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Natural Attractions / Trip Ideas

Mirror of the sky: 5 amazing salt lakes in China

By Minjun Xu

August 23

Sometimes they appear like giant expanses of mirror, making it hard to tell where the sky ends and the ground begins.

Sometimes they appear like giant expanses of mirror, making it hard to tell where the sky ends and the ground begins.

Commonly seen in dry areas, salt lakes have high concentrations of salt and other minerals, which make their water appear in sky-like colors. Here are some in northwest China for you to explore.

1. Chaka Salt Lake 茶卡盐湖

Chaka Salt Lake [Image Credit: news.cn]
Chaka Salt Lake [Image Credit: news.cn]
Despite being the smallest of the Qaidam Basin’s four salt lakes, Chaka Salt Lake in Qinghai Province is the most famous one in China. With snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, Chaka Salt Lake takes on an outer-worldly feel. You can take a train tour and enjoy the sunrise and sunset there.

Entry: 50 yuan/person

Opening hours: 7:00 a.m.- 6:30 p.m.

2. Chaerhan Salt Lake 察尔汗盐湖

Chaerhan Salt Lake [Image Credit: qhnews.com]
Chaerhan Salt Lake [Image Credit: qhnews.com]
Chaerhan Salt Lake, also in the Qaidam Basin, is the largest salt lake in China. Varying brine concentrations make salt bloom in odd shapes that resemble karst formations. You can even drive a car on a 32km salt bridge.

Entry: free

Opening hours: 09:00 a.m. – 05:00 p.m.

3. Lop Nur Salt Lake 罗布泊盐湖

201681591837_158878_1357638
Lop Nur Salt Lake [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Qi Jun]
In southeast Xinjiang, Lop Nur was the second largest salt lake in China in the 1970s before it dried up. Lop Nur’s coral-shaped salt crystals make it seem like an ocean bed.

Note: It is currently closed to visitors.

4. Eji Nur Salt Lake 额吉淖尔盐湖

Eji Nur Salt Lake [Image Credit: chinaso.com]
Eji Nur Salt Lake [Image Credit: chinaso.com]
Legend says Eji Nur Salt Lake in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region possesses inexhaustible salt deposits that can be used by the locals indefinitely, so it was named Eji Nur, meaning “mother lake” in Mongolian. Eji Nur is famous for its massive halite production, which both a food condiment and common ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.

Entry: free

Best time to visit: early spring

5. Balikun Salt Lake 巴里坤盐湖

Balikun Salt Lake [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Sun Jihu]
Balikun Salt Lake [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Sun Jihu]
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and a vast expanse of grassland, Balikun County in eastern Xinjiang is home to a number of Kazak ethnic groups. It is also the home of Balikun Salt Lake. In summer, ride a bike around the lake to witness the area’s picturesque scenery and unique ethnic customs.

Entry: free

Best time to visit: May to Oct.

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