Xining altitude: 2,275 m / 7,460 ft (average)
Population: approximately 2,208,000 people
Location: Xining is located in the eastern part of Qinghai Province
Tibetan name: Silung – ཟི་ལིང
Chinese name: 西宁

View on Xining
View on Xining

Xining is the capital city of Qinghai Province in China. It is located in the eastern part of Qinghai and lies on the Huangshui River, a tributary of the Yellow River, one of the main rivers in China.

Qinghai is the fourth largest province in China. Although its population is one of the lowest in China (2nd smallest after Tibet), it is very diverse. Chinese, Tibetans, Mongols, Salars, and other ethnic groups comprise Qinghai’s population. 

Many prefectures of the present-day Qinghai are a part of the Amdo Region of Tibet. Amdo is the birthplace of the current Dalai Lama, as well as the 10th Panchen Lama. In addition, Lama Tsongkhapa was born here, and the majestic Kumbum monastery stands near his birthplace. 


Night view of Xining
Night view of Xining

The ways to travel to and from Xining are:

  • BY AIR
    The domestic airport in Xining serves the area with regularly scheduled passenger flights to major Chinese cities including Lhasa(Tibet), Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Kunming, Xi’an, and Wuhan.
    There is a railroad connecting Xining with all major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xian, and also Lhasa (Tibet). In addition, the high-speed rail connects Xining with Lanzhou and Urumqi (Xinjiang), as well as with Xian, Chengdu, and Chongqing.
    From Beijing to Tibet we have the G6 Beijing-Lhasa Expressway, this road goes through seven of China’s administrative regions, including the Beijing municipality, the province of Hebei, the autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia, the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai, finally the Tibet Autonomous Region. It passes through the cities of Xining and Golmud in the Tibetan Region.

Below you will find more information on each way of traveling, their advantages, and disadvantages.


Distance: 815 miles/ 1312 km
Flight duration: 2 h 20 min
Airports: Xining Caojiabao Airport (XNN) and Lhasa Gonggar Airport (LXA)

Tibetan airlines plane in Lhasa Gonggar airport in Tibet
Tibetan Airlines plane in Lhasa Gonggar airport

The easiest and fastest way to travel from Xining to Lhasa is by flight. First, many domestic flights are arriving in Xining every day, and it is easy to find a flight from many domestic destinations. Second, there are between 5 to 8 nonstop flights from Xining to Lhasa every day, depending on the season. The high season is from May to October. You can choose between flights departing from very early in the morning until late in the evening. You will fly from Xining Caojiabao Airport (XNN) to Lhasa Gonggar Airport (LXA). The flight takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. When the weather is clear, you will enjoy a great view of the mountain ranges of the Tibetan Plateau.

The best time to travel from Xining to Lhasa by plane is early in the morning. These flights are rarely delayed because of the weather conditions. Although there are always many daily flights between cities, we recommend booking your flight in advance. During Chinese official holidays, and at the beginning or end of students’ vacation time tickets can sell out fast.



Xining Caojiabao Airport (XNN)

Name in Chinese: 西宁曹家堡机场

Xining airport
Domestic arrivals at Xining airport

Currently, there is only a domestic airport called Xining Caojiabao. The airport is only around 28 km/ 17 miles away from the city center. Depending on the season there are about 50-60 domestic air routes serviced by 15 airlines. Although Xining Airport doesn’t accept international flights, you will have no problem connecting your international flight with a domestic flight to Xining in one of the major Chinese cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, or others.

If you are staying in Xining, here are the options for transferring to the city:

  • By taxi: around CNY 80-100 to the city center.
  • By shuttle bus: According to the flight schedule. The price is CNY 21 per person ( duration 1 hour).

If you are transferring to Xining Airport for your flight to Tibet, you will need to pick up your Tibet travel permit. We will send you detailed information about the permit and its delivery to Xining.  


Xining Lhasa train sign

One of the most popular ways to travel from Xing to Lhasa is by taking a train. Qinghai-Tibet railroad is the highest railroad on the planet, going over the mountain passes above 5,000 meters. The road passes by scenic areas with views of mountains, rivers, lakes, and wildlife.


