Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region

Updated: Apr 3, 2019 chinadaily.com.cn Print

Known as the home of singing and dancing, the land of fruits, and the place of gold and jade stones, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China boasts for its vast expanse, beautiful landscape and unique folk customs. There are in total over 1,100 registered scenic areas in Xinjiang, ranking first in the country.

In a selection of the best scenic areas in Xinjiang by Tourism Bureau of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the follow 10 won the highest scores in public appraisal and professional evaluation.

10. Sayram Lake (赛里木湖)
Sayram Lake, renowned as a pearl on the Silk Road, is the largest and highest alpine lake in Xinjiang. With an altitude of 2,073 meters, it is located about 90 kilometers southwest of Botala Prefecture, Urumqi. The lake has quite a few nicknames. In ancient China, it was called the "clean sea." In Mongolian language, Sayram means 'a lake on the ridge'. In Kazakh language, it means 'blessing'. Because it is the last place that the warm and humid air current of the Atlantic Ocean reaches, it is also known as the "Atlantic Ocean's last teardrop."

The oval-shaped lake is about 30 kilometers long and, 25 kilometers, covering an area of 455 to 460 square kilometers. The deepest point of the lake measures 92 meters. The main source of the lake is rainwater and ground water, in addition to some water flows from a few small rivers.

The water in the lake is pure, clear and peaceful, attracting flocks of ducks and swans. Flourishing cypress and cedar trees cover the whole mountain range. Herds of horses and sheep graze on the pastures. The best seasons to visit Sayram Lake are summer and autumn.

9. Jiangbulak Scenic Spot (江布拉克景区)
Located 60 km south of Qitai County, Jiangbulak Scenic Spot is a vast grassland in the eastern part of Tianshan Mountain. Its unique location endows it with beautiful landscapes, without any extreme weathers in the summer or winter.

Jiangbulak means the "source of holy water" in the Kazakh language. The spot boasts amazing natural scenes. The best season to visit Jiangbulak is June or July. Various flowers in different colors, massive barley fields, crystal lakes, and multi-peaked mountains abound.

8.Heavenly Lake Scenic Spot in Tianshan Mountain (天山天池景区)
With an altitude of 1,928 meters, Heavenly Lake is located at the base of Bogda Peak, the highest peak of the east side of Tianshan Mountain, 110 km east of Urumqi. Covering a total area of 380.69 square kilometers, the scenic spot includes the lake and surrounding mountains.

In the shape of crescent, the lake is 3,400 meters long, 1,500 meters wide at its widest point, and 105 meters deep at its deepest point, covering an area of 4.9 square kilometers. The water, sourced from mountain snow, is crystal clear. It has been given a beautiful name: "Pearl of Tianshan Mountain." In 1990, the Heavenly Lake Scenic Spot was included in the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve program.

In summer, Heavenly Lake is an ideal place to escape the heat; in the winter, the frozen lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains becomes a ski resort.

7. Mori Forest of Diversiform-leaved Poplars (木垒胡杨林景区)
A forest of diversiform-leaved poplars, a tenacious ancient species, can be found at the south edge of Junggar Basin, 150 km away from Mori County, covering an area of 35 square kilometers. With a history of 65 million years, the forest is the oldest primeval forest of diversiform-leaved poplars in the world, and is known as a "living fossil".

Faced with broiling heat and droughts, the forest stills stand in the desert, brimming with energy and life. The trees are described as "having the ability to grow erect for a thousand years, live for a thousand years after falling, and the life remain undying after death for another thousand years."

Far away from urban and rural areas, the forest contains about 30,000 diversiform-leaved poplars with an average age of 200-400 years. The oldest tree, known as the "ancestor tree," has lived there for over 1,000 years, with its trunk measuring 3.1 meters in diameter.

6. Kumtag Desert Scenic Spot (库姆塔格沙漠景区)
The Kumtag Desert Scenic Spot is a landform in east Xinjiang, which became a national park in the year 2002. Covering an area of 1,880 square kilometers, the spot was expanded in 2007 to include much of the surrounding area, including the 1,000-square kilometer Kanas Geological Park . It is expected to be the world's largest national park.

Kumtag means "sand mountain" in Uighur language. Temperatures in the desert vary from freezing at night to baking during the day. The yellow barren sand in various shapes contrast with the green fertile lands 500 km to the south, where the mighty Yangtze River flows. The spot has been an ideal place for scientific research and exploration, expedition, sight-seeing and healthcare. Sand treatment is said to be an effective way to cure rheumatism as well as waist and backaches.

5. Narati Scenic Spot (那拉提风景区)
Located in the hinterlands of Tianshan Mountain, to the east of the Ili River Valley, the Narati Scenic Spot covers a total area of 400 square kilometers, with an altitude of 1,800 meters. "Narati" means "the place where the sun rises" in Mongolian language. Surrounded by Narati Mountain on three sides with a river flowing through, the spot is known for its fresh air, abundant vegetation and amazing landscape.

As one of the world's four largest grasslands, the Nalati Grassland has been a famous pasture since ancient times. Mountains capped with snow, plains carpeted with wild flowers and the wandering herds of goats, sheep and cows make Narati a five star attraction in China. A must-do in Narati is spending a night in a Kazakh camp, enjoying the beauty of the wide river valleys, high mountains, deep canyons, thick forests, vast grassland, historical sites and the folk customs.

