Located in northwest Xinjiang bordering Kazakhstan, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture is hailed as "the most beautiful part of Xinjiang." The saying goes, "You won't know how big China is until you visit Xinjiang, and you won't know how beautiful Xinjiang is until you visit Ili." With the capital at Yining City, Ili has over 2,000 km of international borders. 

Historically an important pass on the North Silk Road, Ili is now a gateway opening to the West. Nicknamed "Shangri-La beyond the Great Wall", Ili enjoys a mild climate and abundant rains, covered by 67.7% grasslands and forests. Famous grasslands include Gongnaisi, Tianbula, Narat, and Zhaosu. Attractions include the Gedeng Inscription by Emperor Qianlong, the former residence of an Ili General, Huaiyuan Bell Tower, and Lin Zexu Memorial Hall.

Every June, vast lavender fields blanket Erqis Lake, the pearl of the grasslands. The sunny skies, tranquil lakes, colorful flowers, delicious kebabs, naan, and ethnic culture come together to make Ili an unforgettable travel destination. The hospitable Uyghur, Kazakh, and Mongolian people welcome visitors to experience life in this borderland melting pot.

Auntie's Day

The Saint Kütuket Festival honors Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most respected women in Islam. On the 15th day of the 6th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, mosques across Ili hold services praising Fatimah's virtues and collecting charity donations in her name. As the wife of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib and mother of Hasan and Hussein, key figures in Shia Islam, Fatimah is revered as a holy mother by Muslims worldwide. The day highlights women's roles in the faith, with sermons on embodying Fatimah's grace, wisdom and moral character. Visitors can witness the community spirit as locals dress in holiday attire and gather to pray, share meals and exchange gifts. For a unique look into Uyghur culture and women's place in Xinjiang's Islamic heritage, the Saint Kütuket Festival offers a window into traditions honoring prominent female exemplars of the Muslim faith.

Bailati Festival

The 15-day Barat Festival is an important religious observance for Xinjiang's Muslim communities. From the 1st to the 15th day of the 8th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Uyghur families in Ili invite imams to their homes to recite scripture and enjoy treats specially prepared for the holiday. On the final day, locals bathe, fast and attend prayer services at mosques, donating charity. After evening prayers, children dressed in holiday clothes excitedly go door-to-door singing Barat songs and collecting gifts from Muslim neighbors. For visitors, Barat offers a window into Uyghur traditions as imams make house calls, families bond over sacred recitations, and children revel in the festive generosity. The sounds of children chanting prayers and receiving candies and coins capture the spirit of community during this major religious holiday. Joining in the mosque prayers and celebrations provides an opportunity to appreciate the diversity of Islamic cultural heritage in Xinjiang.

Huocheng Lavender Festival

With rolling lavender fields blooming across the Ili River Valley, the Huocheng Lavender Festival celebrates China's largest lavender producer each June. The festival highlights Ili's aromatic purple bounty midway through the short blooming season, usually before the 20th when lavender tops are still intact before harvest. Wander through fragrant lavender mazes and lush rows bursting with vibrant blooms. Capture the evocative scent that perfumes Huocheng's farms. Sample lavender-infused treats, oils, and crafts from local vendors. Relax with meditative lavender spa treatments or photograph the picturesque fields in full flower. For a fragrant immersion in China's surprising lavender capital amid Xinjiang's deserts and mountains, visit the valley in June to enjoy the visual feast and floral scents that draw lavender lovers to Huocheng.

Best Travel Time

The best travel time for Ili is from June to October every year. At this time, the scenery of Ili is beautiful, with fragrant melons and fruits. Tourists can not only enjoy the beautiful natural scenery, but also fully enjoy various fresh seasonal melons and fruits. In mid June, when lavender is in full bloom, a grand lavender festival will be held locally; In July, the apricot flowers in Xinyuan and the rapeseed flowers in Zhaosu will also bloom one after another. Image: Best travel time.

Dressing Guidelines

Turpan's scorching summers and frigid winters necessitate proper attire when visiting this oasis city. Average annual temperature is 14°C, but summers see highs around 30°C. Expect 99 days above 35°C and 28 days surpassing 40°C. Though long at 152 days, Turpan's dry summer heat is tolerable given the stark temperature drop at night.

Winters plunge below -17°C on average, requiring layers of warm clothing. Situated in a basin, Turpan offers respite from sun exposure. Still, bring hats, sunglasses and ample moisturizer for the intense desert sun.

Lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton and linen keep you cool in summer. Swimwear, shorts and short sleeves are fine. In winter, bundle up in parkas, wool sweaters, thermals, gloves and scarves. Check forecasts and dress accordingly to comfortably experience Turpan's bazaars, ruins and vineyards against the backdrop of the Flaming Mountains. Proper attire enhances your trip through every season.

Religion and Culture

Turpan's scorching summers and frigid winters necessitate proper attire when visiting this oasis city. Average annual temperature is 14°C, but summers see highs around 30°C. Expect 99 days above 35°C and 28 days surpassing 40°C. Though long at 152 days, Turpan's dry summer heat is tolerable given the stark temperature drop at night.

Winters plunge below -17°C on average, requiring layers of warm clothing. Situated in a basin, Turpan offers respite from sun exposure. Still, bring hats, sunglasses and ample moisturizer for the intense desert sun.

Lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton and linen keep you cool in summer. Swimwear, shorts and short sleeves are fine. In winter, bundle up in parkas, wool sweaters, thermals, gloves and scarves. Check forecasts and dress accordingly to comfortably experience Turpan's bazaars, ruins and vineyards against the backdrop of the Flaming Mountains. Proper attire enhances your trip through every season.

Self driving

Driving in Ili, Xinjiang

Self-driving is the best way to travel in Xinjiang. Taking public buses rarely reaches sights directly - you'll have to transfer and waste lots of time on the road.

Road conditions in the Ili region are quite good. Be aware the open highways and monotonous scenery in some areas make speeding easy. Gas stations are spread out, so refuel regularly.

When driving in Ili, stick to speed limits as the endless roads can lull you into speeding. Watch your gas gauge and fill up when possible. Stop to appreciate the expansive views. With your own wheels, you can fully experience the diverse landscapes, from the heavenly mountains to desert canyons, sleepy villages to vibrant bazaars. Just drive cautiously and safely.

Ili Surrounding Cities