We’re welcoming thousands of visitors to Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road at the Getty from May 7 to September 4. The exhibition explores the cave temples of Dunhuang China (the Mogao Grottoes), site of the largest collection of Buddhist art in the world, located near the town of Dunhuang at the edge of the Gobi Desert in western China. It presents a number of rare objects originally from the site, and tells the story of how Mogao is being conserved for the future.
Lots of you have been asking about tickets and opening times, so we’ve pulled together our best tips on what to see and how to make the most of your visit. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please leave it in the comments so we can add it to this post!
Admission to the Getty Center and to the exhibition is free. Parking is $15, reduced to $10 after 3:00 p.m. No general admission tickets are necessary; however, to reduce wait times, free timed replica cave exhibition tickets are available on site when you arrive at the Getty.
What to See
There are three things to see in Cave Temples of Dunhuang, and you can visit one, two, or three in any order.
1. Artworks and Buddhist treasures, including over forty manuscripts, paintings on silk, embroideries, and other precious objects on loan from museums in the UK and France.
Find it: Inside the Getty Research Institute.
How to get in: Admission to the exhibition galleries is free, no tickets or reservations are required.
Look for: The Diamond Sutra, the world’s oldest dated and complete printed book.
2. A virtual immersive experience including panoramic projections of the cave temple site, and a 3D presentation of the interior of Cave 45, created in the 700s during the Tang dynasty.
Find it: In the Getty Research Institute Lecture Hall, to the left of the main entrance to the Research Institute.
How to get in: No tickets or reservations are required; just join the line outside the Getty Research Institute entrance. Capacity is limited to about 20 people at a time. Borrow a free pair of 3D glasses inside.
Look for: A richly painted sculpture of the Buddha in lotus position surrounded by disciples, bodhisattvas, and guardian kings.
3. Walk-in replica cave temples created to the exact size and appearance of three of those at Dunhuang (Caves 275, 285, and 320). Use the handout provided at the entry to identify highlights in the replica caves. Get a sneak preview of the handout at getty.edu/ReplicaCaves.
Find it: On the Getty Center plaza, where the tram arrives at the top of the hill.
Look for: Brilliantly colored, dynamic wall paintings that incorporate Hindu and indigenous Chinese deities into a Buddhist context (in the large, center cave).
How to see it: Obtain a free timed ticket—available on-site in limited quantities—and reduce your queuing time. Check availability at the Dunhuang Ticket Table at the top of the stairs leading to the Central Garden. Tickets are released throughout the day based on demand.
You’ll be escorted through all three replica caves on each visit. If you have a wait before your ticket time, explore the rest of the site, including our other free exhibitions and events.
Note, due to the limited capacity inside the caves, strollers are not permitted inside. (Wheelchairs and walkers are welcome.) A designated stroller parking area is available near the cave entrance.
Best Times to Visit
All parts of the exhibition are open daily except Mondays. To give more people a chance to see the show, we’re also offering extended summer hours starting May 8:
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays: 10am–5:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays: 10am–9pm
The parking lot fills on busy days, especially during summer and school holidays, so it’s a good idea to arrive early—the parking lot, tram, gardens, and coffee cart open at 9:30am, while the galleries, replica caves, and virtual immersive experience open at 10. Weekend evening hours are also a good bet for easier parking and an easier drive to and from the Getty. As a general rule, Saturday evenings are busier than Friday evenings, and tickets to the replica caves may be all distributed by late afternoon/evening. The parking rate reduces to $10 at 3:00 p.m.
Or forget driving altogether and take the bus: Metro Rapid 734 (Monday–Friday) and Metro Local 234 (weekends, holidays, and late and early weekdays) stop right at the Getty Center entrance. Check metro.net for times and connections. Uber and Lyft are also good options that allow you to bypass the parking garage.
Another lesser-known tip: you’re welcome to walk up or down the hill, which is about three-quarters of a mile and takes 10 or 15 minutes, instead of waiting for the tram.
