throughout the province.