12 nights / 13 Days Cycling West China
– Bicycle tour on the banks of Qinghai Lake;
– Gain an insight into local Tibetan families’ way of life, their customs, and culture;
– Explore the Tibetan Plateau and its small villages, temples, and monasteries;
– Visit Bird Island: an excellent spot for bird-watching.
ABOUT 13 DAYS CYCLING WEST CHINA TOUR
This tour will lead you from the capital of Sichuan province – Chengdu – to one of the world’s highest altitude peatlands and to Qinghai Lake; an important sanctuary for thousands of migrant birds and is specially designed for people, who want to explore this beautiful region by bicycle.
– Best travel date: all year round; best months: June, July, and August (this trip is not available from 14th July to 22nd July because of road restrictions during the Tour of Qinghai Lake International Road Cycling Race);
– Destinations: Chengdu, Tangke, Xiamen, Heihe, Langmu Monastery, Xiahe, Xining, Xihai, Gangcha, Bird Island, Heimahe;
– Duration: 13 days;
– Starting in: Chengdu;
– Ending in: Beijing/Chengdu;
– Group size: minimum 6 people, maximum 12 people.
QUICK INTRODUCTION OF DESTINATIONS ON 13 DAYS CYCLING WEST CHINA
Ruoergai (Roige) Grassland
The Ruoergai Marshes are in the provinces of Sichuan and Gansu in the upper “Huanghe” Yellow River basin on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. At an altitude of 3,400m to 3,900m, they are one of the world’s highest altitude peatlands and consist of approximately 10,000 km² of peat bogs, sedge marshes, lakes, and wet grasslands, interspersed with low hills and drier grasslands, which are inhabited by Tibetan people, who are almost exclusively pastoralists with vast herds of horses, sheep, yaks, and goats.
Qinghai Lake, the largest saltwater lake in China, is located in the west of Xining city in Qinghai in a depression of the Tibetan Plateau. It is famous for its fauna, especially its abundance of birds and fish. The lake is located at the crossroads of several bird migration routes across Asia. Many species use Qinghai as an intermediate stop during migration. At its northeast end are the “Bird Islands” (Cormorant Island and Egg Island), which have been bird sanctuaries of the Qinghai Lake Natural Protection Zone since 1997. The lake often remains frozen for three months continuously in winter.
Qinghai Lake is 5,694 km², or 2,278 square miles large, and 360 km (220 miles) in circumference. Twenty-three rivers and streams empty into it.
The tour of Qinghai Lake International Road Cycling Race (TDQL) is held in July every year. More than 100 riders in 20 teams from five continents participate in this event over a distance of approx. 1344 km. You will be cycling along this route amidst impressive scenery.
The province of Sichuan lies in central-western China and is one of the country’s major industrial bases. The territory of the province and its vicinity were the cradles of unique local civilizations, which can be dated to at least the 15th century BC. The area lies in the Sichuan Basin and is surrounded by the Himalayas to the west, Qinling range to the north, and mountainous areas of Yunnan to the south. Because of its location and fertile plains, Sichuan is called “Tianfu Zhi Guo” in Chinese, which means “the Heavenly Country”. The Yangtze River flows through the basin and thus is upstream to areas of eastern China. The Minjiang River in central Sichuan is a tributary of the upper Yangtze River, which it joins at Yibin.
The majority of the population is Han Chinese, who are found scattered throughout the province. Significant minorities of Tibetans, Yi, Qiang, and Naxi reside in the western portion, which is a part of historic Tibet’s Kham region.
Gansu is a province located in the northwest of the People’s Republic of China. It lies between Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, and the Huangtu Plateaus, and borders Mongolia to the north. The Huang He River passes the southern part of the province. It has a population of approximately 25 million and a large concentration of Hui Chinese. The capital of the province is Lanzhou, located in the southeast part of Gansu. Gansu province has an area of 454,000 km², and the majority of its land is above 1 km over sea level. The Huang He (Yellow) River passes through the southern part of the province. The Yellow River gets most of its water from Gansu province. The Yellow River also flows straight through Lanzhou. Part of the Gobi Desert is located in Gansu.
The landscape in Gansu is very mountainous in the south and flat in the north. The mountains in the south are part of the Qilian mountain range. At 5,547 meters high, Qilian Shan Mountain is Gansu’s highest elevation. Gansu province is home to 26,033,400 people. Most of the population, 73%, is still rural. Gansu is 92% Han and also has Hui, Tibetan, Dingxiang, Tu, Manchu, Uyghur, Yugur, Bonan, Mongolian, Salar, and Kazakh minorities.
