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First Impression of Sayram Lake

Sayram Lake, also referred to as Sailimu Lake, is Xinjiang’s largest alpine lake and largest lake above sea level. Lying in the high mountain basin of Heavenly Mountain, it is known as Lake on the Mountain Range by local people. Besides, it also gets many other titles like AAAAA Nation Scenic Spot, National Historical Site, A Pearl of the Ancient Silk Road, etc. People call it the Last Tear of the Atlantic because it is the last place that the warm and humid Atlantic air currents linger. It is most attractive with its breathtaking scenery, including dazzling sapphire-like lake, verdant forests, snow-capped peaks, thriving grassland, and most charming wild flowers if you visit in late spring to early autumn.

Old Legends about Sayram Lake

It is said that Sailimu Lake is formed by the tears of a couple of Kazak lovers. In the legend, there was no lake but only grassland with beautiful flowers in the Sayram Lake area. A beautiful girl and boy are in deep love but a greedy devil kidnapped the girl. When the boy came to rescue the girl but found she had jumped into an abyss. In enormous sorrow, he jumped into the abyss as well to meet her. In an instant, billowing water gushed out of the abyss and formed Sayram Lake. Though it is just a fictional loving story, it adds more mysterious atmosphere to Sayram Lake.

Besides, Sailimu Lake also enjoys a highly imaginative veil for many other tales, such as lake monster, wind tunnel in the heart of the lake, eddy in lakebed magnetic field, etc.

Ten Famous Scenes of Sayram Lake

Sayram Lake is fairly famous for its top 10 scenes, and each is a perfect place to photograph and sightsee.

Fuji Standing East (Fu Shi Dong Zhi, 富士东峙)

Fuji Dongzhi refers to Husumuqie Mountain on the east bank of Sailimu Lake. This high and steep mountain has two symmetrical slopes and abundant landforms. The 3,596-meter-high peak is covered with snow all the year around. Seen from Haixi Grassland, Husumuqie Mountain surrounded by white clouds resembles beautiful Mount Fuji in Japan.

Clean & Colorful Lake (Jinghai Qicai, 净海七彩)

Due to the high transparency of the water of Sailimu Lake, its color changes with the color of the sky. The reflection in the sky is clear and lifelike, with a three-dimensional effect. At different times of one day, it may take on blue, purple, green, orange, yellow, red, gray and white. The lake and the mountain form a magnificent oil painting.

Gold Jumping over Sayram Lake (Sai Hu Yue Jin, 赛湖跃金)

It will be a lucky thing to see the incredibly beautiful sunrise and sunset of Sayram Lake. When the upper rim of the sun appears on the horizon of the lake in the morning.

Pouring Fog in Songshutou(Song Tou Wu Pu, 松头雾瀑)

Located at the southern end of Sayram Lake, Songshutou is a low pass of Keguqin Mountain and an important gateway to Ili from Bortala. The mountain area of Guozi Valley in the south part of Sayram Lake is often covered by thick clouds and fog. When the fog is blown to Songshutou, it seems a surging majestic waterfall pouring from the sky into Sayram Lake seen from a distance, therefore this scene is named Song Tour Wu Pu which is translated as water-like fog in Songtou.

Golden Silk Embroider (Jin Duan Xiang Bian, 金缎镶边)

Spring and early summer are the best time to enjoy the scenic beauty of Sayram Lake. The subalpine meadows are full of wild flowers, such as wild poppies, nasturtiums and wilting plants blooming with yellow petals. It seems the lakeside grassland of Sailimu Lake is dotted with golden silk. Of course, there are lots of flowers with other colors to admire.

Sayram Lake Snow-capped Peaks ©travelxj
Sayram Lake Sayram Lake Sunset ©slmhjq
Sayram Lake Golden Silk Embroider ©slmhjq

Viewing Pines in Keshan Mountain (Ke Shan Guan Song, 科山观松)

In the Kazakh language, Keguqin literally means emerald green. Just as the name suggests, Keguqin Mountain (Keshan Mountain for short) is densely forested and the vegetation covering reaches roughly 100%. From Songshutou you could see various of pines, whose branches and leaves swaying in the wind shaping a scene of roaring waves. Ke Shan Guan Song is one of the most spectacular sights in the ten scenes of Sayram Lake.

