Located about 68 km east of Urumqi, Tianchi, or Tianchi Lake, Tianshan Tianchi Lake or some people prefer to call it Heavenly Lake of Tianshan Mountains, is one of the landmarks of Xinjiang, a national key scenic sport (AAAAA) and a UNSCO World Natural Heritage property with unique, valuable natural resources and rich, distinctive humanistic connotation.
● Outstanding Natural Landscape: Tianchi Lake Scenic Area owns four vertical natural landscape zones, exhibiting a variety of natural scenery. Visitors can enjoy peaceful mountain lake, snow-covered peaks, alpine meadow, giant glaciers, primitive forests, steep valley, greenish-blue ponds, old trees and many cultural relics and historical sites among them.
● Unique Chinese Cultural Charms: Tianchi Lake of Tianshan Mountains has kept many ancient Taoist architectures and folk stories relate to China’s famous mythology of the Queen Mother of the West. This place still witnessed special Kazak folk culture and other regional ethnic cultures along the ancient Silk Road together with the nomadic history, like the past burial system and rocking painting art. Massive poems, calligraphy and paintings of the celebrities add more aura of Tianchi Lake.
● World Top-Level Natural Values: Between the 5445-meter-high Bogda Peak and the 500-meter desert of the scenic area, a complete geological evolutionary structure formed several billions years ago has been well-preserved as the only example in Central Asia and a rare case in the world. Tianchi Lake with an elevation of 1,910 meters is one of the world’s oldest alpine moraine lakes. Besides, the rock paintings in the Bogda Peak are around 3,000 years old, the volcanic rocks forest in Mount Maya scenic spot is scarce throughout the world and the fossils of the Ankylosaurus and Lystrosaurus have a great scientific value.
Covering an area of 548 square kilometers, the Tianshan Tianchi Lake consists of 8 scenic areas (Tianchi Lake, Denggan Mountain, Mount Maya, Bogda Peak, Baiyanggou, Huaer Ditch, Shuimogou and North Desert), which are subdivided into 15 attraction groups and 38 scenic spots. The essence of the park belongs to the Tianchi Lake-centered 36.52-square-meter core scenic area. Whether you’re planing a trip for sightseeing, or for adventure, leisurely hiking, ethnic culture admiration and scientific expedition, Tianchi Lake of Tianshi Mountains can always impress you in both vision and sense. The Eight Sights of Tianchi Lake are the most-known and best scenery to explore within the park.Tianshan Mountains Tianchi Lake Tourist Map (Click to Enlarge)
Tianchi Lake (Heavenly Lake) 天池 - Seapeack and Morning Glory
Tianchi Lake, located in the central valley of Bogda Peak, is praised as “the Pearl of Tianshan Mountains”. It is the biggest and the most important spot inside the scenic area. It is 3.5 km long and 0.35 to 1.5 km wide, with a maximum depth of 105 m and a large area of 4.9 square kilometers. Natural precipitation and melting glaciers flow through valleys and join with some underground water, forming this radiant lake. Legends say it was the looking glass of Queen Mother of the West, thus, gets its title of “Floating Sky Mirror”. From the viewing platform, you can capture splendid Tianchi Lake like a jade mirror and layered green-covered mountains around and distant Bogda Peak. The color of water in Tianchi Lake changes with the sunlight and weather. Morning sunrise creates the most thaumaturgic views when the snowy peaks, dense forest and lake water display different colors. Dusk is another fantastic moment to shoot the illusive scenery of Tianchi Lake.
You can walk around the lake to feel the serenity and stunning views from different angles and rent a nice Kazak costume near the lake to take some photos. If you like, you can take a cruise to closely see the crystal clean water and see the upright ridges, forests and peaks ashore.
Stone Gate - A Heavenly Gate
The stone gate in 5.9 km north of Tianchi Lake is a mountain pass to Tianchi Lake. Its alitude is about 1,500 meters. Hard rocks have been cut and shaped by the river and formed a deep valley called Stone Valley or Iron Gate Pass. The river roars though the vertical cliffs and the narrow gap looks like a stone gate for entering the heaven.
