1 → Arrive Xining
Arrive Xining airport (XNN) at 2,500 meters by afternoon
Settle into hotel
Opening Tibetan Dinner in Xining
Tour officially begins at 5:00pm
2 → Day Hike to Youning Monastery
Acclimatization day with day hike
Day hike and exploration of YouNing Monastery
Hike to a breathtaking view from 3,100 meters to 3,700 meters through a path that traverses several Buddhist meditation caves
Return to Xining, sleep in hotel at 2,500 meters
3 → Xining - Qinghai Lake
Drive 2 hours to Qinghai Lake at 3,200 meters
Qinghai Lake, the largest lake in China, is a saltwater sanctuary for bird migration, acting as a stopover for many unique species that fly across Asia. The high altitude grasslands near the lake are home to Tibetan nomads who make their living by herding yaks and sheep.
Spend the afternoon relaxing and picnicking by the bright turquoise shores of the Lake.
Sleep in a guesthouse near the Lake where we can view the sunset over Qinghai Lake.
4 → Qinghai Lake - Serdzong Monastery
In the morning drive 3 hours to the high grassland town of Xinghai at 3,300 meters.
Local lunch with fresh yak yoghurt in Xinghai town. Afternoon exploring Serdzong Monastery
Half-day hike behind monastery to 3,800 meters in the craggy cliffs of the monastery
Serdzong, home to over 350 monks, is a remote Buddhist monastery set on the side of a rugged mountain and provides excellent photography and hiking opportunities.
5 → Serdzong Monastery - Madao
We will drive 215km through nomadic grasslands to the highest nomad town in Qinghai Province, the small town of Madao at 4350m/14,300 feet. This town is named in Tibetan for its proximity to the headwaters of the Yellow River and offers an incredible depth of folklore and legends. Among the most important of these is that of traditional horse racing festivals including the horse racing grounds where the once poor, humble boy named Gesar won his fame and his bride through his exploits as an expert horseman and ultimately became king of the Ling Kingdom.
6 → Headwaters of the Yellow River
Explore regions around Madao: Kyaring Lake and Nyoring Lake.
From Madao we will drive 1.5 hours over the windswept high altitude plains to view some rare and indigenous wildlife that can be seen few other places in the world: Tibetan Antelope, Wild Ass, and the flat-faced Tibetan Fox. Arriving at 4,500 meters, we will explore and photograph the stunning clear blue lakes that are considered as the main sources of the Yellow River, Kyaring Lake and Nyoring Lake. Here we will also delve into the fascinating histories of these two lakes and their spiritual connection to the Kya Lao family and consequently to Tibetan King Gesar’s wife, Dromo.
7 → Mighty Amnye Machen
Today we follow the path of pilgrims and nomads as they make the circumambulation around one of Tibet’s holiest mountains. We will drive from the dusty truck stop town of Huashixia to Machen and on the way we will pass the glaciers of Amnye Machen, the heart of the Golok tribe. Based on our gradual acclimatization over the last few days, we will drive to the base of the Amnye Machen glacier to catch our first view the glorious peak at its height at 6282 meter/20,610 feet.
Despite being the highest mountain in Amdo and being incredibly beautiful, Amnye Machen sees surprisingly few foreigners. Since most of this area is between 4200 and 4600 meters, the weather can be quite cool and even cold year round. Light snow flurries are common throughout summer while spring and fall can bring cold, clear weather perfect for photographing the peaks and the mysterious blue glow of the glacier’s light.
After a satisfying day at the foot of the mountain, we will drop down to Machen at 3,753 meters/ 12,253 feet. Machen, with around 10,000 people, is the largest town in Golog and as such is the capital of Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Stay in Machen for the night.
8 → Machen - Zeku
Departing Machen town in the morning, we will drive along the gurgling banks of a winding river through red rock canyons along one of the most beautiful roads in Qinghai Province. Along the way, you will visit the ancient halls of Ragya Monastery built into the deep, rich red clay of the Kayka cliff face. As the canyon opens up, we continue through expansive grasslands to Zeku, a town famous for its high altitude pasture and nomadic hospitality.
At an elevation of 3,700 meters, the region around Zeku is almost entirely nomadic pastureland; outside of town, few permanent dwellings are to be seen in the vast expanses that make this a herder’s Shangri-la!
9 → Zeku - Xining
This is our last day immersed in the wonders of one of the last truly nomadic cultures in the world. Take in the sights of a high pass as prayers flags flap in the breezes of the rolling hills. Take in the scents of burnt offerings of juniper and barley offered to local deities at nearby altars. Then we drop off the high altitude plains through coniferous forests and rushing rivers into Rebkong, a town famed for its intricate, colorful Buddhist paintings known as Thangkas.
Lunch in Rebkong and then we head back to Xining at 2,500 meters.
10 → Depart Xining
Today we say our goodbyes as we leave with a lifetime full memories and hearts aching for more of these beautiful, kind Tibetan people.