Attractions Along The Way
Qinghai Lake, Bird Island
Qinghai Lake, China's largest inland salt water lake is at 3200 meters above sea level and is situated at the east of Qinghai province, around 2.30 hours drive from Xining.
The lake occupies an area of 4456 square kilometers, having a perimeter of more than 360 kilometers and is more than twice the size of the famous Tai Lake in Wuxi in China's Jiangsu Province. The ellipse-shaped lake looks like a huge poplar leaf sitting on the alpine prairie. Scenery in Qinghai lake varies according to seasons. Summer and autumn are the most comfortable weather conditions and the lake's scenery is most beautiful during these seasons. This is the best time to visit the lake.
The Bird Island
It is an interesting and charming place on the western shore of Qinghai Lake. The island is a paradise for varieties of birds. The protection policy of the local government makes island has created a haven for the birds. Each March and April when the ice covering the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau begins to melt, more than 20 kinds of migrating birds come to the island to breed. Flocks of birds cover the whole island and bird eggs can be found everywhere. Visitors can hear the birds songs from far away.
Chaerhan Salt Lake
The Chaka Salt Lakes (Chaka yanhu) were originally part of the ocean in primordial times and were formed during the intense crust activity that resulted in the formation of the largest plateau in the world, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. As the waters of this primordial soup receded, flowing into the nearby Indian and Pacific Oceans, depressions in the plateau retained water forming the region's famous lakes. There are a total of thirty lakes ranging from large to small. The largest named the Chaerhan Salt Lake (Chaerhan yanhu). The total surface area of the lake's are said to be around 105 square kilometers.
The highlight of the lakes are their reflective surfaces that mirror the passing clouds, the distant mountains and the nomad's tents and herds that can be found all around the area. Distinctive in this region is the salty smell that comes from anywhere near the lakes. The area is called a world of salt. Locals make a living from dredging the salt and from tourists related industry. For those into hiking, a walk along the Salt Bridge that crosses the lakes and running a total of 60km, is an interesting experience as is a look into the salt house that can be found beside the main lake. The lakes are probably best seen as a side trip for those after an extensive camping or hiking experience.
Kunlun Mountains are the largest mountain system in China. The range extend a distance of 2,500 kilometers at an altitude of between 5,500 and 6,000 meters above sea level. The Kunlun peaks are perennially snow-covered and within the mountains are springs that flow all year round.
Kunlun Mountains Pass
the Kunlun mountain pass is 160 kilometers to the south of Golmud, and the altitude rises abruptly from 2,800 meters to 4,700 meters and the temperature and air pressure drop accordingly. You will be suddenly transferred from hot summer to a severe winter with the magnificent snow white Kunlun surrounding you. Kunlun is not only famous for its grandeur but also for the color jade it produces. It is called Kunlun Jade. Rare animals can be seen are leaping and skipping among the snow and the grassland, presenting a beautiful picture of nature. The pass, 4,767 meters above sea level, is in the middle section of the mountain range. It is an obligatory section of the route between Qinghai and Tibet.
Holxil depopulated Area
Holxil depopulated Area is the largest depopulated area in China, having 4,500 square kilometers. The average elevation there is above 4,000 meters. Since the climate there is cold and the air is rare, it is regarded as Life Forbidden Zone. This area is a paradise for animals. Flocks of rare animals including 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.
Tanggula Mountain Pass
This is the highest point along the railway with an elevation of 5072 meters.
Source of Yantze River
Qinghai-Tibet highland is the source of China’s three most important rivers: Yangtze River, Yellow River and the Langcang River.
China's longest river-Yangtze river originates from the Tuotuo River. Natural scenery around this area is unique and amazing, with bamboo-shaped ice bars, ice-bridges. Icy lakes and other features of glacier physiognomy.
As one of the five biggest pastures in China, the Changtang Grassland is surrounded by the Kunlun, Tanggula, Kangdese and Nyainqentanglha mountains. The Changtang Grassland is a culturally rich land as well as a paradise for the wild animals and plants. On the vast grassland, yaks, sheep and nomadic people’s camps can be seen everywhere. And the colorful long-standing nomadic culture created by the nomadic people can be appreciated here. The vast fertile grassland always evoke an ambience of relaxing and refreshing. The regions’ annual horse-racing festival is held in this grassland, when the whole community is converging here to celebrate their traditional festival.
Eight-Pagodas in North Tibet Pasture
Eight-Pagodas in North Tibet Pasture is in the Wuma Town, about 40 miles from Damxung. It is said that King Gesar had led the troops gallop across the battle field in the Northern Tibet Pasture. General Shabadang Mashangca who was under King Gesar’s command died in the last ditch in Wuma. To monumentalize him, the local people built eight white pagodas there, which are still in good condition even today.
The Eight-Pagodas is located at the roadside of the Qinghai-Tibet Road from Damxung to Nagqu. Every 15th, 30th in Tibetan Calendar, the herdsmen on the pasture would come here to worship, pray and spin the sutra tube, wish the hero rest in the heaven and wish good luck to them.
Lake Namtso (Lake Namco)
Lake Namtso means "holy lake" in the Tibetan language. With a distance of over 30 kilometers from north to south and over 70 kilometers from east to west, Lake Namtso covers a total area of more than 1,900 square kilometers, being the second largest salt lake in China. At an elevation of 4,718 meters, it is also the highest-altitude salt lake in the worldwith the deepest part being being more than 33 meters. The water in the lake for the most part arises from rains, melted ice and snow of Nyenchen Tonglha Mountains and the inflow of crooks and streams, hence the lake is very clear and limpid. With the lake surface assuming sky blue, the lake and the sky seem to be one and undivided, which may make visitors feel themselves in a fairy land if they have a stroll by the lake.
Yambajan Hot Springs
Tibet boasts the most hot springs in China. Yambajan is world-famous for a spectacular phenomenon of hot springs boiling on the cold plateau. It features all kinds of hot springs including highest-temperature hot springs, boiling springs and geysers as well as common hot springs, the area totals more than 7,000 square meters.
More on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway
I updated this article on July 1, 2012
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