Day 1 → Xining - Labrang
Depart from Xining for Labrang in the morning. Our 5 hour drive will take us through the heart of Amdo’s grasslands and by many yak hair tents to see some of the last remnants of functioning nomadic culture in the world. Along the drive we can stop to eat some of the freshest yak yoghurt on the Plateau in Garze town. From here we will ascend to a high pass with prayer flags and continue our drive to Labrang. Before entering Labrang town we will stop in some remote grassland villages to experience local culture and food with friendly Amdo nomads.
In the afternoon we will visit Labrang Monastery at an elevation of 2900m / 9512 feet. Labrang Monastery is a popular pilgrimage destination and has incredible alpine forests (rare on the high Plateau) and rich grasslands all around it.
Labrang is by far the largest and most influential monastery in Amdo and is Tibetan Buddhism's most important monastery town outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Today it has 1,500 active monks and nuns. As we explore in the afternoon we may have a chance to see the local markets and do some shopping for handicrafts and jewelry.
Sleep in hotel in Labrang.
Day 2 → Labrang - Machu - Jigdril
Continue our drive through the remote grasslands of Gansu Province as we pass local beekeepers and their honey farms in fields of golden flowers. Today we will learn about nomadic culture and the essential relationship the herders have with their yaks.
Sleep in guesthouse in Jigdril town.
Day 3 → Jigdril - Shutso lake (Trek Day 1)
We will drive from the small Tibetan village of Jigdril to start the trek at the Shutso lake and walk about 3-4 hours. Make sure you bring good waterproof boots! The edge of the lake can be a little boggy from the runoff of the glacial lakes.
Sleep in tents on the far end of Shutso lake.
Day 4 → Trek to Rakyi Lake (Trek Day 2)
Today is our longest and hardest trekking day as we work our way over a high pass under the main craggy peaks of Nyenbo Yurtse. The whole day involves about 6-7 hours of total trekking time with plenty of breaks for snacks and a nice picnic style lunch.
Sleep in tents near the glacial lake.
Day 5 → Trek to Qiaotu along Rakyi lake
We finish our trek with 2-3 hours of walking out of the wilderness to a road on the edge of the park. From here we drive back to Machu town and sleep in a hotel to get clean from our adventure and get some good food in our bellies.
Day 6 → Machu - Labrang
We will retrace our steps back to Labrang town and get a last chance to shop at the authentic markets and eat some fresh yak meat dumplings at the best local restaurants in the area. Labrang is definitely a unique Tibetan town and is always worth a second look after our initial visit to the monastery complex on the way out toward Nyenbo Yurtse. There are always nomads coming in and out of the town and there are ample opportunities for great photos of lively characters in traditional Tibetan garb.
Day 7 → Labrang - Xining
Drive 5 hours back to Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province. Depart Xining by mid-afternoon.