Beautiful natural scenery can always make us relaxed, inspired and pleased. In the remote northwestern China, there are numerous extraordinary landscapes waiting for you to relax, inspire and get pleased. Among all these landscapes, Qinghai Province, Gansu Province and Inner Mongolia are three most outstanding ones. Qinghai is famous for high plateau features and Tibetan culture, while Gansu is wild and colorful, and Inner Mongolia is adventurous. Thanking for the convenient high speed rails and well-paved highways, they can be explored in a single trip like our 8 Days Qinghai Lake Zhangye Danxia Badain Jaran Tour on which you will witness many incredible wonders that you can’t find elsewhere in the world - vast plateau lake where travelers and pilgrims walking shoulder to shoulder, salt lake pure like a sky mirror, miraculous stretching “rainbow mountains”, mysterious desert full of lovely lake…
Our 8 Days Qinghai Lake Zhangye Danxia Badain Jaran Tour is ideal vacation for photographer, natural lovers as well as common travelers who are seeking for authentic travel experience. It starts from Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province which can be reached by flights and trains from many cities in China, then goes to Zhangye in Gansu Province, and finally ends in Badain Jaran Desert in Inner Mongolia. Private car and fast bullet train are used to ensure you a comfortable vacation. Start your adventure now!
Day 1 Xining ArrivalXining airport/train station pick up
Welcome to Xining (altitude: 2,261m), the capital city of Qinghai Province in northwestern China. Upon arriving at Xining airport/train station, your private guide and driver will pick up you, and then drive about 26km (1 hour) to visit the famous Taer Monastery (or Kumbum Monastery) (2,696m) which was the birthplace of the Tibetan Buddhism master - Tsongkhapa who was the founder of Gelug (the most important sect of Tibetan Buddhism). It has a high prestige among not only China but also Southeast Asia, attracting hundreds thousands of pilgrims to visit each year. Its temples, halls, courtyards, pagodas combine architecture styles of both Tibetan and Han styles, blending into a harmonious whole. Appreciate the exquisite architectures, admire the charm of Three Best Arts of Taer Monastery - Murals, Butter Sculptures of Buddha and Barbola, and watch an interesting Buddhism Debating if time is right.
After the monastery visit, drive to Xining downtown. You will then be taken to visit Dongguan Mosque, the largest mosque in Qinghai. The mosque is a sacred sanctuary for Muslims, one of the four greatest mosques in Northwest China and the highest-level institute of Islamic study. Originally built in the early Ming Dynasty, it is a large building group occupying 13,602 square meters which combines traditional Chinese architectural art and Islamic features. The Worship Hall can accommodate 3,000 Muslims at one time. The pale mint-green exterior is very pretty and chic. You may see lots of Muslim disciples worshiping and attending Muslim event here.
Check in to your hotel in Xining downtown. Take a good rest for tomorrow's Qinghai Lake trip.
Nightlife idea: go to enjoy a great dinner and stunning night view of Xining city on Pearl of Puning which is a 188 meters tall TV & Sightseeing tower alike Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.
- White buddhist stupas in Taer Monastery
- Dongguan Great Mosque is the Biggest Islamic Sanctum in Qinghai
Day 2 Xining – Qinghai Lake - Chaka (B, L )Today's highlights: Qinghai Lake (Erlangjian Scenic Area), Grasslands, Mountains...
After breakfast, drive around 150 km (2.5 hours) to see the picturesque Qinghai Lake from Xining via Huangyuan, Riyue Mountain, etc. You won't feel bored along the driving since the fascinating scenery of green grassland, blue sky, white clouds and clustered herds unfold like a photo gallery. As the largest inland lake, as well as the largest salt water lake in China, Qinghai Lake (3200 m) stretches 105 km in length, 63 km in width and occupies a water area of over 4,500 square kilometers. It was elected as the Most Beautiful Lake in China by China’s National Geographic, attracting thousands of photographers to take photos every year.
