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Altay Travel Guide

Altay Travel Guide 2023

Altay Prefecture (abbreviation: Altay), located in northern Xinjiang, northwest China, bordering Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia with a long boundary of 1,197 km, is one of the top tourist regions in Xinjiang. It is under the jurisdiction of Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, and consists of Altay City (seat of government) and six other counties (Burqin, Fuyun, etc.,). Altay Prefecture is most known for the “Gold Mountains and Silver Waters” - Altai Mountains and Irtysh River. The mysterious and beautiful Kanas Lake, nearby Tuva tribe and their traditional lifestyle, many beautiful natural scenery and diverse minority culture attract numerous visitors to explore Altay. Beyond the remarkable ecological environment, Altay is a fabulous winter wonderland for skiers and contains amazingly rich rare minerals.

Why Visit Altay:

  • Fairyland Kanas & Tuva Villages - Kanas is a national nature reserve and a national geopark, a real fairyland in Xinjiang famous for the beautiful Kanas Lake and mysterious Tuva villages. Kanas Lake is bestowed with sapphire lake water, lush primitive forests, grandiose snowy mountains, pretty grasslands on shores. A hiking trip through the three bays, Taiga Forest Corridor and a boat trip on Kanas Lake are wonderful experiences as the sightseeing.
  • Beautiful Natural Landscapes - Altay has many unique natural landscapes worthy of visits as well, such as the incredible Yardang landform in Wucaitan (Rainbow Beach) and Wucaicheng (Colorful City), the exceptional geological landscape and mineral value of Koktokay, awesome snow fields on Altai Mountains and so forth.
  • Diverse Minority Culture and Customs - Xinjiang is a multi-ethnic region in China, and so is Altay of Xinjiang. Latest official news reports that about 61.45% of Altay’s resident population are minority people, half of the total number is Kazakhs and Hui, Uygur and Mongolian are major ethnic groups. So, travelers enjoy a great chance to know and experience different local ethnic customs and culture. In Hemu Village of Kanas, Tuvas preserve their original lifestyle, which is a fascination for tourists.
  • Fantastic Ski Resorts & Winter Experiences - Skiing is the symbol and pride of Altay, because Altay is the origin of human skiing and a famous Snow Capital in China. Currently, Altay has three big ski resorts - Jiangjun Hill Ski Field (the biggest, the most popular), Jikepulin Ski Resort (near Hemu Village) and Koktokay Ski Resort. The natural ski resorts provide skiers and travelers with amazing snow fields and winter scenery.
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Kanas Tours

Top Attractions to Visit in Altay

Different kinds of natural sightseeing resources are the main attractions of Altay Prefecture. The region owns grand mountains, primitive forests, gorgeous waterscape, magic Yardang landform, unique ice and snow resources and many other types of scenery. Fairyland Kanas is the No.1 must-visit in Altay. When driving from Urumqi to Kanas, scenic spots, like Rainbow Beach (Wutaitan), are also stunning. If traveling to Altay in winter, it’s really interesting and memorable to go skiing and try some traditional winter activities in a ski resort. Read the most popular tourist attraction in Altay to get inspired for your Altay travel.

Altay Travel Guide
Kanas - the Private Garden of God

Kanas is a huge national geopark & nature reserve most famous as the Backyard Garden of Gods. Kanas Lake, three iconic bays, serene and authentic Tuva Villages, dense forests, beautiful grasslands there shows charming seasonal beauty for all visitors.

Altay Travel Guide
Hemu Village - Fairyland Tuva Village

It’s the largest & farthest one among China’s three last remaining Tuva villages. Hemu is far-famed as an autumn photography site, for its authentic Tuvas, unique wooden houses and old way of living together with wonderful birch forests and natural views around.

Altay Travel Guide
Wucaitan - Rainbow Beach

Wuaican, located on the north bank of Irtysh River, is an eye-catching spot on a driving journey to Kanas. Colorful hills (yardang landform) stretch for miles along the river, and lush forest across the river forms a sharp contrast.

Altay Travel Guide
Keketuohai (Koktokay National Geopark)

Keketuohai, about 1 hour from Fuyun County, integrates the natural landscape of canyon, river, mountain rocks, forests, mineral resources, lakes, seismic fault belts with ethnic culture. Kekesuli, Yileimu Lake, Irtysh Grand Canyon, No.3 Mine Crater are the main spots.

Altay Travel Guide
Wucaicheng (Colorful City)

Wucaicheng, around 280 km from Altay’s Fuyun, is the shooting location of the famous Oscar movie - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Countless Yardang hills display different colors and shapes, creating a grand colorful world.

