The Kazakhs at Heaven Lake have recently seen massive changes to their livelihoods. Originally, they led a semi-nomadic herding existence in these hills, selling lambs in spring if the winter spared them – a hard, unpredictable business. However, in 2011 livestock grazing inside scenic areas was banned across Xinjiang, and overnight their traditional way of life disappeared. While this sea change has challenged the herders to adapt centuries-old habits, the natural environment has undeniably benefited, and the meadows of wild flowers around the lake have now returned to their former glory.

Today tourism has largely replaced herding as the chief source of local revenue, with the Kazakhs providing food and accommodation for visitors to Heaven Lake, as well as working and performing in the “Kazakh Village” that you’ll pass through en route to the lake. The sheep may have gone, but some traditions are still adhered to: visit in May – considered the most beautiful time – and you may get to try the alcoholic kumiss, fermented mare’s milk, a rare delicacy.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

China features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Hong Kong

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Hong Kong

Hong Kong floats between old China and the west; its futuristic harbour has become one of Asia's most famous views but you'll also find pockets of traditiona…

28 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
China travel tips: 8 things you need to know before you go

China travel tips: 8 things you need to know before you go

Even 20 years ago China was not a conventional tourist destination. Despite the allure of its beautiful landscapes and history-filled cities, politics, poverty,…

13 Jan 2017 • Simon Frank insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month