Mogao Caves
Mogao Caves
4.5
Historic SitesCaverns & CavesReligious Sites
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
About
Located in the Gobi desert, the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas feature beautiful wall fresco paintings and more than 3,000 sculptures dating from the forth to the fourteenth century.
Duration: 2-3 hours
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles885 reviews
Excellent
612
Very good
215
Average
47
Poor
9
Terrible
2

C B
Europe72 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2021
In order to get to the ticket you go to the tourist center and buy your ticket from the window (you will need your passport).. A staff member found us in line and brought us headsets that had the English translations of the two movies. The first was a general history of the town. After the first movie you move to a second theater that has a screen that wraps around onto the ceiling. This has high detail pictures of many of the most famous caves paintings, and is a good place to take pictures as photography is not allowed in the caves. After the second movie you board a bus to the cave. There is a long line that forms but that is for people who are on package tours. There was no clear signage as to where to go, but if you walk toward the entrance, there were some staff members there who directed us to wait for a guide. If you don't speak Chinese you probably could just show them your tickets. After a short wait and some other people were gathered up an English speaking guide appear and took us on the tour of the caves. The tour is impressive, though there are a lot of stairs to go up and down. Which caves they take you in appear to be a bit random, and the guides English, while quite good, was not always able to explain all of the nuances of some of the items. There is also a museum on the way back to the parking lot that has interesting exhibits as well as several reproductions of some of the more famous caves. You can than take the shuttle bus back to the tourist center.
Written July 13, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Steve S
Shanghai, China140 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2020 • Friends
The two films about Dunhuang and the caves were interesting and good quality. The caves, however, were disappointing. The facade of the caves was surprising as it is covered in cement and aluminum doors used to access caves. The caves were lit only by the guide’s small flashlight, which made it difficult to appreciate. During the visit of four of the eight caves, the guide felt it important to mention and point out the damage and pillage caused the archeologist Langdon Warner and Russian soldiers. Of course, this should not be forgotten, but it would also be nice to see caves in better condition. Obviously these caves represent a unique artistic achievement by their organization, painted sculptures and murals which are masterpiece of Chinese art, however our exposure to this was extremely limited
Written August 4, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

HKHomers
Hong Kong, China22 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2023 • Friends
Mass tourism China style. Caves is an overstatement; these are indents in the rocks, not interconnected, and usually not deeper than approx 15 meter or so. Quite nice to be honest, would have loved to see in private. But China style mass tourism just made it a ridiculous experience. The entrance, about 10km from the caves, contains a cinema complex where you (have to?) watch the caves on screen with endless detailed comments. Then line up with thousands of tourists transported by buses to the caves where you have to listen to incredibly boring details about the paintings. I walked out while my wife and company co-workers continued. Such a contrast with our Egypt trip last month, where visitors ARE allowed to visit tombs by themselves taking it all in, in person (Valley of the Kings). Would not suggest to visit these caves, it's just not worth it.
Written August 10, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Ian Anderson
Shanghai, China158 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2023 • Couples
An extraordinary and vast collection of caves with painted Buddhas, frescoes, artwork. Buy tickets on line in advance or at the visitor centre near the airport. Refer to previous reviews for well-organised visit arrangements including introductory films but make sure to order an English language audio or guide for the grottoes themselves (we didn’t) as otherwise you will miss a lot of information. Nice coffee shop near the return pick up point
Written May 7, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

beatrice390
Indonesia399 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020 • Family
An amazing caves with Buddhist painting from 6th century. It almost 2000 years ago, but they preserve the painting and sculpture in a very good condition, unbelievable.

There are even original wooden doors from that period.