Pearls in the Green Grassland (Lv Se Zhen Zhu, 绿色珍珠)

Every July and August, Sayram Lake is a great place for summer resort. The grass is in jade green and there are hundreds of thousands of sheep in green fields walking, grazing or sleeping as white as pearls. The “green” and the “sheep” become a popular subject to shoot for photographers.

Lovers in The Heart of The Lake Center (Hu Xin Qing Lv, 湖心情侣)

Lovers in the Heart of the Lake provide a striking view of Sayram Lake. On the east side of Sayram Lake, there are some small bedrock islands scattered on the lake, of which the main island is 32 meters above the water surface. On this island, some buildings like pavilions and temples can be viewed. It is said that the lovers in the legend once grazed their cattle here. After they jumped into the abyss, their tears became Sayram Lake and their bodies became the island at the heart of Sayram Lake.

Ancient Tombs of Wusun (Wu Sun Gu Zhong, 乌孙古冢)

From the 2nd century BC to the 5th AD, Sayram Lake area had been one of the main living areas of Wusu people. Lots of ancient tombs of Wusun people are preserved well in the grassland. A large number of iron, pottery, silk, gold ornaments and other objects were unearthed from the tombs. For travelers interested in history, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the tombs and hear the old stories.

Waves Embracing the Embankment (Ji Lang Yong Di, 激浪拥堤)

In summer and autumn, the weaves of the lake strongly flapping the embank in the effect of strong wind. Under the movement of the lake and the slap of the waves, 2-3 sandy banks are continuously distributed on the lakeside water surface of more than 80 kilometers around the lake. The sandy gravel embankment stretches in an arc shape and has beautiful lines. It frequently accepts the kisses of the light waves and the warm "hugs" of the swelling waves, forming a magnificent dynamic scene

Sayram Lake Sayram Pines ©slmhjq
Sayram Lake Pearls in the Green Grassland ©travelxj
Sayram Lake Central Island in Sayram ©神往/meipian

Best Places to Admire Flowers in Sayram

The large variety of flowers are a big highlight of Sayram Lake and many small attractions around the lake are covered with flowers in different months. Generally, the best places to admire flowers include Xihai Grassland (西海草原), Jinhua Zihui (金花紫卉) and Songshutou (松树头). Besides, you can also see flowers in Kele Yongzhu (克勒涌珠), Qinshui Beach (亲水滩), South Gate (南门), Santai Grassland (三台草原) as well as many plateau grasslands.

Xihai Grassland

Xihai Grassland is located on western side of Sayram Lake, and there is a stop for sightseeing cars. Flowers can be seen here from April to mid-August, such as white crocus (late-April ~ mid-June), wild tulip (mid-April ~ late-May), wild lily (early-May ~ mid-June ), iris (mid-May ~ late-June), canterbury bells (early-June ~ early-September), plateau phlomis umbrosa (mid-July ~ mid-August), etc.

Jinhua Zihui

Jinhua Zihui literally means golden flowers and purple flowers. Without any doubts, many beautiful flowers can be appreciated here. It is located on southwestern side of Sayram Lake and flowers here include wild tulip (mid-April ~ late-May), pasqueflower (mid-April ~ late-June), rose (late-April ~ early-September), ranunculus monophyllus Ovcz. (mid-may), forget-me-nots (mid-May ~ late-June), trollflower (early-June ~ late-August), canterbury bells (early-June ~ early-September), etc.

Songshutou

Located on the southern side of Sayram Lake, it can be reached quickly if you enter the scenic area from the southern gate. Songshutou is most famous for the misty fog, but beautiful flowers grown here are attractive as well, like Gagea fedtschenkoana (mid-April), pasqueflower (early-May ~ late-June), white crocus (late-April ~ mid-June), etc.

Sayram Lake Xihai Grassland ©slmhjq
Sayram Lake Jinhua Zihui ©slmhjq

How to Travel Sayram Lake

Sightseeing Car

Ticket: CNY 75/person

Generally speaking, the environment-friendly sightseeing car is the most frequently-chosen way to tour Sailimu Lake. There are about 10 stops around the lake and many small attractions are distributed near each stop. Getting a sightseeing car ticket, you can freely get on or take off at each stop as you like. There are scheduled cars allowing you to spend longer time in your favorite attractions. In the peak season, you might wait for a long time to get a seat.

