For many, the idea of travel in Xinjiang conjures up images of sparse, sandy deserts, Uyghur populations and lots of grilled lamb. But in the province’s northern reaches, the startlingly turquoise waters of Kanas Lake set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Altai Mountains offers something quite different.

Well okay, there’s still plenty of barbecued lamb on the menu, but the region is relatively ethnically diverse – there are Kazakh, Tuvan, Hui, and Mongolian peoples here – and the unexpectedly lush landscape often has visitors reaching for comparisons to more established holiday destinations; North Americans tend to liken it to British Columbia, Europeans to the Alps.

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