Tibet Train From Golmud to Lhasa: Once in Lifetime Experience

Few people are aware of the Golmud unless they are considering an overland journey to Tibet by train. Golmud, the second largest city in Qinghai province along the route from Xining to Lhasa, was primarily established for the extraction of natural resources like salt and magnesium. Despite being less renowned and smaller in size, Golmud is the closest city for tourists to board trains to Lhasa from mainland China. The train journey spans approximately 1,142 km and lasts around 12 hours.

Trains bound for Lhasa via Golmud make a 20-minute stop here in the morning before ascending to the Tibet Plateau. Golmud is the actual starting point of the high-altitude train journey.

To embark on an awe-inspiring journey from Golmud to Lhasa by train is to traverse mystical landscapes and witness the majestic beauty of the Tibetan Plateau. As we delve into the depths of this enchanting adventure, let us create a comprehensive table that not only lists the train numbers, distance, and duration of this remarkable route but also sheds light on the captivating sights and experiences along the way.

Schedules for Tibet Train from Major Cities to Lhasa

Train Number Departure ArrivalDuration (Hours)
Z21Beijing West
Z223Chongqing West
Z322Chengdu West
Z916Xián South

The journey commences with train number Z6801, which covers a distance of 1,142 kilometres and takes approximately 15 hours to reach its destination. This train, like the others at the table, offers an immersive experience that allows travellers to witness the mesmerizing transformation of the arid landscapes into breathtaking vistas as they make their way towards the “Roof of the World.” As the train chugs along, engulfed in an air of intrigue and adventure, it gradually reveals the captivating wonders that lie in store. The Tibetan Plateau, with its snow-capped mountains, glacial lakes, and sprawling grasslands, unveils itself to the eager eyes of the passengers. It is a sight to behold, a testament to nature’s grandeur.

Journey on Golmud to Lhasa: Tibet Train

The train journey from Golmud to Lhasa is not merely a means of transportation; it is a gateway to cultural immersion. The train carriages are adorned with intricate Tibetan motifs, immersing travellers in the rich tapestry of Tibetan traditions and heritage. Friendly locals, dressed in vibrant traditional attire, share stories, legends, and anecdotes, providing invaluable insight into the local way of life. As the train winds its way through the picturesque countryside, it passes by notable landmarks that evoke a sense of wonder and history.

The Tanggula Pass, standing at a staggering height of 5,072 meters, holds the distinction of being the highest railway pass in the world. The view from this vantage point is simply breathtaking, with panoramic vistas stretching as far as the eye can see.

Another notable landmark along this remarkable journey is the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, an engineering marvel that spans a length of 1,956 kilometres. Its construction was a monumental feat, overcoming numerous challenges posed by the harsh terrain and extreme weather conditions. The railway represents a testament to mankind’s determination and ingenuity, allowing travellers to deepen their appreciation for the human spirit and its ability to conquer adversity.

As the train nears its final destination, the unmistakable allure of Lhasa beckons. The capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa is steeped in spirituality and serves as a gateway to the soul-stirring wonders of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Important Notice

To ensure a scenic journey from Golmud to Lhasa, it is important to select a train that travels mostly during the daytime. Choosing the wrong train can result in missing out on a significant portion of the sightseeing experience. However, booking the appropriate train during the summer season can be challenging due to high demand from Shanghai and Guangzhou, resulting in limited availability for the shorter Golmud-Lhasa transfer.

How to get to Gulmud

By Plane: Golmud Airport operates flights to and from Xining and Xian.

Golmud station is conveniently located south of the city on Jiangyuan Road. Taxis and local buses provide easy access to the modern station, completed in 1979. With 17 daily trains passing through, Golmud is a major hub for travellers. However, passengers heading to Lhasa may need to catch a later train if Golmud is not their final destination.

Direct connections are available to Beijing (34 hours), Chengdu (28 hours), Chongqing (28 hours), Guangzhou (46 hours), Lanzhou (16-17 hours), Lhasa (14 hours), Shanghai (37 hours), Xining (14-16 hours), and Xi’an (20-22 hours).

Sightseeing nearby Golmud

Qarhan Salt Lake, the world’s largest inland salt lake, is just 60km northeast of the city. To the east is Qinghai Lake. The region offers rich wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, with the Kunlun Mountains to the south and Kekexili National Nature Reserve to the southwest.

The reserve spans 45,000 square km and will be a UNESCO Heritage site in 2017. With an average elevation of 4,600 meters, it is China’s largest uninhabited area. This remote haven houses 200+ endangered species, including the Tibetan antelope, on its barren yet stunning landscape.

Golmud Connects Silk Road and Tibet

Golmud, a small city in the remote desert of northwest China, serves as a crucial link between Silk Road and Tibet travel. A 530km bus ride connects Dunhuang, known for its famous Mogao Cave, to Golmud. Buses run daily between these cities from 8 am in Golmud, arriving in Dunhuang at 5 pm. The price is approximately 20 USD.