Biking

No matter you are a professional rider or just a cycling enthusiast, biking around Sayram Lake will be a life-time cheering experience. As your bike runs on the well-paved road with a nice biking atmosphere, the beauty of Sayram Lake and its surroundings give travelers quite a visual feast. It is a physical-demanding task to bike around the whole lake because of the high altitude. There are several bike-rental spots where you can rent or return the bike. Therefore, it is possible to just bike for only dozens of minutes or several hours. Just decide the biking distance according to your own physical condition or travel time.

Self-driving

Ticket: CNY 75/person

Travelers who want to avoid the crowds may be interested in traveling by car. There are three gates to enter the scenic area, including East Gate, South Gate and North Gate. Private cars can only enter the scenic area via East Gate or North Gate. If you drive in Sayram Lake Scenic Area, you also need to park your car in the appointed parks. And sometimes self-driving might be forbidden due to the extreme weather (such as heavy rain, heavy snow, hailstone, etc.) or traffic congestion (in the peak season).

Sayram Scenic Area Map Click to enlarge Sayram Lake Scenic Area Map
Sayram Lake Speed Boat in Summer ©slmhjq

How to Get to Sayram Lake

Where is Sayram Lake

Sayram Lake is located in Bole City, Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture(博尔塔拉蒙古自治州博乐市), it is

  • 100 km (about 2 hours’ drive) from Bole City;
  • 165 km (about 3 hours’ drive) away from Yining City;
  • 560 km (about 6.5 hours’ drive) away from Urumqi City.

Many travelers visit Sailimu Lake from Yining City (seat of Ili) or Bole City (steat of Bortala) first and transfer to Sayram Lake.

Yining City to Sayram Lake Travel

Get to Yining First: You can take a provincial flight to Yining Airport (伊宁机场, IATA: YIN, ICAO: ZWYN) from Xian (about 4 hours), Chengdu (about 4 hours), Nanjing (about 6.5 hours), Urumqi (about 1 hour), Karamay (about 1 hour), Kanas (about 1 hour), Kuche (about 1 hour), Aksu (about 1 hour), etc., or take a high speed train (about 6 hours) from Urumqi, or normal train from Hotan, Kashgar, Aksu, Korla, Turpan and some other cities in Xinjiang.

Yining City to Sayram Lake: There are regular long-distance buses running from Yining City to Sayram Lake and the whole trip takes about 3.5 hours.

Bole City to Sayram Lake

Get to Bole City First: It is available to take a flight to Bole Alashankou Airport (博乐阿拉山口机场, IATA: BPL, ICAO: ZWBL) from Xian (about 4 hours), Wuhan (about 5 hours), Urumqi (about 1 hour), Korla (about 1 hour), Kashgar (about 2 hours), Aksu (about 40 minutes), etc. There are also several daily high speed trains running to Boertala Railway Station from Urumqi and the whole trip takes about 4 hours.

Bole to Sayram Lake: Travelers can take a regular tourist bus to the East Gate of Sayram Lake from Boertala Railway Station in Bole City as well. Some travelers book a bus from Bole City to Yining and then take off in Songshutou - the South Gate of the scenic area.

Worry-free Transfer with China Discovery

Xinjiang is the largest province in China. Just like many other attractions in Xinjiang, Sayram Lake is not convenient in public transportation. It is highly recommended to find a reliable travel agency such as China Discovery to help with the transfer. Actually, if you book a private tour package with us, the sightseeing, dining, accommodation and transfer will all be covered. Our local tour guide and driver will escort you to Sayram Lake with speed and convenience, and take care of all the details. You just need to focus on sightseeing. Contact us to customize a worry-free tour package now!

Sayram Lake Weather and Best Time to Visit

Just like many other areas in Xinjiang, Sayram Lake belongs to a temperate continental climate with long cold period, short hot period, long sunlight hours and big temperature gap between day and night. Sayram Lake is open to tourist all year round and it offers quite different sceneries in different seasons. No matter it is blanketed in snow, or covered with multi-colored flowers or decked out in autumn colors, Sayram Lake is a special place to visit. But if you want to enjoy the most comfortable climate, we suggest you visit Sayram Lake in May ~ early October.

Spring (March ~ May): The average temperature of spring is about 7°C. In the late spring, it is still a little cold and the temperature rises gradually in the middle and late spring. Snowscape can be still enjoyed in March and April. In May, the snow and ice have not been completely melted, but the grass and flowers have already break through the soil.

