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Home Xinjiang Travel Guide Xinjiang Attractions Sayram Lake in Xinjiang: A Serene Splendor & Alpine Oasis

Tour Overview

Sayram Lake, or Sailimu Lake, is a stunning alpine lake (the highest one in Xinjiang) nestled in the high mountain basin of the western section of the Tianshan Mountains, enjoying an elevation of 2073 meters. It is believed to be the east-most destination that was influenced by the warm and moist Atlantic air currents, earning it the nickname “the last tear of the Atlantic”.

Being surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks and vast grasslands, Sayram Lake boasts its breathtaking natural beauty and is celebrated as one of the most famous attractions in Xinjiang. Its stunning body of water covers an area between 455 to 460 square kilometers, with an east-west stretch of about 30 kilometers and a north-south stretch of about 25 kilometers.

Sayram Lake in Xinjiang
Relax Yourself in Sayram Lake

Fast Facts of Sayram Lake

  • Location: within the territory of Bole City, Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China
  • Ticket price: CNY 145 (from Apr. 16 – Oct. 31); CNY 72.5 (from Nov. 1 – Apr. 15)
  • Opening hours: 9:00-21:00
  • Area: About 455-460 square kilometers.
  • Time Needed: half a day to one full day is needed to enjoy the lake scenery and the surrounding grassland
  • Highlights: Hiking, camping, photography and sightseeing. Some of the recommended attractions include the lake itself, the surrounding mountains, and the nearby Kazakh villages.
  • Suited to: Nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and those looking for a peaceful retreat.
  • Best time to visit: From May to early October when the weather is mild, the mountain flowers are blooming, and the landscapes are beautiful.

What to See and Do in Sayram Lake

Panoramic views of Guozigou Bridge from Songshutou (松树头)

A popular scenic spots within the Sayram Lake Scenic Area, Songshutou offers a wooden walkway leading to the viewing platform on the mountain summit. From the viewing platform, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the Guozigou Bridge and catch some stunning vistas. Additionally, Songshutou is also a highly recommended spot for awe-inspiring sunset.

Good to know: It needs about 1 hour go reach the mountain summit from Songshutou.

Scenery around the Sayram Lake in Xinjiang
Scenery around the Sayram Lake

Admiring Lush Pines on Kogurqin Mountain (科山观松)

The dense spruce forest on Kogurqin Mountain is another spectacular sight around Sayram Lake. On the northern slope of Kogurcin Mountain, there is a dense spruce forest spanning an area of 19.27 square kilometers, reaching to the lakeshore. Amidst the lush forests, there are winding paths leading visitors to the inclined plains that are covered with fragrant grasses.

This place is a great destination for visitors who want great mountain hiking, leisurely walking, picnics, and enjoying serene scenery.

Mount Fuji Rising in the East (富士东峙)

Located in the northern part of Sayram Lake, the Husumuqig Mountain boasts a towering main peak with an elevation of 3596.5 meters. Viewing from the Haixi Grassland across Sayram Lake, the mountain shows a remarkably regular conical shape, with its peak soaring into the blue sky and its summit wrapped in white clouds, looking like Mount Fuji in Japan. This creates the “Fuji Dongzhi” scene, one of the ten iconic views of Sayram Lake.

Golden Satin Edge around the Lake (金缎镶边)

The sloping plains surrounding Sayram Lake are blanketed with lush grasses which change colors with the seasons. In early spring, the serene pastures show a delightful shade of green as the tender shoots emerge. As summer arrives, the pastures become a sea of color, as countless yellow, red, blue, purple, and white flowers bloom on the grassland. Among the vibrant colors, the yellow wildflowers are particularly striking, and this eye-catching scenery is thus called “golden satin edge” around Sayram Lake.

Moon Bay (月亮湾) 

The Moon Bay is the first attraction upon entering the eastern gate of the Sayram Lake Scenic Area. The bay is like a crescent moon in shape, hence its name. Here, visitors can enjoy a variety of entertainment activities, including sailing, go-karting, horseback riding, and camel riding. Thanks to its expansive space, the bay is also ideal for capturing wide-angle scenes.

