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8 Days Kanas Photography Tour

Exploring the Mysteries of Kanas


Kanas, in Mongolian, means Mysterious Lake in the Valley, and used to be referred only the lake. But now, it is a vast region for tourism covering many scenic sites, such as Kanas Lake, Hemu Town, Baihaba, etc.

Many photographers usually get disappointed to see the actual scenery which is not as beautiful as the picture he saw on TV, video or magazine. While, Kanas is never this kind. When people who have never been to Kanas are marvel at the breathtaking views on photo galleries of Kanas, they have no idea that there is no photo that can fully describe the beauty of Kanas but your mind. Even so, you still should take a trip to see, to experience, to shoot as much as you can.

This Kanas photography tour can be customized depending on what photos you want to take, and on the weather condition when you go. Feel free to tell your interests and ideas to your personal travel consultants!

Basic Photography Info

Travel Route: Urumqi / Hemu / Kanas / Burqin / Fuyu / Urumqi

Travel Length: 8 Days

Tour Code: CT-KPT-08

Tour Type: Private Tour

Departure: You Choose (you may plan it according to the best season and time.)

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Itinerary Details Day by Day

Day 1 Urumqi Arrival

Welcome to Xinjiang! Your tour guide will meet you at the Urumqi Airport. Then be escorted to your hotel in a private vehicle. The rest of today is yours to explore the mysterious city on the Silk Road.

Day 2 Urumqi - Tianchi Lake ( B,L )

Today you are going to explore the Heavenly Lake (or Tianchi in Chinese) which is only about 70km away from Urumqi downtown. Your tour guide and driver will meet you at your hotel, then drive about 1.5 hours to the scenic area of Heavenly Lake. To protect the authenticity of the natural environment, our private car can only bring you to the entrance of the park. You will then shift on to a park bus to the parking lot around the lake area. Walking about 15 minutes, you will get to the lakeside of the Heavenly Lake. The rest time is free for you to stroll along the periphery of the lake, breathe the remarkably fresh air, and soak in the wonderful scenery. With an altitude of 1980m, Heavenly Lake and its alluring surrounding truly offer you a visual feast like heaven, featuring in serene alpine lake, rugged slopes with snow-capped mountains, pure glaciers, wild forest, vast grassland as well as unique ethnic culture.

Generally speaking, there are three ways to explore Heavenly Lake. You can go to walk around the lake, take a boat cruise, or ride cable car to the mountain top. If time allows, you can even enjoy all the experiences. The Boat cruise and cable car need extra fees. Tell your preference to your guide who will then arrange accordingly for you.

- Walking around the lake. Plank roads were constructed to encircle the lake. But since the lake is very large, it takes about 5 hours to finish the circle. You can decide the hiking length on your own according to your physical condition and time. Fee: free.

- Boat Cruise on the lake. It is very popular among travelers to take a boat cruising to the deeper area of the lake and back, which is leisure and scenic. There are modern ships, Chinese-style ships and high-speed boats available with different prices. Fee: about CNY 100.

- Panoramic view from Maya Mountain. If you want more landscape, you can take a cable car up to Maya Mountain where you can enjoy the panoramic view of Heavenly Lake and closer view of Tianshan Mountain Range. Fee: about CNY 220.

After the landscape trip, take park bus to exit the park, and drive back to Urumqi.

Stunning scenery of Heavenly Lake of Tianshan Green mountains at the lakeside of Heavenly Lake (August) Grandiose view of Tianshan Mountains from Heavenly Lake
Day 3 Urumqi - Wu'erhe (B, L)

Today after breakfast, drive about 410 km (about 5.5 hours) to Wu’erhe which is located at the middle point between Urumqi and Kanas. Don’t have to worry getting bored by the long driving, because the landscape alone the road is beautiful and changeable, and you will stop by the incredible geographic wonder land – Dushanzi Grand Canyon and Wu’erhe Ghost City (Yadan Landform).

