Your Ultimate Guide to Ali: Routes, Costs, and Preparations
Ali, a remote and enchanting region in Tibet, beckons adventurers with its breathtaking landscapes and cultural richness. Before you embark on this mesmerizing journey, you need to be well-informed about the routes, costs, and essential preparations. This guide is here to help you plan your expedition to Ali.
Exploring the Ali South Line
Itinerary: The Ali South Line begins in Lhasa and concludes in Zada, returning to Lhasa.
Duration: Typically, this route takes 7-8 days. If you wish to include Mount Kailash, the Guge Dynasty, and Zanda Forest, you should allocate an additional 2 days.
Road Conditions: The southern route boasts excellent road conditions, with most of the journey being paved. Vehicle requirements are not demanding, making this an economically viable option.
Cost: Given the good road conditions, commercial vehicles with fewer than 17 seats are available. Prices vary depending on the vehicle model. Carpooling costs typically range from 10000-20000 yuan per person. If you require accommodation, an additional will be added.
Tickets: Ticket costs for attractions remain relatively consistent across the southern and northern routes. Prices include Yamdrok (60 yuan), Karola Glacier (40 yuan), Manasarovar (150 yuan), Kailash (150 yuan), Guge Dynasty (100 yuan), Mt. Everest (180 yuan), Everest sightseeing bus (120 yuan per person), Everest scenic spot entry fee (160 yuan per car), Tashilhunpo Monastery (100 yuan), and others. Prices may fluctuate during low and peak seasons.
A Glimpse of the Great Northern Line
Itinerary: The Great Northern Line builds upon the southern route, extending north to the Shiquan River, Ngari’s capital. It then proceeds eastward and ultimately returns to Lhasa.
Duration: The Great Northern Line is an adventurous combination of both the Ali South Line and the North Line, typically spanning 12 days. For those with less time, the shorter Xiaobei Line takes 9 days.
Road Conditions: The Great Northern Line presents several rough roads, often characterized by washboard surfaces. If you plan to self-drive, consider a high-chassis, durable vehicle.
Cost: Most vehicles encountered along this route are Toyota Prados. Carpooling costs approximately 25,000 to 35,500 yuan per person. If you require accommodation, anticipate an additional 2500 to 4,000 yuan.
Tickets: Ticket costs mirror those of the southern route, covering attractions like Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glacier, Manasarovar, Kailash, Guge Dynasty, Everest Scenic Area, Everest sightseeing cars, and Tashilhunpo Monastery.
Preparations for Your Ali Adventure
- Document Preparation
- ID Card, Passport: Ensure you carry your ID card. If you prefer not to carry excessive cash, bring a bank card instead.
- Border Defense Permit: Obtain this permit at your local police station. Alternatively, handle it through a travel agency in Lhasa a day in advance. Note that self-driving permits must be obtained independently.
- Item Preparation
- Camera: Capture the incredible beauty of Ali with an SLR camera, especially for star photography.
- High-Resolution Mobile Phone: For communication, navigation, and as a power bank.
- Charger and Power Bank: Essential for recharging your devices on the go.
- Clothing: Choose appropriate clothing, especially a light-down jacket to stay warm.
- Comfortable Shoes: Essential for walking and mountain climbing.
- Toiletries: As per your personal preferences.
- Must-Haves: Sunglasses, lip balm, and sunscreen to protect against the intense sunlight.
- Physical Preparation
- Prior to the journey, ensure you are in good health, free of ailments such as cold, fever, or diarrhoea.
- Arrive in Lhasa at least two days before the trip to acclimatize to the high-altitude climate. Rest and avoid strenuous exercise upon arrival.
- Take Rhodiola rosea one month before your trip to help acclimate to the altitude and prevent altitude sickness.
- Maintain a positive attitude and stay hydrated throughout your journey.
Remember, going to Ali is an experience of a lifetime, so be well-prepared and savour every moment. Altitude sickness can be managed, so don’t be discouraged. Maintain a cheerful disposition, rest adequately, and hydrate regularly for a memorable trip.
Day 1: Enchanting Scenery and Smooth Roads – Lhasa to Shigatse
Your 12-day expedition through Northern Ali promises untamed beauty, unspoiled landscapes, and a profound connection with the natural world. It’s a unique experience where you can revel in the simplicity and authenticity of Tibet while cherishing the captivating sights and sounds of this incredible region.
Your eagerly anticipated journey to Ali begins on this first day, offering a relatively easy itinerary with an average altitude of 3850m. The road conditions are excellent, with the entire route covered by smooth asphalt roads, making for a comfortable travel experience.
- Route: Lhasa – Yamdrok Yumcuo – Karola Glacier – Manla Reservoir – Shigatse
- Total Distance: 360 km
- Dining: Expect to savour Sichuan cuisine for most of your meals.
- Accommodation: Overnight stay in Shigatse.
Highlights of the Day
- Lhasa River (Distant View): Begin your journey with picturesque views of the Lhasa River.
- Gangbala Mountain: Traverse Gangbala Mountain and reach an altitude of 4,990 meters, where you can overlook the Gambala Radar Station.
- Yamdrok Yumcuo: Journey to the highest freshwater lake globally, the stunning Yamdrok Yumcuo, which is just a 1.5-hour drive from Gangbala Mountain.
