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21 Days Mountain Bike Tour from Xining to Lhasa

Tour Route: Xining Golmod-Thanglha Mountain-Toudaoban-Amdo-Damxung-Lhasa

Trip Overview:

The Qinghai-Tibet highway stretches about 1160 km with an average altitude of 4500m, boasting as the highest high way of the 5 main roads into Tibet. It is always regarded as “the Suez Canal on the World Roof”. But compared with other routes, this cycling route is relatively safe and technically easier. And it is ideal for novice cyclists. Cycling will be through major mountain passes of the Kunlun Mountain, Thanglha Mountain (which divides the Qinghai-Tibet border), Nyenchen Thanglha Mountain, the salt-rich Qaidam Basin (one of the largest inland basin in China), the vast steppes of KeKeXiLi nature reserve, and the prairie of Wutang Grassland. Other highlights include the source of the Yangtze River, sunset at ChuMaEr River and Namtso Lake.

  • Tour Code:
    TTO-BT-XL-21
  • Max Altitude:
    5,010 m
  • Tour Type:
    Private tour with private guide and vehicle
  • Phisycal Demand:

    Phisycal Demand Level Guide:
    1. Easy (1 point) - suitable for all level of fitness, family with kids and senior groups.
    2. Moderate (2-3 Points) - suitable for those having average level for fitness, family with kids bigger than 12 years.
    3. Moderate to Strenous (4 Points) - suitable for those physically fit and have experiences of high altitude trekking.
    4. Strenuous (5 Points) - suitable for adventures and individual with physically fit and healthy.

  • Season:
    springSpringSummerSummerautumnAutumn

Highlights:

  • Ultimate mountain bike holiday from Qinghai to Tibet
  • Hugely rewarding Tibetan cycling journey
  • Fabulous views along the journey
  • A worthy challenge for one’s physical and mental strength

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Xining to Xihai Town

The journey is a bit hard and you will spend approximately 10 hours for the whole cycling on the road. You can have a short rest and lunch when you reach Huangyuan county. If time permits, pay a visit to Zhazang Temple en route.

Day 2: Xihai to Gangcha

The trip will be relaxed and enjoyable for you will be surrounded by the charming natural scenery. The eyeful view of the landscape of the Qinghai Lake, the blue sky and the flower sea - Gahai may make you feel peaceful and content.

Day 3: Gangcha to Tianjun

The road is bituminous macadam and thus quite easy and comfortable to cycle on it.

Day 4: Tianjun to Delingha

Cycle around 150 km from Tianjun to Delingha.

Day 5: Delingha to Xiaochaidan

It's long distance but the road condition is good, you could take the vehicle for a while and ride for the rest.

Day 6: Xiaochaidan-Golmud

Today continue cycling through Xitieshan, Cha'erhan and at last reach Golmud.

Day 7: Golmud Sightseeing

Today have a good rest in Golmud, recruit your replenishment and get well prepared for climbing the Qinghai - Tibet Plateau. Pay a visit to the Cha'erhan Salt Lake and Wanzhang Salt Bridge.

The Cha'erhan Salt Lake is located in the middle south part of Chaidamu Basin with an altitude of 2670 meters, which is the largest natural salt lake in China, second in the world. The hypsography around the Cha'erhan Salt Lake is wide and flat with extraordinary scenery. If you are lucky enough you can even see the flyaway vision over the lake.

The Wanzhang Salt Bridge is built over the lake and part of the national highway No. 215.

Day 8: Golmud to Xidatan

From this day you start to experience the real Qinghai - Tibetan road.

It is almost gently uphill terrain all the way. When reaching Chinatai (83 km), you may go to the reputed Kunlun Castalia flowing sweet conduit all year round to supply your water storage. After lunch, continue cycling another 38 km to Xidatan and you will go across the highest bridge along Qingzang railway - the Sanchahe Bridge.

Tips: The climate on the Qinghai - Tibetan plateau is dramatic and the sudden heavy rain will come out unexpectedly. When the altitude increases, it may even snow. So you need to prepare warm clothes, shoes and rainproof. It will be very dangerous if you catch cold on the plateau. Take good care of yourself. 

Day 9: Xidatan- Wudaoliang

On the tenth day, you will gallop freely on the Kekexili prairie.

