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Kanas - see rugged highlands, glaciers

Updated: 2012-09-29 13:45
By Wang Kaihao (China Daily)

Kanas - see rugged highlands, glaciers

The mirror-like, 188.5-m deep Kanas Lake which has its own Loch Ness-like legend, is one of the most popular scenic attractions in Xinjiang. Chen Liang/For China Daily

If you like horseback riding and photography, this is the place to go to. Kanas, a nature reserve and geological park, is part of the Altay Mountains in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, also known as the China Alps.

This highland region boasts a diversity of plants and protected animals living in areas ranging from glaciers and snowfields to rivers and grassland. It is also dotted by pockets of civilization represented by pretty yurts or villages inhabited by various ethnic groups.

Local Kazak horses are known for their pleasant personalities and gentle dispositions. Take a ride out to Kanas Lake, more than 180 meters deep and believed to be home to a cousin of the Loch Ness monster. But if you look up, you will see more familiar creatures, such as majestic condors soaring above to the mountains that average about 1,500 meters above sea level.

Even an aimless amble through the alpine meadows full of wildflowers is to experience a freedom seldom known by city folks. When you get hungry from all that activity, there is always a mug of savory milk tea waiting, or a bubbling cauldron of mutton soup.

Autumn is one of the best times to go, while winter will sheath the land in a pristine blanket of snow.

If you go

It takes about 12 hours to drive from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. There are several resorts and hotels around the lake, but some may close when the peak season ends after the National Day Golden Week and will reopen only in May. Visitors can also choose to stay in youth hostels costing about 300 yuan ($47) a night. It may snow and the weather in Kanas can get very cold after October.

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