Welcome to the hometown of the Giant Panda! Your local tour guide will meet you upon your arrival at the Chengdu airport or train station and then escort you in a private vehicle to your downtown hotel in Chengdu. After checking in at the hotel, you will have the rest of the day free to rest and relax or explore the local area on your own.
Optional Activity: Authentic Sichuan Cuisine dinner at a local restaurant.
Chengdu has three famous features as a major Chinese city – the Giant Pandas, it’s ancient history, and a leisurely pace of living. For the first day of your tour, we will get to experience all three of these features. First, we’ll visit the lovely Giant Pandas at the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base & Breeding Center, which is the number one must-do thing in Chengdu. We will pick you up early in the morning from your hotel and drive about 30 minutes to the panda base to see giant pandas as they are being fed, playing with each other, climbing trees, etc. There are many different enclosures for pandas of different ages, from baby pandas to 1-year old pandas to teenage pandas and older. Beautiful tree-lined walking paths lead you from one enclosure to the next so it’s an enjoyable morning spending time with the pandas.
After meeting the pandas, we’ll visit the sacred Wenshu Temple, which is hidden in a peaceful location right in the middle of modern Chengdu. This temple is the most popular Buddhist temple in the Chengdu region. With its beautiful, traditional and ancient architecture, the atmosphere is very calm and quiet, with some people praying, right in the midst of a busy and modern urban city. The grounds have a small garden and the monastery is very colorfully decorated, making it a fascinating place to visit.
After the Wenshu Temple, we will experience the leisurely pace of the life of the locals at Renmin Park and Jinlin Street. Renmin (People’s) Park is where the locals go for a relaxing walk, to meet friends or have a cup of tea. Jinli Street, by contrast, is a street mainly for tourists but it does offer a view of the way things were in ancient times. You can wander along this traditional old street to absorb the special atmosphere of Chengdu while tasting the local snacks, watching street performers, etc.
Optional Recommended Night Activity: Take in the incredible Sichuan Opera & Face Changing Performance in a local theater.
This morning you will have the opportunity to visit the Dufu Thatched Cottage, which is a museum in honor of Dufu (712 – 770 A.D., who was the greatest realist poet in China, often referred to as “the Sage of Poetry”.
After lunch, your tour guide will escort you to the Chengdu airport for your afternoon flight to Xining.
At the Xining airport, your local tour guide will greet you to take you by private car to your downtown Xining hotel, where you will have the rest of the evening free to relax or explore the local area on your own.
After breakfast at your hotel, we’ll take you on a drive for around 2 and half hours to Qinghai Lake – definitely one of the highlights of your Qinghai tour. Qinghai Lake is surrounded by high mountains, and at the foot of these mountains are vast and beautiful grasslands, making for great views all around whether you are walking, riding or biking. Qinghai Lake is a paradise for numerous species of birds, which can number more than 10,000 in the summertime.
We will have time for a boat cruise on the lake to visit Bird Island. On the way there, you will also visit the Riyue (Sun & Moon) Mountains, and the Ri and Yue Pagodas. These pagodas were built during the Tang Dynasty to commemorate the marriage of the Chinese Princess Wencheng to the first king of Tibet. Also nearby, you can enjoy the Daotong River, which flows from east to west, unlike nearly every other river in Qinghai.
In the evening, we will take you back to your hotel for an overnight stay in Xining.
After an early breakfast, we will drive about 26 kilometeres to visit another famous monastery, the Taer Monastery. This monastery is the birthplace of the Tibetan Buddhist master Tsongkhapa, the found of the Gelug sect of the Buddhist religion. It is also famous as one of the “Six Gelug Monasteries”. We’ll help you make sure that you don’t miss the “three bests” of the Taer Monastery – murals, barbola (the craft of making small models of fruit or flowers from a plastic paste) and butter sculptures. The Taer Monastery has also served as an important institution over the centuries for the learning of Buddhism, Astronomy and Medicine. There are many Buddhist ceremonies organized here at this important temple each year.
After your visit, we’ll return to Xining to catch the overnight train to Tibet, where you will be able to enjoy spectacular plateau views as you travel along the world’s highest railway on your way to Lhasa.
As the train takes you along your way to Lhasa, you will be able to witness the beautiful Tibetan Plateau, often spotting groups of nomads and wildlife along with the natural scenery. You will pass through the Kekexili Nature Reserve, where the wild animals and plants are protected by the Chinese government, as are their natural habitats.
Upon your arrival at the train station in Lhasa, your local tour guide will greet you and escort you in a private vehicle and take you on to your hotel in downtwon Lhasa. Once at the hotel, you will have the rest of the day free to explore the local area around your hotel and acclimatize yourself to the air, temperature and higher altitude of Lhasa.
Tips for High Altitude Acclimatization:
1) Go for a leisurely walk in the fresh high altitude air, but avoid any strenuous activity after your arrival.
2) It's better to avoid taking a bath, to avoid catching a cold.
3) Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and eat some fresh fruit.
