Xining is the gateway to Tibet, and the start of the world’s highest railway, the Qingzang Railway. This delightful 8-day tour takes in China’s largest saline lake, Qinghai Lake, before taking you on a journey of discovery across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The spectacular views of snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes, and an abundance of wildlife, will leave you breathless. Inside Tibet you will get to visit some of the oldest monasteries in the region, as well as the famed Lake Yamdrok, and a visit to the hot springs at Yangpachen.
Itinerary Day by Day
Day 1: Xining Arrival (take flight to Xining by transferring in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou or Chongqing)
From Hong Kong you need to take a connecting flight to travel to Xining, in Qinghai province of China. On arrival in Xining, our guide will transfer you to your hotel, where you can rest. Feel free to take in some of the sights of Xining, the gateway to Tibet.
At 2,275 meters above sea level, Xining is the ideal place to start acclimatizing to higher altitudes. While getting used to the increased elevation it is advised not to exert yourself too much, as this can bring on altitude sickness, even at the altitude of Xining. Rest, eat plenty of green vegetables and high energy foods; these are recommended when acclimatizing to a new altitude.
Stay overnight in Xining.
Day 2: Qinghai Lake Day Tour and Take overnight Train to Lhasa
Early in the morning you will take the short drive up to Qinghai Lake, the largest inland saltwater lake in China. The lake is the home to many different varieties of birds, and Bird Island, near the western shore of the lake, is a haven for both local and migratory species. The lake is elliptical in shape, and the crystal clear waters reflect the surrounding mountains and the clear blue sky. A great way to see the lake is from the deck of a boat, and 30-minute cruises are a popular attraction.
In the afternoon you will drive back to Xining, and will get to see the beautiful view of Riyue Mountain, known locally as “Sun and Moon Mountain”. Legend tells that it was on this mountain that Princess Wencheng lost a mirror called Sun and Moon, that allowed her to see her home in Xi’an, and the Datong River was born from her tears.
Later you will transfer to the Xining Railway Station, to begin the ride over the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to Lhasa. Traveling along the most scenic railway in the world, you will experience sights that will leave you breathless, and cross a plateau with an average elevation of over 4,000 meters. Do not forget to check out the view as you go over the Tanggula Pass, the highest railway pass in the world at 5072 meters above sea level.
Tips: High Altitude Sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can be avoided by resting and acclimatizing to the increased elevation. We recommend that you rest and eat plenty of high-protein foods and drink lots of water while you get used to the high altitude. It is also a good idea not to shower for the first two days to avoid catching a cold.
Stay overnight on the train.
Day 3: Arrive in Lhasa
When you arrive in Lhasa in the mid-afternoon, our guide will greet you warmly with the phrase, "Tashi Delek", which means 'wish you all the best'. Your tour guide will meet you at the exit of the station, and a private car will transport you to your hotel to allow you to rest and acclimatize for the rest of the day.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 4: Lhasa Tour: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Street
The following day your first stop will be the world famous Potala Palace, the winter palace of the Dalai Lama. Sitting atop Moburi (Red Hill), the palace looks down on the town of Lhasa from its 3,750-meter vantage point. The temple dates back to the 7th century, and houses artifacts and works of art from throughout Tibetan History. The palace also has the gilded burial stupas of the past Dalai Lamas, and below ground lies the ancient meditation cave of the 33rd King of Tibet.
After some lunch, you will head downtown to Jokhang Temple, the primary seat of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was built by the 33rd King of Tibet in 647AD, and is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest temple in Tibetan Buddhism. Inside sits the most precious object in the temple, a life-sized statue of Buddha Sakyamuni when he was just 12 years old. Adorned with many precious gems, this gilded statue is the most sacred object in Tibet.
Running around the temple is the famed Barkhor Street. As well as the route of the holy kora, or religious circumambulation, it is also the site of many sellers where you can buy authentic souvenirs from across the region. You can join the pilgrims on their clockwise walk around the temple.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 5: Lhasa Tour: Drepung and Sera Monastery
The next morning you will leave early for a trip outside Lhasa, first to Drepung Monastery, one of the Great Three monasteries of the Gelugpa sect. Sitting at the foot of Gambo Utse, 5 kilometers outside Lhasa, it was founded by Jamyang Choge, one of the disciples of Tsong Khapa, in 1416. The Ganden Potrang, sited in the southwest corner of the monastery, was the former residence of the Dalai Lama, until the move to the Potala Palace.
In the afternoon you will travel back across the city to the northern suburbs, to visit Sera Monastery, another of the Great Three monasteries. Founded in 1419, the name, Sera, means "wild rose" in Tibetan, and was named because of the roses that were in bloom on the hill behind it when it was built. The main attraction of the monastery is the colorful and animated debating of the monks, held under the trees in the debating field every afternoon. Definitely something to watch, even if you do not understand what is said.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 6: Lhasa to Namtso Lake (250KM, 5 hours)
In the morning you will be driven to the holy Lake Namtso, 250km north of Lhasa. En route you will pass the famous Nyenchen Tanggula Mountains, and you will get to see a lot of open landscape along the way. The foot of the mountains is a good place to see nomadic herdsmen grazing sheep and yaks on the grassy slopes.
Lake Namtso is one of the four Holy Lakes of Tibet, and is known as the “Heavenly Lake”. It is the largest lake in Tibet, and the second largest saltwater lake in China. At an elevation of 4,470 meters, it is the highest lake in the world, and is supplied by the Nyenchen Tanggula Mountains. Surrounded by lush grasslands and the best pasture land in Northern Tibet, the lake is also home to five small, uninhabited islands, and five peninsulas reach out into its turquoise waters.
Stay overnight in Namtso Guest house.
Day 7: Namtso Lake back to Lhasa via Yangpachen
In the morning you can take the time to explore the lake-shore more, and you can walk along the shore to Tashi Dor Island to take a look at the famous “meditation caves”, which still host many meditators and yogis from across the Tibetan Plateau.
For lunch, your guide will drive you to Dumxang, and in the afternoon you will have the chance to enjoy the Yangpachen hot spring, which has both indoor and outdoor pools filled with relaxing hot spring water. In the evening you will head back to Lhasa for a good night of rest.
Stay overnight in Lhasa.
Day 8: Lhasa Departure
On the last day of your tour, our guide will take you to the airport or train station, and help you with checking in and boarding.
- Tibet Travel Permit and all other necessary permit to Tibet
- Domestic train/flight tickets as indicated in the itinerary
- All lodging listed in the itinerary
- Meals listed in itinerary
- Entrance fees of all tourist sites listed in the itinerary
- Local Tour Transfers according to group size
- Excellent English-Speaking Tour Guide in China Tour and local Tibetan English-speaking guide in Tibet
- Government tax and travel agency service
- Chinese visa
- International flight to and out of China
- Domestic flight/train not listed in the itinerary
- Meals not specified the itinerary
- Tips and gratitude to tour guide and drive
- Personal expenses, like laundry, phone call, snacks, soft drinks, optional tour activities, etc.
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