As one of the most important gateway from mainland China to Tibet, Qinghai-Tibet Highway is a legendary route with plenty of stunning natural landscapes. Along this high-altitude road, this 11-day overland tour will give you the chance to experience the grandeur and abundance of Tibetan Plateau. On the way, you will pass Qinghai Lake, Chaka Salt Lake, Tanggula Mountains, Qiangtang Grassland, Yangpachen Hot Spring and the scared Namtso Lake etc. From Gobi desert to alpine snow-clad mountain, you will keep feasting your eyes on all the beauty around you. Then, after reaching Lhasa, you will have another two days for sightseeing, visiting the famous Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera and Drepung Monastery.
Itinerary Day by Day
Day 1 Arrive in Xining
Welcome to Xining, the real starting point of Qinghai-Tibet Highway and the center of Qinghai Tibetan area, with rich in history and culture. Your lifetime Tibet tour begins with welcome from your local Qinghai guide at the station or airport. Then you will be escorted to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure, and you can explore freely in Xining.
Stay overnight in Xining
Day 2 Xining to Qinghai Lake (159km)
In the morning, you will visit Ta'er Monastery (Kumbum Monastery) in the town of Huangzhong, 26km south of Xining. It is the birthplace of the founder of the Gelugpa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism - Tsongkhapa. The temple was later built in 1577. This monastery is one of the most important six monasteries in Tibet and the foremost in Qinghai Tibetan Area.
Next, we will visit the Qinghai Lake, the largest inland salt water lake in China. The ellipse-shaped lake looks like a huge poplar leaf sitting on the alpine prairie. Scenery in Qinghai Lake varies according to seasons. The most charming and attractive place in Qinghai Lake is the Bird Island. In the noisiest months of April and May, ten thousands of birds stop on the Haixi Shan of Qinghai Lake and lay eggs there. A cruising for about 30 minutes is a popular way to appreciate the lake.
Stay overnight at the shore of Qinghai Lake, Grassland Hotel
Day 3 Qinghai Lake to Chaka (200km)
Today, we will drive to Chaka Town, known for the Chaka Salt Lake. Famed as the fairyland in Qinghai, Chaka Salt Lake is a natural crystals salt lake in Qaidam Basin. It’s called the “Mirror of the Sky” since the crystal blue water of the lake can reflect the azure sky just like a giant mirror. You can see and capture you own reflection through the lake when walking on the lake surface.
Stay overnight in Chaka
Day 4 Chaka to Golmud (515.5km)
Today, we will drive to Golmud from Chaka. On the way, we can see the spectacular view of Gobi landscape, and oasis dotted in the desert. Also, we will pass one of the four basins in China – Qaidam Basin, which is also called the Treasure Bowl.
Stay overnight in Golmud
Day 5 Golmud to Tuotuoheyan (420km)
Driving through the vast wilderness of Qaidam Basin, we will keep moving forward along the road lying at the foot of Kunlun Mountain. Today, we will overcome the first mountain pass of our road trip, the Kunlun Pass (4837m) after crossing a steep valley. Then, we will pass the First Bridge over the Yangtse River and arrive at Tuotuoheyuan, the small town located in head stream of Yangtse River.
Stay overnight in Local Guest House of Tuotuoheyuan
Day 6 Tuotuoheyan to Naqu (430km)
Today, we will continue to heading southwards along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway. Before getting to Naqu, we will cross the famous Tanggula Mountains, where you can see local animals like cattle, sheep and yaks browsing on the grassland at the mountain foot. It is a lot relaxing to see the harmonious picture of giant snow-capped mountain and small grazing herds.
Stay overnight at Local Guest House
Day 7 Naqu to Namtso (390km)
In the morning, we will drive cross the massive Qiangtang Grassland in northern Tibet and have a close contact with the Tibetan nomads. You will have enough time to stay on the grassland, where you can visit the nomad family, play with the local Tibetan kids, taste the fresh yak milk, ride horse, or just wander for leisure. (Notice, nomad visit is only available at summer time from June to August).