To cycle a 140 km one day from Xidatan to Wudaoliang is really a hard work and you need to get up early. During the first 30km cycling to the valley of Kunlun, you can fully enjoy the grassland scenery. Over the valley, cycle the easy downhill road to Budongquan. Have proper rest and then continue your cycling to Wudaoliang via Suonandajie along a hard road at one fling.

Day 10: Wudaoliang-Tuotuohe

The most arduous task today is to cycle about 70km over the Fenghuoshan Mountain pass with an altitude of 5010 meters. Then go downhill all the way to Erdaogou town. Recruit your energy there and have a short rest then go ahead about 63 km to the source of Yangtze River - New Tuotuohe Bridge before it gets dark.

Tips: You are advised to bring the lunch box or necessary food with you for lunch when you climb the Fenghuoshan Mountain pass. Have moderate rest and supplements. Do not exhaust yourself.

Day 11: Tuotuohe-Yanshiping

Today is a little relaxed with less uphill or downhill. Cycle 90km to Yanshiping and check in at a local hotel. Have a good rest after several days' hard cycling. Build your strength for the next day's journey to cycle over Tanggula Mountain - the dividing line between Qinghai and Tibet.

Day 12: Yangshiping-Toudaoban

You will come across numerous up slopes after leaving Yanshiping, then go though the old hot spring and arrive in the new hot spring, which is also the Thanglha military depot (the 3296 KM of Qinghai – Tibet Highway). There is still 47 kilometers from the Pass, also as the starting point of the uphill path. As you reach the Thanglha Mountain (5231m), you have come to the nearest place to feel heaven on this route. When you surmount the Thanglha Mountain, you come to the prairie of Wutang Grassland in Tibet.

After a 10 kilometers' downgrading path from Thanglha Mountain, you will get to today's camp place – Toudaoban. It is renowned as the first Highway Keeper's House, because it stands on the altitude of 5100 meters, which is the highest in the world.

Yangshiping (4712m)-Thanglha military depot (4980m)-Thanglha Pass (5231m)-Toudaoban (5100m)

Day 13: Toudaoban-Amdo County

Starting from Toudaoban, a 20 kilometers uphill path will follow a short downhill trail and you will reach Tuojiugaila Pass, also named as small Thanglha Pass. A spiral downgrading path twists in the huge valley and the slopes are all precipitous, which are rare in the Qinghai - Tibet route, thus you need to be particularly prudent and cautious with your cycling speed. When you come to the bottom of the valley, you will proceed towards the road along the river.

More and more Tibet villages are dotted on the way, an even and complanate road leads you to Amdo County. You can have a complete relax in the local hostel to refresh yourself after several arduous cycling days.

Toudaoban (5100m)-Small Thanglha Pass (5010m)-Amdo County (4706m)

Day 14: Amdo-Nagchu

It is another tough day, as you will get over the last barrier towards Lhasa and also the most dangerous one – Shengeligong Mountain (4880m), in the south of the county.

Launching from the Amdo County, go across a part of fluviomarine area and some grassland, you will get to the foot of Shengeligong Mountain. Although the uphill path is only 7 kilometers due to the tough gradient, you need to push your bicycle step by step rather than cycle on this mountain. Reaching the summit of this mountain does not mean the initial point of the downgrading path, plenty of up and down hills still block on the way to test your will and energy for about 50 kilometers.

Another 70 kilometers will lead you to Nakchu, which the altitude has reached 4500 meters. For the room and board, you can stay in the local hostel and taste some good food in the restaurant. Nakchu Restaurant is a good choice for its economical price and goluptious food.

Tip: As continuous cycling will make your muscular fatigue, and today’s route might be too lengthy and laborious. If your time is sufficient, you can also divide the above route into two days, and stay overnight in the Erdaohe military depot, which is 65 kilometers away from Amdo County, or camping.

Amdo (4706m)-Shengeligong Pass (4881m)-Erdaohe military depot (4500m)-Nagchu (4514m)

Day 15: Nagchu-Gulu Town

Be well-prepared for another two formidable days to cover 164 kilometers and head for Dangxiong. The up and down road will torture your body and spirit. The rewarding thing is the surrounding special scenery such as the cerulean sky, a carpet of green grass, scattered beautiful ornamental design tents. All the unique North Tibet sights will drive your fatigue out and make you relaxed and joyful. Overnight at Gulu County, if your time is sufficient, you could stop in Gulu Town for one more day to have a detour to Dorma Valley, mother of holy lake Namtso.

