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Qinghai Lake Cycling Tour - 7 Days

Destination: Kokonor Lake /Qinghai Lake
Duration: Seven Day
Tour Code:
Transportation: Cycling
Best Travel Time:From May to Oct
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Biking Distance: Approx.80km/day
Biking Time: 6h-7h/day
Good Time to Visit: From May to Oct
Elevation Range: 3100meters to 3300 meters
Terrain: Flat
Cycling Tour Level: Moderate; High-altitude Biking; Vehicle-supported
Total Cycling Distance: Approximately 360 km
Average Distance Cycling Per Day: Up to 85 km
Traffic: Heavy traffic is expected in some sections.


This Qinghai Lake Cycling Tour includes several portions of the famous “Qinghai Lake International Cycling Race”, held every summer. This is the top professional road race in Asia, with approx 250 cyclists representing 15-20 countries, attended by thousands of cheering spectators! Although our 7-day trip won’t cover the grueling 1300 km that the professional racers cover, it will still be at the same altitude, as high as 3300 meters in some places! Even though we will cycle at quite a high elevation, the route chosen is gently-undulating, so it is still a “moderate-level” tour. Along the way, there are several highlights, but two of them will be seeing “Bird Island” and visiting a Tibetan Lamasery, both midway through the trip! For photographers, the alpine meadows may be in full-bloom, with snow-capped mountains serving as a backdrop to their carpets of colour.


Qinghai Province is a desolate mountainous area located on the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. Three of Asia’s best-known rivers originate in these mountains – the Yellow River (Huang He) originates in the middle of the province, while the timeless Yangtze and the mighty Mekong have their sources in the southwestern part. Although it serves mainly as the domain of nomadic Tibetan herdsmen, there are over 33 ethnic groups represented in the province.


Qinghai Lake is the largest salt-water lake in China, with an area of 4,635 square kilometers! Its name means “teal-green sea”. It is located about 100 km west of the provincial capital of Xining at 3,205 m (10,515 feet) above sea level, in a depression of the Tibetan Plateau. Twenty-three rivers and streams empty into Qinghai Lake, which teams with fish in the summer!

This Qinghai Lake cycling tour will circumnavigate the lake. The high altitude, the area’s stark beauty, the mixture of culture and natural history, and limitless photographic opportunities, will make this a trip to remember! 

Full price of this tour (per person in US$):
Price Price Instruction
US$1050/persons 1050USD/Person

Day 1: Xining Airport/Xihai (D)

Pick up from airport of Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province (China's largest province, excluding the 3 Autonomous Regions which are technically not provinces), we will be met and greeted at the airport. Upon arrival, we will board our safe and comfortable bus and will drive directly to Xihai, about 100 km to the northeast. As we gently ascend to a higher elevation, we will see the landscape change from urban blemish to rural grasslands and we will soon come to the vast Jinyintan Pasture (over 1000 sq km), a typical high-altitude grazing land. It was this very spot, with its variety of beautiful summer flowers, which inspired the late Wang Luobin, renowned composer of Chinese folk songs, to write his award-winning classic, “In a Place Far Away”.

When we arrive at Xihai, we will first check into our 3-star hotel. Then we will pick up our bicycles to do a small tour around this cozy and tranquil town (its name means “western sea”). A brief visit will not only serve to orient ourselves but will allow us to adjust to the high altitude.

During our sightseeing, we will pass by some deserted factories which are worth stopping at, for pictures. This site, situated innocently in these remote grasslands, was once the secret facility where China worked on developing its first atomic bomb. Back at our hotel, and after a delicious supper of local delicacies, we will be ready for a sound sleep in the clean mountain air.

Overnight in a local hotel in Xihai    

Day2: Xihai / Qinghai Lake Fshing Base (B/L/D)

Road condition:paved, light traffic, a dozen hills, each with a gentle gradient
Distance: 76 kilometers

After an early breakfast, we will verify our equipment, then strike off westward towards Qinghai Lake, accompanied by our support vehicle. The morning's scenery will be that of endless grasslands, punctuated here and there by evidence of an ever-encroaching desert – areas of dry, scruffy terrain dotted with occasional sand dunes. We will choose a scenic place to eat our packed lunches, carried by the support vehicle. Later, in the afternoon, and after several uphill and downhill sections, we will suddenly see the Lake, shining on the western horizon like a ribbon of shimmering silk! On our descent, the landscape will be totally different. As we start to cycle towards the lush sea of grass, with its interwoven patches of summer flowers, we can imagine ourselves cycling out onto a living, vibrant painting, created by Nature herself. Still, distances are deceiving at this altitude, and only after another 20km of riding will we actually arrive at the end-point of our long day – the Qinghai Lake fishing base. Our hotel is close to the lake and our much-anticipated dinner of delicious local fish, taken fresh from the cold salt water, will be second to none!

Overnight in a hotel near Qinghai Lake.


