Geographically enclosed by the formidable Tianshan mountains, in the past Ili was less popular than some other tourist places in Xinjiang. But today, as transportation has improved, the place has become increasingly popular with tourists from home and abroad. Ili is inaccessible by train, and for going there, visitors can fly to Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and then take a plane or coach to Yining city.
Flights are available between Urumqi and Yining. However, daily flights are often cancelled or delayed due to lack of traffic. With no delays, the flight takes about an hour and costs around RMB680. Tickets (especially from Yining back to Urumqi) are not easy to get. There is a Xinjiang Airlines office one block west of the Ili Hotel.
Buses sre widely used to travel to and from Urumqi, a distance of 700 km that takes about 20 hours. Buses leave the station in the northwest of the city at 8 am. Seats in regular buses cost RMB50 and sleepers costs around RMB105.
Getting around the city
Within the city, the best way to get around is by walking. Hiring a horse and carriage is a pleasant way to see the scenery south of the city. If the carriage drivers don't find you, then you can find them one block east of the Yili Hotel. Typical fares are RMB 200-300 for an hour and a half tour of the beautiful valley about 6km south of Yining.