How to Get to Qinghai & Get around Qinghai 2024

Qinghai is a province on the plateau of northwestern China. With distinctive plateau scenery of crystal clear lakes, majestic snow mountains, vast grasslands, Qinghai is treasure place that has been underestimated for a long time. Besides, the traditional customs of Tibetan Buddhism are well-preserved here. You can have an authentic experience of the local religion and tradition when traveling around the monasteries and exploring the villages. Or you can extend your Qinghai trip to the neighboring Tibet and Gansu for an in-depth adventure of western China.

Transportation is one of the most important factors people need to consider when planning a Qinghai trip. Here we provide you with detailed Qinghai Transportation Guide on how to get to Qinghai by flight and train, and how to travel around Qinghai to main attractions and cities.

Where is Qinghai

Qinghai is located in the northwest of inland China, covering a total area of 722,300 square kilometers and having jurisdiction over 2 prefecture level cities and 6 autonomous prefectures. It borders Gansu in the north and east, Xinjiang in the northwest, Tibet in the south and southwest, and Sichuan in the southeast.

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Get to Qinghai by Flight

In the whole Qinghai Province, there are 7 airports in total. Among them, the most frequently used airport for visitors is Xining Caojiabao International Airport (IATA: XNN) as it operates flights between most cities in China. It is also the only international airport in Qinghai that connects with some cities in other Asian countries such as Bangkok in Thailand, Tokyo in Japan, Seoul in South Korea, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia… Other airports such as Geermu Airport (IATA: GOQ), Yushu Batang Airport (IATA: YUS) and Huatugou Airport (IATA: HTT) only have flights within Qinghai and several flights between Beijing, Chengdu, Xian or Lhasa. Therefore, Xining is the first choice for travelers.

Note: If your city do not have flights to Xining, you can fly to bigger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou first and then transfer to Xining.

Xining Caojiabao International Airport

Xining Caojiabao International Airport

Get to Qinghai by Train

There are 3 main railways in Qinghai, which are Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Lanzhou-Xining Railway and Lanzhou-Urumqi High-speed Railway, so you can take trains to cities on these railways in Qinghai such as Xining, Golmud, Delingha, Huatugou, Wulan, etc. Other parts like Yushu, Guoluo, Huangnan and Hainan do not have train stations. Xining Railway Station is the most chosen station and it operates high speed trains on the Silk Road from Xian in Shaanxi to Urumqi in Xinjiang and normal trains to main cities in China such as Beijing, Lhasa, Chengdu, Taiyuan...

Qinghai Tibet Railway

Qinghai Tibet Railway is the world's highest plateau railway, starting from Xining to Lhasa with a length of 1956 km and 85 train stations. The whole train journey needs 20-22 hours. Along the road, you will be amazed by the breathtaking landscaped of Tibet Plateau. You will pass through beautiful Qinghai Lake, deserted mountains in Delingha, Hoh Xil Nature Reserve with scattered Tibetan antelopes, yaks and donkeys, Kunlun Mountains, Sanjiangyuan (Three Rivers) National Nature Reserve and grasslands in northern Tibet.

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☞ 6 Days Xining to Tibet Lhasa Train Tour by Qinghai Tibet Railway

Xining Railway Station

Xining Railway Station

Qinghai Tibet Railway Map

Qinghai Tibet Railway Map

How to Get to/around Xining

Xining is the gateway city of Qinghai and can be conviently reached by flight, train, or car. Tourists usually get to Xining first and then start their Qinghai trip.

Get to Xining by Flight

Taking a flight is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Xining, which usually takes several hours only. Xining Caojiabao International Airport, about 28 km (40 minutes’ drive) east of the downtown Xining operates over 60 air lines with 48 cities at home and abroad, which means you can fly to Xining from lots of major tourist cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Lhasa, Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Xiamen, Qingdao, Tianjin, Changsha, Dunhuang, Harbin, Hohhot, Kunming, Urumqi, Wuhan, Zhangjiajie, Yinchuan, etc. Besides, there are irregular flights to Xining from Kuala Lumpur and Nha Trang in Southeast Asia. The airport also operates regional flights from Xining to Golmud, Golog, Huatugou, Yushu and Qilian within Qinghai Province.

Xiamen Domestic Flight Map

Xining Domestic Flight Map

Get to Xining by Train

Xining is the rail transportation hub in Qinghai and a must railway pass to Tibet. Currently, Xining has three railway stations in service: Xining Railway Station, Datong West Railway Station and Huangyuan Railway Station. Xining Railway Station, the largest railway station in Qinghai and Tibet regions is the main train station used by train travelers.

You can get to Xining by bullet train from Xian (4-5h), Lanzhou (70min-2.5h), Zhangye (2h), Jiayuguan (3-3.5h), Dunhuang (6h), Turpan (8-9h), Urumqi (9-10h)… and by normal train from Lhasa (20-22h), Golmud (6.5-10h), Delingha (4-6h), Beijing (19-22.5h), Chengdu (12.5-15h), Chongqing (13.5h), Taiyuan (14.5-20h)...

