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Natural Attractions / Trip Ideas

Tianshan Grand Canyon

By Wei Jia

May 11

The majestic Tianshan Grand Canyon in Urumqi County in Xinjiang, located in northwest China is best known for its diverse geology, pristine spruce forests and ethnic Kazak culture.

The majestic Tianshan Grand Canyon in Urumqi County in Xinjiang, located in northwest China is best known for its diverse geology, pristine spruce forests and ethnic Kazak culture.

Located in the middle section of the Tianshan Mountains (literally “Sky Mountains”), the Tianshan Grand Canyon scenic area covers 1,038km2 of pure wonder and vitality. With an average altitude of 2,020 meters, the area is home to all kinds of geological vistas in Xinjiang, with the sole exception of a desert. If you are looking to take in rolling ageless forests, lush valleys, sweeping grasslands and imposing mountains chiseled by geological movement over millennia in one trip, the Tianshan Grand Canyon is the perfect choice. Did I mention snow mountains and glaciers? They are part of the generous package as well.

Tianshan Grand Canyon [Image Credit: VCG]
 Spruce trees growing in the canyon, called Picea schrenkiana but whose Chinese name translates much more into a much more romantic translation of “cloudlike spruce on a snowy ridge,” form the world’s largest and best preserved forest of its kind.

The thriving trees are not the only beneficiary of the canyon’s bountifulness. The snow mountains and glaciers there also nourish more than 1,000 kinds of trees, 181 kinds of vertebrates and 668 kinds of insects that enliven the far-flung rocky, woody region.

Among the animals roaming and hovering above the canyon are snow leopards, antelopes, deer, brown bears, golden eagles, vultures and black cranes. If you are into wildlife photography, or just feel exited about spotting animals in breathtaking natural surroundings, put Tianshan Grand Canyon on the top of your travel list.

Tianshan Grand Canyon [Image Credit: VCG]
 Human life is not missing from this lively chorus. The nomadic Kazak have been living in the canyon for generations, and keeping their traditions intact through the years. You can try your hand at archery or listen to Kazak folksongs, and what better way to get in touch with your wild side than to climb onto the back of a horse and ride the galloping equine on grassland far away from civilization?

The canyon is 48 km from the nearest town and allows driving tours. For the more outdoorsy types, it’s a great place for hiking over diverse terrains.

The canyon is rated a 5A scenic area, the highest in China, which means adequate facilities and service to make your visit worry-free and safe.

Time to visit: all year round. Summer is the preferable season because of the cool weather in the canyon.

Entry: 75 yuan/person

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