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First Impression of Chaka Salt Lake - "Mirror of Sky" in China

You may hear of the "Mirror of the Sky" in Bolivia - Salar de Uyuni which is the world's largest salt flat with a reflective mirror-like surface. In China, there is also a hidden stunning mirror, to the west of the famous Qinghai Lake, named Chaka Salt Lake (Chinese: 茶卡盐湖; pinyin: Chákǎ Yánhú). Chaka means salt lake in Tibetan, and the rich salt resource is the reason why it was named. It is near the eastern end of Qaidam Basin, in Chaka Town, Wulan County, about 295 km to Xining, the capital city of Qinghai Province. With rich halite, Caka Salt Lake is also the first green edible salt production base in China. The oval-shaped Chaka lake, with an altitude of 3,059m, covers an area of 105 square kilometers, forming an incredible vast and tranquil landscape. Embraced by snow mountains with beautiful reflections of the blue sky on the lake, it is an unmissable destination in Qinghai and praised as one of the most beautiful salt lakes in China, and was listed on the top 50 photography sites in China

How Was Chaka Salt Lake Formed

Why is there a salt lake on the Qinghai Tibet plateau at such a high altitude? The formation of salt lakes is mainly related to crustal movement. The Qinghai Tibet Plateau was a part of the ocean a long time ago. After a long period of crustal movement, the ground rose to form the highest plateau. As a result, the seawater was left in some low-lying areas and many salt lakes and ponds were formed. Chaka Salt Lake is one of them. The salt in Lake Chaka is almost endless because the rain will bring more salt down from the surrounding mountains. In other words, Chaka Salt Lake is the memory of the plateau to the ocean.

What to See in Chaka Salt Lake

Chaka Salt Lake is one of the most representative tourist attractions in Qinghai Province, which has attracted many tourists and photographers here. There are mainly two scenic areas in Chaka Salt Lake, namely Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area in the west lakeside and Sky No. 1 Scenic Area to the in the east lakeside. Standing by the heaven-like pure blue lake, you can not find any other stunning scenery like this on our planet.

What to See in Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area

Best Viewing Platforms in Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area

Sightseeing Tower: If you are not allowed to take a drone to enjoy the magnificent panoramic scenery of the lake, this open-type steel structure tower is one of the best viewpoints from above. It stands 27.84m in height and the top viewing platform can host 90 tourists to overlook the core tourist area of Chaka Lake.

"Love" Platform: this platform is the most popular platform among couples, covering an area of 1740㎡, with a total length of 142m. Clearly like the figure of the wooden walkway, the design is trying to deliver its theme, "true love is like salt, for love brings salt". 

"I Love Caka" Platform: If the "Love" platform is romantic for lovers, this platform is for every visitor. This newly built wooden platform is popular on social media, and the platform is located on the east side of the railway, with a total length of 180 meters. The walkway is clearly seen from above forming the three words "I lOVE CAKA". 

✔ 3 Days Qinghai Short Stay Tour with Erlangjian Scenic Area

Chaka Salt Lake "I Love Caka" Platform Chaka Salt Lake "Love" Platform

Squares in Chaka Salt Lake

Welcome Square: The Welcome Square is your first site in the Chaka Scenic Area, which covers an area of 23,000㎡, including the Sightseeing Tower, Connecting Corridor, Tourist Service Center, Qingyan No.2 Hotel, Ticket Office, Parcel Deposit Service, Information Center, Pet Care Center, Shopping area, etc. 

Mirror of Sky Square: The Mirror of Sky Square is the core area in Caka Salt Lake Scenic Area, and it covers an area of about 60,000m2. There are Viewing Platform, Status of Goddess Muyao Luosangma, Lake-worshiping Oboo, Brine Experience Area, and large salt sculpture groups. It is one of the best sites to take pictures. Like how the square was named, the square can truly bring you to a mirror-like scenery. 

Chaka Salt Lake Mirror of Sky Square

Salt Sculptures in Chaka Salt Lake

Rich in salt, Chaka Salt Lake is also famous for its salt Sculptures, and the most representative sculptures are the Salt Sculpture of Genghis Khan, the Salt Sculpture of Jingpo Ethnicity, the Salt Sculpture of Meeting at Jade Lake, and the Salt Sculpture of Wu Xian. These sculptures are magnificent showing respect and honor to the great Mongolian leader "Genghis Khan", the ethnic groups of Jingpo. And the Salt Sculpture of Meeting at Jade Lake was inspired by a romantic love story between emperor mu in the Zhou Dynasty and the queen mother of the west. The Salt Sculpture of Wu Xian is to commemorate the Wuxian tribes and they might be the ancestor of the development and utilization of natural salt in China. 

