The 10 Most Beautiful Lakes in China
China is endowed with an incredible diversity of landscapes, including some 2,800 natural lakes covering a total area of over 80,000 square kilometers. And when you add a number of manmade aqueous bodies to the mix, no trip to China is truly complete without visiting at least one of the country's beautiful lakes. Here are our choices for ten of the best.
Photo By Poorfish
Deep, cold and mysterious, to reach the remote, unspoiled natural beauty of Lake Kanas (Hanasi Hu) in Xinjiang you have to first fly to fly to Urumqi and then journey across desert and mountains to the point where China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia meet. It’s well worth the journey. More Siberian in nature Chinese, the landscape ranges from desert to grassland and alpine forest, all reflected in the deep, crystal waters. Edged by the Altai Mountains, it’s a great hiking and climbing destination where each season offers a different backdrop. The surrounding area is home to a colorful and hospitable Kazakh and Tuvan population... but keep an eye out for a more sinister occupant lurking in the waters as, like all great lakes, Kanas has its very own monster.
Photo By xia_ran
A stunning body of water on the Sichuan-Yunnan border, the horseshoe-shaped Lugu Lake covers 50 square kilometers. Sitting at 2,685 meters above sea level, alpine Lugu Lake is encircled by soaring snowcapped peaks that loom majestically over its beaches, peninsulas and islands, with the lake’s waters shifting from season to season from hues of turquoise green to sapphire blue. Aside from its outstanding natural beauty, Lugu is also well-known for the unusual practices of the Mosuo, a matrilineal minority living on its shores whose “walking marriages” (male lovers visit the women by night, returning to their own homes before sunrise) have led to the nickname the “Kingdom of Women” and “Free Love Lake”. Though there are plans for a Lugu Lake airport, at present it is best accessed with a flight to flight to Lijiang or Chengdu followed by a bumpy five hour bus ride.
Way up on the “roof of the world”, Lake Manasarovar sits at the southern foot of Mount Kailash, the most sacred mountain in all of Tibet, if not Asia, its breathtaking scenery protected by its relative inaccessibility. The highest freshwater body in the world, the best time to visit is between May and October. In winter, the roads often closed, the lake itself freezes over and even the most pious of pilgrims are unlikely to visit its icy shores. The lake and its surrounding monasteries remain some of the most picturesque in all of Tibet. As travel in the TAR is restricted, you’ll need to book a tour to book a tour to Tibet to get the required travel permits to visit Lake Manasarovar.
Photo By ecreyes
One of Tibet’s four holy lakes, Lake Nam-Tso’s clear, sapphire waters are a top destination for Tibetan pilgrims eager to cleanse mind, body and soul from sin. It covers an area of 1,900 square kilometers, 4,718 meters above sea level and surrounded by snowy mountains, Sanskrit rock carvings and prayer flags, it’s not just the altitude that will take your breath away. Along with being the highest saltwater lake in the world, it comes as no great surprise that the name translates to “Heavenly Lake.” The lake’s shore is also home to fascinating rock formations, peninsulas and ancient grottoes containing cave paintings. Again, due to its location, you’ll need to book a book a Tibet tour to pay Lake Nam-Tso a visit.
Renowned for its romantic scenery and graceful, willow-lined waters, Hangzhou’s West Lake is the city’s premier tourist attraction and one of the biggest tourist draws in China. Covering a sizeable chunk of the Hangzhou’s southwestern corner, much of its beauty is actually manmade, offering a picture-perfect landscape of classical Chinese scenery complete with stone arched bridges, gardens, pagodas and two causeways set against mist-shrouded hillsides. It features countless scenic spots dedicated to the landscape and a myriad of poets, national heroes, scholars and revolutionary martyrs, the significance of which will be lost on those without a deeper understanding of Chinese history and culture, but that by no means hampers your appreciation of the picturesque environs.
Thousand Island Lake’s dramatic landscape of deep jade-colored waters punctuated by hundreds of tiny green islands was once mile upon mile of rolling countryside. Flooded in 1959 as the result of a hydroelectric dam project, those same hilltops now form the thousands of islands and islets that occupy the 573 square kilometer expanse of water. Certainly beautiful above water, what lies beneath is also worth a mention here. A victim to the dam, the ancient town of Lion City dates back to the Eastern Han period (25-200 AD) and remains much as it was when the floodwaters engulfed it, an eastern Atlantis awaiting exploration by anyone with an adventurous nature and a scuba license.
Photo By Ryan Jin
Located in the northeast corner of Qinghai Province, the name Qinghai Lake translates to “blue sea” in both its Mandarin and Mongolian incarnations. The largest (and highest) saltwater lake in China, Qinghai Lake is truly vast, sweeping across 4,489 square kilometers. Reflecting the high plains sky the lake is spectacular, especially at the height of summer when the surrounding grasslands, fields and hillsides gleam golden with wheat and rapeseed against the distant backdrop of snowy topped mountains. A National Natural Reserve, Qinghai Lake plays host to many rare and endangered birds and fish and its very own lake monster, a dragon-like creature first spotted by a lama in 1947.
Photo By limchinhuang
Another of Tibet’s holy four, Lake Yamdrok-Tso’s vibrant turquoise-blue waters seem to glow against the bleak background of barren dun-colored mountains that make up the landscape of Tsang Province. Believed to be the earthly dwelling of the Dorje Pakmo, the third most important figure in Tibetan Lamaism, whose female incarnation heads nearby Samding Monastery, which is perched on a peninsula about 10 kilometers east of the small town of Nagartse. This charming monastery is unusual in that it is home to both monks and nuns. The lake is made up of rugged twists and turns, steep bays and inlets and a scattering of small islands within. Yaks, often dressed in colorful garb for tourist pics, graze the surrounding shores and a host of migratory birds can be seen from April through October.
Photo By cuckoo over lulu
A stunning crater lake on the border of China and North Korea, Jilin Province’s Tian Chi is crystal clear and smooth as glass. Closed in on all sides by the jagged, often snow-clad teeth of the surrounding caldera, Tian Chi is an incredible sight to behold, and made even more so by the unusual meteorological phenomenon where rain can fall even in bright sunshine. A single opening in the crater is found on the north side where the newly released water flows out in to the Changbaishan Mountains turning into an impressive waterfall a little further down. 373 meters deep, Tian Chi’s waters make an ideal haven for another of China’s legendary lake monsters, of which there have been 30 reported tourist sightings in the last 20 years!
Photo By Travelers-pm
The extensive Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in northern Sichuan is replete with spectacular scenery and numerous stunning lakes, but Long Lake is the jewel in an already sparkling crown. Situated 3,100 meters above sea level, the crescent-shaped Long Lake sits at one end of Zechawa Valley, its inky blue waters the result of melted snows from the surrounding verdant forests and glacier-capped mountains beyond. The mix of deciduous and evergreen trees make for a breathtaking sight in any season, with autumn’s riot of colors being particularly intoxicating. Many tours to tours to Jiuzhaigou will take in Long Lake among the myriad scenic offerings of the area, but if you’re headed there independently be sure to check it out.
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Ctrip.com International, Ltd. is a leading travel service provider of hotel accommodations, airline tickets, packaged tours, and corporate travel management in China. Ctrip aggregates hotel and flight information to enable business and leisure travelers to make informed and cost-effective bookings. Ctrip also books vacation packages and guided tours. In addition, Ctrip corporate travel management services help corporate clients effectively manage their travel requirements. Since its inception in 1999, Ctrip has experienced substantial growth and become one of the best-known travel brands in China.