Dinghaishenzhen - Fixed Sea Spirit Needle
The old elm growing in the north bank of Tianchi Lake is another sightseeing highlight. As the folk story goes, Queen Mother of the West used one of her emerald hairpin to tame the water sprite who raised the devil when the goddess held the Flat Peach Banquet. The hairpin afterwards turned into an elm and safeguard by the Tianchi Lake. The alpine area with an altitude of around 2,000 is unsuitable for elm to grow. But this elm is surprising luxuriantly green and vigorous in both wet and dry seasons, really amazing. No wonder people call it a magic needle that can stabilize the sea.
Feilong Lake (East Small Tianchi Lake) - Hanging Spring & Flying Waterfall
Waters of Tianshi Lake outflows via the northeast outlet, and then a 10,000-square-meter pool - Feilong Lake (飞龙潭) forms on the hillside. The lake sits about 1,875 meters above sea level and its depth is around 6 to 11 meters. In the inlet and outlet, there are magnificent waterfalls drops with ethereal moisture, like a flying white dragon from the sky. People thus call it Bailong (white dragon) Valley. Folklore regards it as the foot basin of Queen Mother of the West and the nest of the black dragon. The aquamarine lake is circled by green picea schrenkiana and wild flowers, quiet and elegant.
Qianlong Lake (West Small Tianchi Lake) - Moon Reflection on Dragon Pool
Qianlong Lake (潜龙渊), converged by the infiltration water of Tianchi Lake, is said to be another foot basin of Queen Mother of the West. It is a sister lake of the Feilong Lake, daughter lake of Tianchi Lake. It’s also called Yunvtan for the clear, jade-like lake seem a fairy, or Qianlong Lake for the story of dragon existence. When taking a tourist shuttle bus from the entrance to Tianchi Lake, you will drive pass by Qianlong Lake. Its elevation is 1,600 meter or so and about 7 to 13 meters deep. Green hills enfold the blue water silently. When night falls, white moon and nearby mountains and woods reflect on the pond, superlative deep and serene, therefore, wining the sight of “Moon Reflection on Dragon Pool”.
Western Mountain - View Picea Schrenkiana in the Western Mountain
The Western Mountain of Tianchi Lake is the best place to appreciate the lush picea schrenkiana forest while the Eastern Mountain is good for watching peaks, the Southern Mountain for snow and the Northern Mountain for dragon. On the slope of the Western Mountain, the spruce trees stand erect, stack up and spread boundless. They carpet the mountains and draw a fabulous painting with the lower gem-like lakes. When heavy snows fall in winter, they maintain their green colors and upright bodies, and present a spectacular forest sea harmoniously beautiful land of pure white. Tale said the trees were the fairy who suffered injustice, so they emit cold air all the time.
Fushou Temple (Tiewa Temple)
Fushou Temple (福寿观), about 700 meters from Tianchi Lake is a Taoist palace originally built in Qing Dynasty (1776 AD). It has been reconstructed to 6240.75 square meters. Current buildings are characterized in Taoist features, including immortal halls, towers and mountain gate and worshiped ancestral statues.
Fairyland Bay in southwest of Tianchi Lake is best site to look the reflection in the lake. Here is considered the bathing pool of Queen Mother of the West and her fairies. Visitors now can see a white marble caved fairy sculpture playing a flute. Immerse yourself in the peace bay and image the moving sound.
Moreover, you can visit Wangmu Temple, Mountain of the Queen Mother of the West and some other cultural sites about her in this zone.
