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Xining Travel Guide

Xining Travel Guide 2023

Xining, literally meaning “peace in the west border” in Chinese, is the capital city and biggest city of Qinghai Province. The city is located in the northeastern Qinghai and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and the conjunction flatland of Huangshui River and its three branches, surrounded by mountain ranges. It is a classic immigrant city where many ethnic groups (like Hui, Tibetan) and different religions (Tibetan & Chinese Buddhism, Islam) coexists. Xining has been an important historical city in northwestern China for more than 2,100 years. During ancient time, it played as the guarding frontier city, also an important stopover along the ancient Silk Road, as well a trading center for Tang Empire and Tubo Kingdom(Tibet). Nowadays, Xining is the cultural and economic center of Qinghai Province, which has become a hot tourist destination especially in summer vacations. Its strategic location makes Xining the transportation hub for traveling to Tibet, Gansu and Xinjiang.

Why Visit Xining:

  • Superb high plateau landscape - Xining is the starting point of most travel routes in Qinghai Province. Not far away from the city, you can visit the largest saltwater lake in China - Qinghai Lake surrounded by vast plateau grasslands with countless yaks, giant snow mountains afar, tunning Chaka Salt Lake with sensational reflection, magnificent Danxia landform in Kanbula National Forest Park, etc.
  • Authentic ethnic culture - Xining is one of the largest localities for Tibetan and Hui people. There are many grand Buddhist temples and Islamic spots for you to explore the exotic culture. Their featured costumes, devot religious pilgrimage and unique language, words and tradtions are special treasures and most eye-catching cultural highlights.
  • Transfer Center in Qinghai and Gateway City to Tibet - With the only international airport of Qinghai and frequent high speed bullet trains, Xining serves as a crucial tourist base for travelers to Qinghai and Dunhuang, Zhangye, Jiayugan in neighboring Gansu. Besides, Xining is the starting point of the Qinghai Tibet Railway. Each day, it runs many trains to Lhasa of Tibet for you to witness the world-famous engineering project and discover the “Roof of the World”.
  • ...

Top Attractions to Visit in Xining

Traveling in Xining and around is all about experiencing Tibetan and Muslim culture and enjoy superb plateau landscape. The most famous and popular attractions are Qinghai Lake, Kumbum Monastery (Ta’er Temple), Donguan Grand Mosque and Tibetan Medicine & Tibet Culture Museum. There are also some other sites you can take some time to acquaint the city, such as Qinghai Province Museum, Mount Laoye, Mojia Street, etc. >> Know more about Top Things to Do in Xining.

Xining Travel Guide
Qinghai Lake

Qinghai Lake or Kokonor is China’s largest inland lake and saltwater lake with enchanting natural beauty and uncountable species of birds. There are enough to explore in Qinghai Lake and it is never exaggerated to call it Flowers’ Ocean, Birds’ Paradise and Cyclists’ Heaven.

Xining Travel Guide
Chaka Salt Lake

Incredible “Mirror of Sky” in China where you can capture pure lake and gorgeous reflection of blue sky and distant snowy mounatins and view giant salt sculptures. Take a train across the lake to tracel back to the film scene occured in the famous Spirited Away.

Xining Travel Guide
Kumbum Monastery

Taer Monastery, the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, is honored as one of “the Six Greatest Monastery of Tibetan Gelug”. When appreciating the compound of Tibetan style and Chinese style architectures, you can also admire the “Three Arts” - murals, barbola and butter sculptures to learn Tibetan culture and Buddhism.

Xining Travel Guide
Dongguan Mosque

Donguan Mosque, originally built in early Ming Dynasty, is an over 600-year-old Muslim cummunity. It is one of the “Four Greatest Mosques in Northwest China”. You can view fresh-colored typical Islamic buildings and many Muslims gathering for their weekly worships.

Xining Travel Guide
Tibetan Medicine & Tibet Culture Museum

It’s a newly-built museum focus on Tibetan medicine and culture. Watching exhibition of ancient medical books, specimens and surgical instruments, Thangka paintings and many illustrated scenes, visitors can catch a glimpse of brilliant Tibetan medical history and culture.

Xining Travel Guide
Mount Laoye

The most majestic and beautiful mountain in Xining. You can take a hiking trip to enjoy the lush vegetation, steep cliffs and ancient Taoist palaces, can get an panoramic view of downhill city from the mountain top.