Industrial Relics in Chaka Salt Lake

Besides viewing the natural scenery and sculptures, there are many historic relics about the salt manufacturing sites that are open to tourists.

The Salt Workers’ Auditorium: It covers an area of 1099㎡, in the central area of Chaka Salt Lake. It is used to be the center of the Caka Salt Factory and it still maintains the industrial style of the 1980s showing everyone the memories of the salt factory.

Salt Manufacturing and Transportation: Besides the old factory, this old railway and trains near the Central Pier show the products and equipment of the old salt-mining industry era, and the whole process of raw salt from transportation to processing.

Chaka Salt Lake Genghis Khan Salt Sculpture Chaka Salt Lake Chaka Salt Lake Railway

How to Travel in Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area
As the Salt Lake Scenic Area is so large that is hard to visit on foot. Since the private car is not allowed to enter the scenic area. There are 3 major ways to travel here, namely the sightseeing car, sightseeing train, and the sightseeing yacht.

The sightseeing train is the most popular land vehicle here and the earliest train starts about 6:30 am from Old Auditorium Station and stops at Mirror of Sky Station, Sunrise Heavenly Road Station, Skyline Station, and Sky-mirror & Blue Water Station, and the ticket for a single one-way ride is about CNY 50. Besides, you can also take the sightseeing car conveniently, which stops at Youth Hostel Station, Mirror of Sky Station, Lakeside Station, etc. The earliest sightseeing car departs at around 7 am and the ticket is about CNY 5 per person per stop.

If you would like to travel by water, you can reach the east pier and take the yacht there. The ticket is about CNY 90 per person per ride from East Pier to Tianji Xinyue Pier or CNY 50 per person from Tianji Xinyue Pier to Mirror of Sky (07:00-19:50). Taking the yacht, you can experience the busy scene of the boating mining and transportation and the history in Caka Salt Lake.

Chaka Salt Lake Sightseeing Train Chaka Salt Lake Sightseeing Yacht

Recommended Route 1
Sightseeing tower - Entrance (Sightseeing car) - East Pier (Yacht) - Central Pier - Sky-mirror & Blue Water Station (Train) - Mirror of the Sky - Salt Sculptures - Sightseeing Car - Salt Experience Enter - Exit

Recommended Route 2
Sightseeing tower - Entrance (Sightseeing car) - Mirror of the Sky Square - Salt Sculptures - Mirror of the Sky Station (train) - Sky-mirror & Blue Water Station - View Platform (Sightseeing Car/Water bike) - Sightseeing Platform - Yacht - East Pier - Salt Culture Hall - Sightseeing Car - Salt Experience Enter - Exit

Recommended Route 3
Sightseeing tower - Entrance - Old Auditorium (Train to the Lake) - Sky-mirror & Blue Water Station - View Platform (Sightseeing Car) - Sightseeing Platform - Tianji Xinyue Station (Train) - Mirror of the Sky Station - Salt Sculpture - Sightseeing Car - Salt Experience Enter - Exit

What to See in Sky No.1 Scenic Area

As the sister site of Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area, Sky No. 1 has a similar lake scenery to Chaka Salt Lake Scenic area. It is located in the East of Chaka Salt Lake, about 150 kilometers from Qinghai Lake. It is only about 10km away from Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area.

The total planning area of the scenic spot is 15 square kilometers. The main scenic spots are Jinghu, Munao square, Salt floating Experience Hall, Starry wharf, Salt Lake wetland, Gesang square, Star and Moon Mirror platform, etc. At Jinghu station (Mirror Lake Station), it has a mirror-like reflection. Here, you can see a series of sinking plank roads extending into the lake, and the walkways are like diamond, heart, and clovers. When you walk along the plank road of Munao square into the depth of the salt lake, you will see a large pure lake, just like a huge mirror on the ground. The panoramic view of the plank road is similar to the picture of Phoenix, which also contains a shape of beautiful Gesang flower.

