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Home Xinjiang Travel Guide Xinjiang Attractions Kanas Lake: The Enchanted Pearl of the Altai Mountains

Kanas Lake: The Enchanted Pearl of the Altai Mountains

Located within the Altai Mountains of Xinjiang, Kanas Lake is one of the top attractions in Xinjiang, China, which means “beautiful and mysterious lake” in Mongolian. As the top highlight of Kanas Nature Reserve, the lake is known for its breathtaking alpine vistas and the legendary “lake monster” that is said to dwell in its depths. According to the local Tuwa folklore, the Kanas Lake monster can manipulate clouds and mist and often swallows livestock that wander close.

It is also a  “color-changing lake”, showcasing different colors throughout the year, the seasons, and even the days. Surrounding the lake is a harmonious blend of snow-capped mountains, forests, and grasslands which change scenery with seasons.

Formed by glacial activity about 200,000 years ago, Kanas Lake boasts the deepest freshwater lake in China, with its depths reaching 188.5 meters. Whether you are seeking outdoor adventures or a peaceful escape, it will satisfy you with activities such as hiking, rafting, or exploring nearby ethnic villages.

Xinjiang Kanas Lake in Autumn
Kanas Lake in autumn

Fast Facts of Kanas Lake

  • Location: In the Altai Mountains, Burqin County, Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang, China.
  • Area: About 45.73 square kilometers.
  • Opening hours: 8:00-20:00
  • Ticket price: CNY160 per person
  • Time Needed: About 1 day for the Kanas Lake; 3 days is recommended to fully explore the lake and its surrounding villages and attractions.
  • Highlights: Spectacular lake views, unique Tuwa villages, diverse flora and fauna, and thrilling outdoor activities.
  • Suited to: Nature enthusiasts, photographers, hikers, and those interested in local culture and traditions.

Legends about Kanas Lake Monster

The tales of the Kanas Lake monster are as varied as they are intriguing. Some say the monster had appeared long ago. It ambushes herds devours livestock and can swallow a calf in one bite. Some believe the monster is a guardian of the lake’s sanctity who protects the spirit of Genghis Khan. They believe the remains of Genghis Khan rest in the depths of the lake.

There’s also a story of a Russian man in the Tuwa village who caught a massive redfish in the lake but failed to transport the fish even took over a dozen horses and spent three days and nights. It is said that the ancestors of local Tuwa people once attempted to capture the monster, but met with no success. All these legends contribute to the mystique of Kanas Lake.

What to See and Do in Kanas Lake

Kanas Lake is nestled among majestic mountains and lush forests and is near several Mongolia Tuwa villages, endowing it with breathtaking natural landscapes and rich cultural experiences. Some of the top natural and cultural sites in this area include Camel Neck Bay, the Color-Changing Lake, Wolong Bay, Fish Viewing Pavilion, Hemu Village, Baihaba Village.

Hike around or Boat on the Lake

The lake itself is a great natural marvel setting among dense forests. Seasonlly, the lush forests change colors, crafting a picturesque scnery along with the turquoise water and the surrounding mountains. The lake shores will be much vibrant during spring and autumn seasons when numerous migratory birds flock to here.

There are lakeside boardwalks and hiking trails winding through the forests, allowing visitors a chance to leisurely stroll around and appreciate the lake views, the hidden nooks, and rich flora and fauna is this area at their own pace.

Alternatively, you can also hop on a boat or cruise to sail on the placid waters, enjoying a moment of peace and the extraordinary landscape from a different view point.

Recommended Kanas Lake Hiking Routes:

  • Kanas Lake Ring Route:begins from Jiadengyu (Jiadengyu) and end in Hemu Town, approximately 60 kilometers, offering some of the most iconic views of the lake, the mysterious Kanas Gorge, pristine forests and grasslands.
  • Kanas South Route:from Jiadengyu to Fairy Bay, and Moon Bay, and conclude in Hemu town. About 40 kilometers, suitable for hikers with good physical strength.
  • Kanas North Route:about 30 kilometers, from Jiadengyu to Kanas Lake and Fairy Bay, and end in Hemu Town, suitable for beginners or visitors with limited time.
Xinjiang Kanas Lake
Explore the Pristine Waters

Enjoy the Lake Scenery from Guanyu Pavillion

You might be the next discoverer of the legendary lake monster when visiting Kanas Lake. Guanyu Pavilion is just the best spot for monster-watching. This is a two-story building atop a lakeside hill. Don’t miss it on your Kanas Lake tour to enjoy the expansive views of the lake and surroundings.

The best time to visit the pavilion is as dawn approaches when it offers a mesmerizing sunrise view. If you visit this area after a rain, you main fortunately encounter the sea of clouds and rising mists from the Guanyu Pavilion.