Altay Travel Guide
Jiangjun Hill Ski Field (General's Mountain Ski Resort)

It is Xinjiang’s first natural ski resort & one of the best places to enjoy skiing on light powder snow and traditional sledding in China. Skiers worldwide love this winter wonderland, and like to ski and enjoy various snow recreation here and view marvelous natural mountainous scenery.

Altay Weather & Temperature - Best Time to Go

Altay Prefecture is located in the hinterland of Eurasia with high latitudes. It has a classic temperate continental cold climate. The main climate features are hot & dry summer, very cold & long winter, big temperature difference between day and night, rich sunshine and strong wind all year round. The average annual temperature of Altay Prefecture is about 0.7℃~4.9℃, and mean annual precipitation in plain areas is between 131 mm~ 223 mm. Altay Prefecture in July has the highest average temperature of 20℃ (hill and plain areas) while January is the coldest month with an average low temperature of -12℃~-16℃ in low mountains, -23℃~-28℃ in inter-mountain basin. During winter, it’s one of the coldest areas in China.

Altay in Spring (March-May): Daytime temperature is a few degrees Celsius to ten degrees below zero in March. The temperature rises sharply from April and becomes warm in May.

Altay in Summer (June~August): Unlike many other cities in China suffering burning hot summer, Altay has a very cool summer, and the temperature normally remains comfortable within 30℃.

Altay in Autumn (September~November): Early and middle September is pleasant cool, but temperature falls to chilly and cold from late September. Kanas Lake, Hemu Village usually snows from early October and lasts until next April.

Altay in Winter (December~February): It's freezing cold under the lower temperature and heavy snow. Very few tourists visit Altay in this off season. But on the contrary, some thus can enjoy skiing, ink painting-like winter scenery and a quieter atmosphere.

Tips: Bring warm clothes, because Altay is quite cold at night and on winter days. Warm hats, scarves, boots, down jackets are necessary for a winter tour.

Kanas Weather & Temperature

Kanas Tours

Altay Transportation

▶ Get to Altay

By Air: Altay Prefecture has three airports - Burqin Kanas Airport, Altay Airport and Fuyun Koktokay Airport. Kanas Airport is the most important and frequently used one, because it is located only 50 km south of Kanas for 1.5 hours’ drive only. The major flight routes include departures from Urumqi (less than 1.5 hours), Altay, Fuyun, Zhengzhou, etc. Altay Airport lies in Altay City, about 250 km (5 hours’ drive) to Kanas. Daily flights fly to Altay Airport from Urumqi, Karamay, Korla, Yining, Aksu, Burqin, Xian, Chongqing, etc. Fuyun Koktokay Airport is situated about 56 km (1 hour & 10 minutes’ drive) from Fuyun County and 450 km (8~9 hours’ drive) to Kanas. The airport only operates a couple of provincial air routes with Urumqi, Karamay, Burqin, Korla and Aksu in Xinjiang.
How to Get to Kanas | Kanas Airport & Flights

By Train: The Northern Xinjiang Railway Loop has two rails rightly passing through Altay Prefecture: Altay-Fuyun-Zhundong Railway and Kuitun-Beitun Railway. Altay Railway Station, Fuyun Railway Station and Beitun Railway Station are the major train stations. You can get to Altay, Beitun, Fuyun from Urumqi, Karamay, Shihezi and other cities on the rail. The train journey is slower than a flight, and requires extra transfer to Kanas and major attractions after arrival.

By Bus: There are long-distance coaches running to Altay City from Urumqi, Fuyun, Burqin, Karamay, Shihezi and other cities in the surrounding areas. However, the bus ride takes lots of time and is less chosen by travelers.

▶ Get Around Altay

Altay’s top attractions are located in Burqin County, Altay County and Fuyun County. Travelers with enough time and who are interested in enjoying more scenery on the way can make a road trip among destinations in Altay, such as driving from Wucaitan to Kanas Lake (140 km, 3 hours’ drive), driving to Jiangjun Hill Ski Field. Tight-schedule travelers can fly to Kanas, Altay and Funyun directly, depending on the departure city and personal travel route. Airport shuttle buses and city buses are available, but maybe inconvenient for first-time travelers.

