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Home Travel in Xinjiang Sayram Lake
Sayram Lake
Travel in Xinjiang

 Sayram Lake
As the largest alpine lake in Xinjiang, Sayram Lake (sài lǐ mù hú 赛里木湖) is a fairyland with wonderful natural scenery. The lake is like a brilliant emerald inlaid in the basin surrounded by Tianshan Mountai (tiān shān 天山). In Mongolian language, the name of the lake means 'a lake on the ridge'. In Kazak, sayram means 'blessing'.

 The lake is 90 kilometers southwest of the Bole City (bó lè shì 博乐市), on the north side of the Urumchi-Yining Road (wū lǔ mù qí -yī lí gōng lù 乌鲁木齐-伊犁公路), and is connected to the Fruit Valley of Yili at Songshutou in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (xīn jiāng wéi wú ěr zì zhì qū 新疆维吾尔自治区). It encompasses an area of 457 square kilometers. The fault basin is at an elevation of 2,073 meters. The lake, about 90 meters deep at the greatest depth, holds 21 billion cubic meters of water.

Location of Sayram Lake About 70 million years ago, during the Himalayas' period of orogenic (mountain-forming)movement, this section of the Tianshan Mountains sank in suddenly and the Sayram Lake, which geologists call the rift-valley lake, came into being.

The lake is a wonderful natural water resource and is surrounded by lush grasslands. Tucked away in the mountains, it's secluded and, on occasions, misty. The surrounding snow-capped peaks and the dragon spruce plants (Picea saperate) on the mountains give a picture postcard feel to the area.

The scenery is quite varied in four seasons. In winter, the cold wind stirs a boundless wave which splashes the bank, and the mist can even hide the snow-capped mountains. In spring, the mountain slope is covered with a green blanket dotted with colored blooming flowers. Summer and autumn are the best seasons to travel to Sayram Lake. The water in the lake is very peaceful, and the lake surface is as smooth as a mirror.

Sayram Lake in WinterThere is a touching love story concerning Sayram Lake. It is said that the lake was made of the tears of a couple of Kazak young lovers. A beautiful girl and a young man were deeply in love. One day, a cruel devil was captivated by the girl's beauty. He captured the girl and confined her to his residence. The girl took a chance to escape, but the devil found out very soon and went after the girl. She was forced to jump into an abyss. Later, her boyfriend heard of this and he was so upset that he jumped into the abyss to be reunited with his lover. Their painful tears flooded into the abyss and formed Sayram Lake.

Literary Praise
Throughout the centuries, poets and writers have used vivid and glowing words to praise Sayram Lake in their poets and literary works.  During the middle period of Qing Dynasty (qīng Sayram Lake at Sunsetcháo 清朝), Ye Honggao (yè hóng gāo 叶洪高) called Sayram Lake a "clear sea". Later, Song Bolu (sòng bó lǔ 宋伯鲁) used verse to describe the natural scenery of the wide and clear Sayram Lake, "The surrounding mounts engulf; the emerald lake wipes the sky clear". Hong Liangji (hóng liàng jí 洪亮吉), another poet from the Qing Dynasty, described Sayram Lake in one of his poems: "a unique place in the West Region, Xanadu on the earth".

Nadam Fair
In July and August, local 'Chahra' Mongolian and Kazakh herdsmen converge onto the pasture to hold a grand festival, known as the Nadam Festival (nà dá mù jiē 那达慕节). Mongolian people celebrate the "Nadam Fair" for six days beside the lake. Nadam means recreation or Nadam Fair games in Mongolian. During the Nadam Fair, competitions are held in horse-racing, wrestling and archery, which are considered the three basic skills of men. Mongolian, Kazak, Han Chinese and people of other ethnic groups in Xinjiang participate in the festival. Mongolian herders from nearby regions attend the fair and dress in traditional ethnic costumes. In addition to the competitions, there is singing, dancing and the age-old competition of "girl-chasing". The Kazak horse back games of "Buz Kashi" and "Girl-Chasing" promise a rich cultural experience of the well-preserved traditions unique to this remarkable region. The fair is great fun for tourists and very entertaining. It is rewarded with lasting impressions of a cultural continuum that has its roots in the beginning of Central Asian history. During this time, Sayram Lake is blessed with a double portion of good fortune in water and pasture.

Catch a minibus at Yining (yī níng 伊宁) bus station on Jiefang Road (jiě fàng lù 解放路). The trip takes about 3 hours.
Admission Fee: CNY 10
Best Time to visit: July, August
Hotels around Sayram Lake cost about CNY 200/person, or budget lodging for CNY 15-20/dorm bed at Sayram Hostel.