Day3:Qinghai Lake Fshing Base/Qinghai Lake Tent Hostel (B/L/D)

Road condition:paved; heavy traffic, but flat for the first 25km; several small uphill sections for the remainder
Distance: 85 kilometers
Time: 6-7hrs

Early risers will be able to see the sun start to illuminate one of the most beautiful landscapes in western China. Qinghai Lake is set on a high plateau, with the Tibetan mountains in the distance. On their first morning, visitors like to wander along the shore before breakfast, enthralled by the high-altitude tranquility of the lake itself, which stretches endlessly to the horizon. After a nourishing breakfast, we will start our clockwise ride around Qinghai Lake. Our morning's ride will first follow the fairly-busy national road, but even so, in June and July, the wild rapeseed flowers are in bloom, blanketing the landscape with shades of yellow and gold. There is little civilization around most of the lake, so we will stop in a quiet spot along the way to enjoy our picnic lunch and to allow us to recharge our energy with toast, ham,fruits and chocolate. In the afternoon, our path will lead us away from the traffic, onto a quiet road alongside the lake. We will cycle in an area of peaceful tranquility until we reach our stay for the night, a rustic, but comfortable, Tent Hostel, situated just by the lake.

Overnight Tent Hostel or similar.

Day4:Qinghai Lake Tent Hostel/Bird Island(B/L/D)

Road condition:paved, light traffic, flat or downhill for the most of the time.
Time: 6hrs

This is the day for photographers! And at the end of the day, when we reach the western end of the lake, we will be tempted to simply stay and take pictures! We will leave our tented camp in the morning, and as we cycle along in the soft morning light, the pastoral scene will include un-tethered cows, sheep, horses, and even yaks, nonchalantly munching on clumps of ripe, lush grass. White yurts, similar to those seen in Inner Mongolia, typically dot the landscape. Our morning will be punctuated by several “photo stops”, each one registering an unforgettable scene in our own memory, as well as in the camera's. (Astute photographers may catch an occasional anachronism – shaggy black yaks surrounding a white yurt with a satellite dish perched on the roof.) We will make a small detour away from the water to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in the small village of Shinaigai, after which we'll head back to the lakeshore to see one of the highlights of the trip – Bird Island! It's been said that if Qinghai Lake were the crown of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, then Bird Island is the jewel in the crown! Although the name is singular, there are actually 2 islands, and even these two can barely hold the birds that return to nest, year after year. Qinghai Lake is located at the crossroads of several bird migration routes across Asia. In April of each year, as the ice melts across the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, thousands of birds from southern China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the Indian subcontinent arrive to lay and hatch their eggs. Over 20 species have been noted, including Bar-headed Geese, Ruddy Shelducks, Brown-headed Gulls, cormorants, egrets, and sandpipers. Stately Griffon Vultures glide overhead, minivets frequent the scrubby bushes, and Mongolian Larks sing from the grasses. Even the rare Black-necked Crane and an occasional swan have been seen! The flat ground, mild temperature, proximity to abundant fish, and safety from predators support thousands of nests (and eggs), right on the ground! In June and July, as the young begin to fly, the sky is black with flying birds. Bird Island is one of the wonders of the Tibetan plateau, a photographer's challenge, but an ornithologist's delight. This special site, with so many birds, so close, and normally only associated with remote mountain cliffs, attracts many visitors during the summer months.
Overnight in a hotel near Bird Island.   

Day5:Bird Island/Quanji /Gangcha (B/L/D)

Road condition:paved; heavy traffic for the most of the day; first section is 10km, varying between flat and uphill; the rest of the road is flat and/or downhill
Distance:65 km
Time: 5-6hrs

After breakfast, we will make an unhurried walk from our hotel to visit the Shatuo Lamasery, home to the Red Hat branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Its first building was constructed in 1665, but there have been several additions. The buildings now include a 300-square-meter prayer hall,18 rooms and dorms for monks, and a mansion for the living Buddha. After our visit (about 1 hours), we will start our cycling tour again along the west bank of the lake for another 25km, then we will ride on the National road again and bike to Quanji, where we will have lunch and also visit the local market to buy fruit. In the afternoon, ride to Gangcha, where we will relax a bit and take a shower before wandering around this little Tibetan town with its various ethnic groups. After supper, we will be able to relax and enjoy an amazing sunset over the seemingly-endless lake.

Overnight in a local hostel in Gangcha.

Day6:Gangcha /Xihai (87km, B/L/D)

Road condition:paved, several uphill and downhill sections.
Distance: 87 km
Time: 6-7hrs

This morning we will be up before dawn to see a bit of Gangcha itself, with its traditional yurts, beautiful prayer flags, and mysterious praying stones. Then we will make an early start on our bikes, leaving Qinghai Lake behind us, as we head back toward Xihai.  On the way, we will encounter several small villages where we will see the authentic buildings and day-to-day activities of the local people. After a picnic lunch, we will again pass through the most beautiful natural grazing grounds outside of Xihan before our arrival in the late afternoon. That night we will enjoy a feast in a local restaurant to celebrate our great accomplishment of doing a “race” around Qinghai Lake! 

Overnight in a hotel in Xihai.

Day7:Xihai Town/Xining  Departure(B)

After a relaxing morning, we will drive back to Xining, where we will transfer to the airport to catch our outbound plane. The end of our amazing highland Qinghai lake cycling tour.


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