- Karola Glacier (Distant View): Witness the magnificent Karola Glacier from a distance. This crystal-blue marvel, sculpted by the hands of time, is a true work of art.
- Manla Reservoir: Make a stop at the Manla Reservoir, a hidden gem constructed by locals for irrigation and power generation. The best spot to view this reservoir is at the Simila Mountain pass, where it mirrors the landscape like a precious gem embedded in the snowy plateau.
Your journey commences with great road conditions, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable ride. As you climb Gangbala Snow Mountain and reach high altitudes, the Gambala Radar Station comes into view. From there, you’ll continue to the breathtaking Yamdrok Yumcuo, an experience that refreshes and revitalizes your spirit.
While travelling, you may have the chance to witness devout Buddhists prostrating themselves on the snow-covered plateau, measuring their pilgrimage route with every step. Their unwavering commitment is a testament to their faith.
Your eight-hour drive today will bring you to Shigatse, an important town located at an altitude of 3950 meters above sea level. You can expect to arrive in Shigatse at around 7:30 pm, where you’ll stay overnight.
Highlights of the Attractions
- Yamdrok Lake (Yang Lake): Often referred to as Yang Lake, Yamdrok Lake, alongside Manasarovar Lake and Namtso Lake, is one of Tibet’s three sacred lakes. Nestled in Langkazi County, Shannan Prefecture, the lake’s unique shape resembles intricate coral branches. Its pristine, light blue waters glisten like jade, surrounded by distant snow-capped mountains, making it even more dazzling when viewed from the mountain pass.
- Karola Glacier: As one of Tibet’s three continental glaciers and the eastern source of the Nianchu River, the Karola Glacier stands as a mesmerizing natural wonder. This glacier is particularly unique because it’s situated incredibly close to the road, with only a short distance of just over 300 meters. After leaving Yamdrok Lake behind, you’ll cross the 4330-meter Smila Pass, reaching the ice tongue of Karola Glacier.
- Manla Reservoir: This niche attraction is a reservoir meticulously constructed by the local community on the upper reaches of the Nianchu River. It serves the dual purpose of irrigation and power generation. The ideal location for taking in the beauty of this reservoir is at the Simila Mountain Pass, where it reflects the surrounding landscape like a mirrored jewel on the snowy plateau.
At the Yanghu Observation Deck, you may have the opportunity to take photographs with Tibetan Mastiffs and adorable lambs. Despite their imposing size, these Tibetan Mastiffs are remarkably well-behaved and can even shake hands. The general fee for this experience is 20 yuan per person.
Day 2: En route to the Roof of the World – Shigatse to Mount Everest
On the second day of your adventure, you’ll embark on an awe-inspiring journey from Shigatse to the legendary Mount Everest. This day’s itinerary is relatively easy, with an average altitude of 4900m, ensuring you experience some of the most incredible landscapes in the world.
- Route: Shigatse – Tashilhunpo Monastery – Gyatso La Pass – Mount Everest
- Total Distance: 392 km of well-maintained asphalt road
- Accommodation: Overnight stay at the Everest tent or Basong Village.
Highlights of the Day
- Tashilhunpo Monastery: Begin your day by visiting the Tashilhunpo Monastery, where the Panchen Lama has resided for generations. This spiritual haven, rich in Tibetan culture, provides a captivating start to your journey and offers a glimpse into the region’s deep-rooted traditions.
- Gyatso La Holy Mountain: As you continue along the Himalayas towards the Everest Nature Reserve, you’ll pass through the Gyatso La Pass, which stands at an altitude of 5,200 meters. Here, you’ll be rewarded with an awe-inspiring spectacle of four majestic snow-capped mountains, each surpassing an altitude of 8,000 meters. These grand peaks, from left to right, include Makalu Peak (8,463 meters), Lhotse Peak (8,516 meters), Everest (8,848 meters), and Cho Oyu (8,201 meters).
- Mount Everest: Your journey proceeds to the Mount Everest Nature Reserve, the highest point on Earth. Here, you’ll visit the Tibetan Red Sect temple, Rongbuk Temple, which was constructed in 1899. Positioned at an altitude of 5,154 meters, Rongbuk Temple is the world’s highest temple. Located approximately 20 kilometres from Mount Everest’s summit, the temple offers an opportunity to gaze upon the grandeur of Mount Everest, the tallest peak on the planet. The moment is truly humbling.
- Everest Base Camp: If you’re fortunate, you can embark on activities at the Everest Base Camp. Here, you’ll have the chance to connect with nature’s grandeur, perhaps even witnessing the striking flag clouds of Mount Everest, a breathtaking phenomenon resembling the fire of life. Afterwards, you can explore the base camp with an environmentally friendly vehicle, allowing you to appreciate the natural marvels that surround you.
- Rongbuk Monastery: Conclude the day with an overnight stay at Rongbuk Monastery, offering a unique opportunity to capture the beauty of the sunset on Mount Everest. This moment allows you to come face to face with the grandeur of the world’s tallest peak, an experience like no other.
- Tashilhunpo Temple: Nestled at the base of Niseri Mountain in Shigatse, Tibet, Tashilhunpo Temple, meaning “Auspicious Sumeru Temple,” is the largest temple in the region. It’s a significant spiritual centre that embodies the essence of Tibetan culture.