What to Photograph
Replica caves: You’re welcome to take pictures for personal use inside the replica caves—but please no flash, tripods, monopods, or selfie sticks.
Exhibition galleries and the virtual immersive experience: Due to contracts with lenders, photography, videotaping, and live video broadcasting (such as Periscope) are not allowed in the galleries or the virtual immersive experience.
Other parts of the Getty Center: Photography and video are allowed everywhere outside (selfie sticks are allowed outdoors!), as well as in many of the Museum galleries. See our photo/video policy for more details on photographing at the Center.
To learn more about Dunhuang, see the new exhibition catalogue from Getty Publications; for photos and stories from the exhibition, see other posts here on the Iris, and follow the exhibition hashtag #CaveTemples on Twitter and Instagram.
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I am a member, can I get reserved tickets?
Hi Matthew, Free, timed tickets for the replica caves are only available on-site once you arrive. If, once you arrive, you find that tickets are not available for the specific time you’d like to enter, you can also opt to wait in the general line. The tickets are not required, but rather recommended to reduce visitors’ wait times. There are no tickets available or needed for the immersive virtual experience or the gallery exhibition at the Getty Research Institute, though there may be a wait on some days.
The Getty doesn’t have memberships, as admission is always free to all. Thanks for your interest in the exhibition!
Visited the caves in 2001, when spending three weeks traveling along the Silk Road. Looking forward to a visit on Thursday, 25 August.
How wonderful that the museum is doing an exhibit of the caves. Thank you!
What is the approximate time it takes to experience the whole exhibit including the caves, immersive virtual experience and galleries?
Thanks for your question! The time you’ll need varies according to how long you wish to linger in the exhibition galleries, and how busy it is on the day you visit. Counting average wait times for the replica caves as well as the 3D experience, and ample time to see the objects in the galleries, I would recommend alloting at least two hours. —Annelisa / Iris editor
The Replica caves: we are “escorted through”. That’s nice, but does that also mean we cannot stay and enjoy these caves on our own? Do we have to leave each cave when our guide leaves? I imagine yes we do in order to keep the traffic flowing.
We will visit two of the three. I especially want to visit cave 275. What if it is not included in the two when I go through. How can I get to visit it? Can I try again, re-visit the caves that same day, by getting another ticket or standing in line?
For how many minutes are we in each cave?
I was fortunate to visit Mogao in 2013 on a trip with the Dunhuang Foundation. Once in a lifetime experience for me. To be able to revisit at the Getty and see much more will be wonderful.
I’m coming from MI. for just one day, luckily Sat. long hours.
Hi Esther — We look forward to welcoming you from Michigan! We’ve made a change since this post was first written, so special thanks for your question. Visitors spend a little under 10 minutes total across all three caves (not just two), which the majority of visitors feel is enough time. Of course you’re welcome to obtain another ticket for a later time if you want to go through the caves a second time.
I hope you enjoy your visit! Annelisa
Are wheelchairs allowed in the caves; I read that strollers are not
Hi Loretta—Yes, wheelchairs are allowed in the caves. Enjoy your visit!
Is there a day or a time where the line is not as long for timed ticket to the caves.
Thank you. Sheila
Hi Sheila, Weekends are the busiest times at the Center; of the two weekend days, Sunday is usually a little lighter than Saturday. Tuesday is generally our fullest weekday.
We encourage visitors to arrive early—the parking lot and tram open at 9:30am—or to take advantage of our summer weekend hours, when we’re open late: till 9pm on Friday and Saturday, and till 7pm on Sunday. Sunday evenings are a particularly great time to visit.
Enjoy your visit! The caves are worth the wait!
Visiting from northern CA. Would like to try the bus and Metro Rapid line 734 is close to our hotel. However, Google Maps shows the end point as Sepulveda Blvd/Getty Center Drive — with a 1 mile walk (uphill?) to to Getty Center itself. Is this correct? Thanks
Hi Leslie, the bus stop at Sepulveda Blvd/Getty Center Drive is located adjacent to the tram departure. There is a walking path, but most visitors prefer to take the tram up to the Center.
