Qinghai is the largest salt lake in China. It is located in the province of the same name, about 150 km from its administrative center – the city of Xining. This lake is often called the sea, but not only because of the impressive size of the reservoir. The waters of Qinghai have a unique blue color, such as if you were on the coast of the Mediterranean. From all sides, the lake is surrounded by mountains and meadows, which are reflected in the water surface, so the color of Qinghai changes depending on the season.
Around this lake live people of 20 different nationalities, most of which are Tibetans. Therefore, in addition to the very beautiful nature, here you can get acquainted with the unique Tibetan culture and, if you’re lucky, see their traditional holidays and rituals. Check animalerts for overview of Asia, covering list of all countries in the continent.
When is the best time to go
The best time to visit Qinghai Lake is summer, which here lasts from June to September. The average air temperature is +15…+21 °C, in October it is already cooler, but also quite comfortable – up to +10 °C.
In June or July (dates vary every year), Qinghai Province hosts the famous cycling race at an altitude of 2,680 meters above sea level. If you apply in advance, you can not only look at this spectacle, but also take part in the competition.
It is cool and cloudy in spring – about +8… +10 ° С, but at this time, when the ice in the mountains begins to melt, about 20 species of migratory birds flock here to the Bird Islands to hatch their offspring, and remain until the end of summer. This is the best time for bird watching: the birds are circling above the ground, and laying eggs can be found everywhere.
How to get to Qinghai
To get to Qinghai, you first need to fly to Xining – the nearest airport to the lake is located there. There are no direct flights from Moscow to this city; a flight with a transfer in Beijing will cost from 950 USD (round trip). The terrain is mountainous, there are no trains, regular buses – too. Therefore, only a rental car or a tourist bus remains, the journey time is about 3 hours. Excursions to Qinghai depart from Xining quite often, there are many offers in the city.
Most tourists who come to Qinghai Lake prefer to stay in Xining – there is a much larger choice of accommodation for travelers. There are only two hotels on the lake, both are located on the south coast near the boat station. The cost of living is 30-50 USD per day for a double room. For the unpretentious, there are yurt camps along the coast, it’s cheaper. You can only check into a yurt upon arrival, but you can usually always find a place.
The beaches of Qinghai Lake are covered with yellow sand and surrounded by mountains on all sides. In summer, the water warms up to +18…+20 °C, and freezes in winter, so many tourists from China and other countries come here from June to August. There is practically no beach infrastructure here.
Attractions and entertainment in Qinghai
The main attraction of Qinghai Lake and its surroundings is its nature. In 1997, a nature reserve was established on this territory. In the middle of the lake is the Bird Island, where mountain geese, cranes, cormorants and other birds arrive in spring to breed. You can get there by boat (the boat station is located on the southern coast of the lake), and it is best to watch the birds from a specially equipped observation deck.
Since ancient times, Qinghai Lake has been a place of pilgrimage. Not far from the western coast there is an island where the shelters of hermits and the ancient Buddhist temple of Mahadev (former monastery) have been preserved.
A popular place among pilgrims and tourists is the Ganchzhur stone in the coastal zone. According to legend, everyone who passes through a narrow gorge in stone will live forever in wealth and health.
On the shore of the lake stands the Buddhist monastery of Gontsa, where the canonical Buddhist texts are kept to this day, and only in this monastery there is a school where they can be studied. Entrance for everyone is free. And on the south coast there is another monastery, which was built quite recently, and it is decorated with a statue of a meditating Buddha.
In the vicinity of Qinghai Lake, there are excellent conditions for outdoor activities. A trekking route has been laid on Mount Animatsin, 6282 m above sea level. On the Toto River (the source of the Yangtze), you can go rafting. The river originates at an altitude of 6621 m right on the glacier and flows through very picturesque canyons. One of the steepest is a 270 km section with a drop of 850 m.