- Rongbuk Temple: Positioned at the summit of the “Dolma” (Tara) mountain on both the east and west sides of the Rongbuk Valley beneath Mount Everest, this temple is a remarkable feat. Located at an altitude of approximately 5,100 meters, it is renowned as the world’s highest temple, offering an unparalleled view.
- The original Everest Base Camp was situated at an altitude of 5,200 meters but was later relocated to Rongbuk Monastery at an altitude of about 5,100 meters due to environmental concerns. Be sure to explore the post office on Mount Everest, where you can send postcards. Additionally, you can send postcards using tickets from many of Tibet’s scenic spots.
- If you’re looking to capture the starry skies over Mount Everest, keep in mind that the best views typically occur during the latter part of the night when the moon is less bright. The full moon can be quite intense in the first half of the night, potentially overshadowing the brilliance of the stars.
Day 3: Exploring Enchanting Landscapes – Everest Reserve to Saga
On the third day of your remarkable journey, you’ll continue your exploration of Tibet, making your way from the Everest Nature Reserve to Saga. This leg of the trip offers an easier day, with an average altitude of 4487m, ensuring you can fully appreciate the stunning landscapes.
- Route: Everest Nature Reserve – Shishapangma – Pekucuo – Saga
- Total Distance: 330km, encompassing both asphalt and gravel roads.
- Accommodation: Overnight stay at Saga Hotel or a similar establishment.
Highlights of the Day
- Morning Departure: Your day begins with a morning departure from the Rongbuk Temple. As you embark on this day’s adventure, you’ll traverse along National Highway 318, passing through the historical Tingri County, a region rich in culture and tradition.
- Lunch in Tingri: Following a scenic drive, you’ll arrive at Tingri, where you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a delightful lunch, savoring the local flavors. This is a moment to refresh and recharge before continuing your journey.
- Pekucuo Lake: Your next destination is Pekucuo, the largest lake in the Shigatse region, with an expansive area covering more than 300 square kilometers. The lake’s shoreline is home to various unique Tibetan plateau species, offering a chance to immerse yourself in the local biodiversity.
- Wildlife Encounters: As you proceed on your route to Saga, you’ll travel along gravel roads and pass through the striking Lalongla Mountain. Keep your eyes open, as you may encounter groups or solitary individuals of precious sunbirds, long-tailed langurs, and other remarkable wildlife that call this region home. This leg of your journey is not only about the breathtaking landscapes but also the chance to connect with nature in its purest form.
- Evening in Saga: After a day filled with natural wonders and wildlife encounters, you’ll reach Saga, where you’ll enjoy dinner at your hotel around 7:30 pm. It’s here that you’ll spend the night, resting and reflecting on the captivating experiences of the day.
- Shishapangma Peak: This incredible peak stands at an impressive 8,027 meters above sea level, ranking as the 14th highest among the 14 8,000-meter peaks globally. Notably, it is the sole 8,000-meter peak entirely situated within China. Shishapangma Peak is known for its majestic beauty, and any photograph capturing its grandeur is akin to a picturesque Windows desktop background.
Your journey continues, with more breathtaking experiences and awe-inspiring destinations waiting to be explored in the days to come.
Day 4: A Journey to Sacred Landscapes – From Saga to Tarchen
On the fourth day of your remarkable journey, you’ll continue your exploration of Tibet, taking in the stunning landscapes and sacred sites that make this region truly unique. From Saga to Tarchin, you’ll traverse through a realm of awe-inspiring natural beauty.
- Route: Saga/Zhongba – Source of Yarlung Zangbo River – Gongzhu Tso – Baga
- Total Distance: 288km of mostly asphalt road.
- Accommodation: Overnight stay at Sanxia Hotel or a similar establishment.
Highlights of the Day
- Morning Departure: Your day begins in the morning as you set out from Zhongba, bound for the Holy Mountain, Holy Lake, and Ghost Lake. The air is filled with anticipation as you embark on this leg of your journey.
- Lenbulugangri Mountain: En route, you’ll be treated to a distant view of the mighty Lenbulugangri Mountain Peak, towering at an altitude of 7095 meters. The sight of this majestic peak serves as a reminder of the grandeur of the Himalayas.
- Pa Yang Town: Around 12:30, you’ll make a stop at Payang Town, where you can savour a delicious lunch. This is an opportunity to rest and refuel, ensuring you have the energy for the adventures that lie ahead.
- Border Inspection Station: Following your meal, you’ll pass through the largest border inspection station in Ngari, marking a transition point in your journey.
- Tarchen Town: Afterward, you’ll continue to Tarchen, a charming small town nestled beneath the sacred Mount Kailash. Here, you’ll have the chance to appreciate the local culture and natural beauty that define this region.
- Sacred Lake Manasarovar and Ghost Lake Laangcuo: Your day’s journey culminates with a visit to the awe-inspiring Lake Manasarovar, known for its exceptionally clear freshwater. Nestled between the Gangdise Mountains and the Himalayas, this lake is a sight to behold. Nearby, you’ll also discover Ghost Lake Laangcuo, separated from Manasarovar Lake by a dike. It is renowned for its windless three-foot waves and a unique sense of mystery.
- Gongzhu Tso: This remarkable lake may not be the most picturesque, but it is undoubtedly the most unforgettable. Its name, homophonically pronounced, has led some to affectionately call it Princess Lake. Surrounded by the vast desert and snow-capped mountains, it offers an enchanting experience you won’t soon forget.
