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South Pasture

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Jan. 15, 2021


It is a large natural area and pasture region with many streams and a waterfall on Nan Shan in the Kelawucheng Mountain range about two hours south of Urumqi.


If you like nature and ethnic culture, the South Pasture on Nan Shan in the Kelawucheng Mountain range has both. It is a mountain region about 70 kilometers or 40 miles south of Urumqi that is kind of like Colorado high-mountain grassland, but greener, and there are evergreens. It is about two hours away from Urumqi, and people like to go there in the hot summers. There Kazaks continue to herd sheep, cattle and horses like their ancestors in a landscape of snow-covered peaks and emerald-green grasslands. The Kazakhs will guide you on tours on their horses, and you can have exotic meals and stay in their yurts inexpensively. A highlight in the South Pasture area is a glacier in the higher elevations of Nan Shan that is called Number One Glacier that you can travel to see by automobile. In the South Pasture area, you can see great mountain scenery, hike and ride horses, experience some of the Kazakh way of life, and dine and stay in a yurt relatively cheaply not far from Urumqi.


Nanshan pasture
  • Sort of like highland Colorado pasture area and evergreen woods.
  • Kazakhs.
  • Economical accommodations in yurts and ethnic Kazakh meals.
  • There is high glacier on Nan Shan that you can ride up to go to see.
  • Many streams and a waterfall.
  • Enjoy hiking and horseback riding.
  • Enjoy the high-protein, meaty Kazakh food.
  • Close to the attractions in Urumqi, the Heavenly Lake, and a new luxury ski resort called Ping Tian Resort.

The People

Kazakh people were nomadic, tribal shepherds and ranchers of cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. Now a lot of the 1.5 million Kazakhs who live in Xinjiang work in the cities or in agriculture. But in the mountains and the mountain valleys, the streams water the cattle, and the green grass is their food. So there the Kazakhs continue their ancient work, and they get a lot of meat they can serve to their guests. These Kazakhs are generally uneducated and earn money as shepherds and ranchers and by hosting tourists in yurts. They have a high-protein dairy-rich diet and are known for serving big portions of boiled or broiled meat with their hard salty bread that is called nan, their hard sour cheese called irimshiq, noodles and milk tea. An economical alternative to hotels and restaurants in Urumqi are the Kazakh yurts with their ethnic meals. A yurt may seem primitive. It is. When it is cold at night, you may have to burn wood or coal in a stove to stay warm.

Touring Activities

  • Hiking, riding horses and staying in yurts.
  • Enjoy the Kazakh food.
  • Go to the Number 1 Glacier.
  • Learn about Kazakhs.
  • Go to the attractions in the Tian Shan range including the Heavenly Lake and Tian Ping Resort.

Travel Essentials

Nanshan pasture
  • Location: The South Pasture is on Nan Shan in the Kelawucheng Mountain range about 60 or 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of Urumqi. It is about two hours south of Urumqi on a bus.
  • How to go there: During the day2. , buses leave for Nan Shan (南山, there might be a sign saying this) from a bus station south of People's Park (Renmin Gongyuan, 人民公园). The bus trip takes about two hours and costs about 10 or 30 RMB or about 1.5 to 4 USD.
  • Season: It is best to go in the late spring, summer and fall when it isn't freezing.
  • Accommodations: During the summers, there are a lot of economical yurts that cost about 75 RMB or about 11 USD per night. Food is included or costs a dollar or two more. Juhua Tai (菊花台, Chrysanthemum Terrace) has yurts, pastures and flowers.
  • Gear: A number of stores sell outdoor gear, camping supplies (户外用品), and hiking supplies on Renmin Lu, east of Nanmen in Xinjiang.
  • What to bring: Bring a heavy coat for cold nights. It might be a good idea to bring clean sheets or your own sleeping bag.
  • Fee: Going to the South Pasture is free.
  • Glacier: To go to the Number 1 Glacier, ride the Nan Shan bus to Hou Xia (后峡) for about 13 RMB or 1.5 USD, and then hire a driver for about 200 RMB or about 29 or 30 USD. From Hou Xia, the ride takes about an hour, and then there is some hiking on trials to the tongue of the glacier itself.

Nearby Attractions

Nearby in the Tian Shan mountain range, there is a lake called Tianchi (Heavenly Lake) in Tianshan Tianchi National Park that is rapidly being developed. But there is good hiking around the lake and more Kazakh yurts for inexpensive accommodations and meals.

A new luxury ski resort recently opened in the Tian Shan range called Ping Tian Resort. It bills itself as China's first world-class luxury ski resort. It is still under construction. It is being developed by some North Americans who developed some of the famous ski resorts in North America. The ski season runs from late fall to early spring.

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