Korla Travel Guide, Xinjiang
Being located at the southern foot of the Tianshan Mountains and on the northeastern edge of the Tarim Basin, 470km south of Urumqi, Korla is the capital of the Bayinguoleng Mongolian Prefecture, which is the largest prefecture in China, with a total area of over 7,000sqkm, encompassing the eastern half of the Taklamakan Desert and extending to the borders of Tibet, Qinghai and Gansu. With thousands years history, Korla served as an important outfitting station on the Silk Road.
Korla is an ideal site for exploring and adventuring, featuring many cultural relics, historical sites and natural attractions, such as the Bayanbulak Grassland, Bosten Lake, the green corridor - Tarim River, Taklamakan Desert, etc., which represent the typical landscapes of South Xinjiang.
It is advisable for those who are interested in archaeology to travel to Loulan,Ruoqiang,or farther to Niya,where there are many historical sites,on which experts and scholars can make researches and explorations.
Bayanbulak Grassland/ Bosten Lake / Loulan Ruins
When to go?
Autumn, while June is the best time to the Swan Lake in the Grassland.
Getting there and away
There are flights between Korla and Urumqi, Kuqa, Qiemo, Beijing, but not all available daily.
Trains run between Korla and Urumqi/Kashgar, westwards to Gansu and central China.
Long-distance buses run to Urumqi, Glomud (via Ruoqiang) Buses run to Urumqi and Turpan, across the top of the Taklamakan to Kashgar and beyond, and down the desert's eastern side to Qiemo and on to Khotan.
- Budget lodgings are centralized on Renmin Nanlu, Available at the Bus Station Guesthouse, tel (0996) 207-6561, or in the centre of town at the Bayinguoleng Binguan, tel (0996) 202- 2248, on Renmin Dong Lu, with Western and Muslim restaurants
- Bayanbulak Grassland
Situated at the southeast foot of the Tianshan Mountain, 360km away from Korla. The fertile prairie is characterized by abundant water resource, verdant grass, flocks of sheep and castles. Bayandulak means "abundant springs" in the local dialect. The 23sqkm grassland is home to Mongol, Tibetan and other 6 ethical groups who jointly contribute the area's cultural diversity.
The famed Swan Lake is located on the prairie. The lake actually is a vast marshland filled with numerous connected small lakes. The area is luxuriant with comfortable weather condition and beautiful natural scenery, making it the first natural reserve for swans. Every morning, when the sun rises and people in yurts begin to work, endless flocks of swans fly over the lake and hover above the grassland. Swans, flocks of flying wild gooses, rippling lake water, towering snow-capped mountains, verdant valleys and the yurts create a stunningly beautiful scene. In addition, the area also settle many other birds such as mallards, lavrocks, larks, wild gooses.
Getting there - take a bus from Urumqi Bus Station bound for Bayanbulak Grassland, along Wuyi highway via Duku highway. Then you may start out from Hejing County to the west, along the mountain road which is about 300km to enter the Bayanbulak Grassland. Hotels, guesthouses and tents are available for lodging.
The period from May to June is the best time to watch swans.
Be alert of slipping into the marshland when there.
The temperature in the prairie is low, so you need to cover yourself with a thick quilt in the evening, even though it might be summer
- Bosten Lake
57km northeast of Korla, Bosten Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Xinjiang, which serves as a natural reservoir. The lake, covering over 1,000 square kilometers reflects the beauty of the southern countryside with luxuriant vegetation. It is also a large fishery where a variety of fish grow. The lake is known as the Oriental Hawaii of Xinjiang because of its unique and beautiful scenery in the Gobi desert.
Admission Fee: Y20
- Tiemen Pass
Also called Iron Pass or Iron Gate Pass, lies at the mouth of a 14km long valley, 8km north of Korla. It was of strategic importance in Chinese history and listed as one of the 26 key Passes. Tiemen was at the throat of the Silk Road and the traffic junction
between northern and southern Xinjiang. Nearby, there are still traces of an ancient barracks and military activities. Four Chinese characters are inscribed on the cliff beside the pass. The characters describe the steepness and precipitousness of the pass.
Admission Fee: Y15
- Lop Nur
Lying east of Korla and covering 3,000 sqkm, was an important station on the Silk Road and once a very large lake. In the Han dynasty, Lop Nur was such a vast lake that it was often mistaken as the source of the Yellow River. However, over deforestation and environmental deterioration caused by human activity curtailed the lifespan of the lake and during the 4th century A.D. codes and regulations had to be introduced to control the use of the insufficient water. When Marco Polo reached Lop Nur in 1275 he found nothing more than sand. Its contraction continued and Lop Nur finally disappeared in 1972. In 1996 a famous explorer, Yu Chunshun, died accidentally in Lop Nur on his expedition, and before him, another Chinese scientist, Peng Jiamu lost his life there whilst carrying out his research in 1979.
- Yadan Spectacle
Yadan is an internationally used term referring to a special physiognomy in the arid areas. The word originated from Uygur language, one of the many ethnical languages in China. It means steep earth mounds. Many years of erosion of strong winds and heavy rains over the gradient loess have formed dozens of parallel ridges and gullies. These ridges stretches according to the direction of winds, take different shapes, lengths. The longest one is hundreds of meters while the shortest one is just several centimeters. Yandan is widely spread in the Lop Nur area.
The most typical Yadan is the Dragon City (Longcheng) in Ruoqiang County. Looked from the top of a 10-meter-tall earth mound, small yellowish earth hillocks scatter around everywhere. They take different shape some like solid castles, some resembling high rises interconnected by a web of streets and alleys.
Tips: Bring warm clothing even in hot summer. Gauze masks, cream, eye lotion, specially-made spectacle are adviced to protect against the strong wind.
- Loulan Ruins