XINING TO LHASA OVERLAND TOUR

Taking an overland tour from Xining to Lhasa is a great way to enjoy the wild scenery of remote areas of Northern Tibet. The tour starts in Xining, a capital of Qinghai Province. Altitude of Xining is about 2,200 meters, making it a good starting point for the tour to high altitude areas of Tibet. 

You will see wonderful landscapes on the way to Tibet. We start the tour by visiting magnificent Qinghai lake. The large lake is home to thousands of birds nesting on its islands. Then you will see a glimpse of the Gobi Desert. After that, we will drive into the Kekexili Nature Reserve Region with stunning mountain views. In Northern Tibet you will enjoy grasslands scenery, where many of the wild and domestic animals can be spotted. As we drive further, we will reach the true gem of Northern Tibet – Namtso lake. This high-altitude salt water lake will impress you with its gorgeous color and a backdrop  of snow-capped mountain range. 

Finally, we will reach Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. You will explore Lhasa highlights, visit Dalai Lamas winter residence Potala Palace and 7th century Jokhang Temple. On the next day you will tour two large Buddhist monasteries: Drepung and Sera, where you will watch monk’s debates. 

After that, you have a choice of leaving Lhasa or continuing traveling in Tibet. If you wish to spend more time in the Roof of the World, you can choose between many of the private and group tour options. 

DETAILED ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN XINING

mosque in Xining, Qinghai
Mosque in Xining

Upon your arrival, our guide will meet you and travel with you to the city center. You are free to spend some time exploring Xining or simply relaxing in a hotel.

If you wish, you can also spend a couple of days exploring Xining before starting your tour to Tibet.

Xining is the capital of Qinghai region. It is located in Eastern Tibetan territory called Amdo. You can explore some important religious centers of the Amdo region, such as Rebkong and Labrang taking 2-3 days tour from Xining. 

There are small Buddhist temples in Xining as well. Also, you can visit a Dongguan Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Qinghai. In the center of Xining there is famous outdoor food market selling mostly Muslim delicacies. You can stroll along the street stalls and sample local food.   

Staying overnight in Xining 

DAY 2: XINING TO QINGHAI LAKE (159 km)

Ta'er Monastery, Kumbum. Xining, Qinghai
Kumbum Monastery in Xining, Qinghai

Today we will start our journey to the Roof of the World. Our first stop will be at Kumbum monastery, one of the most important monasteries of Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. It is the first Tibetan monastery in our itinerary. When we will be traveling further towards Lhasa you can notice the difference in styles between Eastern and Central Tibet monasteries. Kumbum monastery complex is always crowded with tourists. It is very beautiful. When you go up to the temples on the hillside, you can see the entire monastery complex from above. 

After visiting the monastery, we continue our journey. The next stop will be at the gorgeous Qinghai lake

Enjoy the walk on the lake shore, where you can see many of the birds and listen to them singing. Spring and summer are the best season to watch birds near Qinghai lake. On the lake, there are two islands: Cormorant Island and Egg Island known as the birds islands, and thousands of birds fly between these islands and the lake shore. 

Staying overnight in a hotel beside the lake.

DAY 3:  QINGHAI LAKE TO CHAKA (230 km)

Prayer flags by the Qinghai Lake

In the morning, you can take time to walk by the lake and enjoy the view on the calm waters or even meet a sunrise on the shore. 

Qinghai Lake along with Lake Manasarovar, Yamdrok Lake and Namtso Lake (the lakes in Tibet Autonomous Region) is the sacred lake for Tibetans. Please, be careful not to leave any garbage near the lake.

Local Tibetan name of this Lake is Tso-Ngonpo and in chineses language it is Qinghai Lake. The surface area of the lake is 4317 km2 (1667 Sq miles), and an average depth is 21m (69 ft), with a maximum depth of 25.5m (84 ft).

After breakfast we continue driving to Chaka. Staying overnight in Chaka.

DAY 4: CHAKA TO GOLMUD (515.5 km)

Chaka salt lake in Qinghai
Chaka salt lake in Qinghai

Today will be a long drive and we have to start the day early. On the way you can see the Gobi Desert at the area that is called Treasure Bowl

Finally, we will reach Golmud in Tibet Autonomous Region. 

Golmud is one of the new industrial cities. It recently became the second largest city in Qinghai and the third largest city in the Tibet Autonomous Region. 

Staying overnight in Golmud.

DAY 5: GOLMUD TO TUOTUOHE (520 km)

Hoh Xil or Kekexilli Mountains North of Qinghai
Kekexilli Mountains

We will leave Golmud and drive to the South towards Tuotuohe. In the morning we will cross the mountain pass Kunlun pass (4846m) about 60 km from Golmud. Today we will enter the Kekexili Nature Reserve Region, the largest Natural Reserve area in China.

