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Beijing Xining Qinghai Tibet Train Tour - 11 Days

Destination: Beijing - Xining - Lhasa - Ganden - Zedang
Duration: Eleven Day
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Transportation: Vehicle & Train
Best Travel Time:All Year
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Take an incredible train journey across the 'Roof of the World' with this 11-day adventure. Having explored the wonders of Beijing, guests take an amazing railway journey across the country to Xining, on the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau. Explore the natural beauty of the region, including the ultramarine Qinghai Lake, before setting off again for the (literally) breath-taking train ride across the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa, at a staggering 5,000 meters above sea level.
Full price of this tour (per person in US$):
Price Price Instruction
US$2500/persons 2500USD/Person

Day 1 : Beijing Arrival
Welcome  your  and transfer to the hotel. Welcome to Beijing, capital of the ※Middle Kingdom§! This fascinating place has become a thriving metropolis in recent years, and was brought back to the attention of everyone on the world stage in 2008 when it hosted the Olympic Games.

As you enjoy the ride to the hotel, you will notice the ※Bird's Nest§, the modern stadium now recognized as one of the symbols of modern China and a triumph of architecture and the involvement of Ai Weiwei, the well-known Chinese artist. It still stands as the site of the unforgettable 2008 Opening Ceremony and the majestic 100m final when Usain Bolt flew down the track during the Games.

After stopping at the hotel, you will visit the famed hutongs (narrow alleys and streets of Beijing) near Houhai Lake. Then you will visit the Gulou, the Drum Tower where during the Ming Dynasty, the city marked the hours of the day with the rumbling of drums. The tower faces the Zhonglou, the Bell Tower, and gives visitors a glimpse of ancient Beijing.

Moving along, you will meet a bicycle repairman, whose job exemplifies perfectly the urbanization of the city itself. You can ask any question! Some could be: how quickly the car has surpassed the notorious Beijing bicycle, how the youth today move around or if the bicycle has become fashionable or preferable again. Sooner or later you will probably assist in a mahjong party, a social get-together around Chinese Chess or card games. The number of elderly swells around these very popular games, a gathering where bystanders often come to watch and your guide can help explain the rules.

Afterwards, you will finish your day with a refreshing change of decor and ambiance in the Wangfujing neighborhood, home to the famous Wangfujing road, the most commercial area of the capital. While you are there, you will get the opportunity to witness how modern China has become and how its fierce consumerism continues. Next door, the Donghuamen Market offers a delightful taste of the night markets in the city. No one in the whole world yells as loud as the wonton vendors in Donghuamen.

Once you have had enough of the market, you will return to the hotel for a rest.

Overnight in Beijing


Day 2  :  Beijing 
You will depart from your hotel to visit the Mutianyu section of the Wall.

Even though we like to falsely say that it is visible from the moon, the Great Wall is one of the most important symbols of the country and must be visited. In doing so, we must retrace our steps back to the Qin Dynasty (more than 2000 years ago) to find the first traces of the defensive walls. During the Ming Dynasty, workers restored and expanded the Wall to its height, width and length we recognize today.

Placed on the highest ridges, the wall offered an excellent view to the north and permitted the guards of the lookout towers to watch out for alarm fires down the wall in case of barbarian intruders. The Wall sufficiently prevented Mongolian cavalry from easily progressing on the wall and forced them to dismount from their horses before attacking.

At its peak of condition, the Wall extended over more than 6000 kilometers of ancient Manchuria until the fort of Jiayuguan (where the Gobi desert begins to the west). At a point in history, the government used to ban criminals to this desolate location.

After a 40 to 50 minutes walk you will have a break to have a picnic on the Great Wall!

If you feel like the long walk up to the Wall is too much, you can take the cable car and coming back down children can enjoy the toboggan ride (optional) to the bottom.

Once back in Beijing, you will visit the Summer Palace. At one time a simple imperial garden, the site was totally redesigned by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th Century becoming one of the capital's major sites. The Imperial Court used to relocate to the Summer Palace during the summer months to escape the stifling heat of the Forbidden City. A mix of temples pavilions, lakes, pagodas and gardens make up this harmonious representation of Chinese culture and architecture. The Long Corridor, the Marble Boat, Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill are the key landscape features of the Summer Palace gardens.

