Bayinbuluke Grasslands, Xinjiang Province (6 days)

Camp out overnight in the beautiful high-altitude scenery of the Bayinbuluke Grasslands in northwestern Xinjiang; see Silk Road sights, big mountains, and desert while on the road to and from the grasslands.

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Mountains and clouds in Xinjiang
A river runs through the Bayinbuluke Grasslands, with the Tianshan Mountain Range visible in the background.

The Bayinbuluke Grasslands

Surrounded by the tall snow mountains of the Tianshan mountain range, the Bayinbuluke Grasslands is an area of pure green grass, snow-fed rivers, and rolling hills that is 1.5 times the size of the entirety of Beijing Municipality.

In the grasslands we’ll take an afternoon hike up to a lookout point to watch the sun set over one of the rivers that snakes through the prairie, and camp overnight in an area favoured by local Kazakh nomads.

Also known as the Bayan Bulak grasslands, the prairie covers part of Hejing County in the Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture. Bayingolin is the largest of China’s autonomous regions, and is actually larger in area than the neighbouring province of Gansu. The capital of Bayingolin is Korla, and it’s in Korla that our trip will begin.

Trip overview

Day 1 Fly to Korla via Urumqi, drive to Kuqa
Day 2 Visit Old Town, Grand Mosque, King’s Palace in Kuqa. Drive to Subashi ruins, Dakziliya Grand Canyon hiking, camp overnight.
Day 3 Drive through mountains to Bayinbuluke, hikes in the grasslands, camp overnight.
Day 4 Drive to Nalati, stopping for short hikes along the way.
Day 5 Drive to Dushanzi, stopping for short hikes along the way.
Day 6 Drive to Urumqi via Shihezi, stopping for a walk in the desert, evening flight to Beijing.

Also on the trip

Part of the ruins of Subashi

Part of the ruined city of Subashi Click to view a larger image »

  • Take a stroll through the narrow streets of Kuqa’s old town, visit the Grand Mosque and the King’s Palace, camp overnight near the ruined city of Subashi.
  • Mongolian is the first language of some Kucheans. Want to say hello in Mongolian? Sain uu!
  • Hike in a forested area in Kunas on the way to the small city of Nalati.
  • Drive through snowcapped mountains on the way to Dushanzi.
  • Hike in a desert area near Shihezi on the way back to Urumqi.


Weather is expected to be fairly cool, with a temperature range of 5–17°C expected. There’s a small chance of rain, so don’t forget your raincoat!


Aside from the two nights of camping, we’ll stay in the best hotels we can find – 4-star (or the local equivalent) at least!

You’ll be sharing a room at the hotel with another hiker. If you'd like a hotel room to yourself, it can be arranged at an extra cost of 900 RMB for the whole trip.

Further details about room shares and single supplement can be found in the documents we send you as part of the registration.

Flights and transport

We’ll flying to Korla via Urumqi, and back to Beijing from Urumqi. For the rest of the trip, we’ll be in big, comfortable jeeps.

Frequent flyers: Please let us know if you would like to use your frequent flyer miles or if you are a frequent flyer member. If you would like to organise your own flights, we can provide further details.

Things to bring

  • Passport
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Hat
  • Hiking boots or comfortable shoes for walking
  • A day pack to take on outings, suitcases or bigger bags can be left at the hotel or on the jeeps
  • Camera and charger, batteries
  • Suncream
  • Torch or headlamp
  • Mobile phone, charger
  • Any personal medicine or things that may be required but not available in small towns (chocolate, for example!)

It would also be nice to bring a small gift for the driver of your jeep – they’re very friendly fellows, and would appreciate the kind gesture!

Xinjiang has an unofficial time difference of two hours from Beijing. All times listed are Beijing time, but we’ll be trying to time the meals for Xinjiang time.

Deposit and Payment

First, make a deposit of 5,000 RMB per person so we can be sure of getting your flight tickets and hotel bookings.

Pay the deposit before June 1 to qualify for the early-bird price. Please pay the balance before June 11.

Travel map for the trip

Travel map for the trip. Click to see a larger version »

Full itinerary

  1. Day 1
    07:30 – Meet up at Beijing Capital Airport
    08:40 – Flight to Urumqi
    12:40 – Arrive in Urumqi
    15:30 – Onward flight from Urumqi to Korla
    16:15 – Arrive in Korla
    16:30 – Drive to Kuqa
    19:30 – Arrive at hotel in Kuqa, out for dinner
    20:30 – Return to the hotel for free time, rest
    (Flight times and flight numbers to be confirmed 25 days in advance.)

  2. Day 2
    09:00 – Breakfast at hotel
    09:30 – Head out to visit the Grand Mosque, King's House, old town
    12:30 – Lunch at restaurant
    14:00 – 30-minute drive in jeeps to the ancient city of Subashi, walk around the ancient city
    15:00 – Travel to the Dakziliya Grand Canyon for hiking and exploration (1 hour drive)
    18:30 – Sunset at the camp before
    19:30 – Dinner
    20:30 – Campfire under the stars
    22:00 – Rest

  3. Day 3
    09:00 – Breakfast
    09:30 – Drive through the mountains to Bayinbuluke Grasslands, stopping at scenic areas
    13:30 – Lunch
    14:30 – Short hike in the mountains
    17:30 – Arrive by a river in the Bayinbuluke grasslands
    18:30 – Hike in the grasslands
    19:30 – Sunset view of river and grasslands
    21:30 – Dinner with Kazakh nomads, camp overnight
    22:00 – Bonfire and bedtime

  4. Day 4
    06:00 – Sunrise
    09:00 – Breakfast
    09:30 – Departure for Kunas Forest scenic area
    11:00 – Kunas Forest scenic hike
    13:30 – Lunch
    14:30 – More hiking
    16:30 – Drive to Nalati
    17:30 – Arrive at the hotel in Nalati
    18:00 – Nalati city stroll
    19:30 – Dinner
    20:30 – Back to the hotel after dinner

  5. Day 5
    09:00 – Breakfast
    09:30 – Drive to Dushanzi, stopping on the way for a hike
    14:00 – Lunch
    15:00 – Drive on, stopping on the way for a hike in a volcanic area
    19:30 – Arrive at the hotel in Dushanzi
    20:00 – Dinner
    21:00 – Rest

  6. Day 6
    09:00 – Breakfast
    09:30 – Drive to Urumqi, stopping for a hike near Shihezi
    13:30 – Lunch in Shihezi
    17:00 – Arrive at Urumqi airport
    19:00 – Flight departs for Beijing
    22:45 – Touch down in Beijing
    All times are approximate, and depend on our speed of movement.

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Photos and trip reports: Bayinbuluke Grasslands, Xinjiang Province (6 days)

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