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8 Days Zhangye Danxia and Badain Jaran Desert Tour

Photography of Wild China


Beautiful natural scenery can always make us relaxed, inspired and happy. If you are happened to be a photography lover, the nature is the best materials. In the northwestern China, there are two beautiful places - Qinghai and Gansu. Qinghai is famous for high plateau features, while Gansu is wild and diverse. This 8 Days Qinghai Gansu Tour is a top experience of landscape sightseeing, as well a big chance to bring your photography skills into play.

Highlights of this tour

  • Visit the largest beautiful salt lake in China - Qinghai Lake;
  • Driving through vast grasslands, farmlands, forests to Zhangye to see the unique rainbow mountains in Zhangye - Danxia Landform Geographical Park;
  • Take an adventure to the most scenic desert in China - Badain Jaran Desert.

Basic Trip Information

  1. 1. This price is for one person, based on a group of 2 adults sharing one double-bed room in 4-star hotel and traveling in low seasons;
  2. 2. This price is subject to change according your traveling season, group size, hotel class, change of activities and possible fluctuation of currency exchange rate.
Travel Route:
Xining - Zhangye - Badain Jaran Desert
Travel Length:
8 Days and 7 Nights
Tour Code:
Group Size:
You, your family, friends or group
Any day you want

Full Itinerary Day by day (Can Be Customized)

Day 1 Xining Arrival

Welcome to Xining, Qinghai. Once morning arrival at Xining Caojiabao Airport/Train Station, your tour guide will meet you, and then escort you to your hotel by a private vehicle.

In the afternoon,, drive about 26km to visit the famous Taer Monastery which is the birthplace of the Tibetan Buddhism master – Tsongkhapa who was the founder of Gelug(a sect of Buddhism). It is also famous as one of “6 monastery of Gelug”. You must not miss the “three bests” of Taer Monastery – murals, barbola and butter sculptures.

Taer Monastery
Day 2 Xining – Qinghai Lake - Chaka Town (B, L )

After breakfast, drive around 2.5 hours to see the picturesque Qinghai Lake from Xining via Huangyuan, Riyue Mountain, etc. You won't feel boring along the driving since fascinate scenery of green grassland, blue sky, white clouds, clustered flocks and herds unfold like a photo gallery.

You will stop at the Erlang Jian Scenic Area to enjoy the beauty of Qinghai Lake. As the largest inland lake, as well as the largest salt water lake in China, Qinghai Lake(3200m) stretches 105km at length,  63km at width and occupies a water area of over 4,500 square kilometers. Attracting thousands of photographers to take photos every year, this plateau lake was elected as the Most Beautiful Lake in China by China’s National Geographic. It is surrounded by harsh mountain ranges from outside. While on the foot of mountains are endless beautiful grassland and rapeseed flower lands which are connected to the lakeside. 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.

Lastly, drive about 3 hours to Chaka Town for accommodation.

Useful Tips: 1) Qinghai Lake is famous as the Paradise of Migrant Bird. If you are planning a bird watching tour, you are suggested to visit the Bird Island during May and June; 2) From late July to early August is the best time to view the vast golden rape flower fields surrounding the Qinghai Lake; 3) If you are interested and time allows, you can take optional visiting to some interesting attractions along the driving to and back to Xining, such as Dangaer Ancient City, Riyue Mountain, Jinyintan Prairie, etc.

 Qinghai Lake FlowerQinghai Lake Blooming Rape Flowers
Day 3 Chaka Salt Lake - Xining (B, L )

If weather permits, you can get up early to watch the breathtaking sunrise (around 6am) at Chaka Salt Lake.

Lying in the conjunction of national road 109 and 315 and near Qinghai Lake, Chaka Salt Lake is one important courier station of ancient Silk Road. It was the only way to Tibet for businessmen and tourists in the history and referred as the Eastern Gate of Qaidam. Like a mirror of sky, its fantastic beauty is beyond everyone’s imagination. Looking to the distance, you are unable to find the boundary between sky and lake and you can’t tell whether the sky is one part of lake or the lake is the supplement of sky. Wondering in the lake is like stepping into the world of salt, pure, picturesque and poetic. You could feast your eyes on the spectacular view on a sightseeing train which allows you to admire the moving stroll of sunset, evening glow and salty flowers.

After about 2 hours sightseeing at Chaka Salt Lake, it's time to drive back to Xining. Accommodate at Xining.

Chaka Salt Lake
Day 4 Xining - High Speed Train to Zhangye (B, L )

After breakfast, you will take a morning high speed bullet train to Zhangye city from Xining (about 2hrs). Enjoy the beautiful landscape along the road. After arrival at Zhangye West Railway Station, you will be met by local tour guide. Let's get ready for trip!

In the afternoon, drive about an hour to visit the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park. The Danxia landform is a spectacular petrographic geomorphology landscape which is formed from red-coloured sandstones and conglomerates. The one in Zhangye 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 four 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.

After watching sunset at Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park, drive about 13km to Sunan County for accommodation. Tomorrow morning, you are going to visit another Danxia Landform.

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 RainZhangye Danxia Landform Photography
Day 5 Binggou Danxia - Zhangye (B, L)

After breakfast, you will go to visit Binggou Danxia LandformEven though just being visited by fewer travelers, the 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.

Finishing the tour at Binggou Danxia Landform Scenic Area, you will drive about 1.5 hours back to Zhangye City 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 which 4 adults can sit side by side. 

Accommodate at Zhangye City.

Binggou Danxia LandformGiant Buddha Temple
Day 6 Zhangye - Badain Jaran Desert (B, L)

After breakfast, drive about 240 kilometers(3.5hrs) to Badain Jaran Desert which is praised as the most beautiful desert in China, also the third largest desert in China with an area of over 49,000 square kilometers. Badain Jaran means "mysterious lakes" in Mongolian. As the name applying, there are 140 lakes of different sizes dotting in the desert and hiding among gigantic sand dunes. 

You will arrive at the scenic area in the noon time. After lunch, start your exciting desert exploration. 

The best time to visitFrom May to June and September to October would be an ideal time. It's not too hot or cold and most importantly not many tourists.

Important Note: 1) There is no many restaurants and stores, so you'd better pack some food, snacks and drink with you; 2) Sun glasses, sun cream, hat, long-sleeves clothes and neckerchief are recommended to protect your skin from the strong sun light; 3) The accommodation condition in Badain Jaran Desert is rather basic.

Badain Jaran DesertBadain Jaran Desert
Day 7 Badain Jaran Desert - Zhangye (B, L)

Don't lose the rare chance to witness a magnificent sunrise on the wild Badain Jaran Desert. The sunrise generally starts around 6 AM, but you have to get to the higher location about 1 hour ahead of the sunrise. The best location for photography is the Bilutu Peak (1,605 m) which is the world's tallest stationary sand dune and the third tallest dune in the world. From the top of Bilutu Peak, you can also get a panoramic view of surrounding desert and lakes. The rest time after sunrise is for you to explore other featured sites in the desert, such as Shennv Peak, Sacred Spring, etc.

After lunch, drive back to Zhangye for accommodation.

Badain Jaran Desert
Day 8 Zhangye Departure ( B )

Today is free for you to leave Zhangye for next destination. From Zhangye, you can take flight or train to Xian, Xining, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, etc. Tour ends.

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8 Days Zhangye Danxia and Badain Jaran Desert Tour

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