Global Mark : 13.50
Ratings by criteria :
Ratings by backpackers :
Comments : This is a popular tourist destination so you might only
enjoy it without the crowd : in the morning and after 5pm
What to do : Forget you are in China / Breath fresh air / Watch eagles / Dream by the lake / Drink water from the lake and see what happens the next day / Walk toward the East lake and its waterfall (see below) / Congratulate the orange cleaners for their good job / Do expensive horse rides (around 20Y an hour) or boat trip (20Y for 20mn) / Stay in traditional Kazakhs tents
What you may not like : Not being alone / The harassment by some Kazakhs people for tents or horses / Some very ugly buildings / The concrete road on the right of the lake that allow cars to disturb your contemplation / The lack of path around the lake / Stinking after a few days as shower are unknown in this part of the world / The bad quality price of most of the rooms and restaurants
How long ? one night at least to really relax without the crowd...
Touts will wait for you at the door of your bus to propose you two options : a "normal" basic room or an all inclusive-stay in a traditional tent. The later should cost from around 40Y per person with 3 meals or 20Y without meals if you follow Rashit to his family tent up to 150Y for the whole tent in some places if you are alone (bargain hard). If you choose the tent option, make sure that it is in a pleasant environment as some camping grounds are quite busy and dirty. This might however force you to walk a bit so it might be a good option to leave your bag in Urumqi...
On the contrary, Tianchi would be an excellent place to test your camping equipment...
For rooms, the cheapest option is where the big bus stop, a bit up on a hill : 20Y per bed in a 4 bed's rooms or 40Y in a double in an ugly and noisy prefabricated building. The staff here is a bit confused about the price policy and prices (as well as smiles) vary according to what person you talk to (the younger the person, the cheapest and nicest). Like everywhere else, there is no shower facilities. On the good part, the view is great and it is very central.
On the west side of the lake, next to the parking, the former Xinjiang Tianchi Guesthouse (now called Yi Song Yuan) should offer rooms and dorm beds at a rate that was not yet decided when we visited. It is not a very nice area but is conveniently located.
More classy and expensive, the Heaven Lake Hotel (0994 325 1007), 20mn walk on the west side of the lake or an expensive boat trip away, offer original little places from 120Y for a nicely decorated dbl to 2000Y for a small house with karaoke and mahjong table but no shower or toilets (rich Chinese tourists have their priorities...)
Other places were being constructed so the choice will hopefully get better... to the detriment of the view !
This is a popular walk with the tourists so you might prefer to do it in the morning or late afternoon. From the parking, walk east (left looking at the lake) up the hills and then follow the small path down. On the way, you will pass a small guesthouse (Shui Jin Long Gong) that offers dorm bed for 30Y in a very small 4 bed's room (a bad deal at this rate). Once at the East Lake, go up the stairs to a viewing point, from which a path will lead you down to the two waterfall viewing points (the second one is the nicest). On the way back, you can take the right fork toward the cable car for a good view of the valley below as well as the West Lake, the main road and new hotels...
There is no daily tour to Urumqi for the Kazakh people so you are allowed to buy a single way ticket. The small buses are the best choice at 15Y but bear in mind that the availability of seats is limited as most of the Chinese tourists go back with the same bus. So arrive early for the usual 5pm departure time... Be also aware that some buses go only to Fukang, 60km from Urumqi. As there are buses every 10mn from Fukang to Urumqi, the driver might not bother telling you not to give him your money...
Our minibus did not take the highway and stopped 15mn before arrival to "rest" (and also maybe to allow the tourists to buy drinks at a "friend" place...) Nevertheless, the ride was fast and the view even nicer around Urumqi than on the way in.