Two thousand metres up in the Tian Shan range is Tian Chi, a small, long steely-blue lake nestled below the view-grabbing 5445m Peak of God (博格达峰, Bógédá Fēng). Scattered across the alpine pine and spruce-covered slopes are Kazakh yurts and lots of sheep. It was a paradise described in Vikram Seth’s wonderful travelogue From Heaven Lake; and still is for some.

There are dirt roads, boardwalks and trails to various peaks at Tian Chi, or it's a seven-hour hike around the lake (if the whole path is open, which it may not be – check before you set out). For an easy walk, try the path up to Little Heavenly East Lake (东小天池, Dōng Xiǎo Tiānchí). There are also commercialised temples to explore on both the east and west shores.