4) Get plenty of rest.
Start your exploration of Lhasa today with a visit to a world-famous landmark - the Potala Palace, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful examples of architecture in the world. Climb up the palace along zig-zagging stone paths alongside the white and red walls to the top of the palace where you can gain a greater appreciation of the exotic Tibetan-style buildings as well as for a great view of Lhasa's entire urban area. After admiring the sweeping outside views, explore the inner spaces of the Potala Palace to find the stately chapels and learn more about the fascinating history of this special place.
From one historic landmark to another, your next stop will be at the Jokhang Temple, considered as the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism. Every day thousands of pilgrims come from all over Tibet and other places to the temple to worship the Buddha. The Jokhang Temple is also known as the "House of Buddha" becuase it houses the precious Jowo Rinpoche, a life-sized (1.5 meter/5 feet) image of the Shakyamuni at the age of 12.
The last stop for today's Lhasa exploration is Barkor Street, the wide, circular street that surrounds the Jokhang Temple. Local residents enjoy walking on the street, completing several circuits around the temple as a daily tradition of pilgrimage. The street also has many small shops selling a wide variety of traditional Tibetan goods, religious items and handicrafts.
Tips for today's tour:
1) There are 1,080 steps to the top of the Potala Palace, so it's best to take it slowly to avoid high altitude sickness.
2) Taking photos is not allowed inside the Potala Palace.
3) Most of today will be spent outside, so please bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and some water with you to protect yourself from the more intense sun at the higher altitude.
After breakfast at your hotel, we will visit the beautiful Norbulingka Palace and Park, the location of the former summer palace of the Dalai Lamas from the 1780s up until 1959. It features the famous Potrang, the private palaces of former Dalai Lamas built in the grandiose style of traditional Tibetan architecture.
After visiting the palaces and park at Norbulingka, we will travel around 5 kilometers to the western outskirts of Lhasa to visit the Drepung Monastery. The word "drepung" in Tibetan language means "prosperity". Since its establishment in 1416, Drepung Monastery has served as one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. During its prime, more than 10,000 monks lived and studied in the monastery. Throughout its history, many important and famous Tibetan leaders studied at this monastery, including the Dalai Lamas. Accordingly, Drepung Monastery is also respectfully known as the “Mother School of Dalai Lamas”.
In the afternoon, we will escort you on to another famous monastery in Lhasa - the Sera Monastery. Sera Monastery is famous for its spectacular “Buddhist Debates”. As a daily routine, the monks gather in a courtyard, and debate on the various Buddhist doctrines with exaggerated gestures, which is thought to be helpful in facilitating a better comprehension of the Buddhist philosophy to attain higher levels of study. After enjoying the "Buddhist Debates", we will take you back to your hotel with the rest of the day and evening to relax or explore on your own.
Tips for Proper Etiquette While Visiting Monasteries
1) For clothing, shorts and/or bare shoulders are not allowed.
2) Hats and sunglasses should be removed before entering the chapels.
3) Taking photos is usually not allowed inside the chapels.
Since we have already explored some of the most famous monasteries, today we’ll take in some more natural scenery with an exciting trip to holy Namtso Lake, which is located about 5 hours drive time from Lhasa. With an early start, we’ll arrive at Namtso Lake in the early afternoon with some time to rest and relax around the incredible landscapes of this holy lake.
Namtso Lake is the highest altitude saltwater lake in the world at an altitude of 4718 meters above sea level. This lake is also the second largest saltwater lake in all of China, just behind Qinghai Lake in size. It’s quite common for first-time visitors to Namtso Lake to be awestruck when they first observe this fantastically beautiful lake. With snowy mountain peaks in the background and crystal-clear, dazzingly blue waters, Namtso stretches all the way out to the horizon. On clear days, the lake looks like a beautiful turquoise gem surrounded by the magnificent snow-capped Tanggula Mountains. The shores surrounding the lake are a verdant green, wide and open, dotted with the tents, yaks and sheep of the local nomads. For travelers, Namtso is an ideal place for phototography, while for Tibetans, it is a sacred and magical lake for pilgramige.
After visiting the lake, we will drive back to Lhasa to stay overnight.
Tips for today’s tour:
1) The Namtso Lake region surrounding the lake sits at an altitude of about 5,000 meters above sea level, so you should take preparations to avoid high altitude sickness. Remember to keep warm and drink plenty of water while avoiding any strenuous activities.
2) If you would prefer to spend more time at the lake and observe the sunset and sunrise over Namtso, we can stay overnight at Namtso but please keep in mind that accommodation conditions there are very basic as is the food, so it is not nearly as nice as the hotel in Lhasa.
Today we will meet you in the lobby of your hotel to transfer you to the Lhasa airport or train station for your departing flight or train.
1) Please take care to pack all of your belongings, particularly the small things that are easy to forget about, such as phone and camera chargers, power adapters, mobile phones, wallets, etc.
2) If your flight or train is in the afternoon, please be sure to check out of your hotel room by 12 p.m.