Many trains are stopping in Xining on the way to Lhasa. They originate from major cities in China. The duration of the train ride from Xining to Lhasa is approximately 21 hours. There are trains departing from early morning until late in the evening to accommodate any schedule.

There is only one train number Z6801 going directly from Xining to Lhasa. The train runs every other day. It departs Xining at 01:50 pm and arrives in Lhasa at 11:20 am on the next day. The return train number Z6802 departs from Lhasa at 09:00 am and arrives in Xining at 06:30 am.

You can always contact us for the current train schedule and prices for your travel dates.


Qinghai Tibet Railway Passenger Train
Qinghai Tibet Railway

Trains from Xining to Lhasa are very popular among tourists. That’s why it is important to book tickets far in advance. During the high season (summer and early fall), official holidays, and student vacation time tickets sell out immediately. Train tickets become available 30 days in advance and you should book them as soon as possible.

Trains offer 3 classes:

  • Soft sleeper. 4 beds in a berth with a door; beds are softer than in a hard sleeper class and more comfortable. The price is CNY 826 per ticket.
  • Hard sleeper. 6 beds in a berth without doors, beds are still soft despite the name, but less comfortable. Price is CNY 521 per ticket.
  • Hard seats. The cheapest option, but not recommended for long trips.

Please, note, prices change slightly, depending on whether you have a low or upper bed in a berth.


Xining train station
Xining train station

Name in Chinese: 西宁站
Address: Qilian Lu, Chengdong District, Xining

Transportation to Xining Train Station:

  • From Xining Caojiabao Airport: 30km, about 40 min of driving. The taxi ride is usually around CNY100 or take a shuttle bus from the airport to the city center and then transfer to one of the buses from the city
  • From Xining city center: buses 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 22, 27, 28, 32, 35, etc. It is best to consult the hotel reception to direct you to the best bus route.
  • By taxi: ask your driver to take you to 西宁站
Train station in Xining, China
Platform at Xining train station

Xining train station is a busy hub on the Lanzhou – Xinjiang and  Qinghai – Tibet railway. There are both high-speed and regular railroads meeting in Xining. In 2014, the train station was completely renovated. It is now a spacious building with many seats inside, restaurants, small shops, water stations, and restrooms. You should arrive at the train station in advance.

If you have an electronic ticket booking, you will first have to visit the ticket office to pick up your train ticket. Please, have your passport and Tibet travel permit with you, along with ticket reservation information. Once you have a train ticket, you can go inside the train station (you have to scan your ticket at the entrance and show your passport).


In 2023 new high-speed train connected Xining with Golmud, a small town at the border of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The new Fuxing smart bullet trains C891 and C893 reach Golmud in just under 6 hours, while regular trains can take from over 6 up to 10 hours to cover the same distance. It travels at a speed of 160 km/h or 100 miles/hour a total distance of 829 km / 515 miles.

This train offers 1st class, 2nd class, and business-class seating options. It was designed to offer a comfortable experience for travelers at high altitude and low-temperature areas of the Tibetan Plateau.

While Golmud is not an exciting destination in itself, some travelers arrive in Golmud by train and travel overland to Tibet after that, shortening the total driving distance. Please, note, that to travel past Golmud, you will need a Tibet travel Permit and an organized tour with a local Tibetan guide.


View from the train on the way from Xining to Lhasa, soft sleeper

With many trains departing Xining daily, you might be curious about what train is the better option. If your time is flexible, below is information about the views you will see depending on train departure time.

Early Departures

These trains allow passengers to enjoy the scenery between Xining and Golmud in daylight. While this stretch offers some beautiful views, it’s not the absolute best scenery on the route. These trains also give passengers a view of the final stage from Nagchu to Lhasa during daylight hours.
However, you will miss out on most of the remote areas, as these trains travel through the wilderness area of Kekexili (Hoh Xil) at night.

