Xinjiang Altay Mountain hinterlands
guided Roadtrip to far northwest china
An adventure to a land a little closer to the gods.
Take the road into the deep of Xinjiang province on an adventure featuring the epic open landscapes of Northern Xinjiang. Spend time in photogenic Kanas, Cocoa Suri Lake and Hemu Village. Visit the natural masterpieces of mountain lake Tianzan, Wucai Beach and the Urho Moguicheng desert ‘ghost town’ monoliths.
Inspiration in the great untouched Northwest of China – capture the landscape of Northern Xinjiang.
Urumqi Meet-up . Explore Urumqi's sights.
Meet-up Day in Urumqi.
Day one is meet up day. Arrive in the Western desert city of Urumqi, capitol of Xinjiang Province.
Explore Urumqi's sights..
Arrive early and explore the downtown area of this exotic city. Must-see landmarks include the Erdaoqiao bazaar markets. Another waypoint is the Xinjiang Museum (they have real mummies!).
Urumqi. Tianzan Mountain ‘Skypool’ Lake. Fukang City.
Urumqi. Tianzan Mountain ‘Skypool’ Lake.
Eat breakfast then set out.
Arrive at the Tianzan mountain reserve. Hop onto scenic park transport and ride to Tianzan mountain Tianchi, aka the ‘Skypool’.
The Tianzan Skypool scenic reserve centers on the alpine mirror mountain lake called Tianchi – aka Skypool’.
Dragon spruce forest fill the land between the lake and the mountains that embrace the lake. The lake was once called the “jade pool” for the color of its waters. The jade-water mirror reflects the colossal mountain on the far side of the lake – the World Natural Heritage peak – Bogda, of Dongtian Mountain. Chinese mythology rumors that this is where the “immortal mother” held her legendary banquet for the gods. Survey the scenery to feel why this place reminds people of the gods.
Fukang City check-in.
After a time, depart Tianzan Skypool. Arrive later at the hotel in Fukang City.
Arrive. Check in and rest.
Fukang. Highway 216 (Junggar Basin, Gurbantunggut Desert, Kelameili Ungulate Wildlife Reserve, Hazak tribe herdsmen land). Cocoa Suri Lake. The Number 3 Mine Pit. Keketuohai Town.
Danxiakou. Kangle Grasslands.
Finish breakfast then set out.
Leave Urumqi behind, riding into the Junggar Basin, northbound on Highway 216.
We cut through the Gurbantunggut Desert, passing through the Kelameili Ungulate (‘hoofed animal’) Wildlife Reserve on the way. See Mongolian gazelles, the Asiatic wild donkey, and if the universe is really on our side, the first-class, nationally protected Przewalski’s horse.
Eat a simple roadtrip lunch.
Continue North. The Hazak tribe herdsmen drove their herds along the roads between fields in this area. Driving through the wave of oncoming cattle is a novel experience. Hope our timing is right!
Cocoa Suri Lake. The Number 3 Mine Pit.
Afternoon. Set feet down on the wild duck and sweeping reed banks of Cocoa Suri lake to explore. From here, move to the mysterious old Number 3 Mine Pit for a visit.
Afterwards we check into a room at the township on the lakeside – a little place called Keketuohai Town. The evening is yours. Feel free to venture with travel companions out into the town in search of food and fun.
Keketuohai Town. Keketuohai National Geopark (Irtysh River, ‘Fortune Turtle Stone’ and ‘stone door’, Shenzhong ‘Godclock’ Mountain). Burqin
Keketuohai Town. Keketuohai National Geopark (Irtysh River, ‘Fortune Turtle Stone’ and ‘stone door’, Shenzhong ‘Godclock’ Mountain).
After breakfast head to the Keketuohai National Geopark for some fun.
Inside Keketuohai is the headstream of the Irtysh River - the only river in all of China that drains into the Arctic Ocean. Hop onto the sightseeing shuttle buggy. Trace along the riverside track in search of the park’s sights. Say hello to the curious ‘Fortune Turtle Stone’ and ‘stone door’, then feel the atmosphere change as you pass into new surrounds at the beautiful white birch forests. There’s also Keketuohai main attraction – the Shenzhong ‘Godclock’ Mountain.
Afterwards, go one level deeper. Step out on foot to hike along the Irtysh River, bound for the scenic vantage point of the river’s Grand Canyon waits ahead. Take photos and marvel at the colors that paint the giant split-stone walls of this wild river canyon. Lose yourself in enchanting Autumn scenery of the forest, Keketuohai lake and Irtysh River.
Road. Arrive in Burqin. River Levee Night Markets
Later, shuttle back to the entrance and leave the park. Eat lunch, then hit the road again. Ride East on a gravel road that follows the Irtysh, past ‘Beitun Little Town’, finally arriving in the county town of Burqin.
Check in at the hotel and rest up.
Burqin has what is known as the River Levee Night Markets, a great place to open your mind and taste buds to local foods. We recommend trying the barbecued fish!
Burqin. Kanas sightseeing. Guanyu ‘Fishwatch’ Pavilion lookout. Jiadengyu.
After breakfast, depart into the Altay mountain hinterlands to discover what they call “a place pure in the realm of men”, a “private garden of the gods” – the prefecture known as Kanas.
This is scenery you have to see to imagine. The color palate has been flipped on the landscape. Sunburst and auburn yellow, green, an azure blue sky with puffy, cotton-white clouds. Towering steel-gray mountains capped with snow form a jagged chain on the horizon, adding a hard, contrasting edge to the landscape.
Kanas Transit Station. Kanas Lake. Guanyu ‘Fishwatch’ Pavilion lookout.
Arrive at the Kanas transit station, switch to local sightseeing transport and ride down to Kanas Lake. Step off here. The lake has a boardwalk from which you can enjoy the burning gold Autumn leaf color visuals that line its edge and cast their color on the water.
From down on the water, go up. Hike 1,086 steps to a height of 2030 meters above sea level. Here, more than 600 meters above the lake water, is the Guanyu ‘Fishwatch’ Pavilion lookout. The ideal spot for a panoramic view of the lake and its surrounds. The tower pavilion tower itself is an attraction too!
Arrive in Jiadengyu.
In the afternoon we ride into the town of Jiadengyu, check in and get settled for the night.
Note that this is the Altay Hinterlands, temperature difference between night and day is relatively extreme. Never fear - we’ll have you out of the elements by nightfall.