Altay Accommodation: Where to Stay

As one of the major tourist regions in Xinjiang, Altay has constructed relatively mature accommodation for visitors. According to detailed trip itinerary, private hobbies and budget, it’s easy to find a place to stay overnight in Altay. Downtown Burqin County and Altay City offer more star-rated hotels and some of the finest accommodation. If you drive from Urumqi to Burqin via Wucaitan, then Burqin is recommended for you to rest well and get some supplies. There are 5-star Burqin Kanas Birch Forest Yeshe Camp and many good hotels. Altay city center is a good lodging place for travelers who have finished visiting Koktokay. In Kanas, there are two places to accommodate. One is hotels near the Jiadengyu - entrance of Kanas, where many standard hotels, villas, resorts can be found. Another choice is the featured Tuva wooden houses in Hemu Villages. Room rate varies with interior facilities, but all are authentic local residences surrounded by beautiful natural scenery.
Places to Stay in Kanas & Altay

Useful Altay Travel Map

To help you have a brief understanding of Altay, we collect some of the most useful Altay maps for you. You can read the map to know its location in Xianjiang and nearby destinations to plan your Xinjiang Altay tour. Also, the following Kanas Tourist Map shows you the location of Kanas Lake, Hemu Village, Wucaitan and highlights to explore in Kanas. The maps have recently been updated and are free to download.

Kanas Tourist Map

Kanas Tourist Map

Other Popular Destinations in Xinjiang

Covering an area of 1.66 million square meters, almost one in six of China’s total territory, Xinjiang is a vast land full of charms. Northern Xinjiang (Urumqi, Karamay, Altay, Kanas, Tacheng, Ili, Bortala-Sayram Lake) and Southern Xinjiang (Kashgar, Tashkourgan, Aksu, Khotan, Kuqa, Koral, Bayingol, ) are two main travel regions. Except Altay, there are more amazing natural beauty and cultural spots await your exploration. Discover the most classic destinations below.

Other Destinations along the Silk Road

The ancient Silk Road from Xian to Xinjiang is one of the mysterious and fantastic travel route in Northwestern China. Urumqi is a stop in the west part and there are more fascinating destinations along the road, including ancient capital - Xian, Dunhuang with Mogao Caves, Zhanye most known for rainbow-like Danxia mountains, Jiayuguan with Great Wall fortress. Check the following highlights on the Silk Road and select a great Silk Road adventure here.

Altay China Map

Chinese Name: 阿勒泰

Chinese Pinyin: ā lè tài

Area: /'æltai/

Population: 668,587

Average Altitude: 118,000 Square Kilometers

Language: Kazakh, Uygur Language, Mandarin, etc.

Tel Code: 0906

Zip Code: 836300

Time Zone: (UTC+8)

Plan your Xinjiang Altay Tour

Because Altay is located in the remote northern Xinjiang, tourists usually firstly arrive in Urumqi, the capital city and transfer center of Xinjiang. Altay’s biggest highlights - Kanas and Hemu Village normally need 3 days for a classic itinerary. If time allows, you can drive from Urumqi to Altay via Karamay and Wucaitan in Burqin, spending one day viewing those strange landform.

Xinjiang is vast and full of natural beauty and ethnic cultural charms. If time allows, you’re highly advised to explore more destinations in Xinjiang, since you have already travelled all the way to Xinjiang in northwest China. If you only get a tight schedule, but still want to experience the essence, Turpan, Urumqi and Kashgar are three best destinations, and a tour package takes 8 days. If you love nature more, Northern Xinjiang offers massive destinations besides Kanas, such as Heavenly Lake, Turpan’s Kumtag Desert, grasslands in Ili, Sayram Lake, etc. You should take at least 1 to 2 weeks for a loop line tour. Tourists more interested in ethnic culture can visit Kashgar and other destinations in Southern Xinjiang. Meanwhile, Southern Xinjiang also offers superb natural landscapes, like Taklimakan Desert, Karakul Lake & Muztag Peak on Pamirs, Luntai Populus euphratica forest, Bosten Lake, etc.

Travelers with more time can follow the ancient Silk Road, visit Dunhuang, Zhangye, Jiayuguan in Gansu, view beautiful Qinghai Lake in Qinghai, explore Tibetan Buddhist culture and plateau scenery in Tibet and explore more parts of China.

China Discovery is a reliable and professional travel agency with many years’ experience. We are dedicated to offering high-quality private China trips for friends worldwide. With our first-hand and comprehensive travel guide, you can enjoy a memorable Xinjiang trip as our other guests. You can select a suitable itinerary from our most popular Kanas tour packages below, or contact us to customize  a special trip on your own.

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Moon Bay (autumn) - the iconic sight of Kanas
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Hemu Village - Kanas Lake Scenic Area

Morning mist in Hemu Village in Autumn
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Urumqi - Wu'erhe - Kanas - Burqin - Urumqi - Turpan - Urumqi

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7 Days Classic Road Trip to Heavenly Kanas Lake

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