Top China Destination: Qinghai Lake (Part 3)

Recommended places to visit

It was common to see livestock on the roads...

  • Tongren – The largest Tibetan community outside of Tibet and features several large Monasteries. Tongren is also famous for its Tibetan artwork – called “thangkas” (Buddhist paintings) it is the main place where they are produced and are world renowed.
  • Xunhua – surrounded by imposing red mountains, can try some hiking in the area or even some horse riding would be fun in this area. The climb from Xunhua to the summit 3300m is well worth the cycle ride. See Epic Ride blog post.
  • Qinghai Lake – Bird Island – not much here but it is a pretty quaint town with an imposing monastery nestled at the base of a small mountain. It is well worth the hike to the mountain top for the views of Qinghai Lake and surrounding area. In the actual Qinghai Lake township, there are colorful Tibetan souvenirs to buy, Yak and horse rides by the Lake side as well as some boating tours. Don’t forget to cycle up the 4,600m pass from the township (its easy to find – its the only road going up from the township). This road takes you to the Tibetans that enjoy outdoor pool, numerous Yak herds and countless hills/mountains.

Monestary at Bird Island

  • Qilian – “Little Switzerland”. This had to be the highlight for many of the riders. The scenery surrounding Qilian was just like Switzerland and it was a complete contrast to the steady diet of rolling grasslands and yak. Qilian would be a good spot to be for a 2-3 days to explore both on foot and bike. The main climb out of the town is breathtaking and takes you up to nearly 5,000m. It takes a solid 2-3hrs of riding to get to the top (40km climb), but you are rewarded with an amazing descent back to Qilian.

Little Switzerland!

  • Qingshizui back to Xining: If  you are up to it, this road traverses one of the biggest climbs in the world and offers splendid viewing opportunities. If you are cycle touring, this would be a brilliant road to take back to Xining although it is a major grunt to get to the top. I, unfortunately, was in a van getting transported back to Xining for the last stage of the Qinghai Lake Tour so had to admire the scenery from the van.
  • If I had the chance to get back to Qinghai I would venture further into the “Last Frontier for Adventure Travel” in China including visiting places in Southern Qinghai, closer to Tibet. If you are one of those tourists that are seeking travel well off the beaten track, then Qinghai Province is for you.

Some examples of more things to see on my next visit:

Jyekundo Horse Festival in Yushu, the site of the devastating earthquake earlier this year. Apparently they are hosts to the largest and most exciting horse racing festival every year in July.

The Gyanak Mani Temple, just outside of Jyekundo, “has the largest collection of carved prayer stones anywhere in Tibet or Qinghai. There are over 2 billion prayer stones stacked neatly in a 1 square kilometer area”

Amnye Machen– This is one of the holiest mountains in this region, rising to 6282 m (20,605 feet). It is recommended to be one of the best places in Qinghai to go trekking.

Exploring villages in Little Switzerland

You, empty road and brilliant scenery..

This third posting about Qinghai Province is my final one in this series and I hope that the photographs inspire you to get on your bike in search of some similar places. If you ever cycle in the Qinghai region, please send me an email, I would love to hear about your adventures. This week I am flying to Singapore where I will be racing at the Bintan Tour, so stay tuned for more stories.

  • Thanks for this amazing series, and good luck in Singapore!