Hope you enjoy your visit!
Does the Getty have wheel chairs we can borrow?
Yes, we do—on a first-come, first-served basis. Please ask a Visitor Services Associate at the parking office for help. This is located at the tram departure plaza (where you catch the tram to ride up the hill, adjacent to the elevators that serve the parking lot).
Planning a visit on Saturday evening. What’s the optimal time throughout the evening to visit the caves? –i.e., shortest wait time.
Hi Paul, It’s hard to predict, but last Saturday evening was particularly busy, with heaviest lines around 5:30 pm, and wait times about 30 minutes. This Saturday, May 21, is the first Saturdays Off the 405 of the season—free outdoor music—so we expect much heavier crowds than usual. I would suggest coming either in the late afternoon, by 4.
What happens if the parking lot is full when we get there?
Is there alternate parking?
Hi Anitra, We do have some overflow parking capacity, and we direct visitors to those lots when available and when needed. There are occasional times when all available parking is full. This is fairly rare, and only lasts about 45 minutes. Since parking is not permitted on the surrounding streets, on the rare occasions when this happens, we ask visitors who are turned away to come back in about an hour.
I am leaving San Diego at 10:30 to come up to see Cave Temples of Dunhuang, are there tickets still available and could you e-mail if it too crowded to come Gerard
Hi Gerard, You shouldn’t have a problem with ticket availability today. If for some reason you do experience this, please ask to speak with a Visitor Services Supervisor and we will see that you are taken care of. Enjoy the drive up!
I have out of town company coming here and would like to bring her to see the Caves on Saturday, June 11th.
We would not be able to arrive before 2:30 – 3:00 in the afternoon .. what would you suggest to be able to
see them on that day in the afternoon … or would Friday, the 10th be a better time to come?
Hi Joan, Thanks for your question. It’s likely that we’ll be running about three hours ahead on ticketing on Saturday, June 11, at 2:30/3pm. In other words, if you arrive at the ticket table at 3pm on Saturday, you will very likely get tickets for 6pm.
Friday late afternoons and evenings are lighter, with ticketing closer to one hour ahead. (In other words, if you arrive at 3pm, you would be more likely to get tickets for 4pm, rather than 6pm.) Do note, though, that Friday, June 10, is the first date of our Friday Flights performance series, so we will have more visitors than normal for a Friday evening.
These are our best estimates based on what we have seen in the past few weeks. Visitorship will increase as summer nears.
Are docent-led tours available?
Hi Tanya, There are free, public gallery tours led by curators on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3 pm. These take place in the galleries of the Getty Research Institute only, not within the replica caves or 3D experience.
I am traveling from New York City the weekend of August 26 specifically to visit the Caves and accompanying exhibit. Are the Artworks and Buddhist treasures from museums in the UK and France displayed within the caves and does one need a timed ticket to see these treasures? From some of the posted comments, I understand that one only has 10 minutes to visit the 3 caves. Is that correct? One has to wait hours for a timed ticket and can only have 10 minutes to view them? There is no way you can tell me that 10 minutes is adequate to view the caves. Why such a restricted amount of time? Can’t you increase the viewing time to a more reasonable amount. In any event, during the time one waits to visit the caves one can presumably have as much time as one needs to see the Artworks and Buddhist treasures? Please let me know. Thank you. Marta
Hi Marta, We’re delighted that you are coming all the way from New York to see the show! The artwork from European museums is not displayed in the replica caves, but rather in a separate set of galleries (in the Getty Research Institute building). You do not need a ticket to see the artwork, and there is no time limit.
The wait for tickets to see the replica cave temples depends on the crowds, and at light times is often less than an hour. Mornings are a good time to visit—the Dunhuang Ticket Table opens at 9:45am. Our busiest time is around 1pm on Saturdays; if visit at this time, your ticket time could be 3–4 hours in the future.
