五彩滩. Spelled out in pinyin it’s “Wucaitan“, which has been translated as either “Rainbow Beach” or “Five-Colored Hills“. Although normally dwarfed by Kanas Lake, it’s popular neighbor further north, this scenic Xinjiang gem is worth a second glance…if not a visit.
Located along the Irtysh (Ertix) River in northern Xinjiang, Wucaitan is not the typical tourist destination for most foreigners. However, because it’s only 24 kilometers northwest of Burqin – often the home base for trips up to Kanas Lake – it’s definitely worth considering.
Wind-worn rock formations ranging from 5 to 25 meters in height line the bank of the only river whose waters reach the Arctic Ocean. Wooden pathways snake through the colorful arrangement to provide various angles for incredible photographic opportunities.
The drive out to Wucaitan is quite interesting. The smooth, paved road follows the north side of the Ertix River, the side that is barren desert. Visible to the south of the river is the stark contrast of a lush, green river valley.
The buildings that welcome you to Wucaitan seem to rise up out of nowhere, and as with many places in China, the significant investment that went into the construction of the scenic spot seem ostentatious compared to the number of actual visitors.
For a 50 RMB fee visitors are given access to:
- Hundreds of meters of wooden walkways
- Multiple viewing platforms with great photographic opportunities
- Decent bathrooms
- A petrified wood museum
- A suspended bridge that crosses the Ertix River
Getting to Xinjiang’s Five Color Hills
From Burqin, it is possible to take a bus or a taxi out to the Five Colored Hills (五彩滩) for fairly cheap. If, like most Chinese tourist, you take part in a guided tour of northern Xinjiang, make sure that Wucaitan is part of the tour and the bus will take you directly to the park.
A couple hours walking around will be more than enough, but some of the best photo opportunities come at sunset, so plan accordingly. During the summer mid-day can be incredibly hot so make sure you bring plenty of water!
This map, not set to scale, will give you a good idea of the layout of the Wucaitan 五彩滩 scenic area. Bathrooms are near the entrance as is the Petrified Wood Museum. Snacks and drinks are sold inside, but go ahead and bring your own.
The map below should give you an idea of where Wucaitan (Five Colored Hills) is located in relation to the rest of Northern Xinjiang.