Day 16: Gulu Town-Damxung, then a detour to holy lake Namtso

Continue to appreciate the paradise today, upon arrive in Damxung, relax yourself and have a detour to the Holy Namtso Lake (4718m).

Namtso Lake is located between Dangxiong County and Bange County, renowned as one of the three Holy Lakes in Tibetan Buddhism. As the path towards Namtso is bumpy and jolty, we will take the vehicle instead of riding your precious bicycle. Set up camp at Tashi Dorie peninsula. In clear weather the water is a miraculous shade of turquoise and there are magnificent views of the nearby mountains. When arrival, enjoying the glory of sunset over the lake. By the lake, you can view the peak of Nyianchentangula (7162m).

Day 17: Drive back to Damxung, continue riding to Yangpacheng

Enjoy the clear morning by the lake, and snap the amazing view of sunrise. You can also have a little hike along the lake shore to Tashi Dor Island to explore the meditation caves. Then drive back to Damxung, head for Yangpachen by 75 kilometers' cycling.

The trail is dotted with green grass and swift current, and the main summit of Nyenchen Thanglha Mountain stands is at the far distance, which looks towering and saintly. You might reach Yangpachen at around 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm. As Yangpachen is famous for its geothermic hot spring, you might have a bath there.

Damxung County (4307m)- Nyianchentangula Pass (4620m)-Yangpacheng (4284m)

Day 18: Arrive in Lhasa

You will see a sign with "Welcome you to Lhasa!" which means the terminal of this strenuous Qinghai - Tibet cycling tour.

The route from Yangpachen to Lhasa is mainly composed of down slope. As it is new-repaired recently, most of that is even and plain. But you need to check the brake of your bicycle and control the speed as there are still many twists on the way. Go though the sign with “Welcome you to Lhasa!” in the west suburban, you will reach Lhasa finally.

Yangpacheng (4284m)-Deqin Village (4000m)-Lhasa (3650m)

Day 19: Lhasa sightseeing

After breakfast, we go to the Potala Palace, a golden feather upon the roof of the world, which Tibetans proudly claim to be the prime miracle since the creation of this world. With the golden roof shinning in the sun, it is visible from any distance. You can spend one hour wondering around the inside of this magnificent building and exploring the rooms previously used by the Dalai Lama and many Buddhist icons within.

In the afternoon we go inside of the Jokhang. Then stroll around the back alleys of the Barkhor area of Old Lhasa. The streets smelled of yak butter and incense while hordes of pilgrims shuffled along the main Kora (circumambulations) around Jokhang Temple. If someone just walked at a normal pace, one kora would take about 15-20 minutes.

Day 20: Drepung and Sera Monastery

In the morning have a tour for Drepung, the ever largest monastery with more than 10 thousand monks. Buddhist debates often occur there. Seen from afar, its grand, white construction gives the monastery the appearance of a heap of rice. As such, it was given its name which, in the Tibetan language, means Monastery of Collecting-Rice. Learn about the lives of Tibetan monks there.

You can spend the afternoon touring Sera Monastery and  have a little hike for the beautiful valley scenery nearby and picnic there. Sera monastery was created in 1419 and has always been an important Buddhist seminary. As rose are planted everywhere in the monastery, it is also called “the court of wild rose”. Today still 200 lamas live in there. Catch the famous debate session of the monks before returning back to Lhasa.

Day 21: finish this unforgettable tour

Free time at your disposal this morning, explore the bustling markets of the Barkhor to buy some souvenirs for your families and friends. After lunch, departure transfer to see off, tour services end and Tibet welcome you back forever. Alternatively, should you wish to stay on rather than return home right away, you could contact us and choose our other City Packages as an extension to your memorable adventure!

What’s included?

1.Tibet Entry Permit

2. Comfortable, clean and safe vehicle depending on your group size with reliable local driver;

3. Admission fees of tourist sites listed in the itinerary;

4. Professional English speaking tour guide;

5. Accommodations depend on your preference. Please tell us your preferred accommodation class when submitting the enquiry, and we will arrange the best-value hotels for you.

6.All measl listed in the itinerary;

7.Tourist Accident/Casualty Insurance

What’s not included?

1. International flight to and out of China;

2. Chinese Visa

3. Domestic flight / train not listed in the itinerary (If you need ticket booking service, please leave your requirements in the Online Inruiry form.)