This caves has been listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
In conclusion, it’s worth to go if you’re in or near Dunhuang city.
Written January 19, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

jtaylor946
Guangzhou, China786 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2021 • Couples
I really enjoyed our experience at the Mogao caves. Everything was very organized and there was a lot to see. First, we watched two short films at the visitor center before starting the tour. There wasn’t English subtitles for most of the film, so you will need to understand a little Chinese to fully understand, but you can basically guess what the films are about just from watching. After that, we took a bus to the actual site. This took about 20 minutes. When we got there, we had to queue up. My husband and I got pulled to the side with the two other foreigners who were visiting the site that day. We had an English speaking tour guide show us around. This was great as we were in a small group and could ask more questions and appreciate the caves more. The Chinese groups had more than 20 people. The lady who showed us around was very nice and answered all our questions. Overall, it was a very good experience!
Written December 31, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

evelynhosm
Singapore, Singapore12 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2018 • Solo
Contrary to what’s been circulated about the need for foreigners to reserve tickets for Mogao Grottoes prior to a visit, I’ll share my experience today. There is apparently no need for that.

There are tickets reserved specially for foreigners - this is sensible since there is no way for us to make reservations online with a foreign telephone number.

Just go to the counter (at the Mogao Grottoes) for collection of online tickets and ask to purchase tickets with English audio guide. You will need to produce your passport for registration. You should be able to get the next available slot pretty easily. It costs 220RMB for foreigners.
Written August 11, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

SOH KIEN PENG
Singapore, Singapore8,992 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2017 • Solo
I flew from Kuala Lumpur via Airasia to Xian, took a train to Lanzhou, spent a night at Lanzhou and from Lanzhou took another night train to Dunhuang. I spent 2 nights in Dunhuang.

The first attraction I visited was this Mogao Caves which was within walking distance from the train station. I did not know that it was just so near to the train station and took the shuttle bus and paid RMB3 just for a one stop distance. If there is not much luggage with you, you can just walk from the train station to the attraction. It is about a 15 min walk journey. I subsequently walked back from the attraction to the train station to purchase my 2 days later train ticket back to Xian.

The shuttle bus from the train station did not stop directly in front of the attraction. The driver will alight you along the road and pointed to you the entrance of the attraction and you have to walk across the road divider to the admission gate (about 50 m walk).

It is advisable to wait for the same shuttle bus to fetch you to the downtown from the train station along the same part of the road where you alight. Do not wait for the public bus at the car park of the attraction. The waiting time seems to be very long and the taxi drivers at the car park will harass you to take the cab. The cab fare to the downtown from the attraction would cost RMB10 (not very expensive anyway).

I did not book the ticket online and purchased the admission ticket at the ticket counter. It cost me RMB100. I am not sure if it is cheaper booking the ticket online and collecting them at the counter. I came in Nov and probably the low season. There were not many visitors.

Before going to the Caves, we were ushered into an auditorium and a IMAX theater to be shown two films on the history of the Caves. It was a very good introduction and I had a better understanding of the historical background and the contents of the caves before going to the actual caves. The staff told me that you are unable to do the reverse that means going to the caves first and watching the films after the visit.

I would like to commend on the superb cleanliness of the toilets at this attraction. It was very well-maintained and I was able to use the American seating toilet bowl instead of the squatting type. Toilet papers are also provided.

The two films took about 40 minutes (each 20 mins). After the film show, we were shuttled by coach to the actual entrance of the Mogao Caves. The surrounding of the Caves was dry brown desert terrain. As we queued, a tour guide who was assigned free to us provided us with the earphones and as we toured the caves, the tour guide will explain the significance and beauty of the mural wall drawing or the statues in the caves. We were brought to about a dozen caves and the guide patiently explained the details to us. We were not supposed to take any photographs as the photography may damage the preservation work.

Few of the caves really impressed me. One of them was the Big Buddha caves, the nine storey high Buddha statue, really magnificent. It was really an eye opening and I really enjoyed the tour.

Do not be in a hurry to leave the place. After the tour, you can visit the museum just outside the Caves that talked about the history of the excavation and preservation works on the caves. You can also explore the wild desert terrain surrounding the attraction and enjoyed the stroll in the sand dunes.

The Mogao Caves is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. The visit broadens my insight on how Buddhism triumphed during the ancient Silk Road and how the grottoes were built over the years by the authorities of the ruling regimes and the monks who sought meditative refuge in the caves.