- Manasarovar Lake: As one of the three holy lakes in Tibet, Manasarovar Lake holds deep spiritual significance. It’s the birthplace of several significant rivers, including the Horse River, Peacock River, Elephant River, and Lion River. Notably, it is known for its remarkably transparent freshwater, separating it from the adjacent Ghost Lake Laangcuo.
- Laangcuo (Ghost Lake): Situated west of Manasarovar Lake, Laangcuo is often shrouded in dark clouds, creating a mysterious atmosphere. Though it’s close to the Holy Lake, the water in Laangcuo is salty, adding to the lake’s enigmatic charm.
- Mount Kailash (Kang Rinpoche): Known as the main peak of the Gangdese Mountains in China, Mount Kailash is revered as one of the top ten most stunning and awe-inspiring mountains in the country. Its summit, at 6,656 meters above sea level, makes it the second-highest peak in the Gangdese Mountains, situated in the southwest of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
As you continue on your remarkable journey, be prepared to be captivated by the profound spiritual energy and breathtaking natural beauty of Tibet’s sacred landscapes.
Day 5: A Spiritual Journey to Sacred Waters – Manasarovar and Laangcuo
On the fifth day of your spiritual journey, you will be enchanted by the breathtaking beauty of Manasarovar Lake, known as the “Holy Lake,” and the captivating Ghost Lake Laangcuo. These pristine lakes are not only a feast for the eyes but also steeped in cultural and geological significance, making your visit truly memorable.
- Route: Circle around Lake – Manasarovar Lake (Holy Lake) – Laangcuo (Ghost Lake)
- Total Distance: A comfortable 200km on asphalt roads.
- Accommodation: Your overnight stay awaits at Sanxia Hotel or a similar accommodation.
- Morning Departure: Your day begins with a morning departure from Tarchen. Greeted by the radiant morning glow amidst the backdrop of Mount Kailash and Namunnani Peak, you set out on a journey of spiritual reverence and natural wonder.
- Manasarovar Lake: Your travels lead you to the renowned Manasarovar Lake, often referred to as Mapham Yutso. A lake of mystical evolution, it was once interconnected with Laangcuo, later transforming into an endorheic lake due to the accumulation of flood sediments and ice.
- Spiritual Significance: Manasarovar Lake holds deep spiritual significance, earning its title as the “Holy Lake.” It is here that Buddhists, young and old, embark on pilgrimages and seek to “bathe and purify” themselves in the “sacred waters” with the hope of prolonging their lives.
- “Mother of Rivers in the World”: Manasarovar Lake is aptly named the “Mother of Rivers in the World.” With its pristine, translucent waters and serene beauty, it is a true natural wonder.
- Ghost Lake Laangcuo: Nestled beside Manasarovar, Ghost Lake Laangcuo is known as “Laangtso” in Tibetan, signifying a “poisonous black lake.” Despite this label, Laangcuo’s striking landscapes and deep blue waters are equally captivating.
- Mystical Connection: There’s a belief that Manasarovar Lake and Laangcuo Lake are connected at their depths. One side houses the freshwater Holy Lake, while the other side boasts the saltwater Ghost Lake, making Laangcuo an intriguing geological marvel.
- Manasarovar Lake: Known as the “Holy Lake” and revered as the “Mother of Rivers in the World,” Manasarovar is a place of spiritual significance and unparalleled natural beauty. It beckons pilgrims and nature enthusiasts alike.
- Laangcuo (Ghost Lake): Nestled in close proximity to Manasarovar Lake, Ghost Lake Laangcuo is a saltwater gem of mesmerizing blue waters. Despite its label as a “ghost lake,” its allure is undeniable.
Today’s journey through the sacred waters of Manasarovar and Laangcuo promises both spiritual enlightenment and natural wonder, offering a unique perspective on Tibet’s rich cultural heritage and geological marvels.
Day 6: Unveiling Ancient Mysteries – Guge Dynasty and Earth Forest
On this remarkable journey through Tibet, day 6 is dedicated to uncovering ancient mysteries and exploring the rich cultural and geological heritage of the region. You’ll visit the Dongga Piyang Caves, known as the “Second Dunhuang,” the extraordinary Zada Earth Forest, and the ruins of the enigmatic Guge Kingdom, which left behind an awe-inspiring civilization.
- Route: Tarchen – Dongga Piyang Caves – Zada – Guge Palace – Tuoling Temple – Zada
- Total Distance: The journey covers 248km of asphalt roads.
- Accommodation: Rest at the Chongqing Hotel or a similar accommodation.
- Morning Departure: Your day begins in the early morning as you continue to admire the breathtaking morning glow between Mount Kailash and Namunani. The day promises a captivating journey of historical exploration.
- Dongga Piyang Caves: First, you’ll visit the remarkable Dongga Piyang Caves. This vast site boasts temples, castles, grottoes, and pagodas, earning it the moniker of the “Second Dunhuang.” The caves are a treasure trove of murals with lifelike features, providing insights into the past.
- Zada Earth Forest: As you venture further, you’ll encounter the incredible Zada Earth Forest, a unique landform carved by water erosion. Stretching for dozens of miles and with a history dating back about 1,100 years, the Earth Forest is a breathtaking sight.