You will spend a wonderful time appreciating the beauty of Qinghai Lake in Erlangjian Scenic Area - the essence of the whole scenic area of Qinghai Lake. It shapes like a long and narrow sword inserting into the lake. Walking on the plank road, you will be delivered a far-reaching panorama of the sea-like lake. Due to the different salt content of different parts of the lake, the water presents different colors in the refraction of sunlight. More than the lake view, the scenic surrounding - endless grassland and rapeseed flower lands, soft sand beaches as well as flocks of grazing sheep, horses and yaks also make you enjoy yourself to the fullest. On a clear day, you will feast your eyes on a charming vista of the snow-capped mountains in the distance as well as the huge sand dunes of Sand Island on the far shore. At the same time, Qinghai Lake is a sacred Tibetan Buddhist site. There are many devoted Buddhist coming from afar to worship to Qinghai Lake each year.
Optional Qinghai Lake Cruise: Taking a cruise allows you to admire Qinghai Lake from a different perspective. There are two kinds of cruises available in Erlangjian Scenic Area: High Speed Cruise and catamaran. The former offers a 25 minutes’ single trip from Erlangjian Wharf to Erlangjian Peninsula at the cost of CNY140. The latter offers a 50 minutes’ round trip at the cost of CNY180. This price doesn't include your personal expense on the ship, such as drinking, food, etc. This cruise is only available during the period from May to October.
Lastly, drive about 150km (3 hours) to Chaka Town (3,100m) for accommodation. The first half of the driving takes the beautiful lakeside roads while the second half takes you to go through and over high mountains and grasslands.
Warm Tips: 1) It is available to visit Qinghai Lake all the year around, but May to October is the best time because of the most comfortable weather. If you want to savor the sea of rape flowers, remember to visit in July and August. 2) The sunlight is very strong in Qinghai Lake, and it is necessary to bring hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. to protect your skin from sun burn especially in summer. 3) Few people get serious high altitude sickness in Qinghai Lake, but it is important to be wary of high altitude sickness if it's your first time to enter the high plateau. Avoiding strenuous exercise and drinking more water will be helpful.
- Riyue Mountains
- Rape flowers Blooming around Qinghai Lake in July
- Herd of Tibetan nomads around Qinghai Lake
- Enjoy a cruise on Qinghai Lake
Day 3 Chaka Salt Lake - Xining (B, L )Today's highlights: Sunrise, Chaka Salt Lake, Sightseeing Train Ride
If weather permits, and you don't mind walking about 3km (1 hour) to the sunrise location, you can get up early to watch the breathtaking sunrise (around 6am) at Chaka Salt Lake.
With an altitude around 3100m, Chaka Lake is a rare geographic wonder as well as an important salt production center on the ancient Silk Road. The salt products here were transported alone the Silk Road to Tibet, Xinjiang even middle Asia. For tourists, Chaka Lake is the perfect place for photography, romantic escapades and refreshing experiences. On the clear days, it is silhouetted by the azure sky, floating clouds and lofty mountains in the distance, which looks like a natural mirror beyond your imagination. Looking to the distance, you are unable to find the boundary between sky and lake, and you cannot tell whether the sky is a part of the lake or the lake is the supplement of the sky. It’s so marvelous and serene.
There are many ways to explore Chaka Salt Lake. To maximize your best experience, you will take a sightseeing train directly to the hinterland of the lake to escape the possible crowds, then explore from the hinterland to the entrance leisurely by walking (The walking costs about 40mins. If you don't want to walk, you can take the sightseeing back, which needs extra payment). Visitors are allowed to walk on the salt crystalline lake. It is like stepping into a picture. It is recommended to wear shoe covers to protect your feet from the aggressive salt water. Some other optional activities (with extra costs): a. take a relaxing boat trip along the water canal which is used to transport salt; b. enjoy a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding from the Sightseeing Tower. If you want to experience these optional activities, feel free to let your tour guide arrange for you.
Some useful tips:
1) Best time for photography at Chaka Lake - 8am~10am and 4pm to 8pm.
2) In order to take the best reflection photos on the lake, you can wear something bright colors, such as red, yellow, blue, etc.
3) The ultra-violet radiation is very strong. Try to get your face, arms, necks and legs covered when you are not taking portrait photos. Sunglasses are necessary.
