Day 1 → Xining - Shuangpengxi Tibetan Village
Our tour departs in the morning from Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, will take us straight from an altitude of 2200m (7200ft).
Today we will drive 3 hours to the unique village of Shuangpengxi, a traditional Tibetan village full of mud homes and smoking chimneys. This village is renowned for a small Buddhist monastic sect that is allowed to marry.
After a hike up to the top of the prayer flags in the village, we will sleep in a unique homestay with some of the most hospitable Tibetan people you will every likely meet.
2 → Shuangpengxi - Labrang
In the morning, we will eat breakfast in our homestay and then go for a 4 hour hike to the border between the forests of Amdo Tibet and the high grasslands. As we exit the farming communities for the more barren lands of shepherds, his will mark our official entry into the open country of the yak.
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 at 3,600 meters. 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.
Sleep in a hotel in Labrang.
3 → Labrang - Maqu
In the morning we will explore Labrang Monastery.
Then in the afternoon we will travel to Maqu town and will stop along the way to photograph the thousands of curious yaks roaming around the grasslands.
Sleep in a hotel in Maqu town.
4 → Maqu- Wetlands and River Habitats
In the morning we will explore Maqu town and the unique high altitude grassland ecosystem.
In the afternoon we will drive 50km near the First Bend of the Yellow River to view the winding rivers and wetlands that make Tibet one of the main sources of Asia's fresh water.
We will sleep in an authentic homestay.
5 → Nomad Activities in the Grasslands Near Maqu
In the morning we will awake to vast stretches of lush grassland covered in dew and frost. We will watch as a nomad lady milks the yaks in the morning and performs her morning chores, collecting yak dung for stove fuel. We may get a chance to help make a selection of dairy products including yoghurt, butter, and fresh cheese. We may also have the opportunity to use a Tibetan slingshot and get to herd some yaks (and even maybe some sheep) right alongside Tibetan shepherds.
After a full day of learning about nomadic life, we will spend another day our village homestay.
6 → Maqu - Jigdril
We will drive about 3 hours of 120km from Maqu to Jigdril town. Jigdril is the home of many Golok nomads and is the launching point for most journeys into Nyenbo Yurste National Park.
In the afternoon we will get a chance to meet with an expert birder and he will give us a talk on the flora and fauna of Tibet as we get to experience Tibet's birds up close.
7 → Nyenbo Yurtse Day Hike
Trek past fields of Edelweiss and yaks grazing near turquoise glacial lakes and discover the dramatic shark tooth peaks of Nyenbo Yurtse. This the home to Tibetan nomads who live at the base of a mountain that hovers at a lofty 5369 meters/17,615 feet.
We will embark on an all day hike around one of the beautiful turquoise glacial lakes just under the peaks of Nyenbo Yurtse.
Tonight we will sleep in a homestay near Nyenbo Yurtse
8 → Jigdril
Today we will drive 300km back in the direction of Amnye Machen, to begin our journey to Qinghai's largest mountain range.
Sleep in a homestay.
9 → Machen
Today we will drive 140km through the nomad grasslands to Machen town (aka Dawu in Chinese). This is the largest town closest to the Amnye Machen mountain range.
Machen is the capital of Golog Prefecture and is the biggest town of the Golog people, with a population of around 10,000 people. Just outside of town there is a temple with colorful prayer flags that covers an entire hill. We will hike through these flags to see a beautiful view of Machen town from the quiet space on top of the hill.
We will sleep in a hotel in Machen.
10 → Amnye Machen
Golog Tibet Autonomous Prefecture (མགོ་ལོག་བོད་རིགས་རང་སྐྱོང་ཁུལ་) is located in southeastern Qinghai province, in the Amdo region of Tibet. Over 90% of the 125,000 people who live in Golog are Tibetan. Most of the people in Golog are nomadic with many of them living in traditional style Tibetan tents. Most of Golog is well above 4000m / 13,120 feet so summers are short and winters are long and cold. Golog is famous across the Tibetan Plateau as being the home of Amnye Machen, one of the 4 main holy mountains of Tibet. Each year, thousands of pilgrims make their way to Amnye Machen to make a pilgrimage around the mountain. Amnye Machen rises to 6282m / 20,605 feet and is the highest mountain in Amdo.
Today we will hike around the base of Amnye Machen and reach a maximum altitude of over 4,500 meters. By this time, though, your lungs should be well adapted to the thin air.
Tonight we sleep in a homestay or guesthouse near the base of Amnye Machen.
11 → Return to Machen town
After our wonderful adventures at the base of the Amnye Machen glaciers we will return back to civilization for a nice hot shower and some good food.
This afternoon we will have a rest in Machen town and allow people to visit the markets and buy souvenirs as we prepare to make our way back to Xining the next day.
Sleep in a nice hotel in Machen.
12 → Machen - Zeku
Today is mostly a driving day as we cruise along the banks of the Yellow River through deep cut canyons. Around lunch time we will visit Rabgya Monastery which is a beautiful monastery cut into red rock cliffs that looks over the banks of the Yellow River as it roars through gorges to bring water to eastern China.
In the afternoon we will arrive in Zeku, a classic high grassland town that is also famous for tasty yoghurt and wild nomads with swagger and style.
We will sleep in a hotel in Zeku
13 → Zeku - Xining
After a 5 hour drive we will return to Xining full of memories of the Tibetan Plateau.
We will check into a hotel in Xining in the afternoon and have our last dinner and final debrief together in Xining.
Sleep in a nice hotel in Xining.
14 → Depart Xining
Today we say our good byes as we depart Xining.