- Guge Palace – Ruins of the Guge Kingdom: Your journey takes you to the ruins of the Guge Kingdom, an ancient plateau city perched along the Xiangquan River. Covering an area of about 180,000 square meters, this site boasts over 300 houses, caves, pagodas, temples, halls, and more. It also houses exquisite sculptures and murals in the Red Temple, White Temple, and Samsara Temple. The Guge Kingdom, established around the 10th century AD, played a significant role in Tibet’s history for seven centuries before mysteriously disappearing.
- Tuoling Temple: Following the exploration of the Guge Palace, you’ll visit the more than 900-year-old Tuolin Temple. The temple’s architectural style and Buddhist statues reflect a fusion of Indian Kashmiri, Ladakh, and Nepalese influences. Tuolin Temple is of profound importance in the region.
- Return to Zada: After a day filled with historical treasures, you’ll return to Zada County along the same route.
- Donggapiyang Grottoes: These caves date from the 11th to the 13th century, adorned with murals characterized by rigorous composition, bright colours, unique shapes, and detailed features. The murals depict a rich history and incorporate characters, patterns, and influences from foreign lands.
- Zada Earth Forest: A geological wonder formed by water erosion, winding for miles with a history of about 1,100 years. Aerial views of the Earth Forest are astonishing, showcasing nature’s artistry.
- Guge Dynasty: This ancient city on the plateau covers an expansive area and has been recognized as one of the first key cultural relics protection units in the country. Its origin dates back to the late Tubo Dynasty, and it played a vital role in Tibet’s history before its eventual disappearance.
Day 7: Journey through Scenic Wonders and Tibetan Culture
Day 7 of your remarkable Tibetan journey promises an enchanting blend of natural beauty, Tibetan culture, and historical marvels. The day unfolds as you depart from Zada, taking you through the stunning landscapes of Zanda Earth Forest, the tranquil waters of Pangong Tso, the ancient Ritu Rock Paintings, and the meandering course of Shiquan River.
- Route: Zada – Shiquan River – Ritu – Pangong Tso – Shiquan River Town
- Total Distance: Today’s journey spans about 250 kilometers, mainly on asphalt roads.
- Accommodation: You’ll spend the night at Xiangfulou Hotel or a similar establishment.
- Exploring the Earth Forest: Begin your day in the heart of the Earth Forest, the birthplace of Ali’s ancient civilization, and the mysterious ruins of the Guge Kingdom. This kingdom once flourished but disappeared without a trace around the seventeenth century, leaving behind legends and enigmatic remnants.
- Enchanting Pangong Tso: After departing from Guge Village, your route leads to Pangong Tso, a destination often overlooked by travellers in Ali. This sparkling lake is distinguished by its unique features. Most notably, it’s an international lake, with a freshwater section in China and a saltwater segment in Kashmir. This freshwater section showcases striking blue waters, clear skies, and lush aquatic plants. You’ll have the chance to witness red-billed gulls, bar-headed geese, and even the black-necked crane, a nationally protected species.
- Picturesque Pangong Lake: Pangong Lake’s beauty extends beyond the vivid blue waters and clear skies. It is graced with lush aquatic vegetation, where wild waterbirds and horses freely roam. In a desolate land like Ngari, this idyllic scene is a rare and captivating sight.
- Ritu Rock Paintings: The historical importance of Ritu continues with a visit to the Ritu Rock Paintings, which are emblematic of Tibetan culture. These ancient rock paintings depict a range of subjects, including hunting, religious ceremonies, equestrian activities, herding, farming, dancing, and warfare. The vivid and artistic representation of ancient plateau life is a testament to Tibet’s rich heritage.
- Shiquan River Serenity: The day concludes in Shiquan River Town, where you can unwind, absorb the serenity of the surroundings, and reflect on the natural wonders and cultural treasures you’ve encountered.
- Pangong Tso: This renowned scenic spot in the Ngari region features a distinctive character due to its unique location. Two-thirds of Pangong Tso lies in the Ngari region of China, while one-third belongs to Kashmir. Strikingly, the section within China is a freshwater lake teeming with water plants, while the Kashmir portion is a saltwater lake.
- Ritu Rock Paintings: These ancient rock paintings found in Ritu County are amongst the most significant in Tibet. Their large scale, artistic merit, and depictions of various aspects of plateau life, such as hunting, religious rituals, and agriculture, offer valuable insights into Tibet’s cultural heritage.
Day 7 is a celebration of Tibet’s diverse beauty, cultural heritage, and the astonishing dichotomy of Pangong Lake, offering both freshwater and saltwater. This day promises unforgettable encounters with nature and history.
Day 8: Into the Wilderness – A Journey through the Great Northern Route
On Day 8, the adventure unfolds as you embark on an awe-inspiring journey into the untamed wilderness of Tibet. This leg of your expedition will lead you through a mysterious and desolate expanse, often referred to as a no-man’s land. Amidst the rugged terrain and vast landscapes, you’ll discover hidden lakes, remote oases, and the captivating beauty of nature in its rawest form.
- Route: Shiquanhe Town – Geji – Yare – Renduo Township
- Total Distance: Today’s route covers approximately 400 kilometers, primarily on asphalt roads.
- Accommodation: You’ll rest for the night at Xinyue Hotel or a similar establishment.