Increasing the length of time visitors spend in each replica cave would significantly reduce the number of visitors who are able to visit the caves. The length of time allotted for visiting the caves is one most visitors find satisfying. You’re welcome to go back as many times as you like, too—just get a second free timed ticket at the Dunhuang Ticket Table (at the top of the stairs right above the replica cave building).
Since you are coming from so far away and have such a keen interest in the caves, please ask to speak with a Visitor Services Supervisor when you are on site and they will be happy to work with you to make your visit satisfactory.
Are wheelchairs available? Are there elevators? I have COPD and need to know what oxygen supplies I need to bring with me as long walks and stairs are difficult for me. Thank you for you answer.
Hi Keji, Wheelchairs are available to borrow at the Parking Office at the bottom of the hill. You will have easy access to all areas of the Cave Temples exhibition, as follows:
The Getty Center is a large site with various levels and if you want to see it all in one visit (an ambitious goal) there is a lot of walking or rolling. However, elevators are always available as an alternative to stairs, and using a wheelchair you will be able to see all the galleries and enjoy the site, including the cafe and garden. If at any time you need help, please ask our friendly visitor services staff or volunteers. I hope you enjoy your visit!
I understand the wheelchairs are allowed. But are walkers, for and adult, allowed? Best time for someone to see Dunhuang exhibit with an older person with modern walker? Vic
Hi Vic, Walkers are absolutely welcome. The best times to visit, for shortest wait times, are weekdays, or either first thing in the morning (the parking lot opens at 9:30am) or very late on a weekend (during the summer we’re open till 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and till 7pm on Sundays).
Here is a suggestion for after you and your guest pick up timed tickets at the Dunhuang Ticket Table to see the replica caves: one person in your party can wait in the standing line to get into the caves, while the person with the walker can wait, seated, nearby and then meet you at the head of the line when it is time to enter.
Enjoy your visit!
Thank you for the info in walkers. Does each member need to be present to pick up timed tickets? Also is the arrival plaza the same as the central plaza.? And if not where is the central plaza on the map? Is the elevator near the tram drop off the only direct elevator to the top of the stairs to get the timed tickets? You are great, thanks, Vic
Hi Vic, Thanks for the questions, I realize our plazas can be confusing! The Tram Arrival Plaza is actually one level *down* from the Museum Plaza. The replica caves are located at the Tram Arrival Plaza. The Dunhuang Ticket Table, the Museum Entrance Hall, and the Getty Research Institute (which houses the galleries featuring artwork treasures from Dunhuang) are on or adjacent to the Museum Plaza, which means they’re all located one level above the Tram Arrival Plaza. There are big stairs leading from one level to the other, but there is also an accessible elevator. Here’s how to find it: As you exit the tram, make a left and then another immediate left, where you see parking pay stations. Look left again and you’ll see an elevator that takes you one level up. Then there is level walking/rolling across the travertine over to the Dunhuang Ticket Table.
Good question about who needs to be present for a group to obtain the replica cave tickets. It’s not a problem. We allow each person in line to request up to 8 tickets.
Is there any accommodation for the elderly who is 94 yrs old and will be on the wheelchair during the visit?
She really wants to visit the exhibition.
Dear Jonathan, Absolutely. Wheelchairs are permitted in all areas of the Dunhuang experience. She can remain in the wheelchair during the line for, and experience of, the replica caves. Wheelchairs are also allowed in the exhibition galleries, which showcase the artwork treasures from the Dunhuang caves, as well as in the 3D video experience. If you need help, ask any visitor services associate. Have a good visit!
I read about Dunhuang caves in New York Times travel section in 2015. I was so excited to hear that Getty Museum is recreating the caves. I am specifically flying from Washington DC to ser the exhibit, bringing my grandchildren too see the exhibit. i will be in CA ftom Aug4-14. Any particular day you recommend where it will be easier for us to get tickets.
Hi Leena, That’s great that you’re coming so far to see the caves! Our busiest weekend day is Saturday. Our busiest weekday is Tuesday. We’re closed Mondays. Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7, 4–5:30pm, we’re hosting our annual Garden Concerts for Kids. Unless you would like to see those concerts (which are really fun for family groups), come another time instead.
