Ili Sayram Lake Travel Guide, Xinjiang
Sayram means "blessing" in Kazak. Sayram(Sarim) Lake, also called "Santai Haizi", is a stunning alpine lake. It was on the northern Silk Road, known as "Pure Sea in the West" in ancient times. About 70 million years ago, during the period of orogenic movement of the Himalayas, this section of Tianshan Mountains sank in suddenly and the Sayram Lake, which is called by geologists the fault-trough lake, came into being.
Located 90km southwest of Bole, Sayram lake is 30km long from the east to west and 27km wide from the south to north, covering an area of 460sqkm. Located at an altitude of 2,073 meters above the sea level, Sayram Lake is the largest alpine lake in Xinjiang, an ideal habitat of many species of birds including mallards and swans.
On a high plateau ringed by formidable snow peaks is the Sayram Lake pasture, where nurture millions of Mongol and Kazak clans. It overflows with vigor and provides abundant grazing land, perfect for raising cattle.
Surrounded by verdant pastures and snow capped lofty peaks above the timberline, stepped on densely wooded forests, the lake area will definitely consume you rolls of films. The large lake area is also a great place for hiking or riding. There is also a ruin at the other side of the lake and it is a place where the Mongolian Emperor Chenkisikan called his army there.
In July and August, local 'Chahra' Mongolian and Kazakh herdsmen converge onto the pasture to hold a grand festival, known as the Nadam Festival. Mongolian people celebrate the "Nadam Fair" for six days beside the lake. Nadam means recreation or 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 bus station on Jiefang Road (How to get to Yining >> Ili Transportation). The trip takes about 3 hours.
Horse riding and motor boating are available around the shore. Horses can be hired from the local herdsmen who typically charge about Y20 per hour or a worthy price for a day.
Admission Fee: Y50
Hotels around Sayram Lake cost about Y200/person, or budget lodging for Y15-20/dorm bed at Sayram Hostel.