Speaking of activities, there are also sightseeing trains, featured squares, little boats, salt sculptures, salt spas, etc. In addition to these regular activities, the large-scale live show of Genghis Khan is performed in the scenic area. The performance invites actors from Mongolia to perform and tells the story of Genghis Khan. The whole performance is about 40 minutes long, with two performances in the morning and in the evening.

Besides the beautiful scenery of the salt lake and many activities, if you want to live in the salt lake and enjoy the beautiful starry sky, sunrise, and sunset, there are more accommodation options. There are traditional yurts, wooden houses with yurt style, yurts with transparent roofs, starry tents, and special RV campsites, Hotels, and youth hostels available.

Chaka Salt Lake Phoenix Shaped Walkway Chaka Salt Lake Lake Scenery at Sky No.1 Scenic Spot Chaka Salt Lake Large-scale Live Show of Genghis Khan

How to Travel Sky No.1 Scenic Area
Taking a sightseeing train is the best way to visit there. The train takes about 20min to finish a loop trip.

Recommended Travel Route
Starry Sky Courtyard - Parent Children Ranch Station - Star Observation Camp Station - Jinghu Station - Guanhu Station - Munao Square - Show Center - Starry Sky Courtyard 

How to Get to Chaka Salt Lake

Chaka Salt Lake is located in Chaka Town, Wulan County, about 300 km to Xining. As a remote lake from the downtown area, people usually travel from Xining to Chaka Salt Lake. As the capital city of Qinghai Province, Xining can be reached by air/train from most major cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, etc.

Chaka Salt Lake

Chaka Salt Lake Transportation Map

Xining to Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area

Chaka Salt Lake scenic spot is about 295km away from Xining (4.5h by car), the capital of Qinghai Province. Besides chartering a car and self-driving, you can also take a bus or train to the scenic spot.

By Bus: Xining Passenger Station (Xining Railway Station)operates about 6 buses to Chaka town every day. The whole journey takes about 4 hours and the ticket price is about CNY 65. It is about 4 km from the town to Chaka Salt Lake's scenic spot. There is no public transportation from Chaka Town to the scenic spot. You can walk or take a taxi to the scenic spot.

Note: Sometimes the taxi might be few and you may have to walk to the scenic site after you get off at Chaka Town.

Chaka Salt Lake Tourist Bus: It only serves during the peak season. 
Place of ticket purchase: Xining Passenger Station; Xinning Road Passenger Transport Center; Nanchuan West Road Passenger Station
Departure: Xining Passenger Station (near the railway station) at 9:00 am
Price: One way - CNY 80; Round Trip - CNY 165

"Sky Mirror" Tourist Train (peak season): The tourist train only serves during the peak season, and it departs at around 8:20 from Xining Station and arrives at Chaka Station at 16:30. In the afternoon, the train leaves at around 16:30 am and get to Xining at 20:30. The ticket price is about CNY 62.5 per person for the hard seat and CNY 110.5 for the hard sleeper.

Xining to Sky No.1 Scenic Area

About 282km away from Xining (4.5h by car), and 10km away from Chaka Salt Lake, the Sky No.1 Scenic Area has no bus station or train station nearby. Visitors can charter a car from Xinning to the Sky No. 1 Scenic Area. Otherwise, they can reach Chaka Town's first bus and charter a car from Chaka Town to Sky No.1 Scenic Area.

Tickets & Opening Hours of Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area

 To enter Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area, you need to reserve a ticket online before getting to the salt lake area.

1)Entrance Ticket: CNY 60 - Peak Season (6:00 - 20:00) / CNY 30 - Off Season (7:30 - 19:00)
  Note: According to the real-time weather of the day, the dispatching and command center shall notify the stop selling yacht tickets at any time.

2)Ticket of Sightseeing Car: CNY 5 for one-way trip between two near stations.