You will arrive at Dushanzi Grand Canyon first. The river of melted snow water flowed down from Tianshan Mountains into the Dushanzi plain, curved the plain like a sword and created a 200-meter-deep canyon. The river beds at the bottom of the canyon is 100~400 meters wide, while the widths of the shoulders of the canyons from one side to another are unbelievable 800m~1000m. Standing along the cliff side of the canyon, one can look down upon on the river winding in the canyon, also stretch eyesight from the vast plain to the towering snow mountains of Tianshan. It is truly a visual feast. (To enrich travelers’ experience, there are some outdoor activities are held in the scenic area, such as glass bridge, rope bridge, archery, etc. These activities need extra costs if you want to try.)

Leaving Dushanzi Grand Canyon, and keep driving about 3.5 hours to Wu’erhe Ghost City which is actually a jaw-dropping Geopark of wind-eroded Yardang Landform. It got its name from the sound of the howling wind when it passes through the rock formations. This area was a huge freshwater lake during the Cretaceous period about 100 million years ago. There used to lush plants growing on the lakeshore and many ancient animals living in the lake, such as Urhe Stegosaurus, Plesiosaurs, Dinosaurs, Junggar Pterosaurs, etc. Wu’erhe Ghost City was praised as the "No. 1 of the Three Most Beautiful Yardang Landform Geoparks in China" by China National Geographic because of its 5 kilometers long Yardang rock formations. Some of them look like the Liuhe Pagodas in Hangzhou, Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Pyramids of Egypt, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, etc. Many great movies have been filmed here including the most famous “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”. You will ride a sightseeing train to transfer between the sites. Getting off the train, it is available to walk around the rock formations to take photos. Opposite side of the geopark are many pumpjacks which are drilling oils. Karamay, the city where the Ghost City locates in, is the wealthiest city in China because of oil production.

Exiting Wu’erhe Ghost City, you will then drive a short while to Wu’erhe Town for accommodation.

Wu’erhe Ghost City's beautiful Yardang landform in the sunset Incredible geographic wonder land - Dushanzi Grand Canyon
Day 4 Wu'erhe - Kanas (B, L)

Today’s destination is the best highlight of this trip – Kanas which is about 375 km (about 6~7 hours’ drive) from Wu’erhe. There will be some stops along the road for resting, meal and taking photos. You will reach Kanas Scenic Area in the afternoon and check in to your hotel which may be in Jiadengyu Tourist Center or a local Tuvas Village, depending on actual availability. The rest time of today is free for you to relax and explore the surrounding. Whether you stay at Jiadengyu or Tuvas village, you can find many places to walk around and enjoy beautiful landscape as Kanas is actually a very large natural reserve with easy accesses to the wild nature.

Winding Kanas River in July
Day 5 Kanas - Hemu(B, L)

Today is a full-day exploration of Kanas Lake Scenic Area including the Three Bays, Kanas Lake and Fish-watching Tower.

Get up early to escape the crowds, then take a park bus to the Three Bays area - the essence of Kanas Scenic Area. Kanas River wriggles in valleys, and creates three zigzag bays with beautiful names - Recumbent Dragon Bay, Moon Bay and Celestial Bay. The water here is crystalline, gentle and lovely. Along the two sides of the three bays are forests with alternate colors of green, yellow and golden, changing with the seasons. The trees, sky and clouds together project in the river, and appear a colorful reflection. Looking far into the distance, you can see the imposing Altai Mountains Range. The visiting of the Three Bays can be interesting and relaxing. If you are lucky, you will see the illusory mist floating on the Kanas River in the early morning. You can walk on the well-paved plank road to the sightseeing platforms to enjoy the tranquil landscape, then walk from one bay to the next, or take park bus to save energy.

Then take a park bus from the Celestial Bay to the lakeside of Kanas Lake. There is a 5-kilometer-long plank road, known as Taiga Trail Hiking, following the eastern lake shore of Kanas to the deep wild forest. It is a scenic and relaxing experience as well as a good way to escape from the tourist crowds. You will walk through Siberian spruce forest, Wall of Root Carving, Taiga moors and reach at Tuluke Rock Painting at the end of the plank road, then return the same way.

