If you're a history buff who is tired of seeing fake renditions of the Great Wall, this 92km (57-mile) journey into the desert to visit these desolate Han dynasty ruins is a worthwhile day trip. The ruins comprise three separate locations: Yumen Guan (Jade Gate), an ancient watchtower made of mud, straw, and stone, and the lesser-known He Cangcheng and Han Changcheng. On the way to these ruins you'll pass another historic site called Yang Guan (Sun Gate). Yumen Guan and Yang Guan were the traditional border crossings that marked the beginning of the territory ruled by the Han dynasty. Today, however, Yang Guan is a tacky site geared toward Chinese tour groups; it features an unspectacular watchtower surrounded by a fake village, and a terribly curated museum. Skip this and continue to the Yumen Guan ticket counter, which appears in the middle of the desert, along a long stretch of road. Pay here (¥30) and drive for another 30km (19 miles) to reach Yumenguan. The highlight of the three is Han Changcheng, which is 13km (21 miles) east of Yumen Guan on a dirt road and is a rather crumbling building that was used as a storage unit. Five kilometers (8 miles) to the east of Yumen Guan is Han Changcheng, which features one watchtower and a remnant of the Great Wall that's several hundred yards long. Few tour groups, if any, make it out here. Plan for a trip that takes roughly 7 hours. A round-trip taxi ride costs ¥200.

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