☞ 7 Days Qinghai Lake Zhangye Danxia Badain Jaran Desert Wonders Tour

Xining High Speed Railway Map

Xining High Speed Railway Map

Popular Xining Train Schedules:

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Travel around Xining

Visitors can travel Xining by taxi and bus to attractions in downtown such as Dongguan Mosque and Tibetan Medicine & Tibet Culture Museum. But if you are going to some remote attractions such as Kumbum Monastery or Qinghai Lake, chartering a car is more recommended. Please be kindly noted that there may be some language barriers as the local usually speak Mandarin and Tibetan, not many people can speak English or other foreign language. If you want a worry-free Xining tranfer, you can also contact us as we will provide you with reliable driver, professional guide and comfortable vehicle to make your trip enjoyable.

▶ Check more about Xining Transportation: How to Get to/around Xining >>

☞ 3 Days Xining Short Stay Tour including Qinghai Lake

Xining Bus

Xining Bus

How to Get to Qinghai Lake

Qinghai Lake is located in the intersection of Gangca County, Gonghe County and Haiyan County in eastern Qinghai Province. Almost all travelers travel to Qinghai Lake from Xining, which is about 150 km, 2.5 hours' drive away.

How to Get to Qinghai Lake from Xining

Erlangjian Scenic Area is the essence of Qinghai Lake and getting to Qinghai Lake always means traveling to Erlangjian Scenic Area. The most recommended transfer way is chartering a car or finding a reliable travel agency like China Discovery that can take care of every detail in your trip. In this way, you can have a more flexible trip and make stops on the way when you encounter beautiful scenery such as the farming fields and endless grassland in Riyue Mountain. Long-distance bus is also available. There are about 6 regular buses running from Xining Bayilu Bus Station (八一路汽车站) to Erlangjian Scenic Area. Most of them depart in the morning from 7:30 to 9:30, taking about 3 hours. But the real-time schedule should be subject to that shown at the station.

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☞ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Chaka Lake Tour from Xining
☞ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Kanbula National Forest Park Tour

Qinghai Lake Location Map

Qinghai Lake Location Map

How to Get to Chaka Salt Lake

Chaka Salt Lake is renowned as "Mirror of The Sky" for its crystal blue water. It is located in Chaka Town, Wulan County, about 300 km (4.5 hours by car) to Xining, 150 km to Qinghai Lake. As a remote lake from the downtown area, people usually travel from Xining to Chaka Salt Lake.

On ordinary days, Xining Passenger Station (next to Xining Railway Station) operates about 6 buses to Chaka town every day. When you arrive at the town, you need to walk 4 km or take a taxi to Chaka Salt Lake as no public transportation is available. In peak season, you can take Chaka Salt Lake Tourist Bus or "Sky Mirror" Tourist Train also at Xining Passenger Station. If you have any questions about the transportation or need transfer help, please feel free to contact us.

☞ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Chaka Lake Tour from Xining
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Chaka Salt Lake Transportation Map

Chaka Salt Lake Transportation Map

How to Get to Golmud

Golmud (also called Geermu, Ge’ermu) is a county-level city of Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, western Qinghai Province. It is about 760 km (9 hours' drive) from Xining. This secluded place hides lots of marvellous natural wonders, including incredible salt lake, well-preserved ecological environment, sublime mountains and sources of leading ancestral rivers of China. You can get to Golmud by flight or train.

By flight: Golmud Airport (IATA: GOQ, ICAO: ZLGM, elevation: 2,842 m) is the airport serving Golmud. You can fly to Golumd directly from Xining (about 2.5 hours), Xian (about 2.5 hours), Chengdu (about 4 hours 15 minutes), Hangzhou (about 6 hours), Lhasa (about 1.5 hours), Zhengzhou (about 3 hours) and Wenzhou (about 6 hours). The airport is located about 16 km west of Golmud city, and it takes about 30 minutes by taxi or private drive, or 2.5 hours by public transport to downtown.

By train: Golmud Railway Station is a small train station used for local traffic and train travelers to Golmud. It is located on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and Golmud-Korla Railway. Currently, the station just runs a few slow green trains between Golmud and Xining (6.5 ~ 9.5 hours), Lhasa (13 ~ 14 hours).

☞ 7 Days In-depth Discovery Tour of Qinghai Culture & Nature

Golmud Attractions Map

Golmud Attractions Map

How to Ge to Tongren

Tongren is about 160 km (2.5 hours' drive) to the southeast of Xining. It is a small county in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture with an average altitude of about 2500 m. Tongren is known for its Regong Art and the Tibetan Buddhist Temples such as Rongwo Temple. As the birthplace of Thangka Paintings and Thangka Embroidery, Tongren is praised as "the hometown of Regong Art".

