Day 1 → Arrive in Xining
Flying into Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, will take us straight to an altitude of 2200m (7200ft). While known as the gateway to the Tibetan Plateau, there are plenty of incredible sites within Qinghai Province itself to dazzle the eyes. After arrival, we’ll have the afternoon to acclimatize with an engaging workshop on Tibetan handicrafts using yak wool and enjoy our first taste of authentic Tibetan cuisine.
Day 2 → Xining to Rebkong to Labrang
Our day with the most bus time, we will be traveling from Xining to Rebkong (or Tongren) where we will visit a Thangka School and learn some of the techniques used in their incredibly intricate Thangka paintings. After lunch, we will continue our journey to Labrang with another stop along the way to taste traditional yak yogurt and take a walk to stretch our legs on the open grasslands at a prayer flag pass. We will discuss the landscape and natural elements before continuing our journey to Labrang at 2,900 meters where we will enjoy a group dinner and settle in for the night at a hotel just next to Labrang monastery, the most influential Gelugpa monastery outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Day 3 → Labrang to Langmusi
Spending the first half of the third day immersed in Tibetan Buddhism, we will walk the Labrang monastery sacred kora next to pilgrims before entering the monastery with a guided tour with a Tibetan monk. Participants will have a chance to scour the markets on the streets of Labrang before we have lunch and take a bus ride to Langmusi at 3,300 meters. Langmusi is a quintessential Tibetan mountain town that straddles the borders of Gansu and Sichuan Province.
We will settle into our first homestay in an authentic Tibetan village.
Day 4 → Red Rock Cliff Hike in Langmusi
From our homestay location we will walk right out of town to a stunning hike that overlooks the quaint village of Langmusi. We will climb up 2.5 hours to the ridgeline at 3,700 meters and have an excellent picnic on top of tall red rock cliffs with miles and miles of views. After a nap in the sun we will come down the backside of the cliffs and loop around back to Langmusi town where we will celebrate with a hearty dinner and a stay in a hotel.
Day 5 → Huagai God Mountain Hike in Langmusi
This is our big hiking day. We will walk from the outskirts of town past the mud walls and golden rooftops of Langmusi’s Sichuan monastery as we follow the White Dragon River to its source up into a gorge and to a natural spring. We will wind through the bottom of the gorge and look up at the soaring granite towers above us. After about 1 hour the trail starts to climb up a ridge at moderate steepness. After stopping for a picnic and plenty of breaks, we will summit the mountain with lots of prayer flags and giant wooden arrows to greet us from our long journey. From there we will rest and descend 1.5 hours back into the town where we will venture into the grasslands to sleep in a Tibetan nomad tent and watch shepherds herd yaks and sheep.
Note: One or both Day 4 and 5 hikes can be changed into 1 or 2 days of horse trekking through the wild grasslands surrounding Langmusi town.
Day 6 → Langmusi to Hezuo
Waking up in our authentic tent stay, we will go out into the grasslands to explore nomadic life. We will be treated to a traditional breakfast of tsampa and have the chance to see the nomadic families tend to their yaks and sheep, make yak cheese, yak yogurt and yak butter and students will learn to make traditional Tibetan yak meat momos for lunch.
After spending the morning and lunch with our Tibetan nomadic families, we will transfer to Hezuo.We will stay in a hotel this evening and enjoy our first taste of Sichuan cuisine after a long run of Tibetan meals.
Sleep in a hotel in Hezuo
Day 7 → Hezuo to Lanzhou
Hezuo will take us deeper into Tibetan religious life with a visit to their 6-story Monastery where students can explore the beautiful artwork and sculptures that line the walls and learn some more stories about Tibetan Buddhism. Here we will travel through time as we learn about Milarepa, an iconic Tibetan monk who was thought to commit murder and then turn from his ways to achieve enlightenment in single dedicated lifetime. After a Tibetan lunch near the monastery, we will have a bus ride to Lanzhou.
Day 8 → Depart Lanzhou airport
Fly out of Lanzhou airport back to Hong Kong or other places in China in the afternoon