Optional Kanas Lake Cruise – if you want to explore deeper area of Kanas, you can join the Cruise Program. The sightseeing ship sails to the heart area of the lake, the return to the lake shore, lasting about 45 minutes. Tell your guide if you get interested.

After the lakeside hiking, keep traveling to Fish-watching Tower - the highest location of Kanas Scenic Area. The Fish-watching Tower is located at 2056 meters on a mountain at the outlet of Kanas Lake. One needs to walk about 1000 steps up to reach the tower, but the rewarding is handsome - a panoramic view of Kanas Lake, and stretching eyesight to the snow mountains of the Friendship Peak (4374m).

Lastly, hop on a park bus (about 2 hours’ drive along the beautiful mountain road) to Hemu Village for accommodation. Hemu Village is an important part of Kanas Scenic Area. It is one of the most beautiful villages in China, a magic place where you can get rid of the hustle and bustle and immerse yourself in the creation of photography. The villagers are Tuvans who is a branch of Mongolian. The ancestors of Tuvas are believed to be solders of Genghis Khan.

Panoramic view of Kanas Lake from Fish-watching Tower Beautiful scenery along Taiga Trail hiking Moon Bay (autumn) - the iconic sight of Kanas
Day 6 Hemu - Burqin (B, L)

Get up early to catch the incredible sunrise which is also the MUST photo to be shot. When the sun rises and shines onto the mist curling up the villages, it is the moment to take one of the best pictures in your lifetime. To shoot the sunrise, you need to walk along the plank road to the high places on the mountains near to the village. After the sunrise, go back to your hotel to have breakfast. Later, you will visit a local Tuvas family to find out what’s their living like, and get treated with local snacks, fruits and drinks prepared by the hosts. Sometimes, you can even a race chance to see Tuvas playing music and dancing. The rest is free for you to relax and exploring surrounding.

After lunch, say goodbye to Kanas and drive about 4 hours to Burqin County for accommodation. En route, take a stop at the spectacular Rainbow Beach (Riverside) where stones were weathered into many vivid shapes like soaring hills, deep valley, criss-cross streets, tower, etc. After thousands years of geological changing, the “beach” has been painted into different colors – red, yellow, green, white…, presenting you a gorgeous scene especially when the golden lights of sunset shine on the riverside.

Stay over the night in Burqin County.

Visit a local Tuvas family in Hemu Village Morning mist in Hemu Village in Autumn Spectacular Rainbow Beach (Riverside)
Day 7 Burqin - Urumqi (B, L)

Have breakfast in your hotel, then drive back to Urumqi. During the 685 km’s driving journey, you will take an excursion visit to Kalamaili Mountain Ungulate Wildlife Nature Reserve which is an important reserve to protect the precious wild ungulates, such as Przewalski's horses, saiga antelopes, Mongolian wild donkeys and goose-throated antelopes. In 1876, the Russian explorer Przewalski hunted a group of wild horses in eastern Xinjiang and brought them back to Russia, causing a sensation in the international biological community because this kind of horse hadn’t been found anywhere in the world before, hence the name Przewalski's horses. The Przewalski's horse is the only surviving wild horse on the earth. It retains the original genes of the earliest ancestors of all current horse, which has an important biological significance that other species cannot match. (please note it’s not 100% sure that you can see the Przewalski's horses and other wild animals as the nature reserve is so big )

Accommodate in Urumqi city.

Wild donkeys in Kalamaili Mountain Ungulate Wildlife Nature Reserve Przewalski's horses in Kalamaili Mountain Ungulate Wildlife Nature Reserve
Day 8 Urumqi Departure (B)

Today is free for you to explore Urumqi by yourself until your tour guide escort you to airport for your flight.

9 Days Kanas Photography Tour Map

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Practical Kanas Photography Guide

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Beautiful landscape creates successful works of photography. Thousands of photographers come to Kanas to complete the best picture in their dreams. Thanks to the diverse sceneries and experience in Kanas, each of them came with hope, and left with great works.