After your visit to the Summer Palace, you will be taken back to your hotel. Overnight in Beijing


Day 3  :  Beijing
This day will begin very early, but you may forget this inconvenience when you enter the Temple of heaven. At this time of the day, you will see the various activities the Chinese do in the morning. Tai Qi, Kung Fu, sabre practice, meditation, tango, and gymnastics are just some of them. The Chinese like to prepare for their day with physical exercises that they consider essential for their health. As well, some Chinese practice calligraphy with giant brushes and water on the park's flagstones that esthetically pleases for as long as the water evaporates.

Next, you will discover the Temple itself and its simplicity in structure. Its hidden symbolism hints at beliefs even more ancient than Buddhism and Taoism and to a time when the Emperor was considered the direct authority on earth from the heavens.

We will then head over to the Forbidden City. Most Chinese buildings face south, which according to ancient beliefs symbolized the barbarian threat and potential invasion from the north. This explains why the main entrance to the Forbidden City faces south towards Tiananmen Square, the third largest city square in the world.

The construction of the City was finished in 1420 during the reign of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle, and served as the Imperial administrative centre throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties until the fall of the Empire in 1911. According to legend the Forbidden City is made up of 9999 different rooms.

You will then climb the artificial Coal hill just behind the Forbidden City provides a spectacular view of the entire site and lets you get a grasp of the layout of the whole of Beijing.

Transfer to Beijing railway station for the World's highest train to Xining (Qinghai province).

There were 17000 feet high mountains to climb, 12 kilometer-wide valley to bridge, hundreds of kilometers of perennial ice and slush that could never support tracks and trains. How could anyone tunnel through rock at 每40C, or lay rails when the least exertion sends gasping for oxygen in the thin air? But China did it! By using permafrost, ventilation pipes, stone embankments...a true technological masterpiece. Protection of the ecological environment has been an essential concern in the design; the routes were selected so that they keep away from the major habitats of wild animals. All the train cars are installed with environment-friendly toilets, wastewater deposit tanks and garbage treatment facilities.

It takes 43 hours by direct train trip from Beijing to Lhasa (total length 1956km). Travelers can enjoy the world-class tourist sites along the trip, including Xining and Qinghai Lake where you will stop first.

Overnight in the train (Soft sleeper)


Day 4  : Xining (altitude :2200 meters)
Arrival in Xining (estimated arrival time 3 :11pm), capital of Qinghai province, in the past situated alongside the Northern Silk Road and where the Han (who make up 90% of the Chinese population) established a military base in the second century BC to protect the merchant caravans against Tibetan raids. Under the historical borders of Tibet, the area used to include the province of Qinghai (then known as ※Amdo§), a part of Gansu province, the north of Yunnan and the west and north of Sichuan (which was also known as Kham). In this region Tibetan culture is still omnipresent and Tibetan Buddhism has an active following.

While Xining itself isn't of huge interest, there are certain must-visit sites in particular the Tibetan Culture Museum which offers a fantastic launch pad for the rest of your trip. Aside from the medical instruments, ancient parchments and the imposing sand mandala (In Buddhism the mandala represents an incredibly complex form of 2D or 3D artwork, the production of which is an elaborate form of meditation, Its central structure represents Meru Mountain, which in turn is the symbol of the center of the universe for Hindus and by extension for Indian and Tibetan Buddhists, while the smaller peripheral temples symbolize the oceans and the continents), the major attraction is without doubt the fabulous tangka (Tibetan religious paintings, the production of which is also a form of meditation) which tells the story of Tibetan history almost from start to finish. It took 400 artists around four years to complete this 74m long and 30m wide masterpiece (the largest in the world).

Qinghai is also known for its cosmopolitan nature: Tibetans, Mongols, Salars, Hui# these last two minorities, both Muslim, are present in great numbers in Xining (making up a third of the population). You will visit the ※Great Mosque§ on Dongguan Street, one of the largest in China, built in the 14th century, and which attracts an impressive number of faithful adherents for Friday Prayers.

You will enjoy a Hui speciality dinner: Ganbanmian noodles.

Overnight in Xining


Day 5 :  Xining - Qinghai Lake (3500 meters)
Early wake up for a long but passionate driving day !