- Wilderness Immersion: As today marks the beginning of your journey into the true wilderness, you’ll find yourself in a remote, mysterious, and sparsely populated region. This segment is considered the heart of the Great Northern Route, replete with countless hidden lakes and the potential for unexpected surprises at every turn.
- Prepare for the Wild: In anticipation of your passage through this challenging terrain, ensure you’re equipped with an ample supply of dry food, instant noodles, and other essentials. It’s essential for a comfortable journey in the wild.
- A Rugged Route: Setting out from Shiquan River town, your route will take you to Xiongba at an elevation of 4,800 meters above sea level. From there, you’ll head south, traversing through Yare, which stands at an impressive 5,300 meters above sea level, and onwards to Renduo Township, positioned at 5,000 meters above sea level. Your path will be a rugged, bumpy, and demanding gravel road, with mesmerizing panoramas of boundless wilderness, mountain peaks touching the heavens, and occasional glimpses of oases, grazing sheep, and wildlife like antelopes and wild donkeys playfully racing with your convoy.
- Wildlife Encounters: As you journey through the Great Northern Route, you may be fortunate enough to encounter the native wildlife, such as wild foxes, tenacious vegetation adapting to the harsh winters, and the enigmatic Tibetan antelopes. It’s essential to respect the wildlife’s space, not disturb them, and refrain from chasing or scaring them.
- Wildlife Etiquette: Tibetan antelopes and other wild creatures are often timid around humans. It’s crucial to be respectful, avoid causing alarm, and refrain from prompting drivers to chase them. Instead, enjoy observing them from a distance. Remember, the real beauty of the Great Northern Route often lies not in the designated attractions but in the shared experiences and close bonds developed with fellow travelers. With the right perspective, the journey itself becomes the most rewarding part.
- Navigating the Terrain: Throughout the Great Northern Route, the roads are often unpaved. In some areas, you’ll be navigating based on tire tracks, making it vital not to wander far from the vehicle when stepping out for pictures. Wildlife encounters are frequent, so it’s imperative to remain with your group to ensure safety.
Day 8 ushers in a thrilling phase of your adventure, immersing you in the untouched beauty of the Tibetan wilderness. Be prepared for an unforgettable encounter with nature in its most rugged and pristine form.
Day 9: From Renduo to Coqin County – Discovering the Mystical Beauty of Northern Tibet
On Day 9, you’ll rise with the early morning light in northern Tibet, ready to continue your awe-inspiring journey. The astonishing landscapes you encountered yesterday were just a prelude to today’s even more spectacular vistas. As you depart from Renduo Township, you’re in for an array of captivating destinations and natural wonders that will unfold with each step.
- Route: Renduo – Renqing Xibu Tso – Zhabu Tso- Jakar Tso – Tarab Wumtso – Tsochen County
- Total Distance: Today’s route spans approximately 400 kilometers, involving a mix of asphalt and dirt roads.
- Accommodation: Your overnight stay will be at the Plateau Impression Hotel.
- Start of the Day: Your journey commences with the first light in northern Tibet, fueled by the dry food you’ve prepared. The stunning scenery you enjoyed yesterday was just a prelude to the grandeur that awaits you today.
- Remarkable Landscapes: From Renduo Township, your path will lead you through several remarkable destinations, each with its unique allure:
- Renqing Xibu Tso: A mystical and expansive lake renowned for its ability to change its appearance based on the viewing direction.
- Tarab Wuma Tso: An extraordinary red lake, a rare natural wonder in itself.
- Zhabu Tso – Chaka Tso: An awe-inspiring and enigmatic plateau salt lake, which is the world’s third-largest producer of lithium minerals.
- Hidden Gems: Amidst these notable destinations, you’ll also encounter numerous smaller lakes. While these may not carry famous names, their charm is equally captivating. Lakes like Sekazhi Tso, Nyer Tso, Xuxu Tso, PeroTse Tso, etc.,
- Renqing Xibu Tso: This vast lake has earned praise from locals who view it as a paradise on Earth. What sets it apart is its ability to transform its appearance based on the direction from which it’s observed.
- Tara Yumtso: A truly remarkable feature of today’s journey is Tarab Wuma Tso, a rare red lake. The distinctive crimson hue of this lake is a natural wonder that’s not to be missed.
- Zhabuye Tso: Also known as Zabuye Co, Chamu Co, Zabu Co, and more, this plateau salt lake is renowned as one of the most breathtaking and mysterious salt lakes at high altitudes. It represents the world’s third-largest lithium mineral production area.
The Journey Continues
As you traverse the stunning landscapes and captivating destinations of Day 9, your adventure through the pristine beauty of northern Tibet takes another captivating turn. From enchanting lakes to unique natural phenomena, this is a day of discovery and wonder that promises to leave you in awe.
You’ll conclude your day’s journey in Tsochen County, where you’ll find a welcoming haven at the Plateau Impression Hotel for a well-deserved rest.
Day 10: From Tsochen County to Wenbu South Village – Exploring the Grandeur of Northern Tibet
Day 10 unfolds as the most splendid and highly anticipated day on your Great Northern Line adventure through northern Tibet. With the magnificent landscapes of Zhari Namtso, Dangra Yumtso, and the enchanting Wenbu south Village on your itinerary, this day promises to be the pinnacle of your journey.
- Route: Tsochen County – Zhari Namtso – Dangra Yumtso – Wenbu South Village
- Total Distance: The day’s journey covers approximately 260 kilometres, featuring a mix of asphalt and dirt roads.
