Go 100 kilometers in any direction except South from Altay and you hit a border: Russia is north, Mongolia is east and Khazakstan is west. A remote area of incredible natural beauty, Altay in Xinjiang provice, is less well-known than Urumqi, but its surrounding scenery of evergreen forests, grasslands, rivers, lakes and isolated mountain ranges easily rivals its more popular sister city.
The Kansas Lake Nature Reserve is the favorite attraction in the region. Located 1374 meters above sea level, Kanas Lake is China's deepest freshwater lake with about 117 different kinds of birds living in the area.
Many travelers enjoy the day hikes around the Lake, visiting Tuvan and Bai Kaba villages, stopping for a few days in the small village of Hongqi, taking a two-day horseriding trip to Hemu, a trip to the Kazakh border, staying overnight in a yurt, nightly barbeques, campfires and Kazakh dance performances in summer. While hiking thorugh the area it's not unusual to pass semi-nomadic Kazakhs, who are either on their way up or down the valley, depending on the season.
Camping, by the way, is not officially permitted, but the vast areas of wildernes in the region are hardly policed. If you do camp, follow the backwoods code of honor and leave your site cleaner than you found it. It's wise to bring your own food, as supplies are limited and over-priced. And while Altay has an airport, the only destination you can fly to is Urumqi.