There are several sects of Tibetan Buddhism (Gelug, Sakya, Bonpo, Jonang, Kagyu and Nyingma), the most well-known of which being the Yellow Hat Sect (Gelugpa). In the morning you will visit the Kumbum Monastery (Ta'ersi in Chinese), built in the 15th century at the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism, which is tremendously influential in Tibet.

Transfer back to Xining and visit to the Buddhist Temple Beichansi, partially built on the side of a cliff. The temple is more than 1700 years old and offers a great view of Xining.

Transfer to Qinghai Lake (※Kokonor§ in Tibetan), the largest lake in China and which is located 3500 metres above sea level. You will first pass by the lake and continue on to the west to visit the Salt Lake the use of which dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC -220  AD). During the Qing Dynasty (1644 BC 每 1911 AD) a small railroad was built along this vast stretch of immaculate white expanse, occasionally punctuated with pockets of emerald water, in order to extend the accessible area. You will take the little train to the heart of the lake.

Return to Qinghai Lake. Arrival in late evening.

Overnight in Qinghai lake


Day 6  :  Qinghai Lake - Xining - Lhasa 
Walk alongside the lake, whose turquoise waters are encircled by snow-topped mountains, meadows of rapeseed, and small sand-dunes and which is at its most beautiful between the end of March and June during which time you can witness the migration of millions of birds to take up residence on the Isle of Birds, located at the edge of the lake.

Aside from Cormorants, black-necked cranes, and seagulls, you can see the bar-headed goose, holder of the world record for altitude in flight (more than 9000m!)

Transfer back to Xining for the second portion of the train to Lhasa (Qinghai〞Tibet) that zigzags across the Kunlun and Tanggula pass (5072m above sea level). The Beijing-Lhasa train runs at a speed of 160km per hour on the plain and 120km when it reaches the Qinghai-Tibet section.

Overnight On the train (1st class: soft sleeper)


Day 7  :  Arrival in Lhasa (altitude of 3700 meters)
Arrival in Lhasa (expected arrival time: 2:42pm), the administrative, political and religious capital of Tibet! The city is divided into the Chinese and Tibetan halves, and it is in the Tibetan areas that you will undertake most of your visits.

Transfer to Lhasa old town.

To make sure you are immediately immersed in the Tibetan world you will begin with a visit to the Jokhang Temple, the construction of which, with Nepalese and Indian influences, dates from the 8th century. Famous as the most venerated religious site in Tibet, the temple each day attracts a crowd of pilgrims who amply reflect the diversity present in the demography of Tibet, with notably the nomadic Amdo or Kham people dressed in sheepskins, the men carrying intricately carved knives, and the women with braided hair covered in corals. Wearing cowboy hats is also quite common, giving everybody an incredible look of being in a western movie! Believers travel the Barkhor (※kora§ or pilgrimage routes that circle sacred sites), all the while spinning their prayer wheels, before tirelessly prostrating themselves in front of the doors of the temple. You will enter the fascinating world of the temple, dimly lit by hundreds of candles, the air filled with the smell of yak butter, and with monks' sporadic prayers. There are 3000 icons of Buddha, God or historical figures throughout the temple, but it's the golden statue located at the heart of the temple and brought here by the Chinese Princess Wencheng, the second wife of King Songtsen Gampo (who had already married a Nepalese princess), that, at least in part, explains the temple's popularity.

Walk in Lhasa's old town, giving you your first opportunity to scout out souvenirs that you might want to eventually buy (Tibetan hats, tangkas (Buddhist paintings), incense#). Tibet is also known for its precious stones and its very fine jewelry, and as such you will visit a handicrafts shop.

Night in Lhasa.


Day 8  :  Lhasa 
Visit to the Potala Palace, one-time residence of the Dalai Lama 每 the religious head and political leader of Tibet whose title was created in the 17th century under the influence of the Mongols, with whom the Tibetans share a long common history. The Palace, a true architectural masterpiece, magisterially overlooks the whole city of Lhasa from its 130m vantage point. King Songtsen Gampo constructed a small palace there in the 7th century, but it was in 1645 under the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama that the Potala Palace took its current form. It is composed of two main buildings: the Red Palace 每 religious center that houses the impressive bejeweled gold chortens containing relics belonging to previous Dalai Lamas, and the White Palace in which you can admire the splendid private apartments of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas (the latter fled to India with the arrival of the Chinese army in 1959). It takes more than three hours to take in this labyrinth of staircases, apartments, ceremonial rooms and chapels.