Leaving Chaka Lake, you will be transferred back to Xining (about 300km/3.5~4 hours). Feel free to ask for stops along the way for resting and take photos. Accommodate in Xining.
Available Plan B Itinerary:
You may not get the best experience if you happen to visit Chaka Salt Lake during holidays and peak season when the lake is usually crowded with tourists. You can go to the nearby Sky No.1 Scenic Area which has similar lake scenery and experience to Chaka Salt Lake but not many tourists as many as in Chaka Lake. Feel free to discuss adjusting itinerary with your tour guide.
- Chaka Salt Lake - Mirror of Sky
- Wearing cloth of bright color to take fantastic photos
- Sightseeing train travel at Chaka Lake
Day 4 Xining - Zhangye (B, L )Today's highlight: Zhangye city exploration on your own
Today you will drive about 6 hours to Zhangye. Get overwelmed by the fast-changing landscapes along the road which include vast plain, rural farmlands, high mountains, etc.
After arriving in Zhangye city, go to check in to your hotel. The rest time is free for you to relax and explore this historical city. Zhangye is the vital frontier to protect China from the nomads of the northwest, also an important outpost on the Silk Road, Zhangye is full of history and legends, which make your trip here very special as travelling back in ancient time. At the same time, Zhangye is diverse in natural scenery. It was said that Marco Polo even spent a year here around 1274.
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Day 5 Zhangye Danxia Sightseeing ( B, L )Today's highlights: Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park, Binggou Danxia Landform
Zhangye is famous for its unparalleled Danxia Landforms which is a spectacular petrographic geomorphology landscape formed from red-colored sand stones and conglomerates. Among all the Danxia places in Zhangye, Binggou Danxia Landform Scenery Area and Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park (Linze Danxia) have most significant Danxia landscapes. Today you will go to explore both of them.
After breakfast, you will go to visit Binggou Danxia Landform first which is about 1 hour's driving from Zhangye downtown. Even though just being visited by fewer travelers, Binggou Danxia Landform Scenery Area has its own featured charms. If the Linze Danxia Scenery is a visual feast of colors, then the Binggou Danxia is a great joy to find how the Mother Nature became a sculptor who sculptured the mountains to amazing different shapes, like grand palaces, long corridors, giant pillars, etc. You will hike leisurely about 2 hours to look the spectacular landform closely.
In the afternoon, drive about 30mins to visit the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park which was formed in the pre-Jurassic Age. Thousands of mountains and stiffs stretch like the colorful sunset glow. The barren mountains are covered by a red grit rock stratum. At the same time, some surfaces of mountains appear other colors, such as white, yellow, etc, and form many irregular lines and blocks looking like some abstract oil paintings. There are five viewing decks for you to watch and shoot. You will visit one by one, and will be transferred by park buses from one deck to another.
You won't miss the precious opportunity to enjoy the amazing sunset. Viewing Deck No. 4 is the best location to take sunset of the Danxia Landform. It's better to get there earlier to occupy a good location. After sunset, drive back to Zhangye downtown for accommodation.
Useful Tips: 1) Pack with sun creams, sun glasses, protective clothing and hat to protect from strong sunlight in summer; 2) sunset is the best time for taking photos which happen around 19:00~20:00 in summer and 18:00~19:00 in winter.
- Zhangye Danxia Landform Views After Rain
- Zhangye Danxia Landform Photography
- Binggou Danxia Landform
Day 6 Zhangye - Badain Jaran Town (B, L)Today's highlights: Pingshan Lake Grand Canyon Scenic Area, Giant Buddha Temple
After breakfast, you will go to visit the famous Giant Buddha Temple which is famous for having the largest indoor sleeping Buddha in Asia. This temple is a large complex with regal arrangements built in Xixia Dynasty(1098), and keeps many precious Buddhist scriptures and wall paintings. Its famous treasure is the Sleeping Buddha which is the centrally seated, symmetric buildings situate along the sides. The Buddha statue was carved by woods with a length of 34.5 meters, telling the story of Buddha’s Nirvana. His ears are as big as the space in which 4 adults can sit side by side.
