Aydingkol Lake (Aiding Hu, in Chinese), 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) from Turpan City, is at the bottom of the deepest depression in China's land mass, known as Turpan Pendi.
The lake covers an area of 22 kilometers (about nine square miles) and measures 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) from west to east, eight kilometers (about five miles) from north to south. The water is not very deep at an average of 0.8m, and sometimes large parts of the lake dry up. Literally nothing lives here as the salt makes for a harsh environment. Lying 155 meters (about 509 feet) below sea level the lake does not quite compare with the Dead Sea which, of course is the lowest expanse of water on earth at some 283 feet below sea level. This lake is the lowest lake in China and the second lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea). However, Aydingkol Lake, together with the Flaming Mountains and Grape Valley are three outstanding natural features in Turpan.
Shaped like the moon, the lake was so named by the Uigur. Aydingkol, means 'Moonlight Lake'. It has a long history going back about 250 million years. The name is inspired by the glitter that this evaporating, muddy lake's salt deposit gives off under the Turpan sun.
Ten thousand years ago it was a freshwater lake and was 1,000 times larger than its current size. Natural forces affected its elevation and once it became land locked so mineral deposits began to accumulate. Today, the lake is comprised of three parts: the outer circle is an alluvial plane. The inner part is salt marsh while at its center the lake is pure white and glittering salt rime. Neither birds nor fish inhabit its hostile environs, but one may come across gnats and hares from time to time. Occasionally, mirages are created by the refraction of the sun light.
The lake is highly mineralized and contains rock salt, Glauber's salt, glauberite, gypsum, etc. The reserves of salt and Glauber's salt exceed 300 million tons, an important source of raw materials to chemical industries. There is now a chemical plant on the lake front. In addition to the natural views, a karez, beacon tower and residential sites near the lake are of great archaeological importance. The desolate and incult sight of the Aydingkol Lake will make a unique impression on visitors.
The road to get Aydingkol Lake is bumpy and uneven, some drivers may not be willing to take you there. If you are interested in the landscape and geology of Xinjiang, then it may be worth making the effort to get to the lake.
China tours inclusive of visiting Aiding Lake, Turpan