Xining Travel Guide
Mojia Street

Just 1.5 km, 20 mins’ walking distance from Dongguan Mosque, this street is a hundreds of years old famous snack street in downtown Xining. It’s the best place to satisfy your stomach and taste various kinds of local dishes and snacks at one go.

Xining Weather & Temperature - Best Time to Go

Xining Travel Guide

Located in the northwest inland of China with a high elevation (2,261 meters), Xining has a continental plateau semi-arid climate. Its climate features mainly include long sunshine hours, little rainfall, strong solar radiation, large temperature difference between day and night, mild temperature in winter and cool in summer. Because the surrounding mountain ranges with green plants prevent the cold and dry air flowing into Xining flatland, Xining doesn’t own very extreme weather. The annual mean temperature of Xining is 7.6℃, the highest temperature is 34.6℃ in July and the lowest temperature is about 7.6℃ in January. The annual average precipitation is 380 mm. When most cities in China face hot summer, Xining has a moderate temperature of 18.3℃. So, it’s a wonderful summer resort.

Generally speaking, Summer and Autumn, briefly from June to October, is the best time to visit Xining. The peak seasons are July, August and early October. Avoid these periods to get rid of super crowded tourists groups. During the 1st, 4th, 6th and 9th month of Chinese Lular Calendar, there are grand Buddhist festivals held in Kumbum Monastery. You can watch Mask Dance, exhibition of a Giant Thangka painting and many Buddhist activities.

Tips: 1) Please be sure to fully prepare for the strong sunlight and wind, sunglass, hat and sunblock are necessary; 2)thick clothes are recommended if visiting Qinghai Lake.

>> Xining Weather and Seasonal Things to Do


Xining Caojiabao International Airport Xining Railway Station Xining to Lhasa Train Travel with China Discovery

Get to Xining

By Air: Xining is currently air-connected with many major cities in China, including Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lhasa, Guangzhou, Dunhuang, Hohhot, Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing, Qingdao, Sanya, Zhangjiajie, Xiamen, Urumqi, etc. Travelers can get to Xining by taking a flight to Xining Caojiabao Airport, which is about 28 km (about 40 minutes’ drive) from the city center.

>> Xining Caojiabao International Airport & Flights

By Train: Xining is one of the most important railway centers in northwestern China. It is the starting point of Qinghai Tibet Railway and the midway station of Lanzhou-Xinjiang High Speed Railway. So, train travelers can take a high speed bullet train to Xining from Xian, Dunhuang, Lanzhou, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Turpan, Uruqmi, Chengdu, Chongqing, Taiyuan... or take a normal train departing from Lhasa, Beijing, Shanghai, Qinghai and other cities at a long distance. After arrival at Xining Railway Station, you can take a taxi to the city center (about 5 km, 20 minutes’ drive) while a bus costs 50 minutes.

Every day, there are 6 trains running from Xining to Lhasa and all are overnight normal trains you can take to go on an once-in-a-lifetime train journey along the world famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway, view stunning plateau scenery en route.

>> Xining Railway Stations/ Xining Transportation Guide

Get around Xining

Land driving is the most common transportation in Qinghai. The most efficient and recommended way to get around Xining is by private car. Public transport takes lots of time and is too complicated for first-timers while taking a taxi requires understandable communication and high cost. So we highly suggest you travel with China Discovery, take advantage of our worry-free transfers, enjoy pick-up from the airport, train station and private transfer among major attractions in Xining and to Qinghai Lake, Chaka Salt Lake and other destinations near Xining. Roads are all well-paved highways.

Xining city center to Kumbum Monastery: about 28 km, 40 minutes by driving

Xining to Qinghai Lake: about 150 km, 2.5 hours by driving

Xining to Chaka Salt Lake: about 300 km, 4.5 hours by driving

Xining to Kanbula National Forest Park: about 105 km, 1.5 hours by driving

Xining to Tongren (Rongwo Monastery): about 165 km, 2.5 hours by driving

Xining Accommodation: Where to Stay

Hotels in Xining

Xining, the capital city and the largest city of Qinghai, is still the tourist center for travelers to Qinghai. With the development of tourism, many luxury chain hotels have established hotels in Xining, such as Sofitel, Wanda. Among all destinations in Qinghai, Xining owns the best accommodation and the largest numbder of hotels. In Xining, you can choose from 5-star luxury hotels to economical guesthouse and homestays according to your budget. The best and most recommended accommodation place is the downtown area where most hotels are located. Staying here, you have flexible choices and can conveniently transfer to major attractions and easily go shopping and find local food street. Depending on your itinerary, you may also accommodate near the Xining Railway Station or the airport.