Bogda Peak (elevation: 5,445 meters) is the tallest mountain of the east range of Tianshan Mountains. Its melting glaciers is the source of Tianchi Lake. The peak standing in the center is called Lingfeng (Divine Peak, elevation: 5,287 meter) and the westernmost peak is Shengfeng (Sacred Peak, elevation: 5,213 meters). Locals respect it “the Guardian of Junggar Basin”. The snow-topped peaks sparkle and reflect on the azure Tianchi Lake sketch a stunning vista you can’t help keeping your eyes open, when viewing from the Tianchi Lake at a distance. Except the alpine and subalpine pelouse, there are many well-preserved rock paintings. Different subjects and contents were painted, and wild animals yak, tiger, snow leopard, sheep, horse, deer, ancient figures and dance scenes and unknown symbols are very common elements. It’s interesting to see the ancient traditional paintings and learn their lifestyle and culture.
Denggan Mountain Scenic Area is mainly comprised by Denggan Mountain, Big & Small Pot Pits, Mountain God Temple and so on. Denggan Mountain (elevationL 2,718 meters) is the second-highest peak among all western peaks of Tianchi Lake. It stands about 4 km west of Tianchi Lake and has an elevation. The mountain top has great vision for a panoramic view of Tianchi Lake, Bogda Peak and Urumqi City. According to ancient texts, a Taoist set a pine stick and hung red lanterns to pray peace and happiness. Afterwards, the mountain was named after its light role. Three giant stalagmites standing at the summit is reputedly split up by Queen Mother of the West to support the falling Western Heaven. Three Sky-Touching Rocks are one of the Eight Tianchi Lake Sights.
Mount Maya (elevation: about 3,056 meters) in southwest bank of Tianchi Lake is the highest mountain among all the peaks wrapping around Tianchi Lake. Seen from afar, the mountain looks very like the horse’s teeth. In the north hillside, there are many columnar effusive rocks eroded by wind and water into a grotesque rock forest. A zigzag wooden walking trail goes through it and offers you a great chance to closely observe amazing landform and strange shapes, such as the verisimilar stone dog and fat magnate. During rainy summer, Tipchak grows everywhere on the mountain, so the kazak people call it Mayasan - “Mountain of Thipchak”. After your first ride from the entrance, you need to transfer to another bus and take a cable car up to Mount Maya. From a viewing deck near the upper cable car station, you can catch a wonderful panorama view of surrounding peaks and the lower lake. It takes another hour to reach the top.
Baiyanggou (Aspen Valley) stretches 20 kilometers long and covers an area of 76 square kilometers in the northeast of Tianchi Lake. The area mainly features in extraordinary valley and grassland scenery with lush trees and shrubs. And it’s a representative of the North Tianshan Mountains’ biodiversity. The “V”-shape valley exhibits mixed colors and patterns of the spruces, birth trees and wild mountain plants. It’s a eye-catching natural painting and a paradise to recording the natural colors for photographers. A flower base in Baiyanggou plants the mysterious and legendary snow lotus (Yacon).
Huaer Ditch (Flower Valley), about 9 km north of Stone Gate, is an undeveloped and unopened scenic area of Tianchi Lake. It is named after the diverse flowers in this area and owns rare rock stratum of ankylosaur (Dragon Star of Tianchi Lake), stone animals and many other strange masterpiece of nature.
Shuimogou (Levigation Ditch) lies in the south of Fukang City, west of Sankong River and extends north-south for 40 kilometers. Springs in the valley fertilizes lush vegetation from the bottom to the high mountain. The Duopozigou Alpine Grassland is a good place for summer holiday for it has fresh hillside meadow and well-laid valley forests. Exposed orange oil in the Laoxia (Old Valley) and the colorful rainbow mountains inside are quite impressive and unique. The 6-kilometer-long Lugu (Road Valley) used to be a lumbering way but today is a path to Mount Maya and Denggan Mountain with lavish primitive forest by sides.
The Northern Desert Scenic Area in the north of Fukang City is an enclave spot of the Tianshi Lake. Visitors seldom visit here as it’s isolated from the main scenic areas of Tianchi Lake. Instead of green mountains and many lakes, this places has another different landscape, tough and dry, with desert, gobi, Yardang landform, marine fossils and an ancient Tang Dynasty Road - a must pass of the Northern Silk Road where keeps a few ancient city ruins, beacon towers, etc.