- Accommodation: You’ll stay overnight at Zhangxiong Inn.
- Morning Departure: After a nourishing breakfast, your adventure begins from Tsochen as you set your sights on Zhari Namtso, which is arguably the most anticipated highlight of your trip to northern Tibet.
- Zhari Namtso: Known as the third-largest lake in Tibet, Zhari Namtso is a magnificent saltwater lake. It is aptly named after the “big lake” – Tsochen. For the best panoramic views of Zhari Namtso, you’ll head to the solitary peak of Munuo Mountain, situated on the lake’s shore. Later, you’ll walk along the sand embankment from the lake’s southeast to reach the isolated island in the middle of the lake, offering yet another picturesque vantage point.
- Dangra Yumtso: Your journey then takes you eastward after a simple meal en route, leading you to Dangra Yumtso. This lake holds deep spiritual significance as it is the largest sacred lake revered by the original Bon religion in Tibet. Nestled amidst majestic mountains, Dangra Yumtso stands out as the most beautiful lake in northern Tibet. Its vajra-like shape and the perpetual snow atop the southern Daguo Mountain contribute to its unique allure. In Tibetan culture, this lake, alongside Kailash and Manasarovar, Daguo Snow Mountain, Dangra Yongtso, Nyenchen Tanglha, and Namtso are recognized as the three most famous holy lakes and mountains in Tibet.
- Wenbu South Village: After about 5 hours of driving along the picturesque shores of Dangra Yongtso Lake, you’ll reach your final destination – Wenbunan Village. This remote village, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lakes, is often described as the “most Tibetan” place by travelers and the “abode of God.” With the setting sun painting the sky with vibrant hues, the view is nothing short of breathtaking. The accommodation is basic, and dinner is self-prepared.
- Zhari Namtso: This spectacular lake is recognized as the third-largest in Tibet. It features a viewing platform and restroom facilities on its north bank. Climbing to the observation deck, you’re rewarded with a sweeping panorama of Zhari Namtso’s stunning scenery.
- Dangra Yumtso: Dangra Yumtso is not only the largest sacred lake in the eyes of Yongdrung Bon believers, the oldest in Tibet, but it also boasts a unique north-south shape, resembling the sole of a shoe, surrounded by mountains on three sides. The landscape is distinguished by the dark Dalguo Mountain with its seven pyramid-like peaks on the south bank. This locale holds immense spiritual significance for Yongzhong Bon believers.
- The Starry Sky in Wenbu South Village: The beauty of Wenbu South Village is further enhanced as night falls, revealing a mesmerizing starry sky above.
An Unforgettable Day
Day 10 of your Great Northern Line adventure in northern Tibet offers an unparalleled experience of natural beauty, spiritual significance, and cultural immersion. As you soak in the serene landscapes, your journey reaches its zenith with visits to the magnificent Zhari Namtso, Dangra Yongtso, and the enchanting Wenbu South Village. Prepare for a day of discovery and wonder that you’ll cherish for years to come. Your overnight stay at Zhangxiong Inn provides a warm and comfortable space to rest and rejuvenate before continuing your adventure.
Day 11: Wenbu South Village to Banga Town – A Journey Through the Enchanting Tibetan Landscape
On Day 11 of your grand expedition through northern Tibet, you’ll traverse the picturesque terrain, visiting intriguing destinations and immersing yourself in the rich culture of this enchanting region. Highlights include Zhari Namtso, Wenbu North Village, Dangqiong Tso, Serlin Tso, and Banga Tso.
- Route: Wenbu South Village – Wenbu North Village – Dangqiong Temple – Serlin Tso – Bange
- Altitude: Approximately 4900m
- Road Conditions: The journey will feature a mix of asphalt and dirt roads.
- Accommodation: You’ll stay overnight at the Banga County Namtso Hotel.
- Peaceful Morning at Wenbu South Village: The tranquil Wenbu south Village welcomes you to a serene morning. Travellers seeking a restful break can sleep in, while early risers can capture the exquisite beauty of a Tibetan sunrise. Embrace the unique charm of colourful clouds illuminating the Ali region.
- Dangqiong Tso: From Wenbu South Village, you’ll head north for around 40 kilometers to reach Dangqiong Tso. It’s interesting to note that Dangqiongcuo and Dangra Yumtso were once part of the same vast lake. However, due to climate changes, they eventually split into two distinct bodies of water.
- Wenbu North Village: Located next to the lake, Wenbu North Village offers a peaceful atmosphere similar to that of Wenbu South Village. Here, you’ll pause briefly to enjoy lunch.
- Nyima County: After lunch, your journey continues for approximately two hours to Nyima County, the youngest county in Tibet. If fortune favours your travels, you may have the chance to witness local residents enthusiastically dancing in the central square, creating an unforgettable evening in a foreign land.
- Serlin Tso – The Devil’s Lake: Venture to Serlin Tso, Tibet’s largest lake, situated at an altitude of 4,500 meters. While its name may suggest something ominous, the actual scenery is far from sinister. Serlin Tso translates to “the devil’s lake where the power shines” in Tibetan, yet it’s a serene destination featuring clear blue lake waters, herds of cattle and sheep, and vast plateau pastures.