Youth Hostel Station: 07:00-20:30 | Mirror of Sky Station: 07:15-20:30 |   Lakeside Station: 07:15-20:30

3)Ticket of Sightseeing Train: CNY 50

Old Auditorium Station: 06:30-19:50 | Mirror of Sky Station: 07:10-20:00 | Sunrise Heavenly Road Station: 07:30-20:40 | Skyline Station: 07:30-20:35 | Sky-mirror & Blue Water Station: 07:30-20:30

4)Ticket of Seesighting Tower: CNY 20 per person (07:00-20:00)

5)Ticket of Yacht: CNY 90 per person per ride from East Pier to Tianji Xinyue Pier; CNY 50 per person from Tianji Xinyue Pier to Mirror of Sky (07:00-19:50) 

6)Parking Fee: CNY 10 (From 06:30)

7)Baggage Deposit: CNY 5 to 15 per item

Compound Ticket 1: CNY 180 (Including Tickets from 1 to 4)

Compound Ticket 2: CNY 220 (Including Tickets from 1 to 5)

Tickets & Opening Hours of Sky No.1 Scenic Area

1)Entrance Ticket: CNY 50 - Peak Season (6:00 - 20:00) / CNY 25 - Off Season (7:30 - 19:00)

2)Ticket of Sightseeing Train: CNY 20

Note: The ticket price is subject to change. Also, there are many kinds of activities in the two scenic areas. If you would like to have an experience of these activities, extra fee will be charged. The scenic area is very popular during the peak season and the tickets are limited. Please feel free to contact us about the ticket information and let us book the entrance ticket for you!

Best Time to Visit Chaka Salt Lake

Chaka Salt Lake has a plateau continental climate. The weather in Chaka Salt Lake is very dry the annual precipitation is 197.6mm, the annual average evaporation is 2074.1mm. Even by the lakeside, the annual average relative humidity is 45% - 50%. The temperature varies a lot between day and night and it is very cold in winter. The UV radiation is strong all year round. The annual average temperature is 4°C, and the average temperature is - 12.2 ° C in January and 19.6 ° C in July. Summer from June to August is the best time to visit Chaka Salt Lake with a comfortable temperature. However, since lots of tourists flood into the scenic site during summer vacation, you can also travel here in other seasons or choose the Sky No. 1 Scenic Area where the tourists might be relatively fewer.

Chaka Salt Lake Beautiful Reflection and Lake Scenery

How to Take Good Pictures in Chaka Salt Lake

Traveling to Chaka Salt Lake without taking photos is not complete. Because the natural salt lake has the mirror effect which creates a rare good scene for taking reflection photos. The simple blue sky and white clouds in the high altitude area have become a beauty element in photos. It is suggested that tourists wear bright clothes in red, white or yellow when taking photos. In order to get the best scenery, we need sunny weather and the right time. The gentle sunlight will make the mirror effect more obvious. If you want to take a clean and beautiful picture, you may need to go deep into the center of the lake to a place where there are few people. The Mirror of Sky in Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area and Munao Square in Sky No. 1 are good shooting sites.

Top Choice During the Daytime

Mirror of Sky: It is an open space of a lake with strong reflection ability. It is like a mirror for the sky. It is known as the "mirror of the sky" in China" The best shooting time here is before 9 am and after 5 pm.

Top Choice During the Nighttime

Sky No.1: When night falls, you can clearly appreciate the vastness and magnificence of the Milky way and the dazzling strangeness of meteors in the lake area. The reflection of the lake makes the starry sky and the lake melt into one color, and the starry sky seems to fall on the lake. Therefore, Chaka Salt Lake at night is called the "night sky mirror" in China. But it's really cold to shoot at night. Please keep warm and do not roam around by yourself for safety issues.

Capture the Sunrise and Sunset

The most beautiful period of Chaka Salt Lake is around sunrise and sunset. Colorful clouds, sunrise or sunset, reflections on the salt lake, form a picture of water and sky. The sunrise time of Chaka Salt Lake is about 6:30 a.m. from May to September, and the sunset time is about 19:30 a.m. Since the earliest train departs late, if you want to shoot sunrise and sunset, you'd better stay in the scenic area.

☛ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Chaka Salt Lake Enchanting Tour

Chaka Salt Lake Chaka Salt Lake during the Sunset Chaka Salt Lake Chaka Salt Lake at Night

Where to Stay in & around Chaka Salt Lake

For visitors who would like to capture the night scenery and the sunrise and sunset of Chaka Salt Lake, they are recommended to stay inside the scenic areas or the nearby Chaka Town. Chaka Town is only 4km from the entrance of Chaka Salt Lake Scenic Area and 17km from Sky No. 1 Scenic Area. It has more accommodation choices in Chaka Town. But if you would like to capture the night scenery and get up early for the sunrise, both of the scenic areas offer hostels and hotels. In Sky No.1 area, it has traditional yurts and transparent starry yurts for visitors. If you would like to stay inside the scenic area, you may need to book your hotel in advance, especially during the peak season.

