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Natural Attractions / Trip Ideas

The Kanas National Nature Reserve

By Wei Jia

May 17

The word “Kanas” means “beautiful and mysterious” in Mongolian, and the place certainly lives up to its name.

The word “Kanas” means “beautiful and mysterious” in Mongolian, and the place certainly lives up to its name.

Located in Burqin County in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the Kansas National Nature Reserve, covering 2,210m2, is known for its unspoilt natural ecosystem and accounts for the only Euro-Siberian flora and fauna to be found in China.

The word “Kanas” means “beautiful and mysterious” in Mongolian, and the place certainly lives up to its name.

Surrounded by meandering mountains peppered with tall Siberian trees are 319 lakes of various sizes. The most famous of all the lakes is none other than the Kanas Lake. Sitting 1,374m above sea level, its 45km2 dimension is teeming not only with fishes but also mysteries.

The Kanas National Nature Reserve
The Kanas National Nature Reserve [Image Credit: CIC]
Folk legend and recent eyewitness accounts alleged the existence of a monstrous red fish, believed to be cavorting and churning within the deep water of the lake, while creating a thunderous boom.

Those fishes were also said to devour horses and cattle left carelessly along the shores. Some experts proposed that the red fish is simply the taimen, a huge fish known to be living in the lake, but others are not convinced.

Not that this magnificent lake needs such a legend to enhance its charms. Cradled by soaring mountains, the Kanas Lake gleams with different colors in different seasons. A greenish gray in May due to the infusion of snow water; a light green or deep blue in June as the vegetation around turns green; a creamy green and blue shade in July thanks to the white water that floods in from the White Lake upstream, which is a tourist attraction in its own right. Come August, the rainfall tints the lake and transforms it into a shade of dark green. No wonder the lake was named China’s Most Beautiful Lake by Chinese National Geography.

Boating service is available on the lake, and if you want a panoramic view of the area, there is no better vantage point than the Fish Watching Terrace which is built 600m above the Kanas Lake.

Beyond the lake, the reserve is sprinkled with natural gems such as the Crouching Dragon Bay, where a stream cleaved by a sandbar, and tall trees ashore conjure up a picturesque vista of pristine beauty.

Matching the region’s natural wonder is its ethnic link to one of the greatest rulers in human history. The natives in the area are Tuva Mongol, who are believed to be descendants from the troops of Genghis Khan. The Tuva Mongol of Hemu Village live in frame houses half-buried into the ground to fight winter cold.

The Kanas National Nature Reserve
The Kanas National Nature Reserve [Image Credit: CIC]
Best time to visit:

Winters are harsh, so the best time to see the reserve is from May to October.

How to get there:

The nearest airport is in Altay City 246km from the Kanas Lake. There are coaches that bring you from Altay City to the reserve.

Entrance Fees (for high season from May to October):

285 yuan/person for single entry, 315 yuan/person for double entry

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