The Ili Prefecture in western Xinjiang is a magic land of nature that just pleases your eyes in a straight way - vast grasslands segregated by deep gorges, endless apricot flowers blooming over the green hills, lofty snow peaks, verdant wild forest... It is most otherworldly in springs and summers, especially in April when the apricot flowers usually bloom.
Starting from the capital Urumqi, this tour will take you to explore the best scenery of the Ili area – Naraty Grassland and Apricot Valley in a leisure way with your own driver and tour guide. Since Ili is over two days' drive from Urumqi, we have found several natural wonders for you to have fun, including the dark-blue Sayram Lake and the magnificent Dushanzi Grand Canyon. In your lifetime Xinjiang trip, you shouldn’t miss the Ancient Silk Road exploration. Don’t worry, we have covered all the above experience in our valuable tour package for you. Hotels are also included.
Day 1 Urumqi ArrivalUrumqi airport/train station pick up
Welcome to Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Meet your tour guide and driver at the airport/train station, then transfer a short while to the downtown of Urumqi. Check in to your hotel. The rest time is free for you to relax. Feel free to ask for recommendations of places to go from your guide.
How to get to Urumqi? currently you can take flights to Urumqi from Beijing (about 4 hours), Xian (about 3.5 hours), Shanghai (about 5.5 hours), Guangzhou (about 5 hours), Chengdu (about 3.5 hours), etc., or high speed trains from Turpan (about 2 hours), Dunhuang (about 4.5 hours), Lanzhou (about 11 hours), Xining (about 9.5 hours), etc.
- Modern Urumqi city with Tianshan Mountains as background
Day 2 Urumqi - Heavenly Lake - Urumqi (B, L)Today's highlight: Heavenly Lake full day exploration
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.
- Aluring Heavenly Lake scenery in autumn day
Day 3 Urumqi - Turpan (B, L)Today's highlights: Karez System, Turpan Museum, Jiaohe Ancient City
This morning, you will drive about 3 hours (167 km) from Urumqi to the "fire land" – Turpan. It is China's hottest city that its highest temperature reaches about 50°C in summer. Besides, it is also an outpost on the Silk Road and a lot of cultural heritage sites can be explored.
As you reach Turpan, you will firstly discover the brilliant project of Karez System. Together with the Great Wall and Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, Karez System is regarded as one of China’s Three Greatest Ancient Projects. It is a special kind of irrigation system consisting of vertical wells, underground canals, ground canals and waterlogging pond. The vertically dug wells are linked together to channel the water which occurs during summer rain season, or be melted from snow mountains of Tianshan range to desired farmlands on the desert area. Visiting Turpan Karez Museum, you will not only see the pictures and models detailing the history of Karez System, but also visit the real underground tunnels.
Next, turn to Turpan Museum, an informative museum with great collections as well as a good place to avoid summer heat. The first floor has the exhibits (like dinosaur fossils, terracotta figurines, clothing, utensils, weapons…) from prehistoric ages to Tang Dynasty (618 ~ 907) on the history of Turpan. There are also many Silk Road displays from which you will understand why Turpan plays a crucial role on the Silk Road for trading, water and agriculture. Getting to the second floor, you will be awed at the millennia-old mummies well-preserved as to how they were found in their tombs.
Your last stop is the famous relic - Jiaohe Ancient City - an ancient city that was strategically located along the ancient Silk Road. Perching on a plateau, it acted as a natural barrier from the attacking enemies in the old times. Now, it is renowned as the best-preserved earthen architecture in the world. The interesting sculptures, videos and some other displays in Jiaohe Cultural Village Museum will give you an appreciation of the history of Jiaohe City before you start exploring. Then, take a shuttle bus to the core scenic area. Walking up along the pathway uphill, and you can see many historical structural remains, including the residential area, official area and Buddhist temples. It is also available to walk to the central platform for a more awesome view of the whole park. When the night drops, you will feast on a breathtaking sunset over the ruins.
Accommodate in Turpan this night.
Warm Tips: 1) Turpan is known as the grape capital of China, and don't forget to taste the delicious grapes, drink the fruit juices and buy some dried grape seeds. 2) Be ready for the hot weather in Turpan, especially in summer, and it is advised to wear long-sleeves, sunhat, sunglasses, etc., drink more water.
