Photo: On the shores of Xinjiang’s Tian Chi

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Can you feel it? The cool breeze, the sunshine? The old brick walkway under your feet, the grass ambling upwards between the cracks and in between your toes? You must be on the shores of Heavenly Lake, or Tian Chi, breathing deep under the whitewashed clouds and reveling in the beauty of the world. That, people, is the power of Xinjiang’s majestic landscape. Deserts, mountains, lakes, lamb skewers; they have it all. Now, this lake isn’t to be confused with the other Heavenly Lake, the Tian Chi of Jilin. The two lakes are on opposite sides of the country, one hovering near the border of North Korea, and the other (seen above) in far northwest China. Don’t make the mistake of taking a cab across the country, wondering the whole time why it’s taking so goshdarn long to get to a lake 48 km (30 mi) east of Urumqi. It is expensive, and the cab driver will be pissed. Trust me. More after the jump…. The Tian Chi of Xinjiang is fed by snowmelt from the Heavenly Mountains, or Tian Shan, a belt of jagged peaks that stretch north from Urumqi before heading north into Kyrgyzstan. Pine-covered hillsides that rise from the water’s edge reach towards epic, snow-covered peaks that see more than their fair share of snow in the winter, and offer visitors a chance to work their quads as they trudge up the mountainside in the warmer months. If hiking isn’t your thing, rent a horse (for real), and clip-clop your way around the lake. Only an hour and a half outside of the bustling, middle-eastern tinged Urumqi, Tian Chi is a great way to get your nature fix. Things slow down in the winter, tourism wise, but that might all change someday soon—there’s a yurts and cumin-heavy cuisine, and it provides a unique look into the far reaches of China

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