Chaka Salt Lake

Chaka Salt Lake, Haixi
Chaka Salt Lake, Haixi
Situated in Chaka Town, Ulan County, Haixi in China’s western Qinghai Province, the Chaka Salt Lake (Caka Salt Lake) is in the western part of the Chaka Basin, 298 kilometers (85 miles) from Xining, capital of Qinghai. This natural crystallized saline lake is regarded as the eastern gateway to Qaidam Basin, which reserves the largest salt mine in the world. Lying at an altitude of 3,059 meters (10,036 feet), the lake is oval shape and covers an area of 105 square kilometers (40 square miles), ten times larger than the West Lake of Hangzhou. However, it is the smallest among the several salt lakes in Qaidam area, but different from others for its coexistence of both solid and liquid salt. The snow-white lake bed and the crystal blue water against the azure sky win it the reputation of ‘Mirror of the Sky’. Travel to such a beautiful world of salt embedded in the snowy mountains and verdant meadows, tourists would inevitably feel like they are in a fairyland.

Chaka Salt Lake has the longest history of exploitation (over 3,000 years) among all the salt lakes in the Qaidam Basin. Due to the large reserves, mining is not at all difficult as natural salts can be obtained by just uncovering the top layer of the lake. Large scale mining is done mechanically nowadays with many grades of salt sold around China and they are even exported to Japan and Nepal.

The climate around the lake is dry and cool. Even in the middle of summer, the average daytime temperature is just about 19.6 C (67 F) and the mean annual precipitation is 210 millimeters (8 inches). The lake’s surface area is greatly affected by the seasons. It may reach up to 105 square kilometers (40 square miles) during the rainy seasons and reduce in size during the dry seasons.
Salt Sculptures
Salt Sculptures

There are halite layers at the bottom of the lake and which reaches 15 meters (16 yards) at the thickest point and averages 5 meters (5.5 yards). Brines extracted will recrystallize into halite layers a few years later and with its large supply from the lake, it is really inexhaustible! The grains of salt are of superior quality that they are edible once processed. The storage of salt now reaches about 5 million tons and it is said that it will last for 85 years for the whole China with a population of over 1.4 billion people!

There are many giant sculptures scattered along the lakeside upon entering the scenic area. These are formed from the deposit of salts and brine over a long period of time and they are fondly called the luxurious art of the land. Tourists may swim or just lie on the lake without life buoy or life jacket. Substantial salt and mineral substances accumulated in the lake over a long period, making the buoyancy force eight times higher than seawater and nearly the same as that of the Dead Sea.

The beautiful sunrise and sunset sceneries are highly recommended. The best time to visit would be from July to August. It is believed that with the summer breeze, inhaling the humid air with its salt content is especially good for the lung.
Railway for Salt Mining
Railway for Salt Mining

There is a long railway track extending to the center of the lake. Visitors can walk along the track to view the splendid scenery on the water. The magnificent mining scene of the large modern salt dredgers is the most impressive.

1. The lake is truly a film killer. Prepare enough memory card or film before the trip.
2. The salt in the lake can be tasted, but do not take too much for its hygiene concern.
3. Wear sunglasses and a hat due to the strong ultraviolet rays.
4. Prepare some medicine for the weak and the senior to deal with altitude sickness.

How to Get to Chaka Salt Lake

1. Take bus from Xining Xinninglu Bus Station or Xining Bus Station (close to Xining Railway Station) to Chaka Salt Lake (CNY 60).
2. Charter a car from Xining. It costs around CNY 400 for a round trip.
3. Take bus from Xining Bus Station to Ulan or Delhi (Delingha). It passes by Chaka.
4. In the peak season every year depending on the tourist amounts, there will be a tourist train Y961/2 connecting Xining and Chaka on service. Generally every day the train departs from Xining at 08:25 and arrives in Chaka at 12:23; it returns from Chaka at 17:00 and arrives in Xining at 21:13. Please check the information locally to make confirmation.
See real-time train schedule
Admission Fee Entrance Ticket:
May-October: CNY 60; November - April: CNY 30

Sightseeing Train: CNY 50
Opening Hours April to October: 05:30-22:00
November to April: 08:30-18:00
Recommended Time for a Visit Half a day