- First Glimpse of Jiaohe Ancient City
Day 4 Turpan - Urumqi (B, L)Today's highlights: Bezeklik Thousand Buddhas, Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon, Tuyuk Valley
After breakfast, you will be taken to have a cultural visit to Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, a group of grottoes with rich murals. They are high on the cliffs of the west Mutou Valley of Flaming Mountain. Originally drilled in the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 ~ 589), the caves have gone through about 15 centuries. There are 57 existing caves, and about 40 of them are preserved with brightly-colored murals on the stone-walls. Appreciating the glorious murals in an artistic style and listening to the old Buddhist legends, you may imagine how Buddhism spread to mainland China via Xinjiang.
After enjoying the cultural relics in Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, you will drive to Tuyu Valley along Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon, which condenses the essence of the landscape of Flaming Mountain - the hottest spot in Turpan. Flaming Mountain is immortalized in the Chinese classic Journey to the West as a blazing mountain that the monk Xuan Zang has to pass through. Finally, they use a magic fan to extinguish the blaze and go on with their trip. Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon splits the whole mountain in half and you will clearly admire the unique landform - red sandstones looking like flaming fire, distinctive rocks showing the uncanny workmanship of nature and deep gorge with crisscross valleys. The magnificence, strangeness, danger, and elegance of Flaming Mountain are fully shown here.
The winding road on the cliff of Flaming Mountain will soon lead you to Tuyuk Valley (Tuyugou in Chinese) which is a Uighur valley with lots of historical sites. Mazar Village, the oldest existing Uighur village with a history of over 2,600 years, is a big highlight of the valley. Mazar Village holds a significant status in Buddhism and Islam. It is said that 6 Muslims came to China and started preaching there, so Mazar Village is called Eastern Mekka. Before Islam, it once was a Buddhist center as well. Many Buddhist caves can be found in the village, but the statues and murals failed to survive. The villagers still live peacefully in the village and you can clearly see how they run their daily lives in the old mud adobe houses. Some villagers kindly ask the travelers to visit their vineyards and taste their fresh grapes or preserved fruits.
Sightseeing ends. You will be escorted back to Urumqi as well. Stay overnight in Urumqi city.
- Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves
Day 5 Urumqi - Sayram Lake (B, L)Today's highlight: Sayram Lake
Today, you are heading to Sayram Lake which is about 545 km (6 hours' drive) from Urumqi City. The rest time after arrival is free for you to relax around the lake.
Sayram Lake (2,073m) or Sailimu Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes, as well as the largest and highest alpine lake in Xinjiang. It is about 20 km long from east to west, 30 km wide from north to south, covering an area of about 454 sq kilometers. The lake is the farthest place that the warm air of the Atlantic Ocean can reach, hence the romantic name “the last drop of the tears of the Atlantic”.
Accommodation notice: staying a night around Sayram Lake allows you to spend more time enjoy the landscape, sunset and sunrise, but please note the choices of the hotels around Sayram Lake is limited. Only some basic guesthouses and yurts are provided. Cleanness is guaranteed, but hotel amenities are usually the basic standard. If you prefer a better accommodation, you can stay your night in Bole city which is about 85 km (1.5 hrs' drive) from Sayram Lake.
- Well-paved road in Sayram Lake Scenic Area
Day 6 Sayram Lake - Xinyuan (B, L)Today's highlights: Sayram Lake
Today, you will have more than a half day to explore the natural charm of Sayram Lake. What makes Sayram Lake outstanding is its dark blue water and variety of ecosystem. In the bright days, the reflection of the blue sky makes the blue color of the water even darker like a giant diamond. Around the Sayram Lake is pleasant natural view stacked by vast grassland, flourishing alpine trees and lofty ranges of snow mountains. You can also find some yurts of local Mongol and Kazakh families lining at the lake shore. So please be prepared for the numerous photo opportunities. The visit of Sayram Lake is mainly about walking along the paved trails on the lake shore. Biking around the lake is also available (with extra cost). Let your guide know if you want to do the biking.
Say goodbye to Sayram Lake, and drive about 335 km (about 4 hrs) to Xinyuan County for accommodation.
- Sayram Lake and Nearby Snow Mountains
- Colorful Grasslands around Sayram Lake
Day 7 Xinyuan - Naraty Grassland - Xinyuan (B, L)Today's highlights: Naraty Grassland (Sky Grassland, River Grassland)
After breakfast, drive about 80 km (about 1.5 hrs) to Naraty Grassland which is one of the most beautiful grasslands in China with endless grassland on the rolling ridges stretching to the sky.
