Visiting the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin was on my bucket list for years before I actually got to see them. So I had a (tediously) long time to plan what I wanted to see. I was determined not to miss a thing!
How to get there independently
The Terracotta Warriors are located outside of Xi’an City, in Lintong district, about an hour by taxi or 70 minutes by tourist bus from the city. Traveling by bus is safe, fully air-conditioned and comfortable – just be sure you get a tourist bus as others are not as well maintained. Tourist buses are greyish green, with bold turquoise signage; the bus number is prominent in bright yellow. Bus conductors wear a blue-black uniform and speak English.
Bus Info: Tourist Bus number 5 (306) departs from the East square of Xi’an railway station but it can be very busy, particularly at weekends.
Hours: July 7 to September 1: 9 am to 12:45 am; Rest of the year: 9:30 am to 11:45 pm
Cost: The fare is CNY7, however this does increase a little during peak periods.
Alternatively – grab a cab or book a private tour guide!
It’s easy to find the ticket booths as soon as you arrive. The entrance fee is CNY150 in high season and CNY120 in low season. It’s a pleasant 10 minute walk from the parking area to the site, so make sure those shoes are comfy and you have water with you. The walkway is beautifully maintained and immaculately clean.
The massive complex (16,300 sq metres) is split across 3 pits. There’s also a cinema, an exhibition hall and a good quality gift shop where you can buy refreshments. You’ll probably want to spend at least 2 to 3 hours on site, as there is just so much to marvel at. If you’re a history nerd like me, note that the site closes at 7pm…
Pit number 1
This is the largest pit and the first one to be excavated after local farmers discovered the burial site in the 1970’s. The sight of the thousands of pottery soldiers and chariots displayed in the pit really takes your breath away.
Pit number 2
Archaeologists consider this pit to be the most complete, despite still being only one sixth excavated. It contains all of the types of terracotta warriors found so far, including infantry, cavalry, chariot warriors and archers. It will be keeping archaeologists busy for decades to come! It’s believed that this pit contains over 80 war chariots, 1,300 terracotta warriors and horses, and thousands of bronze weapons.
Pit number 3
This is the smallest of the pits, but it was the command centre of the Terracotta Army. During the excavations, archaeologists discovered a beautiful chariot with 4 fabulous horses in this pit.
Just when you think there can’t possibly be more to see, there’s the exhibition hall to enjoy. You’ll find it’s packed with valuable artifacts from the excavations and it tells the story of the Qin dynasty.
Leaving the site for the parking area, you’ll find the usual array of tourist trap shops and refreshment outlets.
What 3 things did I loved most about visiting the Terracotta Army?
- For a total history nerd, all that ancient history is mind-blowing. I recommend you try to make sense of (some of) it before you go with a good guide-book. Checkout Amazon for some ideas.
- The warriors – I loved learning about all of the different types of soldiers in the Emperor’s army, and how to identify their rank by their clothing.
- The horses. I’m not a ‘horsey’ person but I love animals and the terracotta horses made a huge impression on me. It’s awe-inspiring to see the incredible detail on the horses hundreds of years after they were created. Just imagine what they must have been like when they were freshly made and the colour was still bright and new!
What to do after visiting the Terracotta Army
You’ll have time to relax and recharge your batteries on your journey back to Old Xi’an. If you made an early start, you’ve still got time to visit the Shaanxi History museum. Or maybe it’s time to retreat for a large G&T to pore over the day’s photos and unwind?
Have you visited the Terracotta Army?
What did you love the most? Maybe you’re planning a trip? What are you most looking forward to seeing? Leave your comments below, as we love to read them.
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