Cheap Flights to Xi An
Famed worldwide for its iconic terracotta army, Xi An also offers stunning pagodas, museums, waterfalls, mountains and hot springs.
Once known as Chang'an (Eternal Peace), Xi An is capital of Shaanxi Province in north central China. As the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, the city became immensely wealthy and powerful, serving as the capital of 13 imperial dynasties over the centuries. The imposing city walls, Tomb of Emperor Jingdi and Tang palace stand testimony to its status as the fount of Chinese civilisation.
You can delve into the city's rich past by visiting museums, enjoying the Tang Dynasty Show and viewing the many temples and pagodas, with the Big Goose Pagoda being especially notable.
Another historic treasure is the labyrinthine Muslim Quarter. Its lanes are packed with vendors selling everything from fabrics to sesame oil. Of interest are the elegant mosques, especially the Great Mosque which dates back to the 8th century.
For all its history, today's Xi An exudes a relaxed, cosmopolitan feel which makes browsing a joy. Enjoy shopping for handicrafts such as charming terracotta figurines in the city's markets. Then travel outside the city to explore the mountains and waterfalls and experience the real China.
Time your visit right and you can join in the city's many special events including all the major Chinese festivals and a few unique ones of its own.
Things to do
The terracotta army is what Xi An is famous for, but there is much more to this city and it's surrounding landscape, especially for those seeking an authentic Chinese experience.
The city's star draw is the terracotta army: the thousands of figurines of Bingmayong Bowuguan warriors buried in the tomb of China's first emperor Qin Shi Huang. Dating back to 200 B.C., these marvels were only unearthed in 1974 and exploration is still going on.
The Ming Dynasty had these monumental walls built in the 14th century as part of a major revamp which included a name change to Xi An (Western Peace). You can walk, jog or cycle along the entire 14 kilometres of these walls, enjoying the view from the 12-metre elevation.
Excursions to the surrounding countryside reveal vistas of the 'real' China with the star attraction being Hua Shan mountain, one of the five sacred to Taoism. Other lovely sights include the Hukou Waterfall and the Huaqing Hot Springs.
Calendar of Events
As an ancient city with a rich culture, Xi An celebrates its own unique festivals as well as those of China.
Chinese Pure Bright Festival. Held countrywide in April, this is a time of paying respects to ancestors. Locals tend to the tombs of their forefathers and pay homage to the Huang Emperor with a grand fete at his Mausoleum.
Mid-Autumn Festival. Second in importance only to Chinese New Year, this event is also known as the Moon Festival. Locals present moon cakes to family and relatives as wishes for a long and happy life.
Xian Art Festival of Ancient Culture. Held throughout the month of September and distinguished by a lantern show on the ancient city walls, this event is packed with displays and activities celebrating the city's multi-millennia history. Activities include drum dancing, Chinese opera and much feasting on local snacks.