There are two visiting routes in Naraty Grassland respectively to Sky Grassland and River Grassland, representing the highlights in Naraty Grassland. You will have a full day to explore both of them. Since the whole scenic area is so large, you will use park bus to save time and energy. Sky Grassland, also called the Summer Ranch, is where you can feel the grassland is so close to the sky. It is a basin in the mountains with beautiful grass and running water. Standing in the center of the basin and looking down, you can see the village in the distance and have a bird’s eye view of the grassland stretching at a lower altitude. It is quite a different feeling from visiting other grasslands such as the ones in Inner Mongolia. River Grassland is renowned for Kazakh customs and forest scenery. On the way to Hegu Grassland, snow capped peaks, dense forests, green hills, flat meadows… gradually appear before your eyes. Taking the tourist bus to meander through the sightseeing road, you can see the Gunes River on the left is like a shining silver blue ribbon falling in the wide valley and the boundless grassland is dotted with all kinds of flowers on both sides of the road. Looked from afar, the mountainside of the snow capped peaks is covered with dense and deep forests, and it is green everywhere. On the green grassland at the foot of the mountain, groups of cattle and sheep wander comfortably, because here is not only a scenic area, but also where the local herdsmen graze.
After the nature fun in Naraty Grassland, drive back to Xinyuan County for accommodation.
- Naraty Grassland in June
- Riding horse in Naraty Grassland (optional experience)
- Local Kazaks dancing in Naraty Grassland
Day 8 Xinyuan - Xinghuagou - Yining (B, L)Today's highlights: Xinghuagou (Apricot Valley)
This early morning after breakfast, drive about 28 km (about 45mins) to visit Xinghuagou (Apricot Valley) in Turgen.
Xinghuagou is located on the north bank of the Gongnaisi River in Turgen Town of Xinyuan County. Covering an area of over 20 square kilometers, it is the largest primitive wild apricot forest surviving from the Middle Ages and the most concentrated area of wild apricot forests in Xinjiang. When the middle springs come, there are clusters of pink apricot blossoms dotting over the green mountainside valleys like patches of crimson clouds floating in the mountains, and villagers' flocks and horses scattering everywhere. Note: The flowering period of apricot blossoms is usually in early April or middle April and subject to change. It is necessary to contact us in advance for up-to-date information. If you miss out the apricot blossoms in Xinghuagou, we can take you to another location - Daxigou whose apricot blossoms usually bloom later than Xinghuagou.
After the visual feast of the apricot blossoms, keep driving about 200 km (about 3 hrs) to Yining City. Check in to your hotel there. The rest time is free for you to relax.
- Xinghuagou (Apricot Valley)
Day 9 Yining - Kuitun (B, L)Today's highlight: Dushanzi Grand Canyon
Today you will drive about 455 km (about 6 hrs) to Kuitun city for accommodation, and visit Dushanzi Grand Canyon which is only about 40km from Kuitun City. 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.)
Accommodate in Kuitun city.
- Incredible geographic wonder land - Dushanzi Grand Canyon
Day 10 Kuitun - Urumqi Departure (B)Urumqi airport/train station drop off
After breakfast, drive about 240 km (about 3 hrs) to Urumqi to catch your flight/train to next destination. Your memorable Xinjiang tour ends.
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Kanas is an area resplendent with virtually untouched natural beauty - turquoise lake, beautiful rivers and bays, pure snow mountains, thick wild forest, fresh air and peaceful Tuva minority villages. It is no doubt one of the most beautiful places in China. Its major attractions are Kanas Lake, Kanas Rivers, Kanas Three Bays, Hemu Village, Beautiful Peak, etc. To explore Kanas to the fullest, you should stay at least 3 full days in the nature reserve, usually 1 day for Hemu Village and 2 days for Kanas Lake Scenic Area (Kanas Lake, Kanas Rivers, Kanas Three Bays…).
Your Xinjiang tour is not complete without Kashgar. It is the best place in Xinjiang to experience authentic Xinjiang culture as well as ancient Silk Road atmosphere. In Kashgar, you can stroll leisurely around the Kashgar Bazaar to find the trading tradition that has lasted more than 1500 years on the Silk Road and experience the Livestock Market if you are in Kashgar on Sunday, explore the traditional living quarter of local Uyghur people and enjoy a relaxing tea time in the Ancient Tea House, drive out the town to enter into a magnificent world of landscape and adventure – Pamirs' beautiful Karakul Lake and Muztagh Ata, the “father of glaciers” .