Tianchi Lake is located about 11 km southeast of Fukang City and 68 km northeast of Urumqi. Usually, travelers get to Tianchi Lake from Urumqi. There are two ways available.
By Private Drive: It’s the most efficient and convenient way to visit Tianchi Lake. If you travel with China Discovery, we can pick you up at the airport, train station and your hotel in downtown Urumqi, and then take you to Tianchi Lake directly. The drive takes about 1 hour. The road condition is good, and our transfer is by a clean, comfortable, safe, licensed and no-smoking private car.
By Bus: Urumqi Beijiao Bus Station (乌鲁木齐北郊客运站) and Urumqi Bayi Jungong Bus Station Tourist Distribution Center (乌鲁木齐八一军供客运站旅游集散中心), Urumqi Nanjiao Bus Station (乌鲁木齐南郊客运站) and Urumqi Gaotie International Bus Station (乌鲁木齐高铁国际汽车客运站) run direct buses to Tianchi Lake daily. The bus takes about 1.5-2 hours. Hongshan South Airlines Pearl Hotel in central Urumqi also has non-stop buses to Tianchi Lake.
Buses depart from the above stations at 09:30 am and 10:30 am each day and retun back to Urumqi between 17:30 and 18:30 in the afternoon.
Travelers, whether taking the private car or bus, will all get off at the entrance. The entrance is about 35 km away from Tianchi Lake. With a purchased ticket, you need to pay and take a sightseeing back to enter the scenic area. It’s better to take a seat by the right window, for you can see the Qianlong Lake (West Small Tianchi Lake), a folklore garden and dotted Kazak yurts by the twisting mountain road. An official tour guide will explain the attractions along the drive.
You will get off after 40 minutes’ drive. Then, you can either walk or take a battery chart (RMB 10) to get to the Tianchi Lake. The distance is about 800 meters, within 10 minutes’ walk.
By Walk: There is a well-paved walking path built around the lake, about 12.6 km long, and it will take about 4 to 5 hours to finish one loop. It’s quite meaningful to stroll around to see the beautiful lake and visit nearby sites. Depending on your fitness, you can choose one section or a longer route to walk.
By Cruise Ship (Optional): Taking a cruise ship is a popular way to tour the Tianchi Lake. The ship departs from the wharf in the north bank and drives one circle around the lake. The entire cruise ride takes about 45 minutes. The cruise ride will be suspended during winter when the lake freezes. Cruise price is RMB 100 per person.
By Cable Car (Optional): Cable cars are offered to ascend up to the Mount Maya. The price is RMB 220 per person for the round-trip ride. (Walking takes about 2.5 hours). To reach the summit, you need to hike on a wooden path after debarkation. You can overlook Bogda Peak from the sightseeing platform on the summit.
Heavy snows fall on Tianchi Lake and Tianshan Mountain from November to March of next year. So tourists usually visit Tianchi Lake during April to October when the temperature is moderate and the weather is good. April is still a little bit cold and temperature will rise to fairly comfortable from May. Most places experience hot summer while the Tianchi Lake on Tianshan Mountain has a cool temperature with very beautiful scenery. The prairie during this time is stunning, and you can see magnificent waterfalls and wide-spread colorful wild flowers, and the lake is peaceful and pure, reflecting the shape of snow-capped mountains, with herds of cows and sheep scattering on the prairie eating grass. Summer (June, July and August) is the peak tourist season.
In autumn, forests of Tianchi Lake Scenic Area wear golden coat and shows a multi-colored world. When winter comes, the dominant tone is white for the lake, mountains and trees are all blanketed to be a silver world. It’s a good time to enjoy the snow scenery and enjoy skiing at the international ski resort at the foot of Tianshan Mountain. Besides, from mid-November to the next March, there is Ice and Snow Festival held travelers can attend.
Generally, you can visit Tianchi Lake at any time and the best time is from May to October.
