Bitahai Lake, Shangri-la
Bitahai Lake, which is known as holy lake. Bitahai is surrounded by spruce covered mountains and azalea fields. In Tibetan, "bita" means "piece of land as soft as cattle hair" and the locals often call the lake, "hai" or "sea" in Chinese. Spruce-covered mountains surround the lake, and the water is tranquil and clear. If it is a bright day, you can see schools of fish swimming deep below the surface.
It is a provincial nature reserve, located 25km east of the seat of Zhongdian County .It occupies a total area of 840 square kilometers with the Bitahai Lake as the center of this scenic spot, its length from the north to south is about 60km and the width from the east to the west is 14km. The elevation of the Bitahai Lake surface is 3,539 meters, and the length of the lake from the east to the west is 3,000 meters. The average depth of the lake is 20 meters, with the maximum depth of 40 meters. The total water area is 159 hectares, which is very clear and tranquil. If you row a boat on the water on a fine day, you will see the water world 10 meters below. The local Tibetans believe that it appeared when a fairy lady dropped her miracle mirror on this place. In the novel “The Lost Horizon" James Hills depicts it as a "Blue Lake”, an essential part of "Shangri-La".
There is an island in the lake and some boats can ferry tourists there, and on the island grow dense spruce, abies-fabri and azalea woods. All of the green grass, zigzags, singing birds and fragrant flowers make you feel that you are in a fairy world. Right around the lake there is a dense azalea forest, whose flowers are often in full bloom. In the fifth month of the Chinese lunar year tourists can see a peculiar sight-the fallen azalea flowers afloat on the water, while the fish amuse themselves in the shallow water of the lake, swallowing the fallen azalea flowers. The fallen flowers are little poisonous, and will cause them to appear "drunk" as they float on the surface of the lake, so it is called "azalea making fish drunk”. In the Bitahai Lake there are various kinds of fish, one of which is called "double-lipped fish", a sort of ancient creature of the Quaternary Ice Age. This kind of fish is tender and delicious.
The Bitahai Lake Nature Reserve is in the subtropical zone. It is rich in wild animals and plants. The vegetation is characterized by abides fabric, totaling 2•23 million cubic meters. Among the rare animals and birds, clouded leopards, black necked cranes, red green-tailed pheasants are Class-A species under state protection, and rhesus monkeys, lynxes serows, red pheasants, Tibetan eared pheasants are Class-B species under state protection. There are also some economic and fancy animals such as black bears, brown bears, Tibetan picas, parrots and Carr lax Cano ruses.
In order not to spoil the Bitahai Lake Nature Reserve, the tourists are required to ride 22 km from Zhongdian County to Shuangqiao and then to walk or ride on horse back and fro for 8 Li respectively. In this way they can feel the local people's enthusiasm, or recall the feelings of the Red Army soldiers when they marched across the grassland.
In the primeval forest on the north bank of the lake, many cabins are built there for the convenience of the tourists. Activities like horse riding, trekking and boating are available at the customer's will.
How to get there:
The nature reserve is located 35 km east of Zhongdian county town. Many travel agencies offer one day tours which include Bitahai, Songzanling Monastery, and Napahai.