Chaka Salt Lake Starry Yurt at Sky No.1 Scenic Area

Travel Tips in Chaka Salt Lake

1. It is recommended to bring slippers or sandals when you enter Chaka Salt Lake. 

2. If you need to stay, please make a reservation in advance to stay in Chaka town or a scenic spot. The temperature difference on the plateau is very large, even in summer, and sometimes the temperature can be very low. If the temperature is lower in case of rainfall, you must take a thick coat.

3. The ultraviolet rays in Chaka Salt Lake are very strong, so you should prepare sunglasses, sunscreen, and clothes to cover your exposed skin as much as possible and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

4. Near the exit of the Railway station, there are many divers. For your safety, please contact a licensed driver from your travel agent or contact us for transportation service.

How to Plan A Qinghai Lake Tour

How to Get to Qinghai Lake: It is recommended to reach Xining first and then take a private transfer (3.5 hours' drive) to Qinghai Lake

Best Time to Visit Qinghai Lake: May to October, especially July and August when rape flowers are in full blossom

Where to Stay in Qinghai Lake: There are some hotels in the lake area of Qinghai Lake and some basic hotels in Heimahe River

Generally, a classic Qinghai Lake takes about 3~4 days. Starting from Xining, it tour covers the two biggest highlights of this city, namely - Kumbum Monastery - One of the Six Greatest Tibetan Gelug Monasteries with Three Arts and Dongguan Great Mosque – Qinghai's biggest mosque with splendid appearance and delicate ornaments which allow you to get a cultural savory. Then, spend 1 or 2 days appreciating the beauty of Qinghai Lake, including stunning lake view, far-reaching snow peaks, grassland, rape flowers (in July and August), etc. For cyclist, Qinghai Lake is also a good destination to offer the delighted experience of sightseeing and cycling in one go. It usually needs 2 days to have a great cycling tour along Qinghai Lake.

☛ 3 Days Qinghai Short Stay Tour with Qinghai Lake

More than Xining City and Qinghai Lake, there are many other natural and cultural treasures worthy of your visit in Qinghai. For more lake view, Chaka Salt Lake which is known as the mirror of the lake must be visited. If you are interested in Amdo Tibet culture, you are strongly advised to extend your tour to Tongren and nearby Xiahe (in Gansu) to explore Regong Art and Tibetan Buddhism.

☛ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Chaka Salt Lake Enchanting Tour

☛ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Landscape Tour Plus Tongren Authentic Tibetan Culture and Art Exploration

Many travelers also prefer a silk road discovery combining Qinghai Lake with Zhangye (Zhangye National Geopark, Mati Temple, Giant Buddha Temple…), Jiayuguan (Jiayuguan Pass, Great Wall Museum, ), Dunhuang (Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Lake, Mogao Caves, Yumen Pass…) and Bardain Jaran Desert. If you love Tibet Buddhist fragrance or breathtaking high-altitude landscape, don't hesitate to visit Tibet (Lhasa, Shigatse, Mount Everest, Namtso Lake, etc.) via the world-famous Qinghai Tibet Railway.

☛ 7 Days Miraculous Land Tour from Dunhuang to Zhangye Xining
☛ 7 Days Qinghai Lake Zhangye Danxia Badain Jaran Desert Wonders Tour
☛ 6 Days Xining and Lhasa Train Tour

Qinghai Lake Erlangjian Scenic Area in Qinghai Lake Chaka Salt Lake Ride the little train in Chaka Salt Lake Matisi Temple Mrs. Chan's group from Canada visited Matisi Temple with China Discovery

Recommended Xining Tours

Top 3 Xining tours chosen by most customers to explore Xining in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.

Sightseeing train travel at Chaka Lake
4 Days Enchanting Qinghai Lake Chaka Salt Lake Tour

Xining / Qinghai Lake / Chaka Lake / Xining

Mysterious lakes in deep Badain Jaran Desert
8 Days Qinghai Lake Zhangye Danxia Badain Jaran Desert Wonders Tour

Xining - Zhangye - Badain Jaran Desert

Zhangye Danxia Geopark - the Rainbow Mountains
6 Days Qinghai Lake Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains Dramatic Tour

Xining - Qinghai Lake - Chaka Lake - Zhangye

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