Along the way, you will see vast grasslands with lots of wildlife. We can often spot Wild Yaks, Tibetan Antelope, Mountain Goat and some other animals. If we are lucky, we can even see Tibetan foxes, wolves and bears in the distance. Magnificent mountains provide an excellent backdrop to the pastoral view. 

Late in the afternoon, we will reach Tuotuohe area and you can see a bridge over Yangtze, a famous river in Asia.

Staying overnight in a local guesthouse.

DAY 6: TUOTUOHE  TO NAQU AMDO (430 km)

Changthang Grasslands
Changthang Grasslands

Today we will leave Qinghai province behind and drive towards Nagqu Amdo. In the morning we will cross Tanggula pass with an altitude of 5231 meters above sea level. It is the borderline between Qinghai and Tibet Autonomous Region.

After we cross the pass, enjoy the view on Tibetan Nomadic areas with grazing yaks and sheep. There are still many nomads living in the Northern Tibet region. Depending on a season and available time, your guide can arrange visiting one of the nomadic tents. Please, leave a small tip or some gift to the family when you visit them.

Late afternoon we will reach Naqu Amdo, where we will stay overnight in a local hotel.

DAY 7: NAQU TO NAMTSO LAKE (390 km)

Namtso lake and white yak on the shore, Tibet
Namtso lake and white yaks on the shore

Today we are driving on the Northern Tibetan Chang Tang Grassland and we will take the scenic road towards the lake driving through nomadic grassland area. There will be high mountain passes providing fantastic views. We will reach Namtso lake in the evening.

Once we reach the Namtso lake, you can spend time, walking by the lake shore and enjoying the views. Namtso is a magnificent salt-water lake, one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in Tibet. Along with Yamdrok Lake and Manasarovar lake, it is the holy lake in Tibet. Impressive Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains mountain range surrounds the lake.  

Namtso is Tibet’s largest saltwater lake, and also one of the highest lakes in Tibet. That’s why many people call it the Heavenly Lake. The lake is over 70 km long, reaches a width of 30 km and it is 35 meters deep at its deepest point.

Since 2019, there are no guesthouses on the Namtso lake shore to prevent its pristine nature environment. That’s why we will drive to the nearest town Damshung to stay there overnight.

DAY 8: DAMSHUNG TO LHASA

View on Namtso lake from the mountain road pass
View on Namtso lake from the mountain road pass

On the way back to Lhasa from Damshung we will stop by the Yangpachen hot springs. The hot springs have two large swimming pools and a number of smaller ones. They are filled with the mineral water that is naturally hot. You can swim in the pools for an additional fee.

Overnight in hotel in Lhasa.

DAY 9: LHASA CITY TOUR: DREPUNG AND SERA MONASTERIES

Sera Monastery in Lhasa
Sera Monastery in Lhasa

Today we are visiting the two most important monasteries in the capital.

We will first visit Drepung Monastery, which once was the largest monastery in the world with over 10,000 monks living there. It was the residence of Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built.

There will be free time for lunch after the Drepung Monastery.

In the afternoon we are visiting Sera Monastery. It was founded by Tsongkhapa’s disciple in the 15th century. Nowadays it is famous for monks debate that you can witness. Debates are a very important part of learning and understanding Buddhism. Monks gather in the courtyard in the shade of the trees to refine their knowledge.

DAY 10: LHASA CITY TOUR: POTALA PALACE AND JOKHANG TEMPLE

Potala Palace

This tour visits the two most important religious sites in Tibet.

The Potala Palace was the seat of the Dalai Lamas since the 17th century. First, the guide will take you to the Chak Pori Hill to take photos of the majestic Palace. We will then go inside and spend approximately 1.5 – 2 hours there. While there, you will see many of its most famous artifacts.

There will be free time for lunch after visiting the Potala Palace.

Time permitting, you can walk around the Potala Palace and join many of the local Tibetans.

Next, we will walk towards the Jokhang Temple. It was built in the 7th century to display the Jowo Shakyamuni Statue – the statue of the 12-year-old Buddha before his enlightenment. The statue was created at the time when the historical Buddha lived. It is elaborately decorated with gold, jewels, and precious stones.

After visiting the temple, we recommend taking a walk around Barkhor Street.

DAY 11: DEPARTURE FROM LHASA

Please prepare in advance for your departure. It takes approximately one hour to drive to the airport and around thirty minutes to reach the train station. We will arrive at the airport three hours before your departure flight if you are traveling to Nepal and two hours before any domestic flight.

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