Given all this, I would recommend one of the following, for easiest and fastest parking and ticketing: a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday morning, arriving at 9:30am when the parking lot opens; or early evening on a Friday, when we’re open till 9pm during the summer. Evenings are really lovely at the Getty.
(A general tip: check our event calendar while planning your visit to see if any large events, like talks in the auditorium or outdoor performances, are planned.)
Have a good trip.
We will be visiting next Sat and plan to be there at 9:30 and get our tickets to Cave exhibit. Are there usually long lines first thing in the morning?
Hi Joanne, mornings are usually ideal and we don’t anticipate long lines first thing. The Dunhuang Ticket Table opens at 9:45am. If you arrive at the parking lot when it opens at 9:30, you’ll be at the top of the hill in 15 minutes or less and be the first to get tickets!
Hello, you mentioned that Sunday evening is a great time to visit the caves – is that still true for a holiday weekend like the upcoming one? Or would Saturday evening be better?
Also, if I come early to get a timed ticket, could I request a ticket for end of day? Eg could I come at 10am and ask for tickets at 5:30pm?
Dear Claire, Sorry for the belated response. Holiday weekends are definitely heavier for us, so if you are concerned about wait times, pick a non-holiday weekend. We give tickets out for the coming few hours but if you need a ticket for a specific later day, check with a Visitor Services associate or supervisor and they’ll make sure you get what you need.
If you did visit this past weekend, I hope you had a great time!
I took some photos on my iPad as allowed while visiting the caves. I would really like to post a few on Facebook to encourage others to enjoy this wonderful exhibit. Would that be OK?
Hi Janet, Yes, certainly! Photos and videos are totally fine for non-commercial use—in other words, it’s okay to post them on Facebook, Twitter, etc., just not to sell them. Thank you for visiting!
We have 3 in our group, one person using a walker and another person with a walking stick! We are coming by the LB Transit Museum Express and will be leaving LB at 10 and returning at 4pm. . What is the best way to see all 3 Chinese exhibit of the CavesTemples of Dunhuang. If we had to see 1 or 2 which ones should we pick to see?
Hi May, We look forward to welcoming you! I’d recommend going to the Dunhuang Ticket Table as the first thing when you arrive and getting your free tickets to see the replica caves a little later in the day. Then, in the interim, I’d head over to the Getty Research Institute to see the treasures from the Library Cave (manuscripts, paintings, sculptures). Everyone has a different opinion on the top things not to miss, but I’d say to prioritize the replica caves and the gallery exhibition of Library Cave objects. If you see a time of day when the line is particularly short for the virtual immersive experience, seize your chance to do that, too!
Enjoy your visit!
We visited the caves and had a great time. However, some of the people we were with only spoke Cantonese and the audio tape was only in English (unless we missed something). We did notice on the web site there was a Chinese translation of visiting the exhibit.
Since the Getty is a world known museum with many of its visitors speaking a foreign language , I was wondering if next time the museum has a Chinese or other non English theme exhibit, that the audio tapes be in different languages.
I’d like to arrive early to get timed tickets for four of my relatives who will be arriving later in the day. Can I pick up timed tickets for my whole party even if they aren’t present?
Hi Rory, Yes! You can request up to eight tickets for your group when you visit the Dunhuang Ticket Table. Have a great visit!
A group (30-40) are coming to view the Caves this next Wednesday from CSULB Osher Lifelong Learning Center. We will arrive about 1PM.
Do you have tips for us so that all of us that want to will be able to see the exhibit, such as, should 6 of us get 8 tickets rather than we all stand in line for the tickets.
Hi Vicki, I checked with our groups manager and he states that you already have group timed-tickets reserved for 2:00 pm; your group leader can pick up the tickets any time before 2:00 pm. (The reservation is under Good Times Travel.)
For others considering visiting as a group: groups of 15 or more people must make a reservation, which you can do here. For more details on group visits and tours, see our groups page.