Day 1 → Kanbula National Park
Depart Xining in the morning to drive 3 hours from Xining to Kanbula National Park. Kanbula National Park has many red rock cliffs and large sandstone monuments and offers sweeping views across this unique landscape . The geography here is like that of a miniature Grand Canyon. Once inside the park we will visit Namzong Nunnery and view the tranquil life of Tibetan Buddhist nuns in their mountain seclusion.
The national park will also afford us an opportunity to do a few short hikes to viewpoints and pagodas and see a small Tibetan farmer village. In the afternoon, we will drive to a quaint homestay where we will learn up-close about Tibetan life and culture.
We will sleep in a Tibetan homestay in Kanbula National Park.
Day 2 → Drive to Labrang and see monastery
Today we will drive another 3 hours to Labrang Monastery through the high altitude grasslands into the heart of Amdo Tibet. Here, among the lushest grasslands on the Tibetan Plateau, we will discuss nomadic culture and the relationship these herders have with their yaks and sheep.
We will eat lunch in Labrang and then tour the meditation halls of Labrang Monastery. Labrang Monastery is at an elevation of 2900m / 9512 feet. Labrang was 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 arrive in the afternoon we may get a chance to see the Tibetan monk debates where they debate important theological principles using a loud clapping of the hands.
After exploring the bustling Tibetan markets in the late afternoon, we will have some hearty Tibetan momos for dinner and sleep in the town of Labrang just across form the monastery.
Day 3 → Horse trekking in the grasslands
In the morning, we will venture from the town of Labrang to the absolutely stunning GanJia grasslands for an in-depth view of nomadic life on horseback. Tibetan horses are a vital part of the lore and history of Tibetans and are notoriously small but very tough, with a reputation for crossing rugged snowy mountain passes over 4,500 meters. Though we will not ascend nearly as high as the horses are able to, we will ride past beautiful mountains on these gentle beasts. In the summer, the meadows are painted with colorful flowers and full of grazing yaks. We will visit a nomad family in their black yak hair tent where we can sample Tibetan milk tea and Tibetan noodle soup for lunch. Here we can learn about the history of craftsmanship in using yak wool to weave the tents, ropes, and sling shots, and carpets that are so integral to Tibetan survival as well as the importance of the yak in milk, cheese, and yoghurt production.
After lunch with the nomads we will return to Labrang to sleep in hotel.
Note: if desired we can also sleep in a nomad tent in the grasslands outside of Labrang. This activity depends on the season and the movements of the nomad camps. Please inquire if you would like to arrange a nomad tent stay as part of your trip.
Day 4 → Return to Xining
This is our final chance to enjoy the grassland tents and the curious yaks who graze there. We will eat a hearty breakfast in Labrang and drive 5 hours back to Xining.
Return to Xining by mid-afternoon.