Chaka Salt Lake: Located about 150 kilometres from Golmud, Chaka Salt Lake is a stunning natural wonder. With its vast expanse of white salt flats and crystal clear blue skies, it offers breathtaking views and unique photo opportunities.

Golmud Museum: If you’re interested in the history and culture of the Golmud region, a visit to the Golmud Museum is highly recommended. It houses exhibits on local ethnic groups, ancient civilizations, and regional geology.

Da Qaidam (Dachaidan) Salt Lake: About a two-hour drive from Golmud, Da Qaidam Salt Lake is another salt lake worth exploring. It offers a different landscape compared to Chaka Salt Lake, with its colourful mineral-rich waters and surrounding desert scenery.

Golmud Wetland Reserve: For nature lovers, the Golmud Wetland Reserve is a must-visit. It is home to a variety of bird species, including the rare black-necked crane. You can take a leisurely walk along the wooden boardwalks and enjoy the peaceful environment.

Golmud Geological Park: This park showcases the unique geological features of the region, including colourful rock formations, fossils, and volcanic landscapes. It’s a great place to learn about the geological history of the Golmud area and witness its natural beauty.

What sort of window view do we expect to see?

Just like a car road trip, one can enjoy the scenery on both sides. The stunning views along the Tibet railway will never disappoint. As the train passes Xining and enters the Golmud region, breathtaking views continuously appear. Remember to capture this memorable experience with your camera. Major attractions include Qarhan Salt Lake, Yuzhu Peak, Kekexili Nature Reserve, Tuotuo He River, Tangula Pass, Tsonag Lake, Qiangtang Prairie, and Namtso.

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Riding the Qinghai-Tibet train is an unforgettable experience. The train is designed for high altitudes and offers breathtaking views. For more information on the scenery, 

Tibet Travel Permit is Must needed document to take Beijing Lhasa Train

To travel to Tibet from Beijing by train, you need a permit. You can book tickets without them, but you must have them to board the train. Backpackers cannot enter Tibet independently, so you need a travel agency to help you apply for the Tibet Travel Permit in advance. The permit and your ticket will be checked during check-in. A photocopy of the permit is acceptable in Beijing. Usually, travel agencies obtain the permit a few days before your train journey and deliver it to your hotel. Once approved, the train ride offers breathtaking views and encounters with Tibetan culture. It also provides time for introspection and a sense of tranquillity. The permit is worth the effort for the transformative experience of exploring Tibet’s beauty, culture, and spirituality.

Tibet Travel Permit Girl permit copy

To explore Tibet by train, you need a Tibet travel permit. This permit is crucial and different from a Chinese visa. To obtain it, book a tour with a registered travel agency in Tibet. They will assist with the application process and provide knowledgeable guides. Apply in advance with accurate personal information to avoid rejection. 

Location of Golmud Train Station

The Golmud Train Station is located in the city of Golmud, which is in the Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China.

Hotels nearby Golmud Train Stations

Here are some hotels near Golmud Train Stations:

  • Golmud Hotel Address: No.1, Wulan Road, Golmud Distance from train station: 0.5 km
  • Golmud Sun Valley Hotel Address: No. 18, Kunlun Road, Golmud Distance from train station: 1 km
  • Golmud Yijia Business Hotel Address: No.136, Kunlun Road, Golmud Distance from train station: 1.2 km
  • Golmud Xinhui Hotel Address: No. 5, Gulang Road, Golmud Distance from train station: 1.5 km
  • Golmud Shenghui International Hotel Address: No. 238, Kunlun Road, Golmud Distance from train station: 1.8 km
  • Golmud Qinghai Hotel Address: No. 2, Shengli Middle Road, Golmud Distance from train station: 2 km

Please note that the distances mentioned are approximate and may vary depending on the specific train station in Golmud.

Railway Rules and Regulations You Should Know

China’s railway rules differ from those of other countries. Familiarizing yourself with these regulations will enhance your rail travel experience in China.

Carry-on Luggage Rules:

  1. Inflammable and explosive goods, as well as animals and pets, are prohibited on trains.
  2. Carry-on luggage weight requirements: 10kg for child passengers, 20kg for adult passengers.
  3. Size requirement for carry-on luggage: total length of your carry-on luggage should be under 200cm.

Requirements for Child Tickets

  • Instead of age, China Railway has specific criteria on stature to purchase child tickets. Synopsis of child ticket criteria:
  • Children with a stature under 120cm can avail of complimentary rail travel and are not required to pay for train transportation.
  • Children with a stature of 120cm to 150cm have the privilege to purchase reduced-fare train tickets. The cost of a sleeper ticket for a child is approximately 70% of an adult ticket.
  • Children with a stature exceeding 150cm must purchase full-priced train tickets regardless of their age.

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