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:
Peak Season: CNY 60; Low Season: CNY 30
Sightseeing Train: CNY 50
Opening Hours 07:00-18:30 from April to October
Recommended Time for a Visit Half a day

 Further Reading:
  Qarhan Salt Lake
  Qinghai Lake
- Last modified on Sep. 24, 2018 -
Questions & Answers on Chaka Salt Lake
Asked by Jacklyn from USA | Sep. 24, 2018 22:14Reply
How is the weather in Nov? I would like to visit Chaka Salt Lake on first week of Nov.
What would the weather be like? And any recommendation on Hotels around the area? Thanks
Answers (1)
Answered by Tyler from USA | Sep. 24, 2018 23:30

As I know, the lake is not open in November. Anyway, the weather is cold and you need to take your warm clothes like sweaters and winter pants.
There are three hostels around the lake and many hostels near Chaka Bus Station. You can go there and have a check.
Asked by Lucy from ENGLAND | Sep. 27, 2017 07:03Reply
How do you get from Qinghai Lake to Chaka Salt Lake?
Hoping to stay close and cover both in one day.
Answers (1)
Answered by Cecilia from FRANCE | Sep. 27, 2017 22:48

Sorry to tell you no public transport is available and it’s a little difficult to visit the both within a day. You are suggested to hire a local car to travel from Qinghai lake to the lake, which may take around CNY800 for a single trip.
Asked by JoChan from MALAYSIA | Jun. 08, 2017 02:31Reply
Advice needed on travel plans/route in Xining
If I'd like to cover these places - Ta'er Monastery, Qinghai Lake, Sun&Moon Lake, Regong, Chaka Salt Lake - how many days do I need to spend in the city? and what would be the best plan to optimize my time there (including the travelling time)?
I'll be there in June - so will it be very hot or rainy?
Also, any advice on good hostels in the city?

Thank you very much in advance.
Answers (2)
Answered by Lina from AUSTRALIA | Jun. 12, 2017 02:41

As I know, you may need 2-3 days to cover the attractions you have listed. You are suggested to follow the under route.
Day 01:
Ta’er Monastery (3-4 hrs) – Dongguan Mosque (1h) – Mojiajie (2-3 hrs)
Day 02:
Sun & Moon Mountain (1-2 hrs) - Qinghai Lake (4-5 hrs) – Chaka Salt Lake (2-3 hrs)
Day 03:
In general, it will not be very hot in June. It will be sunny and cloudy, and sometimes it will rain. The temperature will be 45F to 85F.
The Home Inn Shengli Road Branch is near the back door of Renmin Park. Besides, you can also find a direct bus to Donggguan Mosque in front of the hotel. The address is no.34, Shengli Road, Chengxi District.
Answered by JoChan from MALAYSIA | Jun. 13, 2017 22:03

Thanks, Lina. Great info... but does anyone know how to get to Chaka Lake via public transportation?
Asked by Francisca k from INDONESIA | Jun. 22, 2016 01:14Reply
Is it possible to go Chaka Salt Lake on winter?
I plan to go to xian, zhangye and dunhuang on january. If i go to xining from zhangye by train, can i go to the lake in one day and go back to zhangye at night? Or i should stay overnight in xining? And how is the weather on january? Is it snowing there? Is it possible for me to take a good photos of the lake on winter? Or better i postponed to summer or autumn? Thanks
Answers (1)
Answered by Ava from NEW ZEALAND | Jun. 23, 2016 02:40

You need to spend at least two days for that. You can take a bullet train from Zhangye West Railway Station to Xining (about 2 hours). Upon arrival, take a bus to Chaka Town from the Passenger Transport Center near Xining Railway Station (about 5 hours). Upon arrival, take a taxi to the lake for about CNY 10.

The lake will be beautiful in winter, and you can take good photos. But you are advised to put forward the visit to summer or autumn when the weather is much more favorable. It may be sunny and snow sometimes in January. The temperature may range from -20C to 3C. It is bitter cold.
Asked by XUEYING07 | May. 22, 2016 01:58Reply
How long is the journey from Xining Railway Station to Chaka Salt Lake?
And are there more buses to this area?
Answers (1)
Answered by Lina | May. 22, 2016 05:00

As I know, the bus journey takes 4-5h from Xining. At the Long-distance Bus Station opposite the railway station, direct buses to Chaka Town are scheduled. Upon getting there, the salt lake is around 4km away. You can take a taxi to reach with the fare of CNY20.
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