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Home Xinjiang Travel Guide Xinjiang Attractions Altai Mountains in Xinjiang – A Haven of Ethereal Natural Landscapes

Altai Mountains in Xinjiang – A Haven of Ethereal Natural Landscapes

Where are the Altai Mountains?

Altai Mountains, or Altay Mountains is one of the most majestic mountain ranges across the Eurasian continent, spanning across territories of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, and parts of Mongolia. It is the source of several important rivers, including the Irtysh River and Ob Rover. A visit to the Altai Mountains will not only reward you with breathtaking scenery but also encounters with rich biodiversity.

Where are the Altai Mountains in China?

Within China, the section of the Altai Mountains encompass a narrow portion in the northernmost region of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It stretches about 500 kilometers in length, functioning as an important part of Xinjiang’s geographical landscape that is known as the “three mountains and two basins” pattern.

At the northern foothills of Altai Mountains in Xinjiang sits the Altai Grand Canyon. This unique high-mountain canyon scenic area is often hailed as one of the most beautiful destinations in China. Thanks to the cascading waters from glacial melt in this area, the canyon is the source of several important rivers, including the Irtysh River and Ob River. Its breathtaking landscapes and unique environment have attracted countless tourists to visit here on their travels to Xinjiang.

Fast Facts of Altay Mountains

  • Location: in the northernmost region of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China, bordering Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia.
  • Highlights: The Altay Mountains offer a range of activities, including hiking, climbing, horseback riding, camping, and rafting.
  • Suited to: Outdoor enthusiasts, hiking lovers, nature lovers, and adventurers.
  • Time needed: more than one day.

Attractions around the Altai Mountains in Xinjiang

Kanas Lake

Nestled in the dense forests of the Altai Mountains in Xinjiang, Kanas Lake is an AAAAA-rated national scenic spot that boasts to be the deepest freshwater lake in China. It is often praised as one of the most beautiful lakes in China, with dense forests and snow-capped peaks surrounding its crystal-clear waters.

As an awesome place for natural lovers, Kanas Lake will reward its visitors with many enjoyable outdoor activities, including leisurely hiking around the lake and sightseeing, boating rides with a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape, etc.

Xinjiang Kanas Lake
Explore the Pristine Waters of Kanas Lake

Hemu Village

About 30 kilometers east of the Kanas Lake is the Hemu Village, a remote rustic village that is home to Tuva and Kazakh ethnic groups. Here the ethnic people still live their traditional lifestyle of animal grazing and hunting.

As you enter the village, the many simple wooden houses scattered among the valleys will catch your eye. These houses are all half-buried underground and scattered harmoniously among the dense forests across the valley, greeting visitors with a mesmerizing view.

The village enters its peak season in autumn as the surrounding forests turn into vibrant golden yellow, transforming the village into a radiant world. Many travelers will include both Hemu Village and Kanas Lake in the itinerary when traveling to Northern Xinjiang.

Xinjiang Hemu Village
Admire the traditional wooden houses in Hemu Village

Keketuohai National Geological Park

Koktokay National Geopark is the first national geological park in China which has been listed as a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2017. The park features the typical mineral deposits, mining heritage sites, and a unique granite landform. Due to the thousands of years of erosion by wind, rain, and river cutting, the park was endowed with dramatic deep gorges, canyon rivers, peculiar seismic fault zones, charming lakes, forested mountains, and geological culture.

Keketuohai National Geopark
Keketuohai Canyon

Burqin Beaver National Nature Reserve

Located at the eastern end of the Altai Mountains, the Burqin Beaver National Nature Reserve covers an area of over 50 kilometers and serves as the only beaver nature reserve in China. The beavers in this area belong to the Mongolian subspecies within the Eurasian beaver species, which are much lower in numbers. Besides the precious beavers, the reserve is also home to various bird species, including swans, black storks, and hooded cranes, and 46 mammal species.

Weather and Best Time to Visit Altay Mountains in Xinjiang

The area around the Altai Mountains in Xinjiang has a temperate continental climate, featuring four distinct seasons, large temperature differences, cold winters, and mild summers. Summer and autumn from June to October are the best times to visit the Altai Mountains.

Summer is the perfect time for hiking and enjoying natural scenery in this area when the climate is mild, the forests and meadows are verdant, and the wildflowers are in full bloom.

In autumn, visiting Kanas Scenic Area, Hemu, Keketuohai National Geologic Park is a feast for your eyes when the birch trees turn a golden yellow, the European aspen trees transform into a vibrant red, and other plants show a variety of colors.

How to Get to Altai Mountains in Xinjiang

To get to the Altai Mountains area in Xinjiang, you can get to Urumqi first, then take a long-distance bus or rent a car to get to the Altai Mountains area.

Or you can rent a car to explore the scenic areas around the mountain with more flexibility.

For a foreign tourist, the most convenient way is to book a private tour with a reliable travel agency (like and customize a Xinjiang tour including the Altai Mountain scenic areas according to your needs and preferences, and have the transportation and accommodation covered.

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