Kanas Lake is one of the most impressive sights in the North Xinjiang Region. It is located in one of the most remote border areas, where China converges with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. The lake stretches among the dense forest of the Altai Mountains, 180 kilometers north of Bu’erjin Town.
The finger-shaped lake covers 45 square kilometers and has an average depth of 120 meters, making it the deepest fresh water lake in China. During most of the year, the water in the lake remains a dazzling turquoise, and its color changes according to the season and the weather conditions. In May, the water is caesious from the melting snow of the surrounding peaks; in July, the water turns an aquamarine blue; in August, the water change to a dark green; and from September to May, the water is dazzling turquoise.
The mountains surrounding the lake are covered with dense alpine forests filled with spruce, birch, elm, and Siberian larch. This is the only area where Siberian species animals and plants can be found in China. In the Fall, the forests provide a vivid backdrop of colors, an unspoiled dazzlingly beauty rarely found throughout the rest of China.
The area around Kanas Lake offers a couple of refreshing hiking routes. The most popular trip is to Guangyu Pavilion (Guangyu Ting), where you can enjoy a bird-eye's view of the lake, the snow-capped friendship Peak, and nearby grasslands.
In the valley two to three kilometers south to Kanas Lake is a village of the Tuwan tribe. Tuwa is a branch of the Mongolian ethnic group. Believers of Lamaism, they live in their traditional houses and practice their centuries-old traditions. If you are interested in local culture, you can visit the village or even stay with hospitable families. But prepared for the accommodations in the village, which are primitive. The village is on the way from Bu’erjin to Kanas National Reserve.
The Kanas Airport is located at the southern edge of the Kanas National Reserve and 50 kilometers from Kanas Lake. There is one flight from Urumqi and Kanas Airport every day during the peak travel season (from June to August). Special buses serve passengers from the airport to the lake area. Travel from the airport to Kanas National Reserve takes around one hour.
Direct flights from Urumqi to Kanas Airport are unreliable during the low season. A more reliable option is to first take a flight from Urumqi to Altai (one hour), a bus from Altai to Bu’erjin (1.5 hours), and then take a bus from Bu’erjin to Kanas Lake.
Two sleep buses go from Urumqi Nianzigou Bus Station to Bu’erjin every day. Travel from Urumqi to Bu'erjin takes about nine hours.
During the peak season (July and August), tourist buses head to the lake from Bu'erjin Bus Station; however, they are irregular and unreliable because most tourists come here with tour groups from Urumqi. The best way to travel is to hire a taxi for the 170 km (four hour) trip.
The average annual temperature in Kanas Lake is very low - only 4 degrees C (39.2 degrees F). The coldest month is January, with an average temperature of -24 degrees C (-11 degrees F). The hottest month, July, has an average temperature of only 18.8 degrees C (65.8 degrees F). The temperature differs greatly between daytime and nighttime, therefore layered clothing, with a good coat or an insulated jacket, is highly advisable.
The best time of year to visit Kanas is in May and in September. In May, the meadows surrounding the lake are ablaze, creating a multi-colored carpet of flowers that provides a vivid contrast to the dark green of the tree-clad mountains. In September, the changing hues of the birch trees, especially the bright yellows, mingle with the dark greens of the spruce and other evergreen trees, creating a colorful foreground to the snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. The result is almost surrealistic, so picture-postcard-perfect is the view of this unique landscape at this time of year.
The food served both inside and outside the reserve is very expensive. For example, a simple soup with shredded meat costs more than 100 yuan. Local specialties include fish dishes from the lake.
Accommodations in and around Kanas Lake are relatively simple. There are no rated hotels around the reserve. A better option is to stay at Bu’erjin, which is 180 kilometers from the reserve.
A few comfortable hotels operate within the reserve. The advantage of staying in the nature reserve is that it is convenient for travelers who want to watch
the morning fog rise from the lake; however, hotels within the lake area are naturally far more expensive than those of the same standard outside. The average cost of a double room is around 1000 yuan.
Huaihu Shan Zhuang
Huaihu Shan Zhuang is one of the most comfortable hotels in the lake park. A plank road from the hotel to the center of the lake allows travelers to enjoy the lake scenery and fishing. Rooms are very limited and the hotel is always overbooked. The hotel looks very old and does not serve a Western breakfast.
Jiadengyu is 30 kilometers from Kanas Lake, and is the major service area for the lake. There are many hotels in Jiadengyu.
China Highlights can help you customize a tour to Kanas.
Tour features: To enjoy the stunning natural beauty of Kanas Lake, and to discover the old local culture.