The real highlights in Urumqi are the
wonderful scenery in the nearby countryside, and the people-a rich and
colorful array of nationalities inhabit this area allowing for a
fascinating insight into as very different way of life than exists
elsewhere in China.
The city itself is a pretty gray place,
with huge ugly modern buildings dominating the skyline. The best area
to explore is the Erdaoqiao district in the Uigur part of town. This
is a great, lively district with a unique atmosphere. Restaurants and
street traders spill their goods out onto the street and the market
here is a great spot to pick up some Xinjiang souvenirs. The Minority
Peoples' Museum is a fascinating place and even people not
normally interested in traipsing round museums should be impressed.
The most spectacular sight of all in
these parts, is Heaven's
Lake. This is one of the most peaceful and pretty tourist spots in
all of China. Snow-capped mountains, slopes covered with pine trees
and a huge crystal clear lake make this spot special. Added to this,
the friendly Kazakh families who set up camp here in the summer, and
it is no surprise that the lake has been the source of inspiration for
numerous writers and artists over the years. The Nanshan
Grasslands are another slightly more remote spot, with some
invigorating hiking and horse riding around the area. Swan
Lake Nature reserve also has nice scenery and some rare wildlife.