If you like to explore natural scenery and enjoy refreshing air, Nanshan Pasture is a good recommendation. It's very beautiful in summer. Besides, you can check more wonderful natural attractions of Xinjiang and get the best trip experiences with us.
Tourists normally make a day trip to Tiachi Lake and drive back to Urumqi for accommodation for the downtown area has various hotels and hostels at different prices. It’s also convenient to transfer from Urumqi city center to the airport and train station to catch a flight or train to an onward destination.
▶ Places to Stay in Urumqi & Recommended Hotels
If you want to spend one more day exploring the Tianchi Lake Scenic Area, there are two kinds of accommodation choices. One is the distinct Kazak yurts in the Kazak Folklore Garden inside the scenic area. Lodging in a yurt, you can not only taste authentic Xinjiang cuisine but also can listen to dombra performance by Kazak people. One yurt can accommodate several people and the room facilities is simple and basic without private bathroom. (The yurts are open in summer and autumn only.) Another option is the Wujiang Tianshan Hot Spring Holiday Hotel (五江天山温泉度假酒店) located merely 200 meters north of the ticket office. The hotel offers fine facilities, clean and comfortable room, hot spring and various entertainments, such as cinema, children’s playground, fitness center, etc. The price is a little higher than that in Urumqi; however, you can enjoy good service with great views.
There are restaurants near the ticket office and tourist center, selling classic Xinjiang dishes and snacks. Also, you can buy food and drinks from stores by the Tianchi Lake. You can prepare some food and things to eat in Urumqi, as you have more choices and usually cheaper than inside the scenic area.
1. Visitors need to make online preservation ahead and enter with valid identification before the scheduled time.
2. Lighters and smoking are not allowed.
3. Respect the wild animals and no approaching, feeding and disturbing and buying any related samples and products.
4. Protect the natural environment, walk on tourist paths, not to pick flowers and grass.
5. Collect and take away your own garbage.
6. Speak in a soft voice, create a quiet nature for other visitors and animals.
7. Respect the local ethnic culture and customs.
8. Wear comfortable shoes (flats), bring warm clothes, sunblock and some food.
How to Get to Urumqi: Fly to Urumqi from Beijing (4-4.5hrs), Shanghai (5.5hrs), Guangzhou (5hrs), Shenzhen (5.5hrs), Xian (3.5hrs)..., or take a high speed bullet train from Dunhuang (4hrs), Zhangye (7-7.5hrs), Turpan (1hr), etc.
Best Time to Visit Urumqi: May to October when the temperature is comfortable and the seasonal scenery is very beautiful.
Top Places to Visit Urumqi: Tianchi (Heavenly Lake) of Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar, Xinjiang Regional Museum, Red Hill Park, Nanshan Pasture.
Most travelers start a Xinjiang tour from Urumqi and take Urumqi as the transfer center of visiting the Northern Xinjiang. Usually, tourists spend one day exploring Urumqi’s highlights in the down area, including the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar, Red Hill Park and Xinjiang Regional Museum. Making a day trip to Tianchi Lake is a popular itinerary if you won’t visit Kanas. Nanshan Pasture is a good summer resort worthy of your visit if you happen to visit Urumqi in summer.
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Xinjiang is vast and beautiful. The Northern Xinjiang is most known for the natural beauty while the Southern Xinjiang is characterized rich cultural and historical treasures. Depending on your time and personal interests, you can extend trip to more destinations, such as the Turpan, fairyland Kanas Lake and Hemu Village in Altay, incredibly beautiful Sayram Lake, Wu’erhe Ghost City in Karamay, Ili (Kalajun Grassland, Narati Grassland, Guozigou...) in Northern Xinjiang, and travel further to the Southern Xinjiang’s Kashgar and vicinal Tashkurgan, Taklamakan Desert, Bosten Lake, Tomor Peak, Kuqa, Khotan, etc. You can pick up some highlighting places for a week's travel or haven an in-depth discovery for up to one month.
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