Tongren has no airport or railway station. Therefore, from major cities to Tongren, you need to get to Xining first and then drive or take a bus to Tongren. Every day from 7:40 am to 6:30 pm, there are many buses from Xining Passenger Station to Tongren. If you want to have a worry-free and more comfortable trip, you can also contact us to arrange a Tongren trip for you.

☞ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Landscape Tour Plus Tongren Authentic Tibetan Culture and Art Exploration
☞ 5 Days Amdo Tibetan Culture Experience Tour

Xining to Tongren Map

Xining to Tongren Map

How to Get to Yushu

Yushu is about 790 km (10 hours' drive) to the southwest of Xining. Bordering Tibet in the south, with an altitude of 4493.4 m, Yushu has unique plateau natural landscape and Tibetan folk customs. Yushu has no railway station but has an airport connecting several cities in China. You can fly to Yushu directly or get to Xining first (Xining has more flights with major cities in China) and then take a flight or car to Yushu.

By flight: Yushu Batang Airport (IATA:YUS 玉树巴塘机场) is about 22 km, 30 minutes' drive from Yushu. It operates direct flights between Xining (1h20min), Beijing (4.5h), Chengdu (1h40min), Xian (3.5h) and Lhasa (1.5h). Airport shuttle bus is available and is scheduled according to the arrival time of the flights.

By bus: Xining Passenger Station operates over 10 daily buses to Yushu through national highway 214, which is in good road condition. But it is a very long journey of about 11.5 hours.

☞ 7 Days In-depth Discovery Tour of Qinghai Culture & Nature

Xining to Yushu Map

Xining to Yushu Map

How to Plan A Qinghai Tour

How to Get to Qinghai: Xining is the transfer hub of Qinghai, and you can get there by flight from Beijing (2.5h), Shanghai (3h), Guangzhou (3h15min), Lhasa (2-3.5h), Xian (1.5h), etc. or by train to Xining from Xian (4-5h), Lanzhou (70min-2.5hrs), Zhangye (2h), Jiayuguan (3.3.5h), Dunhuang (6h), etc.

Best Time to Visit Qinghai: May to October is available to travel most area in Qinghai, especially July and August when the weather is most comfortable.

Almost all travelers start a Qinghai tour from Xining and then explore its surroundings. Generally, it takes about 3 ~ 6 days to have a classic Qinghai tour.

For travelers with limited time and just want to take a short glimpse of the essence of Qinghai, it is recommended to spend 3 days discovering Qinghai Lake – China’s largest lake with incredible beauty and Xining highlights such as Kumbum Monastery – a Tibetan monastery holding great importance and Tibetan Medicine and Tibet Culture Museum – an informative museum fully displaying all aspects of Tibetan culture and medicine.

☛ 3 Days Qinghai Short Stay Tour

For more natural sightseeing experience, you spend 1 more day visiting Chaka Salt Lake to get amazed by the Mirror of Sky or turning to Kanbula National Forest Park to savor shimmering Danxia Landform. If you have interest in Amdo Tibetan culture or Regong art, Tongren deserves your another day. For an in-depth adventure, visiting Amne Machin – one of the four sacred mountains in Tibetan Buddhism in 1 more day.

☛ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Chaka Salt Lake Enchanting Tour
☛ 4 Days Qinghai Lake Kanbula National Forest Park Geographic Wonder Tour
☛ 5 Days Amdo Tibetan Culture Experience Tour
☛ 7 Days In-depth Discovery Tour of Qinghai Culture & Nature

It is strongly recommended to extend your Qinghai trip to its attractive neighbors, including Tibet, Gansu and Sichuan. The high-altitude scenery and the Buddhist atmosphere of Tibet is second to none. Take a 4 ~ 8 days trip and you will enjoy most Tibet highlights. If you want to unveil the mystery of the Silk Road, 5 ~ 11 days are needed to visit Gansu and Xinjiang. For traveler who prefers an in-depth discovery of Amdo, Gannan and Aba in Sichuan are recommended.

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Qinghai Lake Erlangjian Scenic Area in Qinghai Lake Potala Palace Julie and her friend from France visited Potala Palace in Lhasa Matisi Temple Mrs. Chan's group from Canada visited Matisi Temple along the Silk Road

Recommended Qinghai Tours

Top 3 Qinghai tours chosen by most customers to explore Qinghai in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.

Sightseeing train travel at Chaka Lake

4 Days Enchanting Qinghai Lake Chaka Salt Lake Tour

Xining / Qinghai Lake / Chaka Lake / Xining

Mysterious Lakes in Badain Jaran Desert (Taken by Our Travel Consultant Wing)

8 Days Qinghai Lake Zhangye Danxia Badain Jaran Desert Wonders Tour

Xining - Zhangye - Badain Jaran Desert

Tibetan monks' living in Longwu Monastery in Tongren

4 Days Qinghai Lake Landscape Tour Plus Tongren Authentic Tibetan Culture and Art Exploration

Xining / Qinghai Lake / Tongren / Xining

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