Kanas River

Kanas River is a tributary of the Burqin River which are originated from the majestic Kanas Lake. The river crept its way through valleys and forests, and formed several charming bays such as the Wolong Bay, Moon Bay, Fairy Bay. In winter, the river and the surrounding forests will become a wonderland of snow, mists, rime ice.

Wolong Bay

Wolong Bay is the drainage outlet of the Kanas Lake, about 10 kilometers from the lake. The long-term erosion of the Kanas River left a series of meandering river bends along the bay. The heart of the bay lies a vegetated sandbar that stretches 800 meters long and 450 meters wide and covers an area of about 36,000 square meters. To view the bay from the nearby platform of 1500 meters above sea level, the bend of the river is in a Ω-shape, resembling a dragon lying in the water, hence its name.

Wolong Bay is surrounded by dense forests, with a wooden bridge spanning east to west at the drainage outlet. Visitors can walk on the bridge to enjoy the mirror-like Wolong Bay on the north and the rushing Kanas River on the South.

Crossing the bridge, visitors will be led to a serene birch forest featuring vivid seasonal colors. These birch trees stand stall, with white bark glistening like marble, just like an elegant beauty, and thus are poetically referred to as the “Forest Maidens”. This has become a beloved spectacle around this region.

Fairy Bay

Fairy Bay is the widest sectoin among all the bays around Kanas Lake, and is known for its enchanting morning mist scenery. It is a shallow beach nestled in the mountain ravine. Since is often shrouded in clouds and fog, the bay alongside the backdroped mountains and forests create an ethereal wonderland, thus is called Fairy Bay.

Against the backlight, the lake surface of this section sparkles, scattering light as if countless pearls were scattered above the water, earning it another nickname  “Pearl Beach”.

Moon Bay

Moon Bay is a landmark of Lake Kanas, and the frequently seen photo – a blue “S”-shaped Kanas River is just caught here. About 1 kilometer north of Wolong Bay, Moon Bay is a crescent-shaped bay nestled in the canyon, with its appearance changing with the water levels of the lake.

The bay is a paradise for photography enthusiasts, showing various stunning visuals from spring to autumn and from dawn to dusk. Along the bay, peaks and lush forests of Siberian larch and poplar intertwine, creating a spectacular landscape.

Xinjiang Kanas Lake
Kanas Lake

Experience Tuwa People’s Life in Hemu Village

A hidden village nestled amid snow-capped mountains, lush forests, and verdant grasslands, Hemu Village is the place to experience the authentic life and traditions of the Tuwa people. Upon arriving, the first sight you see will be the quaint log cabins which are a hallmark of the Tuwa people. Locals still maintain their nomadic life and simplicity, and for generations, they build have their cabins half-buried in the earth to withstand the harsh cold in winter.

Away from hustle and bustle, you will enjoy a relaxing and peaceful time in front of the amazingness of rustic scenery. It’s recommended to hike around the mountain slopes around the village for some awesome panoramic views. If you can get up early, don’t miss the chance to catch amazing photos of sunrise view over Tuwa people’s houses, and babbling Hemu River.

Xinjiang Hemu Village
Hemu Village in Autumn

Weather and Best time to go

Kanas is at the northernmost part of Xinjiang, seeing winter earlier than other regions of the country. This area may have been blanketed in heavy snow as early as November. May to October is the best time for hiking and exploring the grandeur of the lake landscapes when the lakes are green, the forests are vibrant, and the climate is pleasant.

The scenery is especially outstanding in September and October when the lake’s water supply diminishes and the surrounding forests bursts into a kaleidoscope of colors, just like a fairyland.

If you are keen on winter snowscapes, November to April of the following year is the ideal time when the scenic area transforms into a winter wonderland.

How to Get to Lake Kanas

You can fly to Urumqi, the transportation hub in Xinjiang, from your city first. From Urumqi, you can either get to Kanas by train or plane.

There is no high-speed train from Urumqi to Kanas, visitors can take a normal train from Urumqi Railway Station to Altai Railway Station or Beitun City Railway Station, then take a bus to get to the scenic area.

By plane is convenient and time-saving. Visitors can fly from Urumqi to Kanas Airport directly, from the airport, you can take a tourist shuttle bus to get to the scenic area.

For a seamless experience and hassle-free transportation, you can also join one of our Xinjiang tours including Kanas Lake, we can customize the trip according to your preferences and interests.

Attractions Nearby Kanas Lake

  • Hemu Village: Only a short distance from Kanas Lake, Hemu Village is a well-preserved Tuwa settlement, where visitors can experience the local way of life and enjoy the stunning natural surroundings.
  • Baihaba Village: Famous for its picturesque wooden houses and idyllic setting, Baihaba Village is a must-visit for photographers and nature lovers alike.
  • Altai Mountains: Hailed as one of the most beautiful destinations in China, featuring breathtaking landscapes and unique environment.

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