Summer (June ~ August): The temperature is much higher in summer, but it is never too hot in Sayram Lake. The average temperature is about 22°C and the highest temperature reaches about 31°C. It is the peak season to enjoy Sayram Lake and almost all the top ten scenes are shown in summer. If you want to capture the best view of Sayram (like blue lake, endless grassland, wild flowers, flocks and herds…), just visit in summer.

Autumn (September ~ November): Autumn view is not the biggest highlight of Sayram, but it is worthwhile to visit Sayram Lake in autumn as well, especially in September and early October when the weather is still comfortable. The grassland turns into a golden blanket with some scattered wild flowers. In November, it will be quite cold and remember to always keep warm.

Winter (December ~ next January): Winter is the coldest season and the tourist off-season of Sayram Lake. The average temperature of winter is about -17°C and the lowest temperature is -26°C. In winter, visiting Sayram Lake throws you into a world of ice and snow. The lake usually freezes in late December and the ice can be 1 or 2 meters deep.

Sayram Lake Sayram Lake in Summer ©slmhjq
Sayram Lake Sayram Lake in Autumn ©slmhjq
Sayram Lake Sayram Lake in Winter ©slmhjq

Where to Stay in Your Sayram Lake Travel

During your Sayram Lake travel, you get a lot of choices. For travelers want a quick access to the scenic area, you can accommodate in Sayram Lake Scenic Area and get a quick access to enjoy the breathtaking sunrise and sunset over the Lake.

Qinshui Beach RV Campground: There are about 30 recreational vehicles with bathing room, fridge, television, heaters, etc. in different scale for tourists. It is also a nice choice to accommodate in the Stary Sky RV which is equipped with panoramic sunroof for star appreciation.

Hotels in East Gate Service Camp: There are available hotels in East Gate Service Camp as well. On summer nights, you can also watch a large musical fountain show. Remember to be an early bird to book the hotel, especially in the peak seasons.

If you have a higher demand on accommodating conditions, you can stay in Yining City or Bole before and after your Sayram Lake Visit. A few travelers drive about 20 minutes to the resorts near Gouzigou Bridge for accommodation because of the wonderful sight of this magnificent bridge.

Sayram Lake RV Campground ©暗涌/douban

Nearby Attraction – Guozigou Bridge (果子沟大桥)

Just located about several kilometers away from South Gate of Sayram Lake, Guozigou Bridge (also spelled as Talki Bridge) is an attractive bridge that you can’t miss if you visit Sayram Lake. As Xinjiang’s first cable stayed and highest bridge, it enjoys the features of new technology, new construction and new equipment. Guozigou Valley Bridge was opened in 2011 and makes driving from Urumqi to Ili much more efficient. The bridge body construction is integrated with the beauty of Guozigou (Guozi Valley), which adds another beautiful scenery line to Guozigou National Scenic Area. This modern wonder in the primitive valley has attracted numerous architects, tourists and photographers. Many photographers use the unmanned aerial vehicle to catch the best landscape of Guozigou Bridge.

Sayram Lake Guozigou Bridge ©陈巍伟/mafengwo

Warm Tips for Sayram Lake Travel

1. High Altitude Sickness: The altitude of Sayram Lake is about 2,071 meters, and few travelers get a serious high altitude sickness during their Sayram Lake trip. If it's your first time to high plateau, it is necessary to keep a relaxing mood and avoid strong activities during your trip.

2. Service Time: In special periods like tourist low season or Covid-19 outbreaks, some service and facilities may not be available, such as sightseeing car, hotels, restaurants, bike rental shops, etc. So you need to bring enough food and water.

3. Wearing and Packing: Due to the temperature difference, it might be rather cool at night. Remember to bring an extra coat even in summer. It is also important to prepare sun blocks, glasses, or hats to protect your skin from the strong sunlight.

4. Featured Activities: If you travel with kids, there are many other interesting activities to join, including go-karting (CNY 30/5 minutes) in Moon Bay and Rainbow Sliding (CNY 30/time) in North Gate.

How to Plan A Xinjiang Tour

How to Get to Xinjiang: Urumqi is the transfer hub of Xinjiang, and it receives flights from Beijing (4h), Shanghai (5h), Xian (4h), Chengdu (4h), Chongqing (4h), Changsha (4.5h), Xining (2.5h), Dalian (4h), Guangzhou (4.5h), Lanzhou (2.5h), Yinchuan (3h), etc., as well as high speed trains from Xian (13.5h), Lanzhou(10.5h), Xining (9.5h), Zhangye (7.5h), Jiayuguan (6h), Dunhuang (4h), etc.