 Further Reading:
  Qarhan Salt Lake
  Qinghai Lake
10 Famous Places in China with Rising Popularity over the Web
- Last updated on Jul. 07, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Chaka Salt Lake
Asked by Kent from CHINA | Jul. 11, 2020 10:46Reply
Is the train operational?
Tried some of the information on the site to look at train schedules it doesn't seem to work anymore. I was planning to go in the first week of August is the train in the morning still happening? Is there a morning bus if the train isn't working?
Answers (8)
Answered by Alaina from FINLAND | Jul. 12, 2020 23:58

As I know, the train only operates between April and May. In other time, I am afraid that you need to take a bus or charter a car to the destination.
Answered by LUKITASSS | Jul. 17, 2020 09:45

Hello Kent,
I would like to visit Chaka Lake and surroundings in the first week of August, too. Could you send me a message if you find any additonal information about transportation, please? If we chat, then RTW2013-2015. Thank you.
Answered by Nicolas French from CHINA | Jul. 19, 2020 10:33

Me too, I plan to visit this and Xining surroundings first week of August! Would be good if we can get in touch
Answered by Kent from CHINA | Jul. 22, 2020 12:23

Wasn't able to confirm if the train was running or not in August, but sounds like most likely it isn't. Most likely looking into a private driver or an early bus I have not decided yet. I am going the lake around Aug 8th
Answered by Kent from CHINA | Jul. 28, 2020 02:31

Just an update for everyone who is going to Qinghai / Chaka Lake in August. I have confirmed the train IS running in August and you can book the tickets online.

The train is only running on weekends now and the time has changed, it leaves at 8am gets to Chaka lake at 12:02 and leaves at 17:00 and returns at 21:12
Answered by Elin | Jul. 07, 2021 08:35

We just booked the train from Chaka to Xining and it's July. Just do a quick search on Ctrip, Wechat or Alipay (however you usually book your train tickets) to find if the train is operational. Or go old school and ask in the train station's themselves.
Answered by Elin | Jul. 07, 2021 08:37

We also booked for a Thursday. Best bet is to check the apps.
Answered by Elin | Jul. 07, 2021 08:38

Which seem to be running daily at the aforementioned times.
Asked by Timothée from FRENCH | Sep. 19, 2019 23:17Reply
I plan to sleep at Gonghe before continuing to Chaka lake. Are there train or buses to do it?
I am planning a Tour of the South side of Qinghai lake. I plan to sleep at Gonghe from Xining before continuing to the Chaka Lake. Is there any train or buses that can transfer me from Gonghe to Chaka Town and to then go to the Chaka Lake?
Answers (1)
Answered by Ruff from UNITED KINGDOM | Sep. 22, 2019 23:01

There is no bus or train between them. It is suggested to hire a car to Chaka lake.
Asked by Henry from THAILAND | Sep. 11, 2019 23:57Reply
Is there still a train from xining to Chaka lake by late Octobert ?
I have checked through the china rail website, but do not find the schedule. Please advise is there the train running from Xining to Chaka lake ?
If not, what is the economical way to go ? Is there a bus ?
(Chartering the car is too expensive as I only travel just 1 person).
Please advise.
Answers (1)
Answered by Dean from USA | Sep. 15, 2019 19:53

There will be train during June to August between them. So you can take bus from Coach station in Xinning Road, which departs at 12:00 every day. It takes around 5 hours on the way with CNY60.
Asked by Tyler from USA | Aug. 08, 2019 19:35Reply
I’m considering taking the train to Chaka from Xining and then a bus to Qinghai lake.
spending the night there, spending the day at Qinghai Lake, and then returning to Xining that night (2 days, 1 night total).

I would prefer to take buses between Chaka and Qinghai Lake, and also from Qinghai Lake to Xining. Do you have any recommendations?

Also, will I be able to find a relatively cheap hotel near Qinghai Lake that accepts foreign travelers?

Thank you!
Answers (1)
Answered by Manny from USA | Aug. 12, 2019 18:20

Actually, most people will hire a car to travel around these places for convenience and comfort. Don't worry, there are many hostels you can find around Qinghai Lake and they accept foreigners.
Asked by Tania from NEW ZEALAND | Aug. 07, 2019 10:34Reply
Where is the best place in Xining to charter a car from Xining to Chakka lake?
I would like to travel to Chakka Lake from Xining and back to Xining. Where is the best place to charter a taxi (staying at a hotel in Yinma Street Xining)?

Thanks in advance.
Answers (1)
Answered by Acker from USA | Aug. 11, 2019 19:39

Maybe you can consult it with your hotel staff. I think they will recommend you some professional and good renting places.
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