Bayanbulak, a paradise hidden in the mountains of NW China
Zhu Mei

Having watched the film Pegasus, many would be shocked by the exciting and thrilling car race scene in the movie. The racing-themed movie showed during the Spring Festival holiday has unintendedly brought public attention to the Bayanbulak Grassland, where the race scenes were filmed.

Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve

Located in the Bayanbulak Basin of Tianshan Mountains in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve is a hidden paradise and is the second largest grassland in China. Bayanbulak means “abundant spring” in Mongolian. Being mostly flat and surrounded by snow mountains, the prairie abounds in grass and is studded with seven lakes and 20 rivers. 

Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Birds at Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Birds at Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Kaidu River. /VCG Photo

Kaidu River. /VCG Photo

Night view of Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Night view of Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Swan Lake

Sitting at an altitude of 2,000 to 2,500 meters, the Swan Lake on the reserve is an important breeding ground for birds and waterfowl, and it is the only breeding ground for swans in China. Swans and other rare birds would return to the lake, a connected series of wetlands, from the south to live and breed here for eight months from April each year.

Swans in Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

Swans in Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

A swan in the Swan Lake in Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

A swan in the Swan Lake in Bayanbulak Grassland National Nature Reserve. /VCG Photo

An aerial view of the Swan Lake. /VCG Photo

An aerial view of the Swan Lake. /VCG Photo

'Nine turns and eighteen bends'

The Kaidu River in the reserve is famous for its "nine turns and eighteen bends" view and is a wonderful place to watch the sunset. It's said that if lucky enough, one can see nine suns in the river at one time. The best opportunity falls around the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Sunset view of Kaidu River. /VCG Photo

Sunset view of Kaidu River. /VCG Photo

Sunset view of Kaidu River. /VCG Photo

Sunset view of Kaidu River. /VCG Photo

Kaidu River. /VCG Photo

Kaidu River. /VCG Photo

Sunset view of Kaidu River. /VCG Photo.

Sunset view of Kaidu River. /VCG Photo.

Nadam Fair

Nadam Fair is a big event held on June 4 in the lunar calendar every year. Locals and tourists are entertained by various activities such as horse racing, wrestling, dancing, and archery. It is a good opportunity to experience local customs. 

Horse racing competition at Nadam Fair. /VCG Photo

Horse racing competition at Nadam Fair. /VCG Photo

Locals in a wrestle competition at Nadam Fair. /VCG Photo

Locals in a wrestle competition at Nadam Fair. /VCG Photo

Performers sing at Nadam Fair. /VCG Photo

Performers sing at Nadam Fair. /VCG Photo

Food

Roasted lamb, barbecue, pilaf, noodles, baked buns, and Bayanbulake tea are some of the must-try foods when you visit the Bayanbulak Grassland. And it's always nice to drink a bowl Kumiss after dinner. 

Roasted lamb. /VCG Photo

Roasted lamb. /VCG Photo

Tips:

1. Transportation: Tourists can arrive at Hejing County from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region by car or from Turpan by train. Shuttle buses are available from Hejing County to Bayanbulak government every other day.

2. Bring warm clothes as the temperature difference on the grassland in quite large between day and night.

3. Best visiting time: June to September

4. Entrance fee: 65 yuan (9.6 U.S. dollars)

(Cover: View of Bayanbulak Town in Hejing County in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. /VCG Photo)

2698km