Best Time to Visit Xinjiang: It is available to visit Xinjiang all year round, but May ~ October is the best time for the most comfortable weather and most beautiful scenery

A longer Xinjiang trip is more recommended and worthwhile because of its large scale. Most travelers start a Xinjiang tour from Urumqi – the tourist distribution center equipped with convenient airlines. Some travelers also unveil a Xining experience from Kashgar – the transfer hub in southern Xinjiang.

A classic Xinjiang tour takes 6 ~ 8 days, including 2~3 days in Urumqi (Xinjiang Regional Museum, Nanshan Passture) and Heavenly Lake, 1~2 days in Turpan (Jiaohe Ancient City, Karez System, Bezeklik Thousand Buddhas… ), and 3 ~ 4 days in Kashgar (Kashgar Old City, Karakul Lake, Tashkurgan Fort…). Don’t miss Kanas - the God’s private garden, and it takes at least 3 full days to enjoy its beautiful lakes, bays, forests, rivers and villages.

☛ 6 Days Urumqi Turpan Kashgar Efficient Tour
☛ 8 Days Xinjiang Classic Tour (Urumqi - Turpan - Kashgar)
☛ 9 Days Kanas Lake Fairyland Tour from Urumqi

Many travelers prefer a Silk Road tour involving Gansu and Xinjiang discovery together. It needs about 2~3 days to explore Dunhuang highlights, 2~3 days to visit Zhangye essences and 1~2 days to enjoy Jiayugan landmarks. It is also recommended to spend 1 ~2 days visiting Xining and Qinghai Lake.

☛ 10 Days Classic China Silk Road In-depth Tour (Xian – Dunhuang – Turpan – Urumqi - Kashgar)
☛ 411 Days In-depth Wild Silk Road Adventure Tour (Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang - Turpan - Urumqi - Kashgar)

In fact, the Silk Road broke into three routes in Xinjiang, and they passed through many cities in Xinjiang. For adventurous travelers looking for something different along the glorious road, just spend about 2 weeks visiting legendary Turpan, Korla, Kuqa, Kashgar, Tashkurgan, etc.

☛ 13 Days In-depth Xinjiang Silk Road Adventure Tour (Urumqi - Turpan - Korla - Kuqa - Takilamakan Desert - Minfeng - Hongtan - Kashgar - Tashkurgan)
☛ 6 Days Qinghai Lake Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains Tour (Xining - Qinghai Lake - Chaka Lake - Zhangye)
☛ 9 Days Taklamakan Desert Ancient Silk Road Tour (Kashgar - Karakul Lake - Hotan - Ala'er - Kucha - Urumqi)

Many travelers visit Xinjiang for the extraordinary scenic beauty. It is easy to find some places to envelop yourself in nature or capture some excellent photography, such as grasslands, lakes, villages, and some other geographical wonders in 1 ~ 2 weeks.

☛ 10 Days Stunning Ili Apricot Blossom and Naraty Grassland Tour (Urumqi - Sayram Lake - Qingyuan - Naraty - Kuitun - Urumqi)
☛ 11 Days Best Xinjiang Landscape Tour (Urumqi - Burqin - Kanas - Karamy - Sayram Lake - Karajun Grassland - Kuitun - Urumqi)

Five Colors Beach Florian Visited Five Colors Beach Shared with China Discovery Matisi Temple Mrs. Chan's group visited Matisi Temple with China Discovery Heavenly Lake of Tianshan Kucha Palace © 在路上... / mafengwo Taklamakan Desert Scenery Taklamakan Desert Scenery © 托尼star / mafengwo

Recommended Ili Tours

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

Kanas Tour
8 Days Kanas Photography Tour

Urumqi / Hemu / Kanas / Burqin / Fuyu / Urumqi

Local old men in Kuqa Old City
13 Days In-depth Xinjiang Silk Road Adventure Tour

Urumqi / Turpan / Korla / Kuqa / Taklimakan Desert / Minfeng / Hongtan / Kashgar / Tashkurgan

Morning mist in Hemu Village in Autumn
9 Days Kanas Lake Fairyland Tour from Urumqi

Urumqi - Wu'erhe - Kanas - Burqin - Urumqi - Turpan - Urumqi

Start planning your tailor-made holiday to China by contacting one of our specialists. Once inquired, you’ll get a response within 0.5~23.5 hours.

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