Finishing the Giant Buddha Temple visit, drive about 160 kilometers(2hrs) to Badain Jaran Town, the largest town near Badain Jaran Desert. On route, you will take an excursion trip to Pingshan Lake Grand Canyon Scenic Area where the rock is peculiar in shape. You can find “human, bird, animal, and pagoda”. It has been praised as "comparable to the Grand Canyon of Colorado" by well-known geological experts and tourists at home and abroad, and it is the new discovery of the Silk Road!
Stay overnight in Badain Jaran Town.
- Giant Buddha Temple
- Pingshan Lake Grand Canyon Scenic Area
Day 7 Badain Jaran Desert Jeep Safari & Exploration (B, L)Today's highlights: Badain Jaran Geopark Museum, Badain Jaran Desert Jeep Safari
Visiting Route: Geo-park Museum - Badain Lake - Dagetu - Fairy Peak - Yinderitu Spring - Bilutu - Badain Jaran Temple (The final route is subject to change according to weather and time condition)
After breakfast, drive about 1 hour from your hotel to the entrance area of the desert park to visit Badain Jaran Geo-park Museum first to learn some useful geography and cultural information about this China’s most beautiful desert. UNESCO experts claim that Badain Jaran Desert includes “unique desert aeolian features of the most concentrated distribution area of mega-dunes and inter-dunal lake basins, constituting irreplaceable natural heritage values”.
Start your thrilling and exciting Badain Jaran off-road adventure now! Hop on a desert Jeep, and drive head to the heartland of the desert. As a vast desert covering over 45,000 square kilometers, Badain Jaran Desert’s highlighting lakes and sand dunes can only be reached by SUV unless you will have to trek several days through the desert. The driving goes to Badain Jaran Temple in the deep desert where a Mongol yurts camp sets up on the side of a lake for travelers to stay over the night.
There are a lot of stops at the most beautiful points, such as Badain Lake, desert oasis, Genghis Khan Sand Carving, Dagetu Lake, Yinderitu Spring, Temple Lake, etc. You will also go up to Bilutu which is the highest sand dune in the world with an altitude of 1611 meters. You will reach at Badain Jaran Temple, known as the Forbidden City in the Desert, after about 4~5 hours driving. The rest time is free to explore the beauty of the desert till the sunset time.
Tonight you will accommodate in a Mongol yurt in the middle of the desert which is comfortable (for a yurt) with shower available, but the toilet is basic and placed outside the camp.
Pack and Wear Right – Very Important? - bring only necessary things to the desert, such as water, sunglasses, sunblocking cream, camera, dramamine (for possible carsickness during desert driving), etc. Take a towel, shower gel, shampoo if you want to take a shower. Your luggage can be remained in our car or hotel in Badain Jaran Town.
- Exciting Jeep Safari in deep land of Badain Jaran Desert
- Mysterious lakes in deep Badain Jaran Desert
Day 8 Badain Jaran Desert Departure (B, L)Today's highlights: Sunrise, Badain Jaran Desert Jeep Safari
Visiting Route: Badain Jaran Temple - Barun Jaran - Barunyikeri - Heavenly Lake - Entrance(The final route is subject to change according to weather and time condition)
Get up at about 5:30~6.00 A.M in the morning, find a good sunrise location on the sand mountain to wait for the first ray of golden sunlight to shine on the stretches of desert. The sunrise at Badain Jaran Desert is a true feast to eyes. It’s a striking combination of light and shadow. At the daybreaking time, the sun seems to be playing the hide-and-seek with people. It then rises gradually like a dancing sparrows from the horizon, and project her golden light upon the sea of sand. Soak yourself in this sun-drenched otherworldly scene, and let the golden light and cool desert air wash over you. After the sunrise, return to the camp site.
After breakfast, keep on Jeep Safari adventure. You will make a stop at Barun Jaran (Barunjilin), a stunning lake which is a great place to take photo of sand dunes’ reflection. You will also go to visit Barunyikeri where two lakes are divided by an edge of sand dunes, and Heavenly Lake (Tianchi), a lovely lake suitable for photography.