1. This price is for one person, based on a group of 2 adults sharing one standard double-bed room and traveling with our private tour in low seasons.
2. This price is subject to change according your traveling season, group size, hotel class, change of activities in your itinerary and possible fluctuation of currency exchange rate. If you want a lower price, you can get more people to join you, or use economy class hotels.
3. This price is only valid to March 31, 2023.
4. Reference exchange rate of USD 1= RMB 6.45. The final quote is based on current exchange rate. It may change according to the currency fluctuation, while the RMB quotation will be remained the same.
The trip was marvelous. We have really enjoyed!
It was great. I really enjoyed it!
It was a wonderful trip! Thank you for everything Wonder. Can’t wait to go on another one
Very good trip! Fun and interesting! Tour guides are also very good!
Okay, thanks for an amazing trip, we will definitely be doing more traveling with you.
"Highest Standards of Quality and Honesty" is the core value of each specialized team at China Discovery.
Eveyone in our company is working hard for only one goal, which is to ensure the highest level of service, luxury, and attention to detail from the minute you begin planning your trip, to the day you return home.
Our travel consultants are professional, experienced and responsible, helping you from the very beginning to the end of your China trip!
After sending us an inquiry, one of our travel consultants will get back to you within 0.5~23.5 hrs. In the next few days, he/she will be working closely with you to formulate a customized tour plan, as well as providing professional suggestions based on your travel interests, time, and budget.
Beside, he/she will keep in contact with you during your entire tour in China, continually checking if everything is going well as planned.
We're working at Chengdu Bamboo International Tours, local based in Chengdu.
Our local guide in every destination is not only very friendly, enthusiastic but also very informative and knowledgeable.
Once you arrive in the destination, the patient and punctual guides will pick you up and take you to get under skin of the city at your own pace. By in-depth discovery and explanation, they’ll show you more about the history, culture, customs and authentic local life. Throughout the journey, they're not only expert guides who take care of all the details but also fellow travelers who are dedicated to help you explore in comfort and style.
Our guides are passionate about what they do, and it shows all the way!
Using our private transfer service makes you comfortable, relaxed and worry free all the way!
Our private service includes licensed drivers with many years’ driving experience and air-conditioned, non-smoking, clean and well-maintained cars/vans. Drivers are local, polite, friendly and helpful, taking you to your tourist sites, hotels, airport/train stations in safety. All kinds of vehicle are offered, and yours depends on the size of your group. Usually, we offer sedan cars, SUVs, business vans (MPV) and different types of buses, all with extra space for your luggage.
Our private transfer service guarantees you the highest comfort!
In each destination, you’ll enjoy a comfortable stay in a great location!
The hotels we choose are based on star rating, great locations, well-equipped facilities, cozy bed, high quality service and guests’ feedbacks. Choices are a lot ranging from luxury 5 star, comfortable 4 star to budget 3 star. You could decide where to stay to best suit for your budget and likes. Generally, the hotels have both Western and Chinese breakfast with a wide choices.
If you have already got an ideal hotel, please feel free to tell our travel consultants and they'll book the hotel for you.
Have good sleep in our well-selected hotels in all the destinations of China.
We can satisfy all the dietary requirements no matter you want Chinese local food, western food, vegetarian food or muslin food.
The restaurants we will take you for lunch or dinner are all designated tourist restaurants approved by local tourist administration bureau. They have very good sanitary conditions and the food is prepared fresh and clean.
There will be some meals excluded in your itinerary as you like, and your private guide will be delighted to give you some suggestions and take you to the local restaurants to taste like Beijing Roast Duck, Xian Dumpling Dinner, Sichuan Hotpot, etc., if you are interested in local food tasting.
All the dining options will satisfy your stomach!
