The Kanas Lake (Kanasi Hu), which means "beautiful, rich and mysterious" in Mongolian, can be found 150km north of Bu'erjin Town in Xinjiang. Nestled in the deep forests and mountains of Altay, the lake is 1,374m above sea level and covers an area of 45sqkm (10 times bigger than Tianchi on Bogda Mountain) with the deepest point of 188m.
The long bean-shaped lake reflects the surrounding snowcapped mountains. In autumn, it presents a picturesque landscape of forests in a riot of colors with gold, red, blue and green, which excites your sights and senses.
Embraced by snow-capped mountains, the Kanas Lake area is covered with dense forests and is the only region where animals and plants of South Siberia species can be found in China. Between July and August, the area around Kanas Lake is filled with locals who come for the Nadam Fair. They buy and sell handicrafts and take part in local festival activities including a rather bizarre sport known as Sheep Tussling.
Besides the famous legends about "Kanas Monster", the "Emei Spectacle", that lights up the clouds after a morning rain, adds another air of mystery to the lake. The practices of the Tuwa Tribe and Altai Mountain rock-paintings have been attracting explorers and travelers to this area for decades.
Best time to go
Due to the long winter in the area, Kanas is open for tour only from June to October every year. The best time to visit is from the end of August to Sept.
Monster in the Lake
Legend has it that huge monsters dwell in the lake's depths and they often has dragged horses and camels drinking into the water before swallowing them. It is said that the monster is actually a kind of rare fish named "Hucho taimen" in Chinese, also called "huge red fish", with the longest one measuring up to over 10 meters.
Buddha Halo Shining over Sea of Clouds
After heavy rains in the early morning, one can appreciate the sunrise while standing in the Pavilion for Viewing Fish on the top of a peak. During sunrises, clouds and mist curl high up over the Kanas Lake. Sometimes, one can encounter the great spectacle of Buddha Halo, like that of Emei Mountain, with reflections of the pavilion and human figures in the halo.
Great Spectacle of Color-changing Lake
The Kanas Lake is famous for its changing colors. The color of the water changes several times in a day, from dark green to sky blue, then to gray and white.
Thousand-meter Long Bank with Withered Trees
On the lakeside,there are lots of withered trees with interlocked branches. Carried by strong wind or waves into the lake, these dead trees strangely flow against the current to the lake's north end and pile up in the upper reaches. With the elapse of time, a thousand-meter-long dike of dead trees came into being, forming a rare spectacle.
The Tuwa Tribe
A Mongolian tribe called Tuwa lives on the south bank of the Kanas Lake. Believing in Lamaism, it is a valiant ethic minority with a long history. Tuwa people speak Turkish, resembling the language of Kazakh, and live on hunting and graze. They also have a special folk custom.
Kanasi Lake is 140km from Burqin County and 246km from Altay City. There are flights to Altay City and tourist coaches to Burqin County from Urumqi. You can enter the nature reserve by car or on horseback with local guides.
Step I - Urumqi to Bu'erjin
There is no train from Urumqi to Bu'erjin. The only means of transportation is by coach. Nianzigou Bus Station, 40minutes from Urumqi airport, has daily buses to Bu'erjin. About Y120 for sleeper, 15-16hrs journey.
Step II - Bu'erjin to Kanas, there are 2 options:
East route:Bu'erjin-> Jiadengyu (popular)
West route:Bu'erjin-> Habahe->Baihaba
Jeeps and vans are available for rent, 250-300 yuan per trip to Jiadengyu, you can share with other travelers. If you don't plan to trek, suggest you charter a vehicle for 3 days, which costs around Y1000, varying slightly according to vehicle type and condition.
Buses back to Bu'erjin and Urumqi are available at Shenxianwan Parking Lot in the Kanas Tourist Zone.
Kanas Reserve Admission Fee: 100 yuan
Legions of lodging available in Kanas village. Y20-50/head in a room of 6~12 beds. A lakeside mongolian tent costs around Y350(for 8-10 persons). Hotel std. room is Y200/head. You can also stay in Tuwa Tribe houses, which can be reached after crossing a wooden bridge towards the west check point direction.
Eating in Kanas village is very expensive. Y10 for fast noodle,Y20-25 for a bowl of Mix noodle, Y80-150/dish...
Baihaba and Jiadengyu have cheaper restaurants and lodgings.
Tips & Reminders
Kanas is located along the Chinese border, visitors must have a frontier permit for Burqin County. Permits can be applied for individually or through travel agencies in Urumqi for about 5-10 yuan.
Temperature changes sharply in Kanas from 14-15 in daytime to 4-5 at night. Bring enough warm clothes with you, even in summer.
The main sights of north Xinjiang are scattered in Bu'erjin and Habahe county. We recommend the circle of Bu'erjin-Hemu-Kanas-Baihaba-Habahe-185 Tuanchang-Baishahu-Habahe-Bu'erjin.
3~4days' trekking around the area is the idealest way to witness the beauty and an extraordinary experience practised by all backpackers who travel to Kanas.
The most popuplar trekking route
Jiadengyu->Joint of Kanas River & Hemu River-> Hemu-> Black Lake-> Kanas Lake
D1 Jiadengyu to the Joint of Kanas River & Hemu River, 20KM, 6-8 hours
D2 Joint of Kanas River & Hemu River to Hemu Village, 15KM, 4-6 hours
D3 Hemu Village to Black Lake(Heihu), 20KM, 8-10 hours
D4 Black Lake-> Kanas Lake, 15KM, 4-5 hours
(China.org.cn October 13, 2007)