Afternoon Departure

This train allows passengers to view the area between Xining and Qinghai Lake, and a little further west of the lake, during daylight. The scenery in the TAR starts from just north of Nagchu and continues to Lhasa, which you can enjoy in daylight. However, you won’t see much of the Kekexili wilderness, where you could spot Tibetan antelope, as the train travels through this area at night.

Evening Departure

These trains leave Xining when it’s usually dark, so you won’t see the route from Xining to Qinghai Lake, Golmud, and the first few hours after Golmud. However, if you get up early the next morning, you can view much of the wilderness beauty of Kekexili and all the Tibet in daylight hours.



Hoh Xil or Kekexilli Mountains North of Qinghai
Kekexilli Nature Reserve

Traveling overland allows you to see many incredible places along the way. You start the journey in Xining, where you will visit Kumbum (Ta’er), one of the most important monasteries of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. The next must-see attraction is the magnificent Qinghai Lake and many of the birds staying on its islands. As you drive further away from Xining, we enter the Kekexili Nature Reserve Region and vast grasslands in Northern Tibet. We will make a stop by the Namtso lake, called the Heavenly Lake for its high altitude. Finally, you will reach Lhasa and explore the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Qinghai Lake in Amdo, Tibet
Qinghai Lake in Amdo, Tibet

The highway connecting Xining and Lhasa often goes along with the railroad. The views that you will see are similar to the views when you take a train. If you want to travel faster, you can take a train from Xining to Golmud, and continue the overland journey from Golmud to Lhasa by car. This way offers the best combination of traveling fast and not missing any of the interesting places along the way and new bullet trains between Xining and Golmud shorten overall travel time.



Although there are buses going from Xining to Lhasa, foreign travelers cannot travel to Lhasa by bus. It is, however, possible to travel by train to Golmud and by tourist car from Golmud to Lhasa.


Traveling from Xining can help you acclimatize to high altitude, making the transition to the higher elevations of the Tibetan Plateau more manageable. At an elevation of about 2,300 meters (7,545 feet), Xining serves as an ideal starting point for travelers heading to destinations like Lhasa, which lies at around 2,275 m / 7,460 ft. By spending time in Xining, visitors can gradually adapt to the reduced oxygen levels, minimizing the risk of altitude sickness. This acclimatization process helps the body adjust to the thinner air, allowing travelers to experience fewer headaches, dizziness, or nausea as they continue to climb to higher altitudes. Additionally, Xining offers various activities and sites to explore, and you can rest and adjust before venturing further into the Tibetan Plateau.


Visitors of Kumbum Temple in Xining passing by white stupas
Visitors of the Kumbum Temple in Xining passing by white stupas

Xining, the capital city of Qinghai Province, located along the ancient Silk Road, has long been a meeting place for diverse ethnic groups and religious traditions, facilitating the flow of goods and ideas along the Silk Road. This unique blend of different traditions creates a rich cultural tapestry that defines the city’s character.

The city’s cultural diversity is reflected in its architecture, religious sites, and everyday life. You can visit the Dongguan Mosque, one of China’s largest mosques, or explore the Kumbum Monastery (Ta’er Monastery), a significant center of Tibetan Buddhism.

Historically, Xining has played a significant role in the defense and expansion of Chinese dynasties, serving as a strategic stronghold along the Northern Silk Road’s Hexi Corridor. It was a key center for trade, connecting China to the western regions and beyond. The city’s importance dates back over 2,000 years when it was part of the Han dynasty’s efforts to establish a solid presence in the West. Although long considered part of Gansu Province, Xining became part of Qinghai in 1928, reinforcing its role as the gateway to the Tibetan Plateau.


Ta'er Monastery, Kumbum. Xining, Qinghai


Kumbum monastery also called Ta’er Temple is the top attraction in Xining. It is a Tibetan monastery in Lusar, Huangzhong County, Xining, Qinghai. It was founded in 1583 in a narrow valley close to the village of Lusar in the historical Tibetan region of Amdo. 


A short bus ride or a taxi can take you there from the city center. Simply take the bus number 909 from Xining and get off the bus at the last station. Follow the crowd of pilgrims walking along the street stalls selling simple snacks and religious items towards the ticket office.