Then we will head to the Namtso Lake, also called the Heavenly Lake. It is one of the three holy lakes in Tibet and also the highest salt lake in China. You can take a leisure trek around Tashi Island and enjoy the stunning sunset of Namtso Lake. In the evening, you can enjoy night view of the milky way along the lake shore.
Stay overnight at lake shore Guest House
Day 8 Namtso - Yangpachen Hot Spring - Lhasa (220km)
In the morning, you can appreciate the beautiful sunrise view of the Namtso Lake and then trek along the lake shore to Tashi Dor Island to explore the meditation caves. Then we will drive to Dumxung for lunch.
In the afternoon, you will visit the Yangpachen hot spring before reaching Lhasa. Famous for the highest geothermal power plant in the world, Yangpachen is a good place to relax and take bath in on the Tibetan Plateau.
Stay overnight in Lhasa
Day 9 Lhasa Tour: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and Barkhor Street
Today, you’ll pay a visit to the famous Potala Palace, the world culture heritage. You can explore its audience halls, the jeweled and Golden burial chortens (stupa Tombs) of past Dalai Lamas, and tremendous number of Buddhist frescoes, Thangkas, combinations of mandala, etc.
Then tourists will head to the holiest temple in Tibet, the Jokhang Temple, built during Songtsen Gampo's reign by princess Wencheng of Tang dynasty, 647 A.D. Here you can observe sincere pilgrims making prostration in front of Jokhang Temple. While entering inside the temple, you can see the holiest statue of Buddha. Around the monastery is the famous Barkhor Street, where you can do the kora with pilgrims and locals. And then we’ll go to explore the old market and you may have chance to see the traditional jewelry trading between people from different part of Tibet.
Finally, you’ll taste Tibetan tea with locals in tea house and enjoy a welcome dinner at night.
Stay overnight in Lhasa
After finishing the sightseeing, if time allows, you may go with tour guide to visit Tibetan handicraft art or Tibetan Traditional Medicine center. Besides, you can also choose to upgrade your tour to enjoy Tibetan Culture Show in the evening (fr. 60USD).
Day 10 Lhasa Tour: Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery
Today, you will visit two of the three prestigious Gelugpa monasteries in Lhasa, the Drepung and the Sera. Founded by Jamyang Choeje in 1416, Drepung Monastery is the largest monastery in Tibet. Situated at the foot of Gambo Utse Mountain, Drepung was once home to more than 10000 monks. Here you can see the biggest monastery kitchen inside and then pay a visit to the Buddhist Sculpture Carving near Drepung.
After having lunch, you’ll continue to visit the Sera Monastery, which was founded in 1419 by Tsongkapa's disciple Jamchen Choeje. The highlight is the monk debate held in the courtyard at around 3-5 in the afternoon. Besides, you can also see the colorful Rock Painting of Buddha and the three sand Mandalas and then visit the Tibetan scripture printing house.
Stay overnight in Lhasa
Day 11 Departure from Lhasa
The guide will transfer you to the airport or train station and help you with boarding.
- Tibet Travel Permit and all other necessary permit to Tibet
- All lodging listed in the itinerary. If you travel individually, you will need to share one room with another tourist. If you prefer to stay in one room by yourself, you will have to pay the single room supplement
- Meals listed in itinerary
- Entrance fees of all tourist sites listed in the itinerary
- Local Tibetan English-speaking guide
- Local tour transfer, comfortable tourist vehicle according to group size
- One shared big Oxygen tank in the car
- Tourist accident/casualty insurance
- First aid kit
- Chinese visa
- International flight to and out of China
- Domestic train/flight to and out of Tibet. (We offer domestic train/flight ticket booking service, please contact our travel experts for the details.)
- Meals not specified in the itinerary
- Tips and gratitude to tour guide and driver
- Personal expenses, like laundry, phone call, snacks, soft drinks, optional tour activities, etc.
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