You will exit the desert park around the noon time. Have lunch before leaving for next destination. (Departure tips: the nearest airport is Jinchang Airport where you can take flights to Xian, Lanzhou, Chengdu, Beijing, etc. If you want to transfer to Zhangye or other places in the region with our private car services, please contact your travel consultant in advance.)
- Unique sunrise in Badain Jaran Desert
Located in the northwest of Gansu and the westernmost of Hexi Corridor, Dunhuang is the most brilliant pearl along the ancient Silk Road. The city has sealed huge art treasury and created oasis in the desert. You can closely see the fantastic Buddhist sculptures, murals in World Cultural Heritage - Mogao Caves, visit Crescent Lake surrounded by Mingsha Mountain, view unique Yardang landform, ancient passes and more impressive scenery here.
You can take a 2-day brief trip to Dunhuang covering top highlights. On the day 1, you can go to Echoing Sand Mountain and Crescent LakeE together, witness the wonder of nature, try some exciting activities, like desert camel riding, sand sliding, motorcycling, etc., later return to Dunhuang city to hunt for local flavors at Shazhou Night Market. Day 2 is fully for your Mogao Caves tour. First watch introduction movies about the caves in the Digital Exhibition Center, and then visit specific caves in Mogao Grottoes one by one, learning Buddhist story, Chinese culture and history, which you can’t help admiring this precious land of art.
Jiayuguan Pass is about 370 km away from Dunhuang. It used to be the starting point of the ancient Great Wall built during Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), also the most important military defensive project guarding the far northwestern area of China because of its strategic location at the narrowest point of the western section of the Hexi Corridor which had been the vital defensive frontier since Han Dynasty (BC 202—220).
You can travel from Dunhuang to Zhangye by car. Most classic itinerary is to leave Dunhuang in the morning, then drive about 4~5 hours to Jiayuguan with an excursion visit to Yunlin Caves, which is the "little sister" of Mogao Caves. In Jiayuguan, you can spend either a half day tour or a full day visiting Jiayuguan Fortress, Hanging Great Wall and other sites in the region.
1. This price is for one person, based on a group of 2 adults sharing one standard double-bed room in 4-star hotel and traveling with our private tour in low seasons.
2. This price is subject to change according your traveling season, group size, hotel class, change of activities in your itinerary and possible fluctuation of currency exchange rate. If you want a lower price, you can get more people to join you, or use economy class hotels.
3. This price is only valid to March 31, 2023.
4. Reference exchange rate of USD 1= RMB 6.45. The final quote is based on current exchange rate. It may change according to the currency fluctuation, while the RMB quotation will be remained the same.
we made it back to Shanghai. It was a great trip even with rain, COVID, and Sophie's personal issues.
we enjoyed the trip very much. Thanks a lot for organizing everything so brilliant it was really fantastic!
Thank you for your help in sorting out my few days ago. I will certainly be asking you for help in the future, now to start thinking about my 10 day break, beginning of April!
We did quite a lot of research for travel agency before heading for our first trip to Lhasa, Tibet; since foreign travelers to Tibet have to purchase a tour. China Discovery did a great job in helping us get the Tibet Tourism Bureau permit, booking our train tickets from Xining, Qinghai Province, to Lhasa; and organizing a private Tibetan guide, Tenzin, and a driver, for our 5 days in Tibet. They also helped us with all Covid-19 safety measures and authorization requirements). Great sceneries and sites, especially Yamdrok Lake, Khambala pass (4800m), Potala Palace, Sera Monastery and Deprung Monastery. Our guide Tenzin spoke very well in English and was very helpful.
My suggestion: No need to visit Summer Palace; suggest organizing visit of Yack herd with Nomads in higher plateau and in Snow area. Otherwise, very good and Tenzin was excellent
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There will be some meals excluded in your itinerary as you like, and your private guide will be delighted to give you some suggestions and take you to the local restaurants to taste like Beijing Roast Duck, Xian Dumpling Dinner, Sichuan Hotpot, etc., if you are interested in local food tasting.
All the dining options will satisfy your stomach!
Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang
Zhangye - Badain Jaran Town - Badain Jaran Desert
Xining - Qinghai Lake - Chaka Lake - Zhangye
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