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Keketuohai National Geological Park: Natural Marvels in Altay

Koktokay National Geopark, or Keketuohai National Geological Park, is the first national geological park in China that primarily showcases the typical mineral deposits and mining heritage sites. It is located in Fuyun County in northeastern Xinjiang, covering an area of about 788 square kilometers.

The Park comprises four major scenic areas, which are: the earthquake fault zone of Kara Siegel – known as the “World Seismic Museum”, Kekesuli Wetland – praised as Jiangnan of Northern China, Yileimu Lake – the second coldest place in China, and the famous Irtysh Grand Canyon.

Koktokay National Geopark features a unique granite landform, and the thousands of years of erosion by wind, rain, and river cutting have sculpted it into dramatic deep gorges, and canyon rivers. In May 2017, the park was included in the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network. Integrating rich mineral resources, peculiar seismic fault zones, charming lakes, forested mountains, geological culture, and regional characteristics, the park is now a can’t-miss spot on your trip to Xinjiang.

Keketuohai National Geological Park Xinjiang
Keketuohai National Geological Park

Fast Facts of Keketuohai National Geopark

  • Location: Fuyun County, Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China
  • Opening hours: 9:30-19:30(Apr. 16 – Oct. 31); 10:00-18:00 (Nov. 1 – Apr. 15)
  • Entrance fee: CNY 90 per person, CNY 50-70 for sightseeing bus
  • Highlights: earthquake fault zone of Kara Siegel, Yileimu Lake, Kekesuli Wetland, Irtysh Grand Canyon
  • Time needed: 4-6 hours
  • Suited to: Photography enthusiasts, nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts.

Things to See and Do in Koktokay National Geopark

Irtysh River & Grand Canyon

The Irtysh River is a unique river that originated from the Keketuohai area. Unlike most rivers, this river flows westward, crossing Kazakhstan, and Russia before it finally empties into the Arctic Ocean. When traveling in Northern Xinjiang, most azure rivers you see are tributaries of the Irtysh River, including the Kanas Lake and the Burqin Five-Colored Beach.

With the Irtysh River flowing through, the Irtysh Grand Canyon is endowed with a granite landscape, picturesque river scenery, and rich vegetation. Walking along the Irtysh River in the canyon, visitors will be rewarded with breathtaking scenery of birch forests, Shuimogou (water mill ditches), and numerous uniquely shaped peaks.

Keketuohai National Geopark
Keketuohai Canyon

Kekesuli Wetland

Kekesuli is also called “Wild Duck Lake” by locals, because there are a large number of migratory birds, especially wild ducks arriving here every year. Kekesuli Lake features crystal clear water, attracting red geese, white swans, grey cranes, sand gulls, and wild ducks to breed and thrive here during the summer and autumn seasons.

Keketuohai No.3 Mine Pit

Mine No.3 in Keketuohai National Geological Park is the largest mine pit in the world. It is 200 meters deep, 250 meters long, and 240 meters wide, with spiral roads on its sidewalls. Thanks to its variety of minerals, and high-grade ores, the NO. 3 mine pit enjoys a reputation alongside the famous Bernic Lake Mine in Canada and is claimed as a “natural geological museum” by the global geological community.

Keketuohai No.3 Mine
No3 Mine in Keketuohai

Earthquake Fault Zone of Kara Siegel

Earthquake Fault Zone of Kara Siegel is caused by the Fuyun earthquake in 1931 which had a global impact and left a spectacular subsidence area at the epicenter in Kara Siegel. The subsidence area measures 1500 meters in length and 350 meters in width. And a treach of 20 kilometers long and 10 meters deeps was cracked on the nearby solid rock layers. Today, this relic remains intact, holding significant value for geological research.

Shenzhong Mountain

Shenzhong Mountain, aka Amirsala Peak, is a unique granite peak along the southern bank of Irtysh River, shaping like a bell. Towering 1608 meters in height, the crevices of the mountain cliffs are home to lush birch trees, pines, and Siberian spruces, making it one of the most charming mountains of the Altai Mountains.

Birch Forest

Covering an area of 1.5 square kilometers, the Birch Forest is just 800 meters from the entrance of the scenic area. Here you can walk along the Irtysh River upstream to enjoy stunning scenery of three birch islands of varying sizes. In autumn, the scenery here is especially outstanding when the forest turns a charming golden yellow.

Koktokay Ski Resort

The Koktokay Ski Resort is proud of its comprehensive facility and the hosting of many domestic and international competitions. It has the earliest opening and the longest snow season in Asia. Spanning about 23 square kilometers, the ski resort offers 44 ski trails, including 7 connecting trails, 2 beginner trails, 1 intermediate-beginner trail, 8 intermediate trails, and 26 advanced trails.

Here skiers can enjoy a variety of natural terrains, including a natural U-shaped halfpipe, large white slopes, small forests, and mushroom-shaped snow formations. The highest elevation here is 3,100 meters, with the maximum vertical drop being about 1,350 meters.

Best Time to Visit

Located on the north of the Tianshan Mountains, Keketuohai National Geological Park features a dry spring with significant temperature difference and a harsh winter. So the best time to visit this park is from June to October, during the summer and autumn seasons. In this period, the park enjoys a pleasant climate and sees more precipitation.

The park is very cool in summer, despite the strong sunlight, and the days are long, with the sun still visible in the sky at eight or nine in the evening. Summer is also the rainy season when the rivers and wetlands in this area have abundant water.

In autumn, Koktokay transforms into a fairy-tale world that is draped in golden silk.  The majestic birch turn red and golden, taking on the unique autumn colors of the Northern Xinjiang region.

Travel Tips for Koktokay National Geopark

  • Visitors can take the shuttle bus unpon entering the scenic area, the bus will stop for 10 minutes at each attraction to allow visiters take photos and enjoy the scenery. Shenzhong Mountain is the final stop of the shuttle bus.
  • After arriving at Shenzhong Mountain, visitors can hike to more attractions and explore the area’s natural scenery on foot.

How to Get to Keketuohai National Geological Park

To travel to Keketuohai, you need to fly from your city to Urumqi first. From Urumqi, there are three main transportation options to reach Keketuohai National Geologic Park in Fuyun:

  • Charter a car: This option will take about 6 hours, and cost about 1,200 to 2,500 RMB for business vehicles. It is a convenient option.
  • Take the Snow Country Train (a green train):the train departs from Urumqi every night at 10 pm and arrives at Fuyun the following afternoon. It is not highly recommended because the carriages are usually very crowded.
  • Take flight:There are several flights from Urumqi to Koktokay every day, and the flight will take about 1 hour.

For foreign tourists, the most convenient way is to book a private Xinjiang tour including Keketuohai with a reliable local travel agency to ensure your hassle-free experience.

Attractions nearby Keketuohai National Geopark

Hemu Village: Hemu Village is a small village located about 60 kilometers from Keketuohai National Geopark. It is known for its stunning natural landscapes, traditional wooden houses, and friendly locals.

Altay Mountains: The Altay Mountains are located about 120 kilometers from Keketuohai National Geopark and offer a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, climbing, and horseback riding.

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