Getting to Terracotta warriors is not as difficult, as it looks and is completely possible by yourself. Don’t believe those people, who tell you that the only way to get there is but tour and don’t throw a lot of money on them. Simply go by bus 306.
On our first morning in Xi’An, we woke up bright and early (ok ok, it wasn’t so bright, as mornings never are for me J and headed to Terracotta warriors. If you are going by public transport, it is impossible to get there earlier than the crowds, as bus 306 starts running only from 8 am. We got to the Xi’An Main train station by bus #9. Note: This is not a high-speed train station, where you can get to by metro. Metro doesn’t go to here at the moment, although there are plans to extend the network. There are a number of buses going to the train station, so ask your hotel, which one would be most convenient from the place you stay.
When you get to the station and stand facing the building, head to your right. You will pass the tourist information center and get to the station, where bus 306 stops.
As soon as we got close to the station, some strange woman literally jumped at us, shouting “terracotta” and pushing us somewhere. This was a rather unpleasant situation, but having heard of such scams, we managed to get rid of her and quickly moved towards the official bus 306. The bus is quite old and surprisingly not in par with usual standards we were used to so far in China. But it got us there safe and sound. The bus gets full really quickly and moves immediately after that. It only costs 7 yuans payable on the bus and takes about an hour. Taxi would be quicker, but I believe it costs somewhere around 200 yuans.
Don’t get off at any of the stops 306 makes, you need to get to the last stop, if you are going to Terracotta warriors. From the stop, it’s about 15 minute walk to the pits. I have read a lot about huge queues at the ticket offices and entrance, but it was ok on the day we went (it was a Tuesday). I assume weekends will be more crowded.
We found toilets, when we passed the ticket check near ticket offices. They were quite all right. I am not sure, if there are any near the pits though.
As soon as you get to the pits, the biggest one in front of you, is pit 1. It has 6,000 warriors in it. This is the place you have seem numerous pictures of. And no, it doesn’t look as stunning as you may think from photos, as it has a very ugly modern roof. You also can’t get close to the warriors and can only marvel at them from far together with heaps of people. This is the closest you can get
But the sheer number and size of this army. The whole idea, that it was constructed 22 centuries ago and was buried underground for so long, leaves you speechless.
Here is the best and shortest timeline I found:
By the way, look out for the remains of the original wooden roof, still buried among the walls. The warriors were standing in rows, with walls in-between them in order to hold the roof in place. When the roof collapsed, most of it disintegrated, but you can still see signs of it.
Overall, many people are fascinated by the army, many are underwhelmed, given the high expectations they had, as it didn’t turn out to be the amazing instagrammable place they were hoping it to be 🙂
You can also see, where they restore the warriors and put them together from found pieces.
You can still take photos with fake warriors, if you are too keen and don’t mind spending 100 yuan on it. For this you should head to pits 2 and 3. We definitely didn’t care for this.
If you get out on the other side of pit 1, you can enter pit 3. This is the smallest one, holding only 60-something warriors. This is the command center, so the warriors you see are mostly the officers.
Pit 2 holds over 1000 warriors, many of them are partly excavate. You can see the photos explaining process of excavation here and even find a couple warriors, whose armour has a little of the color preserved, like on these:
The thing is the warriors were painted in bright colors originally. However, very soon after they are excavated, the color fades off. Unfortunately, they still haven’t found a way to prevent this from happening. This is one of the reasons, along with the lack of sufficient financial resources, why the excavations don’t proceed fast. I for one certainly hope they will find this technology. Imagine how fascinating the colourful warriors were, when they were first built.
After spending time at the pits, you can head back to the bus. From the exit, you can pass numerous cafes and see the market. You can taste interesting Chinese sweets, as in many places.
We made it back to the Xi’An railway station at about 3 pm. From here there are direct buses that can take you to the Bell Tower and to the South gate.