Sprawling on the edge of Mount Bogda and 100 km east of Urumqi, Tianchi Lake and the surrounding Tianshan Mountains are the most beautiful place in Xinjiang. Tianchi covers 4.9 km² and is 90 meters deep; a natural lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks and sky-scraping dragon spruce fed by thawing snow runoffs.
Flora and fauna
The bus from Urumqi will take you as far as the entrance to the park, but to get to Heaven Lake, you can either go by funicular or take the spectacular one hour walk up.
As to May 2011, the funicular isn't working, and there is a free bus that takes you up to the lake.
First take 73 to the north bus station in Urumqi. (which is not the name of the stop. Be careful not to confuse this with the Chinese name station 'north river station road' which is more than a few stops north of where you want to arrive). From there, a bus to Fu Kang (1 hour 15 min, ¥15).
From Fu Kang there is a bus to the lake (about 30 minutes, ¥10). When returning to Fu Kang from the lake, expect long delays if trying to go outside of peak times.
In 2018 the last bus that leaves from the entrance area leaves at 8pm.
Fees and permits
There is a ¥155 fee to get in the park.
In 2018 it is still possible to walk around the lake, for two people in their twenties it took approximately six hours with breaks. However, the western part (behind the temple) is not very well kept as if very few people pass by there. There are endless climbs up stairs as the path makes the visitor ascend and descend the many hills that surround the area. A recommended route is instead to walk to the Fairy statue on the eastern side, and then walk back. Doing so will take approximately 2-4 hours and is much more pleasant. Most Chinese tourist either stay in the entrance area or walk just a bit along the path so there are usually only a few or no people there even on a Saturday during summer.
The lake is spectacular, particularly at sunset when the mountains in glow red. Note the Russian dachas among the modern Chinese constructions and Kazakh yurts.
Go for a horseback ride with a Kazakh guide.
Take the cable car to the Maya peak (220 RMB-30 min-around 3000m), and from there walk on the wooden path around the peak (you can spend hours there, breathtaking views).
In addition to a restaurant at the top of the funicular, there are a few kebab stands around the lake, mostly concentrated by the entrance
There is a karaoke hall near the entrance, though beer can also be bought from the kebab stands.
While there is a hotel near the road of Heaven Lake, press on for yurt stays. If you are there during the evening you will be approach by locals saying Zuzhu (租住) meaning that you can stay in their yurt. The Kazakh families that run them will provide three meals and a night's lodging for ¥50. They will also help arrange horseback rides if you are interested.
Going from Urumqi means many check-points on the way to and en-route in the park. The trip from Urumqi might take well over four hours so have that in mind when planning your trip.