- Off-the-Beaten-Path Lakes: You’ll encounter numerous nameless lakes along the way, including Biluo Tso, Guogen Tso, and Bango Tso. These were once part of Serlin Tso but have since separated. Traveling by off-road vehicle, you’ll navigate the ups and downs between mud ponds and hillsides until you reach the long-lost cement road.
- Banga County: By this point, you’ll have arrived at Banga County, situated at an elevation of 4,750 meters above sea level. Here, you’ll spend the night and enjoy dinner. If possible, consider a drink as a keepsake to commemorate your journey through the wild and spiritual land of northern Tibet.
- Dangqiong Tso: This lake shares its history with Dangra Yumtso, forming part of the same lake basin. However, it’s now known as “small Dangra Yongtso” due to the division of the lake into two separate bodies of water.
- Nyima County: Nyima County, the youngest county in Tibet, presents a unique opportunity to witness local culture and traditions. If luck is on your side, you may encounter enthusiastic local residents engaging in lively dances, offering a memorable experience in a foreign land.
- Serlin Tso: Known as “the devil’s lake reflecting the majesty” in Tibetan, Serlin Tso stands at the junction of Shenzha, Nyima, and Banga counties. It is the largest lake in Tibet and the second-largest saltwater lake in China. Serlin Tso’s vast landscape comprises its primary lake and 23 satellite small lakes, such as Geren tso and Wuru Tso. This serene and mysterious lake is known for its ever-changing colors, shifting from blue to green in various lights.
A Day of Discoveries
Day 11 offers a captivating exploration of northern Tibet’s stunning landscapes, serene lakes, ancient villages, and vibrant local culture. From the tranquil Wenbunan Village to the mysterious Selincuo, your journey unfolds through a realm of breathtaking beauty and cultural intrigue. As you rest and dine at Bange County Namtso Hotel, reflect on the adventures and memories you’ve gathered along the way in this extraordinary region.
Day 12: Bange to Lhasa – Journey’s End with Breathtaking Views and Cherished Memories
Your final day on the great journey through northern Tibet brings you from Bange County to Lhasa, marking the end of your 12-day exploration through this magnificent region. Highlights include the breathtaking sunrise at Namtso, Nyenchen Tanglha Mountain, and a warm return to the city of Lhasa.
- Route: Bange County – Namtso – Nyenchen Tanglha Mountain – Yangbajing – Lhasa
- Altitude: Approximately 4900m
- Road Conditions: The journey will predominantly take place on a 420-kilometer stretch of asphalt road.
- Accommodation: For the night, you’re free to choose your own accommodations in Lhasa.
- Sunrise at Namtso Elephant Gate: Rise early to witness the ethereal sunrise at Namtso’s Elephant Gate. As you gaze at the distant skyline and the ascending sun, a profound sense of emotion washes over you. The red clouds, the splendid sunrise, and the radiant rays of light that envelop the surroundings create a mesmerizing, golden-yellow landscape. At this moment, the allure of the lake may take a backseat to the beauty unfolding before your eyes.
- Journey Continues: After a brief pause, your journey continues. You’ll be treated to magnificent vistas of alpine grasslands along the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains as you draw nearer to Nam Co (Namtso). In Tibetan, Nam Co means “Sky Lake” and is believed to be formed by the tears of fairies at the feet of Nyenchen Tanglha Mountain, the imposing chief peak of the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountain range to the south. The lake’s shores are alive with marmots, gazelles, hares, and scattered tents. At sunset, the aroma of cooking wafts through the air, igniting your imagination.
- Over Nyenchen Tanglha Pass: Crossing the mountain pass brings you to Damxung County at an elevation of 4,200 meters. Continuing your journey, you’ll reach the Nyenchen Tanglha Pass’s viewing platform at an altitude of 5,231 meters. Here, you’ll behold the perpetual snow on the mountaintop, ancient glacier networks, and the magnificent Qiongmu Gangri Peak. Descending from the bus, you’ll capture photographs with this snow-covered giant, which divides Tibet into its three regions: northern, southern, and southeastern Tibet.
- Return to Lhasa: Following this unforgettable encounter, you’ll proceed and eventually arrive back in Lhasa in the afternoon. Returning to the city feels like a world away, and you’ll celebrate your successful journey in the evening. A shared dinner, wine, songs, and revelry mark the fitting conclusion to this unforgettable adventure. Tonight in Lhasa is yours, and you can only rest once the revelry concludes.
- Namtso: Known for its stunning scenery, Namtso is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes. Its ethereal charm, especially during sunrise, creates unforgettable memories.
- Nyenchen Tanglha Mountain: This impressive mountain range adds majesty to the surroundings, with its peaks capped in eternal snow. It holds cultural significance, as it serves as the boundary between different regions of Tibet.
A Journey to Remember
Your 12-day odyssey through northern Tibet ends with a dramatic sunrise at Namtso, a visit to the awe-inspiring Nyenchen Tanglha Mountain, and a return to the bustling streets of Lhasa. As the day transitions to night, you’ll find yourself cherishing the incredible experiences, beautiful vistas, and cherished memories that you’ve gathered along the way. Lhasa’s quiet alleys, green stone roads, and ancient homes with green tiles and wooden beams await, giving you a final taste of the cultural richness of Tibet. Your remarkable adventure through the secret land of Tibet reaches its conclusion, but the memories will stay with you forever.