You will travel a part of the Kora next to the Palace, and you will be able to appreciate the enthusiasm of the pilgrims who still consider the Potala as a major sacred site despite the absence of its principal resident.

Three of most important Yellow hat religious centers are found in the Lhasa area (Sera, Drepung and Ganden). You will start with the Sera Monastery, founded by one of Tsongkhapa's disciples in 1419. There are still 600 monks living in the monastery (there used to be 5000), and they devote every afternoon from 15:30 to 17:00 (expect for Sundays out of principle) to their famous religious debates, which are true examples of verbal sparring. The young monks inject their speeches with theatrical gesturing while the elders watch and judge their ability to climb the hierarchy. Other debates and conversations amongst these wise men take place behind the scenes.

Return to the hotel. Night in Lhasa.


Day 9  :  Lhasa - Ganden (3900m) - Lhasa
On to the Ganden monastery, the original monastery of and a stronghold for the Yellow Hat Sect. Established in 1416 by Tsongkhapa (two years before the Sera monastery), the monastery is literally stuck on top of a hill overlooking the whole of the Kyi-Chu valley. Innumerable religious texts can be found in its various chapels, and you may get the chance to see the ※printers§ at work, conscientiously copying around 500 pages a day 每 that's the equivalent of around five books. You will mix with the crowd of pilgrims along the kora which offers wonderful views of the monastery and the valley.

Note: it is advised that this trip is undertaken after an acclimation period of two or three days. Ganden monastery is located at around 3900m altitude, 200m higher than Lhasa.

Return to Lhasa and visit to the Drepung monastery, the third of the trio of Gelugpa temples (Yellow Hat Sect). Drepung means ※cup of rice§, a reference to the many white buildings that are scattered around the base of the mountain in front of which it is built, Mount Gephei. The monastery was built in the 15th century (more precisely in 1416, making it of the same era as the Sera and Ganden monasteries) and was once thought to be the largest in the world with a community of 7000 monks. The second, third and fourth Dalai Lamas are buried here; the fifth lived here before taking up his residence in Potala, as mentioned above.

Night in Lhasa.


Day 10  :  Lhasa - Zedang (3600m)
Morning journey to Zedang, where we can return to the source of this particular part of history. It was in 775 that King Trisong Detsen 每 who is attributed with the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet 每 had the Samye Temple built, the first temple in the country. The majority of your journey will run alongside the Yarlung Tsangpo River that flows down into India and is better known by the name ※Brahmapoutre§. The river is bordered by sand dunes that bring into focus the arid nature of the region, something which hasn't prevented the local authorities from planting trees alongside the river, giving the countryside a surreal edge. The few bridges that do cross the Yarlung are covered in prayer flags, amply demonstrating the importance of the spiritual nature of the river amongst the Tibetan people.

Settling in to the hotel and then visit to the temple (located along the road on the other bank of the Yarlung). The architecture of the temple in the form of a mandala or &circular diagram' is unique to Tibet. The three floors of the temple mirror the three-way relations between Tibet, China and India.

Note: while it may seem logical to do this visit on the outward journey, it is necessary to first go to Zedang to obtain a visit permit for the temple.

At the end of the day a visit to Yongbulakhang, where it all started! This small ※castle§ perched is the oldest building in Tibet, built by Nyatri Tsenpo, the founder of the kingdom and its first sovereign. It takes a good half-hour to complete the climb to the viewing platform, which offers spectacular vistas of the Yarlung valley and its checkerboard pattern of crops.

Optional: it is possible to do this climb on horseback. It takes the same amount of time as walking because the route is slightly different, but this option 每 which is particularly good for children 每 is less tiring.

Night in Zedang.


Day 11  :  Zedang - Lhasa Airport 
Transfer to Lhasa airport (95km, 2h) conveniently located between Zedang and Lhasa and flight to your next destination (there are currently direct flights to Beijing, Chengdu, Xi'an, Chongqing, Shangri-La or Kunming).


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