Sceneries along the way
Taking the train to Tibet will not be a disappointing experience as the unique and breathtaking scenery will provide leave unforgettable memories. Sit back and take in the magic of nature along the way.
Qinghai Lake in eastern Qinghai province, around 2 1/2 hours drive from Xining, is the largest inland saltwater lake in China at 3200 meters above sea level. The lake has an area of 4456 square kilometers with a perimeter of more than 360 kilometers. The ellipse-shaped lake looks like a huge poplar leaf sitting on the alpine prairie. The scenery at Qinghai Lake changes with the season. Summer and autumn are the most pleasant conditions and scenery of the lake is most beautiful during these seasons.
Bird Island is an interesting place on the western shore of Qinghai Lake. It has become a paradise for many varieties of birds because they are protected by the local government. Every March and April when the ice on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau begins to melt, over 20 kinds of birds coming to the island to breed. Flocks of birds cover the whole island and eggs can be found everywhere. There songs can be heard from far away.
Chaerhan Salt Lake
The Chaka Salt Lakes were originally part of the ocean in primordial times. They were formed during the intense crust activity that resulted in the formation of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the highest plateau in the world. As the water of this primordial soup receded into Indian and Pacific Oceans, water left in the depressions of the plateau formed into the region's famous lakes. There are a total of thirty of varying sizes. The largest is named Chaerhan Salt Lake. The total surface area of the lakes is said to be around 105 square kilometers.
The surfaces of the lakes mirror the clouds, the distant mountains and the nomad's tents and herds that can be found all around the area. A distinctive salty smell that comes from the lakes and the area is called “a world of salt”. The locals make a living dredging the salt from the lakes and selling it to the tourists. For those who enjoy hiking, a walk along the 60km Salt Bridge that crosses the lakes is an interesting experience. The lakes make a great side trip for those who are hiking.
Kunlun Mountains Pass
The Kunlun mountain pass is 160 kilometers to the south of Golmud, and the altitude rises from 2,800 meters to 4,700 meters which leads to the corresponding decline of temperature and air pressure. You will be abruptly transferred from hot summer to severe winter with the magnificent white snow of Kunlun surrounding you. Kunlun is not only known for its grandness but also for its colored jade, called Kunlun Jade.
Rare animals can be seen leaping and skipping around the snow and grassland. The pass, which is 4,767 meters above sea level, is an essential section of the route between Qinghai and Tibet.
Tanggula Mountain Pass
Tanggula Mountain pass has an altitude of 5,231 meters (17,162 ft) above sea level and is the highest point of Qinghai-Tibet Highway. It is connected by the Karakoram Mountains and the Hengluan Mountains, extending about 1000 km (621 mi) long and 150 km (93 mi) wide. The mountain is the source of the Yangtze, Nu and Lancang River. Tanggula means “Mountains are not going to be passed by flying eagles” in the Tibetan language. The mountain pass is the highest point for the train on entire Qinghai-Tibet Railway. Gusty wind will churn up large flakes of snow and very cold. The oxygen level is 40% less than that of sea level.
Holxil depopulated Area
Holxil depopulated area is the biggest depopulated area in China, occupying 4,500 square kilometers. The average altitude is above 4,000 meters. Because of the severe climate and the rarefied air, Holxil depopulated area is regarded as life forbidden zone. This area is a paradise for animals. Flocks of rare animals such as Tibetan antelopes, Tibetan wild donkeys, wild yaks, white-lip deer, snow leopards, Tibetan snow pheasants, and black-necked cranes inhabit around this land. You may be lucky to glimpse the elegant posture of the Tibet antelope as the train passes by.
The Yangtze River is the longest river of China and starts as the Tuotuo River. Natural scenery around this area is unmatched and amazing, with bamboo-shaped ice bars, ice-bridges, icy lakes and other features of glacier physiognomy.
Changtang Grassland is one of the five largest pastures in China and surrounded by the Kunlun, Tanggula, Kangdese and Nyainqentanglha Mountains. It is a culturally rich land as well as a paradise for the wild animals and plants. This vast grassland is home to yaks and sheep as well as nomadic people whose camps can be seen everywhere. Their colorful long-standing nomadic culture can be appreciated here. The regions’ annual horse-racing festival is held on this grassland, and at this time the whole community gathers to celebrate their traditions.
Eight-Pagodas in North Tibet Pasture
Eight-Pagodas on Northern Tibetan Pasture is about 40 miles from Damxung at the Wuma Town, Legend says that King Gesar had led the troops in gallop across the battle field at the Northern Tibetan Pasture. General Shabadang Mashangca who was under King Gesar’s command died in the last ditch in Wuma. To commemorate him, the local people built eight white pagodas, which are still in good condition.
The Eight-Pagodas is situated beside the Qinghai-Tibet Road from Damxung to Nagqu. The herdsmen on the pasture would come here to worship, pray and spin the sutra tube every 15th, 30th day on the Tibetan Calendar.
Lake Namtso (Lake Namco)
Lake Namtso means “holy lake” in the Tibetan language. Having a distance of more than 30 kilometers from north to south and more than 70 kilometers from east to west, Lake Namtso has a total area of over 1,900 square kilometers and is the second largest salt lake in China. At 4,718 meters, it is also the highest salt lake in the world with the deepest part being 33 meters. The water in the lake comes from rains, melted ice and snow of the Nyenchen Tonglha Mountains and the inflow of creeks and streams. The color of the lake is as blue as the blue sky. The lake and the sky seem to be one.
Yambajan Hot Springs
Tibet possesses the most hot springs in China. Yambajan is best known for its spectacular hot springs boiling on the cold plateau. The boiling springs, geysers have a total area of more than 7,000 square meters.