Dunhuang was an oasis town during the ancient silk road. I wondered how those silk road travelers obtained their sense of direction as they ventured into the wilderness of the vastness of the desert terrain without GPS or compass and survived the hardship under bitterly coldness and fluctuating climatic conditions and little water. Buddhism probably has given them the strength and the courage to withstand the harsh conditions.

It is enlightening and archaeologically mysterious!
Written November 25, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Masala Chai
Suginami, Japan49 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2015 • Solo
It is OK to come here if you are traveling long time in China but it is not worth to come just for this.

Quality: 3 Original quality was probably excellent but the color was faded and there are many scratches.
Quantity: 2 There are so many caves but only some can enter and it is too expensive for that and I can stay for a very short time period.
Cost: -5 Extremely Expensive. 240Yuan(49USD, 4,700Yen) for some normal caves. Additional fee is required to enter special cave.

I personally enjoyed somewhat by forgetting price but it is not worth the price. The imagination can come by thinking original color but real color is faded already.

The 360 degree cinema is good but probably it can be separated.
I personally think "copy exhibit + 360degree cinema" is enough for 50Yuan. No need to enter real cave with the price actually because only some can enter for a short time with guide person. I personally like this kind of caves but it is still expensive just for this.

There are not so much information how to book and buy ticket. It is difficult. There are not clear information where to go after buying ticket.

There are not so much information how the special cave is. Otherwise it is difficult to choose special cave to buy ticket before entering it.

The price near cave and in town is expensive such as water and food. It is probably just waiting for customer without doing so much effort because many customer comes continuously. Some people knows what is the service but many people doesn't know what is the service just by waiting the customer with high price. Food is 2-5 times higher than normal price in night market.
Written May 12, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ariellek_bj
Beijing, China36 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2012 • Solo
It was low season so I had to wait about 20 minutes before a group of 25 Chinese-speaking tourists gathered and we were assigned a tour guide.
(It is impossible to visit without an assigned tour guide. The tour guide service is provided for free as long as you bought the admission ticket.)

There are 700+ caves excavated but only 10 of them are open to the public each year. You can see the different styles of Buddhist art, reflecting the political and social situations of the different eras in Chinese history. For example, the earlier caves -- in the Wei and Zhou dynasties -- showed Buddhist tales full of suffering and self-sacrifice. Meanwhile, the later caves -- from Tang Dynasty -- showed Buddha and other gods such as Guanyin being magnanimous and capable of relieving suffering and granting peace.

One interpretation is that the earlier dynasties involved very harsh lives, so it was politically advantageous for the rulers to use Buddhism as a means of promoting a sense of "suffering is the way of life and will benefit your reincarnation in your next life". Later in the prosperous times in Tang Dynasty, when the Silk Road was at its peak, people's lives were economically better and the country was stronger, so the caves reflected a sense of well-being of the country.

In the old days, it was the Silk Road travelers and the Buddhist pilgrims (en route to India through the Silk Road) who would visit these caves. Imagine -- you are visiting a sacred place!

I planned my trip so I would spend Valentine's Day at this site -- a celebration of my love for history and culture. It pained me, however, to see at least 3 Chinese tourists in my group who were taking pictures with flashlight on using their cameras and iPhones. Because a group of 25 people inside a cave is quite large, the tour guide took a while to realize that some people were taking photos. He warned that he could ask them to leave Mogao Caves, but in the end he didn't do anything and the tourists kept taking photos. It was disgraceful.

In theory, for an extra RMB 200 per cave, you could request to see the 'te ku' (special cave). However, when I requested that and was more than willing to pay, the tour guide and the staff at the ticket booth went to great lengths to dissuade me. I suspect they really want to preserve the caves and reduce the number of visitors as much as possible. Instead of insisting, I went to the adjacent museum and satisfied my appetite for Buddhist history there.
Written March 1, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Mogao Caves, Dunhuang

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