Xinjiang can satisfy all your desires about different styles of travel, no matter you are seeking for nature fun, culture experience or some adventures. Generally speaking, Kashgar, Turpan and Urumqi are most popular as the Golden Triangle. They provide you Silk Road history and culture as well as Xinjiang featured scenery – beautiful lakes, gorges, mountains, etc. They are the best options for the first-timers, needing about 6~8 days. Kanas, with tranquil lake and bays, primitive villages and ethnic culture, is strongly recommended too. A trip to Kanas usually takes about 4~7 days. If you prefer natural landscape, the western Xinjiang offers you superb grassland, alpine like, wild flowers. Recommended places include Sayram Lake, Karajun Grassland, Naraty Grassland, etc. The southern Xinjiang has many hidden gems for an in-depth adventure, such as historical Silk Road cities, Takilamakan Desert, Hotan, Kuqa, etc. Such a trip usually costs over 10 days, but it is definitely worth your time and effort.
Xinjiang is far away from the sea with surrounding high mountains, forming an obvious temperate continental climate. The temperature difference is large; the sunshine time is sufficient; the ultraviolet ray is strong; the air is very dry. Since Xinjiang has a vast area, the climate differs a lot by regions. Generally speaking, the southern Xinjiang is hotter than northern Xinjiang; northern Xinjiang has more rainfall than the southern area. You can easily find different places to travel in different seasons.
♦ April to June: Ili Apricot Valley, Tianshan Tianchi Lake, Sayram Lake, Tashkurgan, Naraty Grassland, Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar, etc.
♦ July to August: Urumqi, Sayram Lake, Karajun Grassland, Naraty Grassland, Kanas, Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar, etc.
♦ September to early November: Kanas, Taklimakan Desert, Populus Euphratica in Tarim Basin, Kuqa Grand Canyon, Tashkurgan, Naraty Grassland, Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar, etc.
♦ Mid November to March: Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar, Kanas, etc.
Getting there: it usually takes a longer time than other China cities to get to Xinjiang. Travelers usually arrive in Urumqi first by flight or train then transfer to other cities of Xinjiang. Currently, you can take flights to Urumqi from Beijing (about 4 hours), Xian (about 42.5 hours), Shanghai (about 5.5 hours), Guangzhou (about 5 hours), Chengdu (about 3.5 hours), etc., or high speed trains from Dunhuang (about 4.5 hours), Lanzhou (about 11 hours), Xining (about 9.5 hours), etc. Kashgar is the secondly-used arrival hub. It operates some domestic flights to Xian, Chengdu, etc.
Getting around: from Urumqi, you can keep traveling by flights to Kashgar, Kanas, Kuqa, Ili, etc. Actually, traveling by driving is more popular than taking flight and train, because the best scenery can usually be reached by car. But it's hard to travel by public bus to many remote scenic areas.So let a travel agency like China Discovery arrange transfer for you is the best choice.
Apart from a few major cities such as Urumqi, Kashgar and Turpan whose hotels have complete facilities and wifi. In many other places, especially in some remote scenic spots, accommodation is relatively simple and basic, such as Kanas, Sayram Lake, Naraty, Tashkurgan, etc. where you can stay in a guesthouse, a homestay or a local yurt. Also, during the busy season from June to October every year, hotel occupancy will be much higher than normal days, so it is necessary to book your hotel in advance.
China Discover has included accommodation in our every tour package so that you don’t have trouble with booking hotels on your own. All our hotels are well-selected, comfortable, well-equipped with friendly services.
● Remember to always follow your groups instead of heading to the heart regions by your own, or you may get lost. Cell phone signal may be weak or zero in the grassland or forest areas in Xinjiang, stay calm.
● Wear the harness correctly when enjoying horse riding and follow the direction to keep safe!
Xinjiang’s Uyghur food and other local cuisine will be a memorable part of your trip. The local Uyghur food is famous throughout China and popular among travelers. There are not only Uyghur foods, but also traditional Chinese food, Hui food, Kazakh food, etc. Some hotels and restaurants in bigger cities, such as Urumqi, Kashgar, Turpan, Ili, etc., also provide western food and coffee.
We usually cover your breakfasts in your hotels and lunches during your trip. Dinner is your own chance to explore local food or other food you are interested in. Feel free to let your guide know your dinning interest and requirement in advance so that you can arrange meals accordingly.
Urumqi / Turpan / Kumtag Desert / Urumqi
Urumqi - Wu'erhe - Kanas - Burqin - Urumqi - Turpan - Urumqi
Urumqi / Burqin / Kanas / Karamy / Sayram Lake / Karajun Grassland / Kuitun / Urumqi
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“Very good experience”
“WONDERFUL 25 DAYS IN CHINA - PRIVATE TOUR”
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