The province of Qinghai is named after the enormous Qinghai Lake. It is located in the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau.It borders Gansu in the northeast, the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the northwest, Sichuan in the southeast, and Tibet Autonomous Region in the southwest. Most of Qinghai is part of the traditional provinces of Kham and Amdo of Tibet. It is the birthplace and home to many influential Tibetan figures in history, including Tsongkapa (the greatest commentator in the history of Buddhism) and many of the Dalai Lamas. The Yellow River (Huang He) originates in the middle of the province, while the Yangtze and Mekong have their sources in the southern part.
The province of Qinghai boasts a population of 5.2 million, among which the Han accounts for 54.5?. Other groups include the Tibetans 20.87%, Tu, Hui, Salar, and Mongols. Qinghai’s culture is heavily influenced by Tibet, given the close proximity as well as a shared history.
DAY 1. CHENGDU (D)
Upon arrival, you will be picked up at the airport by our guide and transferred to the “Tibet Hotel” (5*). After having relaxed from the flight, we will drive to “Jinli Ancient Street”. Dating back to the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.), Jinli Street used to be one of the busiest of the commercial boulevards of the Kingdom of Shu during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), where you can watch a Sichuan Opera and Face-Changing performance.
The capital of Sichuan – Chengdu – is located in southwest China. It is the fifth most populous city in China and also one of the country’s most important transportation and communication hubs. More than four thousand years ago, the prehistorical Bronze Age culture of Jinsha established itself in this region.
DAY 2. CHENGDU – TANGKE (B/L/D)
After breakfast we leave Chengdu and pass through the West Sichuan Plain, go northward along the Minjiang River via Dujiangyan and the Zhegu Mountain and travel through the Miyaluo Maple Leaves Scenic Resort. Our journey will lead us through the Hongyuan Grassland to the most important town at the Jiuqu (Nine-Bend) Yellow River where our staff has set up base camps. Enjoy dinner under the open sky in this amazing night scenery and camp in a tent.
Tangke Township is situated on the banks of the Yellow River and consists entirely of rolling hills covered in grassland.
DAY 3. TANGKE – XIAMEN (B/L/D)
In the morning you can choose to either drive or ride a horse to explore the natural treasures of Jiuqu Yellow River. Afterward, we cycle northeast along the Black River and arrive at the second campsite – Xiaman Base Camp. On the way there you can visit a Tibetan herdsman’s family to taste fresh milk, cheese, and butter tea. In the evening you can swim in the lake and start a campfire to make dinner. You will sleep in tents tonight.
There are two rivers – the Hei (black) and Bai (white) rivers – crossing this area, so the region consists of a marshland with many lentic ponds and small lakes. Because of its unique high plateau environment, it is one of the most famous plateau wetlands in the world.
DAY 4. XIAMEN – HEIHE (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we cycle to the Heihe pasture to discover the enchanting landscape of this region. The Heihe River Pasture is at the upper reaches of the Heihe River, which flows south to north, and constitutes an important tributary to the Yellow River. In the evening we will eat sitting around the campfire and sleep in tents.
DAY 5. HEIHE – LANGMU MONASTERY – XIAHE (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we leave Heihe and drive to Xiahe via the Langmu Monastery. The small town of Langmu basically comprises a group of Tibetan monasteries around a valley, which is collectively known as the Langmu Monastery. Langmu means fairy in Tibetan. The monastery has this name because inside the cave is a rock bearing the resemblance of a beautiful young lady. In fact, this figure looks like the transformation of a fairy. The Grand Hall, the murals, the red columns, and the tranquil surrounding are all awe-inspiring.
After arrival in Xiahe, in the southern portion of Gansu province, along the border with Qinghai province and lies along the Daxia and Zhao Rivers. We will also visit the Labrang Monastery. It was first built in 1710 during the Qing Emperor Kangxi’s reign (1662-1722) and is one of the six patriarchal lamaseries of the Gelugpa Sect of Lamaism in China. Also the top college of Tibetan Buddhism in Northwest China, the monastery holds seven large-scale summons ceremonies a year, of which the summons ceremony in the first lunar month is the largest.
Apart from a spectacular collection of monastic buildings, the Labrang Monastery is also a treasure house. The monastery is an attractive setting, with the Daxia River winding by to the south and rolling mountains to the south and north. About 14 kilometres up the valley from the monastery, the Sangke Grasslands is an ideal place for hiking or horse-riding, with a limpid lake and snowy mountains on all sides. In this town, you find ethnic Tibetans, as well as some Hui and Han Chinese. The area is highly rural, pastoral, and mountainous. You will stay overnight at the “Xiahe Hotel” (3*).