Prayer flags by the Qinghai Lake


Qinghai Lake is the largest lake in China. Its other name is Koko Nor. Qinghai in Chinese means blue or green sea. It is a saltwater lake. 

The lake is located about 100km to the West of Xining at an altitude of 3,200 meters. The lake is a draw for many of the birds. The two islands on the West side of the lake even became known as bird islands for their bird variety. Many of the birds are seasonal, making a stop there while migrating to other places. For Tibetans, Qinghai is a sacred lake and they circumambulate it (a common practice in important religious places). Many nomads live around the lake and herds of their animals graze on its shores. 

Monastery in Tongren, Rebkong Monastery, Qinghai Province


Rebkong (Tongren in Chinese) is a city located about 2 hours of drive from Xining. It is one of the important centers of Buddhism in the Amdo region. There are several large active Buddhist monasteries. Some monasteries have impressive Buddha sculptures outside and beautiful stupas. The region is famous for its thangka painting masters. Monks and artists create wonderful Thangkas (religious paintings), and many Tibetans travel to Rebkong for a new painting.

Temple in Nanchan complex in Xining


The Buddhist temple stands on the Phoenix Mountain (Fenghuang Mountain) on the south side of Xining. The original temple has been there since the 10th century, but the buildings that you can currently see are much younger (17th-20th century). The main structures include the Thousand Buddha Hall, the Jade Buddha Hall, and the Maitreya Temple. It is best to visit the temple in the morning as many buildings close in the afternoon. 

From the top of the temple, you can get a nice view of Xining.


The busy market street is famous for its variety of street food. Many vendors sell local delicacies, dried fruit, teas, spices, etc. Food to try there includes kebabs, meat or vegetable skewers, noodles, spicy potato cakes, pickled vegetables, fresh yogurt, different types of bread, various pastries, and lot more. Mojia Street is a good place not only to sample new food but also to watch local people. 

mosque in Xining, Qinghai


Dongguan is the largest mosque in Qinghai and one of the largest in China. As Xining has a large Muslim population, the Mosque is an important religious center. The first mention of the mosque goes back to the 11th century, and the original mosque was built in the 14th century. It was later reconstructed and restored in the 20th century. The best time to see the mosque is in the evening when it is illuminated by light. The mosque is open to Muslim visitors.

Other popular destinations around Xining include Nine Grottos & Eighteen Cavities (1-2 days, travel outside of Xining) and North Mountain Temple (also known as Yongxing Temple on Beishan Mountain). 





7 Tips for altitude sickness prevention

7 Tips for Altitude Sickness Prevention

HIGH ALTITUDE IN TIBET Tibet, often called the Roof of the World, is situated on the highest plateau on the planet. Many areas you will visit in Tibet are much higher than you might be accustomed to. With the gain in altitude, the oxygen level drops, and you may feel the effects within your first…
Yamdrok lake or Namtso lake in Tibet

Yamdrok Lake or Namtso Lake: which lake to visit in Tibet

We often hear the question of which lake is best to visit in Tibet, Yamdrok Lake or Namtso Lake. Both lakes are stunningly beautiful with incredible colors, clean water, and gorgeous surrounding landscape. They are popular among photographers and nature lovers. The two lakes are not very far from Lhasa and it is possible to…
China tourist visa requirements are simplified for US Citizens in 2024

China tourist visa requirements are simplified for US citizens making it easier to travel to Tibet

Starting from January 1, 2024, the Chinese Embassy in the United States simplified the application documents requirements for a tourist visa.  Travelers will no longer be required to submit round-trip air tickets and proof of hotel reservation, itinerary, or invitation letter. When submitting your application, you will still need to include this information, but no proof will…
Traveling to Tibet during holidays

Traveling during holidays in Tibet

When planning your visit to Tibet, you might be curious if it’s worth visiting during one of the holiday seasons. In this article, let’s discuss what holidays are celebrated in Tibet and the best time to visit if you wish to see festive activities. TRAVELING DURING WESTERN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR Since many travelers have…