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Scenic Duku Highway in Xinjiang reopens

2024-06-03 09:03:49Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Widely viewed as the most beautiful highway in China allowing tourists to experience various landscape features along one single road, the scenic Duku Highway in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region reopened on Saturday, the earliest annual reopening over the past five years. With the early reopening, a surge in tourist arrivals from across the country this year is anticipated.

The 561-kilometer-long winding stretch along China's National Highway 217, connecting Dushanzi district in the northern area of the Xinjiang region and Kuqa county in the south, runs through a rich variety of landscapes including canyons, glaciers, lakes, forests, grasslands and wind-eroded rock formations known as yardangs. Dubbed as one of China's most scenic roads, the highway has become a popular scenic spot for internet influencers and a must-visit destination for self-driving tour enthusiasts to experience a unique chance of weathering all four seasons along one single road.

Around 10:30 am on Saturday, vehicle horns blared out across the Usu toll station in Usu city, Tacheng, Xinjiang. Over 1,000 motorhomes, off-road vehicles and motorcycles from across the country filed out of the toll station, marking the highly anticipated reopening of Duku Highway for this year.

Du Chunyi, general manager of Xinjiang Zhongbang Cultural and Tourism Company, one of the first group of drivers who hit the road of the Duku Highway this year, told the Global Times on Sunday that a team of four vehicles including one off-road vehicle and three multi-purpose vehicles were organized by his company to participate in the ceremony on Saturday.

"There are so many vehicles on the road at the same time that I could only drive at the speed between 40 kilometers and 50 kilometers per hour," Du said.

According to Du, most of the drivers of the motorcycles and vehicles were from places across the country such as Southwest China's Yunnan, Northeast China's Liaoning, Central's China's Henan and Hubei provinces.

Wang Li, a self-driving tourist from Southwest China's Sichuan Province, told media during the ceremony that it was his first visit to Xinjiang and he had planned a 10-day drive along the Duku Highway. After that, he will visit the Huoyan Mountain in Turpan city.

Since half of this road is located at an altitude of over 2,000 meters, with one-third of the road running along steep cliffs and the entire route traversing four snow-covered mountain passes and crossing 10 rivers, Duku Highway has to undergo a traffic control period of up to eight months each year due to natural factors such as winter snowfalls and road icing, and usually open from July to October every year. It opened 17 days earlier this year than it did last year.

Statistics from Feizhu, Alibaba Group's online travel booking platform, show that the reopening of the Duku Highway, combined with the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival holidays that begin on June 8 and end on June 10 this year, has led to a surge in the demand for self-driving tours in the Xinjiang region.

In the past week, car rental orders in Xinjiang doubled compared to the same period last year. Car rental orders in Urumqi and Ili, the most popular start and end points for self-driving tourists who travel along the Duku Highway, account for nearly 80 percent of all car rental orders in the Xinjiang area.

The time and circumstances which determine if the Duku Highway reopens or not have a major impact on travel packages offered by Du's company. Many of the eventual routes of their tourism products were not finalized until Saturday. However, they have received many inquiries about their products. Du expected that the orders will gradually increase in later June.

This year, as the hosts of the Duku Highway reopening ceremony, Tacheng Prefecture and Usu city made full preparations and provided meticulous services to meet the demands of large number of tourists. They started in mid-March to improve infrastructure and strengthen weather monitoring to ensure the early reopening of the Duku Highway.

In Usu city, accommodation and catering services have been in full preparation with hotels and bed and breakfast businesses being fully booked, food street being officially open for business and public toilets being reasonably set up in every region, according to a manager surnamed Wang from a local travel agency.

This year, Xinjiang is focused on developing the local tourism economy by launching 10 major scenic driving routes in the region. Various localities in the region continue to improve the tourism infrastructure and services along the Duku Highway, with local departments such as the cultural and tourism authorities, highway management, and traffic police proactively proposing plans to address issues such as traffic congestion and management of overcrowded areas. Comprehensive visitor service centers that include catering services, bed and breakfast providers and vehicle camping sites have been equipped with supporting facilities such as charging piles for electric vehicles to continuously improve convenience for tourists.

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