DAY 6. XIAHE – XINING (B/L/D)
We continue our journey by coach to the capital city of Qinghai – Xining – via Linxia. En route, you will be amazed by nature’s magnificence along the Yellow River and the strange but magnificent Qixia (Red Rock) landforms. Because of its position on the central plains, Xining used to be a chief commercial hub and a strategically important city on the caravan route to Tibet, handling especially with timber, wool, and salt. Historically a part of Tibet, the Qinghai region passed to the Mongol overlords in the 14th century, when it became part of Gansu. It came under Chinese control after 1724 and was administered from Xining as the Koko Nor territory. In 1928, Qinghai became a province of China with Xining as capital. You will stay overnight at the “Xining Holiday Dynasty Hotel” (5*).
DAY 7. XINING – XIHAI (B/L/D)
In the morning we drive to Xihai, the capital of an ethnic-Tibetan autonomous district where black yaks and white sheep graze peacefully on dry grassland, tended by Tibetan herdsmen clad in bright orange. It is also an important place for the Tour of Qinghai Lake International Road Cycling Race. After check-in at the “Xihai Hotel” you will obtain an introduction to the annually held Cycling Race and its importance for the region as well as to the following days’ bike tour.
DAY 8. XIHAI – GANGCHA (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we will cycle 72km along the lakeside road and have a picnic for lunch. Gangcha is on the north bank of Qinghai Lake and belongs to Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Here you find mainly Tibetans, along with Han, Hui, and Dongxiang. You will stay overnight at the simple but clean “Gangcha Guesthouse”.
DAY 9. GANGCHA – BIRD ISLAND TOWN (B/L/D)
We continue our journey along the lakeside to reach Bird Island Town after 59km of cycling. Again we will have a picnic for lunch and stay overnight at “Bird Island Hotel”.
DAY 10. BIRD ISLAND TOWN – HEIMAHE (B/L/D)
Heimahe is a rather small town at the intersection of the road to Bird Island and Saltwater Lake at Chaka. We will have to ride 75km from Bird Island Town to Heimahe, have a picnic lunch on the way, and stay overnight at the quite new, basic but clean “Heimahe Hotel”.
DAY 11. HEIMAHE – BIRD ISLAND (B/L/D)
In the morning we explore Bird Island by bike. Situated on the western shore of Qinghai Lake, it covers an area of slightly less than 1000 km² and attracts a lot of migrating birds in spring and summer. To these uncountable migrant birds, the island has become a very important sanctuary, where thousands of different bird species such as gulls, sandpipers, cormorants, geese, etc. nest. Therefore the island might be called a “piece of heaven” not only for the birds but also for bird-watching enthusiasts. The marshy area between the town of Heimahe and the lake is another good birding spot. After bird watching, we cycle along the lakeside to reach the goal of our bicycle trip: Qinghai Lake Hotel (3*). At lunchtime, we will take a break to have a picnic.
DAY 12. QINGHAI LAKE HOTEL – XINING – BEIJING/CHENGDU (B/L/D)
The morning is at your disposal. After lunch, a car picks you up from the hotel to Xining airport for flight CA6991 (14:50 or 17:00) to Beijing or Chengdu. We also offer optional extensions to this trip.
DAY 13. BEIJING/CHENGDU (B)
Transfer to the airport for your flight home or the start of an optional extension trip.
Recommended optional extension 1
We can tailor-make a program according to your personal needs and desires. You could, for example, explore Beijing’s traditional Hutong by bike, learn how to cook traditional Chinese dumplings from a local family, visit an acrobatic show, learn how to make Chinese kites under the guidance of an experienced craftsman living in a courtyard, visit a local winery, etc. We also offer daily excursions to hidden places outside of Beijing. Please contact us for details.
Recommended optional extension 2
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Hiddenchina.net works in close cooperation with the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding. With your visit, you can contribute to the survival of this endangered species. We provide the opportunity to get to know the pandas under the guidance of an experienced keeper, feed the animals, and help perform a keeper’s daily tasks. Furthermore, we provide access to the laboratories under the guidance of experienced scientists. During one day you will gain an insight into current research, for example, an understanding of breeding and artificial insemination (AI) and its problems and successes.
Contact us by email for a tailor-made itinerary and cost details and options of 13 Days Cycling West China.