Most Recommend Hotels in Xining: Sofitel Xining, Wanda Realm Xining, Qinghai Yinlong Hotel, Sebel Xining-Managed By Sofitel (5-star); Qinghai Hotel, Holiday Inn Qinghai Hotel, Xining Hot-Spring, San Want Hotel (4-star).

>> Best Places to Stay in Xining

Useful Xining Travel Maps

Checking Xining maps helps you plan your travel route efficiently. We have made and collected the most useful Xining maps in the following. You can read the maps to know the location of Xining and neary attractions/destinations, better plan your Xining trip itinerary. For more Xining maps, such as the transportation map from Xining to Qinghai Lake, Chaka Salt Lake, please visit our overall Xining Maps 2021. All the Xining maps are updated and downloadbale and printable.

Xining Location map

Xining Location Map

Kumbum Monastery Location Map

Kumbum Monastery Location Map

Kumbum Monastery Travel Map

Kumbum Monastery Travel Map

Other Popular Destinations in Qinghai

Located on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Qinghai Province not only creates tremendous natural wodners like crystal blue lakes, magnificent Yardan landforms, majestic mountains, vast grasslands and precious nature reserves, but also presents unique culture of diverse ethnic minorities. The following are four highly-praised destinations tourists love to visit with Xining. You can pick one or more for an in-depth exploration of the natural and cultural sepctacles of Qinghai.

Other Popular Destinations in Western China

Though far away from the eastern and central developed cities, northwestern China is a beloved dream land for tourists to trace back to the ancient Silk Road and discover off-the-beaten-track landscape and experience the diverse minority culture. As one of the birthplace of many ancient Chinese civilizations, you can also find time-honored relics in this region. Here are four best places selected for you to enjoy the stunning plateau scenery, vast deserts and glorious culture and history, make a special, meaningful and memorable adventure. You can easily travel to these charming places from Xining. (Check all destinations in China.)

Xining China Map

Chinese Name: 西宁

Chinese Pinyin: Xī Níng

English IPA: ['ʃi:'niŋ]

Area: 7,660 Square Kilometers

Population: 2.387 million

Average Altitude: 2,261 meters

Language: Zhongyuan Mandarin, Chinese, Amdo Tibetan, Monguor, etc.

Tel Code: 0971

Zip Code: 810000

Time Zone: (UTC+8)

Plan your Qinghai Xining Tour

Tourists often start a Qinghai tour from Xining. One day Xining tour is the most popular and classic trip itinerary which is suitable for visiting the top attractions, including the Kumbum Monastery, Dongguan Mosque, China Tibetan Medicine Culture Museum, etc. Usually, travelers take a day trip to the beautiful Qinghai Lake. If time allows, you can visit Chaka Salt Lake, Kanbula National Forest Park with one more day respectively. For those who are interested in Amdo Tibetan culture, you can travel from Xining to Tongren, take one day to visit Rongwo Monastery and extend trip further to Bingling Temple, Labrang Temple and Langmu Temple in southern Gansu. Travelling from Xining to Dunhuang, Zhangye, Jiayuguan along the ancient Silk Road is an awesome and rewarding experience highly suggested for you. Meanwhile, you can take a Xining Lhasa train to discover holy land of Tibet or hop on a bullet train to explore Xinjiang.

China Discovery offers you many popular Xining tours covering the above destinations. You can choose from the popular Xining tours to enjoy the best sightseeing and cultural experiences in our all-inclusive tour packages or let us customize a special one based on your requirements.

Recommended Tours

Magnificent Wutong Monastery in Tongren
5 Days Amdo Tibetan Culture Experience Tour

Xining - Tongren - Xiahe - Linxia

Qinghai Lake Travelers
8 Days Qinghai Gansu Jiuzhaigou Land Tour

Xining - Xiahe - Langmusi - Ruoergai - Jiuzhaigou

Walking trails in Kanbula National Forest Park
4 Days Qinghai Lake Kanbula National Forest Park Geographic Wonder Tour

Xining / Kanbula National Forest Park / Qinghai Lake / Xining

Amne Machin Mountain
7 Days In-depth Discovery Tour of Qinghai Culture & Nature

Xining / Kanbula National Forest Park / Tongren / Dawu / Amne Machin / Qinghai Lake / Xining

Taer Monastery Barbola
10 Days Northwestern China Treasures - Qinghai Gansu Highlights Tour

Xining - Tongren - Xiahe - Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang


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