Waterfront Beach (亲水滩)

The Waterfront Beach is the place in Sayram Lake where visitors can interact closely with swans, and if you want to feed the swans, it’s recommended to bring some bread slices. There is an impressive boulder standing in this spot. It is the talles boulder in the scenic area, just by the lake, with the gilded characters “西域净海赛里木湖” engraved on it. Around the beach is a sea of flowers which offers great photo opportunities.

Xihai Grassland (西海草原)

On the west of the scenic area lies a vast grassland named Xihai Grassland. Locals call it “Haixi”, which means “west of the lake.” Every year from June to September, the grassland is at its most verdant while local herders graze their cattle and sheep here for three months.

Xihai Grassland is known for its breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and the view of the snow-capped mountains from here is particularly striking, adding to the area’s natural beauty.

Best Time to Visit

May to early October is the best time to visit Sailimu Lake when the weather is mild, the lake itself and the surrounding landscapes are at their most beautiful during this period. Spring to early summer is the best time to admire the wildflowers and lush meadows. June to August is the time to escape the heat and enjoy the cool mountain breeze in this area. During September to October, it is one of the great places in Xinjiang to admire fall foliage when many forests around the lake turn golden and red.

How to Get to Sayram Lake

By Air

You can fly from your city to Urumqi firstly, then, take a flight from Urumqi to Yining or Bole City. Both of this two cities offer buses to the lake.

By Train and Bus

Take the high-speed train from Urumqi to Bole Station (about 4 hours), then take the blue buses to Sailimu Lake on the right side of the bus station exit.

Self-drive or Car Rental

The driving from Urumqi City to the Lake is about 550 km and will take about 7 hours. Also, you can rent a car in Bole City or Yining City and drive about 1.5-2 hours to the scenic area.

Rent a car with a local driver

Since it can be tiring to drive for several hours, it is recommended to contact the local travel agency to arrange a private Xinjiang tour with Sayram Lake or book a car with a local driver to pick you up and transport you to the lake.

How to Travel Sayram Lake

Take the Sightseeing Car in the Scenic Area

Upon entering the scenic area from the eastern gate, visitors can purchase tickets for either a half-route or full-route sightseeing bus.  The full-route ride will take about 2-3 hours. After purchasing tickets, visitors need to walk to the back of the bus station to queue for boarding.  If possible, you can sit at the front of the bus for a better view. There are many stops for visitors to get up and off. The bus operates on a two-way single lane, you can simply wait for a bus on the opposite side of the stop if you want to go in the opposite direction.

By self-driving

Sayram Lake offers a scenic loop drive around the lake, making self-driving the ideal way to explore. There is a continuous parking lane throughout the loop, allowing visitors to stop and admire the beautiful scenery whenever they wish.

A recommended route is to travel counterclockwise from east to west. The essence of the lake is the western part around Songshutou, boasting stunning sunset views. This route allows you to save the most beautiful light before sunset for this area.

Traveling clockwise brings you closer to the lake, the S-curve, and mountain trails. For people who are limited on time can travel clockwise and exit the scenic area through the south gate after exploring half the circuit.

Rent a Bike

Bicycle rental services are available in the scenic area, making it easy to explore the area by bike. The bicycle lanes are well maintained. If you are a cycling enthusiast, you can consider to rent a bike and enjoy the lake and surrounding areas on two wheels.

Travel Tips

  • The snow-capped peaks are mainly on the western side of the lake, it’s recommended to take photos from the eastern side to catch photos of the lake below the snow mountains.
  • From late July to early August, you’ll get a chance to see local ethnic groups hold the Nadam Fair.
  • Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential due to the long hours of sunlight and intense UV radiation in Xinjiang.
  • If time permits, it’s recommended to enjoy an afternoon of camping here which promises to be a top-notch camping experience.
Yurts around the Sayram Lake
Yurts around the Sayram Lake

Attractions nearby Sayram Lake

  • Kanas Lake: Kanas Lake is located about 300 kilometers from Sayram Lake and is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique culture.
  • Altay Mountains: The Altay Mountains are located about 150 kilometers from Sayram Lake and offer a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, climbing, and horseback riding.
  • Guozigou Bridge: about 29 kilometers from Sayram Lake, it is the highest and first cable-stayed bridge in Xinjiang.
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