Ili Overview

Basic Information

  • Chinese Name: 伊犁哈萨克自治州
  • Location: Situated in the Yili River Valley of northern Tianshan Mountain in west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
  • Area: About 269,100 square kilometers
  • Population: 4,662,000
  • Language: Northern official dialect, Uygur language, the Kazak language, Mandarin, etc.

Administrative Division

As a sub-provincial Autonomous Prefecture, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture nominally administers 2 preferences, and directly has jurisdiction over 3 county-level cities, 7 counties and 1 autonomous county.

To know more about Ili Administrative Divisions


Kazak Autonomous Prefecture of Ili is located in the northwest of China and northwest of Xinjiang. It borders Russia and Mongoli in northeastern, the Republic of Kazakhstan in west. Domestically it neighbors Kekedala City, Shuanghe City, Beitun City, Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Karamay City, Akesu Prefecture, Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Hui Autonomous Prefecture of Changji and Shihezi City. With an area of 350,000 square kilometers, it is equivalent to one thirtieth of the total area of China.

Ili is located in the landlocked central Asia hinterland, with a lot of mountains, vast intermountainous plains, basins and river valleys. Three main geomorphic units of the prefecture is “three mountains, two basins and two valleys”.

Situated in northeast of the prefecture, Altay Prefecture is the south slope of central the Altai Mountains, with a length about 500 miles. Tianshan Mountains and their branches go across the south of Kazak Autonomous Prefecture. Starting at Ili areas in west and ending at Xingxingxia in east, about 1,700 miles, Tianshan Mountains have about 450-mile land in the prefecture. The highest point is at Tomor Peak, with an elevation of 7,443 meters above sea level.

Ili is situated in west of Tianshan Mountain and is surrounded by mountains on three sides. The main rivers there are Ili River, Eerqisi River, Emin River and Ulungur River. Eerqisi River reaches the Arctic Ocean, and the others belong to continental river and down to the basin. During them, the Ili River has the largest water yield in Xinjiang.


The extreme maximum temperature of Ili prefecture is 42.8℃, and the extreme minimum temperature is -51.0 ℃. The annual average temperature of Ili River Valley is 10.4 ℃; the annual average temperature of Tacheng Prefecture is 8.7 ℃; and the annual average temperature of Altay Prefecture is 5.8 ℃.

For the average annual rainfall, Ili River Valley is about 417.6 mm; and the mountainous areas amount to 600 mm; Tacheng Basin reaches 342.7 mm, and the mountainous areas there total 400 mm. For the Atlay mountainous areas, they reach  202.6 mm. The rest of places vary from 100 to 200 mm. For the average annual sunlight time, Ili River

Valley reaches 2,898.4 hours;  Tacheng Prefecture gets to 2,714.7 hours and Atlay Prefecture amounts to 2,976.8 hours.

The Best Time to Go

The time from June to October is the best time to visit Ili. During this period, the prefecture welcomes warm climate, abundant sunlight, flourishing flowers, ripe fruit, which makes it good time for photography and sightseeing. Lavender flowers blossom in the middle of June, and you could take part in the lavender flower festival as well. July welcomes almond flowers, and the rape flowers of Zhaosu could bring you splendid views as well. The period from November to march belongs to the winter of Ili, with low temperature. There is no good views of various flowers, buy you could appreciate gorgeous snow views. If you love snow skiing, winter is the best time to visit Ili.

Things to Do

There is brilliant sunshine and boundless sky. The place provides boundless prairie that gives the views that white clouds hang on the edge of grassland. Appreciating the marvelous view of prairie is a must-do thing in Ili. Then, tranquil lakes, colorful sea of flowers would bring you surprise. Delicious food like kebab, Xinjiang big plate chicken, and drinks Liekkas Wusu Beer would stimulate your taste buds, giving you the feast of gustation. In June, large fields of lavender flowers offer you visual feast. Besides, you could also visit numerous tourist attractions like Fruit Valley, Ili River, Narat Grasslands, etc.


Highway is the mainly transportation way that connects Ili with other places. The visiting to Ili, the first station usually is Urumqi, and then visitors could reach Yining city from the capital city. Yining city offers long-distance buses to the tourist sites nearby. Or passengers could take tour buses to the destinations. Wuyi Highway connects Yining, Shihezi and Urumqi. To south, there are highways reaching Korla and Kuche. From Yinign, passengers could take coaches to almost all places in Xinjiang. To know more about Ili transportation.

History& Culture

Ili gets its name from the Ili River, and Ili is an adjective to describe the rippling river water under sunshine. It first appeared in Hanshu (History of the Han Dynasty), and it was called Yilie (伊列), Yili (伊丽) or Yili (伊里) in history. The primary Ili people who were recorded in books are Sai people (塞人). During the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 24), Ili belonged to the territory of Wusun State (乌孙国). Tang Dynasty unified the western region, and Anxi Frontier Command was established to governed the areas. When it saw the turning of Yuan and Ming dynasty, Ili became the political center of the western regions. In Qing Dynasty, Emperor Qianlong squashed the revolt of Junggar feudal aristocracy and then Ili was managed by Qing Dynasty and the name began to be settled. After the founding of People's Republic of China, Ili special area was set in 1950. In 1984, Ili prefecture was founded, which makes it the only autonomous prefecture which has jurisdiction over prefecture-level administrative region and country-level administrative region in China.

Ili enjoys a profound cultural heritage, and it is one of the cradles of the grassland culture of central Asia, with deep  grassland ethnic culture accumulation. Wall paintings, stone carving,ancient tombs, ancient city, etc.,of different periods, such as Wusun Ancient, Ruins of Alimali, etc.tell a valuable history of Ili.

In addition to the grassland culture, locating in the key position of the Silk Road, Ili witnessed the communication and blending of the eastern and western civilization, and  saw the solemnness of Princess Xijun’(princess of the Western Han Dynasty) marriage to Wusun King, viewed Genghis Khan of Yuan Dynasty leading troops to west, and experienced Zuo Zongtang’s great achievement of recovering Ili in Qing Dynasty.


Ili enjoys favorable development location. It borders Russia and Mongoli in northeastern, the Republic of Kazakhstan in west. Domestically it neighbors Kekedala City, Shuanghe City, Beitun City, Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Karamay City, Akesu Prefecture, Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Hui Autonomous Prefecture of Changji and Shihezi City. Therefore, the position favors its development with counties and cities around. And the establishment of open port for border trade drives the economic development there.

In 2016, the GDP of Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture totaled 156.226 billion yuan, with an increase of 8.8% over the previous year.


There are diverse minority groups so that festivals and activities of different nationality would be given, such as Memorial Day of West Movement that is the festival of Xibe nationality. Also, for people who have their own believe, they celebrate their special festivals like Lesser Bairam. And as a popular tourist destination, there are tourism festivals as well, such as International Lavender Tourism Festival.To know more about Ili festivals.


Ili diet is with thick ethnic flavor. There are a variety of delicacies like milk tea, hand grasping rice, special pea noodle roll soup (粉汤), steamed stuffed bun, Naren (纳仁), blood sausage, Naan, Lamian noodles, etc. Visitors could eat authentic local food in many local restaurants and canteens. To know more details about Ili dining. 1111111111


With a profound history which saw the gathering of eastern and western culture, the period of the Silk Road, receives different ethnic groups, enjoys a good location and is blessed with various cultural and natural tourist sites, Tourism is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Xinjiang. Each June, people from a number of places go there to appreciate the sea of lavender flowers.