4. Kucha Palace (库车王府)
The former owner of the Kucha Palace was a local Uygur leader who made great achievements for the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911) during the reign of Emperor Qianlong and Emperor Daoguang. As a reward for his outstanding contributions, he was made a duke and a palace was built for his family in 1828. However, the palace was destroyed by the army of Sheng Shicai, a warlord of the Kuomintang (KMT). Today, only the outer walls and parts of the original rooms remain. In 2004, the local government spent 15 million yuan to rebuild the Kucha Palace on the original site based on the recollections of the 12th generation of the duke's family.

The palace features a mix of Muslim, Russian, and Han Chinese architecture, and covers an area of 40,000 square meters. Tourists may visit the dukes' rooms, museums, exhibitions and the old outer walls of the palace, to have a picture of the daily life of the duke and his family. A restaurant, a hotel and performances are also available on-site.

3. Tianshan Grand Canyon (Keziliya Grand Canyon) 天山大峡谷(克孜利亚大峡谷)
The mysterious Tianshan Grand Canyon, also known as Keziliya Grand Canyon, is a canyon near Keziliya Mountain (a branch of Tianshan Mountain) formed by wind and rain over billions of years. "Keziliya" in Uighur means red cliff. The canyon is as long as 5.5 kilometers from east to west with an average depth of 1,600 meters. The reddish-brown mountains of the grand and rugged canyon are in different shapes, and gullies and trenches can be found everywhere. Some places are too narrow to pass through. The peaks in the canyon are multicolored, and strange-shaped stone formations can be found.

Because of the unique terrain, it is warm during the winter and cool in summer inside the canyon. Standing at the bottom of the canyon and looking up to the high mountains, you may feel as if the steep ridges and peaks might fall down any time. On the cliff which is 1.4 km away from the mouth of the canyon, there is a thousand-Buddha cave from the Tang Dynasty where the paintings and Chinese characters on the three sides of the walls are still clear, colorful and vivid.

2. Koktokay Scenic Spot (可可托海景区)
Located in the Altai Mountains, northeast of Fuyun County in Xinjiang, Koktokay Scenic Spot, or Koktokay National Geopark, is an ideal place for sightseeing, vacationing, hiking, photographing and scientific expedition. It is the origin of the Irtysh River, which is the only river in China flowing into the Arctic Ocean. Near the river is the "No. 3 pegmatite", the largest mining pit in the world which has deposits of 84 kinds of minerals. Koktokay means "green forest" in Kazakh language and "blue river bend" in Mongolian, implying that it has been a beautiful place since ancient times.

The geopark consists of four major parts: the Irtysh Grand Canyon, Cocoa Sullivan Lake, Ilaymu Lake and Kalaxianger Earthquake Fault Zone. In the Irtysh Grand Canyon, the giant granites in various shapes are distributed along the turbulent Irtysh River. Springs, falls and brooks lie among the white birch forests and grassland. Hiking or riding a horse, visitors could enjoy the natural scenery of the canyon.

Covering an area of 178 hectares, Cocoa Sullivan Lake, also named Wild Duck Lake, is 23 kilometers away from the gate of the geopark. Plenty of aquatic plants and more than 20 floating islands in the lake attract thousands of wild ducks, moorhens and swan gooses every year.

Cocoa Sullivan Lake is a reservoir-lake at the intersection of the Irtysh River and its tributary. With an altitude of 1,120 meters and a depth of 100 meters, the lake water is crystal clear. There is also a large grassland to the south of the lake which supports herds of cattle and sheep.

The Kalaxianger Earthquake Fault Zone was formed by an earthquake happened on August 11, 1931. With the title of "Geology Museum", it is now the most spectacular and most well-preserved earthquake site in the world.

1. Turpan Scenic Spot (Grape Valley and Flaming Mountain) (吐鲁番景区(葡萄沟、火焰山)
Turpan has long been the center of a fertile oasis at a basin of the central Xinjiang. The extreme heat and dryness of the summer allow the land to produce great amounts of high-quality fruit. There is a well-known folk song: "Turpan's grapes are ripe; Anarhan's heart is ecstatic…" Turpan is famous for its fruits, especially grapes, and the best place to enjoy the grapes is the Grape Valley.

Located in the western part of Flaming Mountain, the Grape Valley is a zone of vineyards of 8 kilometers long and 0.5 kilometers wide. The grapes here are crystal and watery: some as green as emeralds; some as red as agates, some as small as pearls, while others look like olives. Its annual production of a dozen types of fresh grapes surpasses 6,000 tons. Creeks, small rivers, springs and various plants and fruits, including peaches, apricots, apples, pears and melons, make the valley even more beautiful and productive. Visitors can take a rest under the grape trees, taste the juicy grapes, or have a stroll in the valley. The best season to visit the valley is summer, when it is cool and ideal to escape from the heat. It has long been a tourist destination attracting visitors from home and abroad.

The Flaming Mountain, the most famous attraction of Turpan, is a barren, eroded, red granite mountain in the north of the Turpan Basin. Nicknamed the "red mountain", it extends over 1,000 km long and is about 500 meters high, with its main peak at an altitude of 831.7 meters. The mountain is the hottest place in China. In the strong summer sun, the sandstones shine and the scorching air flows up, creating a flaming appearance at the mountain at certain times of the day. Because of the unique features of the mountain, there are gullies and trenches growing with green plants, small rivers and fruit trees. The mountain was mentioned in the classic novel Journey to the West, making it even more attractive to visitors.

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