4.Meals not specified in the itinerary;

5.Tips to driver and tour guide, Tip as you wish

6.Personal expenses, such as laundry, phone call, optional tour activities and so on.

Trip Notes:

1. Tibet Travel Permit

Tibet Travel Permit is a must for Tibet tour. Its cost is included in the tour quotation. Send your passport and China visa copies to us 20 days in advance, and we will apply for the permit after you book a Tibetan tour with us. Shortly after we get your permit from Tibet Tourism Bureau, we will inform you and mail it to your hotel in China via express.

In some extreme cases, our staff will hand it over to you at the airport or railway station. In our experience, we can virtually guarantee to get your permit during times when Tibet is open to foreign travelers.

2. Accommodation

Tibet is never known for its 5-star luxury resorts, though you can find some like Intercontinental Lhasa Paradise, St.Regis Lhasa Resort, Sheraton hotel, etc in Lhasa. Overall, the accommodation facilities and services are not as good as those in coastal and central parts of China. However, from cheap and clean youth hotel, to distinct Tibetan style 3-star and international 5-star luxury hotel, you will find one that suits your interest and pocket in Lhasa.

We’ve handpicked cozy and safe hotels in the central area of Lhasa, where you will find Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Street are just steps away from you. You can easily experience more of the local life and culture. Normally, as you travel to remote areas in some parts of Shigatse like Tingri, or EBC, Ngari, Nagqu, etc. the accommodation would be much poorer. Some may have air-conditioning in the hotel;others may only have electric blanket in the guesthouses. And the food is also very basic.

3.Guiding and Tipping

Our English-speaking guides are natives of Tibet with good knowledge of Tibetan culture, history, and Buddhism. Most are trained to offer Western-standard service. Throughout your stay in Tibet, we will minor your health and provide prompt help to you. If you run into any trouble, please do not hesitate to reach them or our customer service manager.

Travelers’s tipping to Tibetan guide and driver is taken as an extra gratitude to their good service, just like what you do in the west. Normally, a tipping of 7 USD/day is acceptable. The basic rule is good service for good pay.

4. Toilet

Admittedly, to many western tourists, using toilets in Tibet is the most dreadful experience. So, please down play your expectation. If you take Tibet train to Lhasa, both western toilet and squat toilet are available in the train. If you stay in hotel above 3-star hotels in Lhasa, Shigatse, etc. you will have no complaining using standard western flash toilet.

However, if you visit some of the attractions like Yamdrok or Namtso, EBC outdoor, mostly you will see the smelly and filthy pit toilet.It's better to carry enough toilet paper.

5. Tibet Weather

One of the biggest features of weather on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the dramatic temperature change between day and night. The annual temperature in Lhasa is -2℃-- 12℃(spring), 9℃-- 22℃(summer), 7℃-- 19℃(fall), -7℃-- 9℃(winter). Do wear clothes properly such as thermal tops, fleece jacket, breathable underwear, down jacket, jeans, beanie, etc.

Of course, sun screen, lip balm, sun glasses are essential to shield you from powerful blinding sunlight on the plateau. Do drink more water and eat more vegetable as you travel in Tibet. It can prevent you from dehydration.

6. Acclimatization to the High Altitude

For the first timer to Tibet, either by flight or train, a good rest is a must for quick acclimation to the high altitude in Lhasa. Never rush to tour the street or attractions on your own. Walk slower and do not exert yourself like running or jumping. Spending at least two days in Lhasa is a good way to get acclimatized before heading to Shigatse or Namtso. If you have any discomfort, do tell it to your guide,and he will help you out.

7. Other Dos and Don'ts

Normally, taking photos is forbidden in the monastery. If you want to take photos of Tibetan pilgrims, a gentle ask of permission would be appreciated or you can do it from a long distance. Swimming and fishing are not allowed in holy lakes in Tibet; Do not talk about sensitive topics like politics; International tourists are not allowed to travel alone in Tibet according to the policy; Walk clockwise around Barkhor Street; Never venture into the unknown trails; do as much as you can to protect the fragile eco-system in Tibet, etc.

As Tibetan Buddhism is deeply-rooted in every facet of Tibetans' life, always follow and respect the unique customs in Tibet. If you are uncertain about something, it’s advisable to ask your guide before you do it at will.

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