Best Highlights for Photography in Kanas

Grasslands, Lakes and Forests

The vast green grassland, tranquil lakes and wild forests form pleasant colorful landscape in different seasons. The loamy grasslands surround the Kanas Lake. There are flocks and herds grazing on the grasslands, kids playing around the scattering wooden houses. Outside the grasslands are the golden birch trees. This is the scenery that pleases both your camera and eyes.

Morning Fog and Sunrise

Don’t be defeated by the morning laziness, or you will miss the incredible sunrise which is also the MUST photo to be shot. When the sun rises and shines onto the mist curling up the villages, it is the moment to press your shutter. To shoot the sunrise, you need to go to the high places on the mountains near to the village. Get up around 7 o’clock, then walk up the hills. 8 o’clock is the best hour with mysterious sunlight.

Kanas Photography Tour

Beautiful Snow Mountains

Looking far into distance, you can see imposing Altai Mountains Range. The highest peak Friendship Peak(4374m) outstands from many other mountains. Its peak is always covered by snow. While on foot of mountain appears another fabulous landscape formed by wild flowers, trees and grasslands.

White Birches

The vast white birch forest is the most classic landscape in Kanas which is favored by photographers. Autumn days are best time to shoot the beauty of white birches. All leaves turn to golden color while the trunks remain to be white. Among the tall birches are some green pine trees. The golden, white and green mix together like a oil painting. Try to put the village, birches and mist together in your framing helps to take some excellent photos.

Kanas Photography Tour

Tuvan Village

Kanas is the hometown of Tuvans who claim to be the progenies of Genghis Khan. The Tuvan is a branch of Mongolian. They are wild, brave, simple and hospitable, remaining traditional nomad and hunting living. There are three largest Tuvan villages for you to visit and stay – Hemu Village, Kanas Village and Baibaha Village. It is an enjoyable and interesting to stroll in the village, and take photos of wooden houses, playing kids, farming villagers, agminate flocks and herds.

Kanas Photography Tour

Charming Rivers and Bays

The Kanas River wriggles in valleys, and creates three zigzag bays with beautiful names – Celestial Bay, Moon Bay and Recumbent Dragon Bay. As the name telling, the Celestial Bay is said to be the place where celestials live. The Moon Bay lies among mountains like a crescent moon. The Recumbent Dragon Bay is rather a lake with a beautiful island than a river bay. Along the two sides of Kanas River are forests with alternate colors of green and golden. The trees, sky and cloudy together project in the river, and appear a colorful reflection. To shoot these three bays, you need to get to higher elevation to get the best scenes.

Kanas Photography Tour

Best Season for Photography

July and August are the peak season for traveling in Kanas. While, from September to November is the best time for photography. It is the autumn during which the forests are colorful, river and lakes are clean and green like sapphire, skies are pure and high. The landscape in winter days is also amazing, but the transfer becomes difficult due to the heavy snow.

As for the best hours for shooting in a day, they certainly are hours around sunrise and sunset when the light is gentler, colors are rich, fogs happen.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Unique viewing angle and framing

Make fully use of the diverse landscape you can see in Kanas, and try to find some unique viewing angle and framing. Besides, take advantages of rich lights, especially the side backlights and projecting lights.

2. Responsible photography

Don’t do any damage to the environment while seeking for better views. When taking photos of local Tuvans, you’d better ask for permission firstly.

3. Supplementary equipment

Polariscope is very useful to reduce the reflect light and diverging light in Kanas. To shoot the sunrise and sunset, tripod is very necessary.

4. What to pack

Daytime is usually cool, while the night and early morning is cold. So remember to bring thick clothes. Beside, it is necessary to pack anophelifuge in summer and autumn.

5. Transfer advice

Road and air are two available transfers. To go to Kanas, you need to firstly get to Urumqi, then take flight to Kanas Airport which is only 80km away from Kanas Scenic Area. The air travel between Urumqi and Kanas is only about 1 hour long. If you prefer driving, you need spend two days to complete a distance more than 700km on which you will also visit some attractions.

6. Accommodation

You have many choices of hotels, including economy class to luxury class. These hotels are well located in or close to Kanas Lake.

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