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How To Plan A Trip To Qinghai

Qinghai is a province on the plateau of northwestern China. With distinctive plateau scenery of crystal clear lakes, majestic snow mountains, vast grasslands, Qinghai is treasure place that has been underestimated for a long time. Besides, the traditional customs of Tibetan Buddhism are well-preserved here. You can have an authentic experience of the local religion and tradition when traveling around the monasteries and exploring the villages. Or you can extend your Qinghai trip to the neighboring Tibet and Gansu for an in-depth adventure of western China.

Transportation is one of the most important factors people need to consider when planning a Qinghai trip. Here we provide you with detailed Qinghai Transportation Guide on how to get to Qinghai by flight and train, and how to travel around Qinghai to main attractions and cities.

Where to Go in Qinghai

Qinghai is located in the northwest of inland China, covering a total area of 722,300 square kilometers and having jurisdiction over 2 prefecture level cities and 6 autonomous prefectures. It borders Gansu in the north and east, Xinjiang in the northwest, Tibet in the south and southwest, and Sichuan in the southeast.

Get to Qinghai by Flight

In the whole Qinghai Province, there are 7 airports in total. Among them, the most frequently used airport for visitors is Xining Caojiabao International Airport (IATA: XNN) as it operates flights between most cities in China. It is also the only international airport in Qinghai that connects with some cities in other Asian countries such as Bangkok in Thailand, Tokyo in Japan, Seoul in South Korea, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia… Other airports such as Geermu Airport (IATA: GOQ), Yushu Batang Airport (IATA: YUS) and Huatugou Airport (IATA: HTT) only have flights within Qinghai and several flights between Beijing, Chengdu, Xian or Lhasa. Therefore, Xining is the first choice for travelers.

Note: If your city do not have flights to Xining, you can fly to bigger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou first and then transfer to Xining.

Get to Qinghai by Train

There are 3 main railways in Qinghai, which are Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Lanzhou-Xining Railway and Lanzhou-Urumqi High-speed Railway, so you can take trains to cities on these railways in Qinghai such as Xining, Golmud, Delingha, Huatugou, Wulan, etc. Other parts like Yushu, Guoluo, Huangnan and Hainan do not have train stations. Xining Railway Station is the most chosen station and it operates high speed trains on the Silk Road from Xian in Shaanxi to Urumqi in Xinjiang and normal trains to main cities in China such as Beijing, Lhasa, Chengdu, Taiyuan...

Xining Railway Station

For first timers, we suggest you spend 6 ~ 8 days enjoying Xinjiang highlights by visiting the most classic destinations - Urumqi, Turpan and Kashgar, which blend cultural features with natural landscapes. Usually, it takes 2 days to explore Urumqi City highlights (Nanshan Pasture, Xinjiang Grand Bazaar and Heavenly Lake of Tianchi), 2 ~ 3 days for Turpan essences (Karez System, Jiaohe Ancient City, Turpan Museum, Beziklik Caves and Kumtag Desert), and 3 ~ 4 days Kashgar highlights (Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar Old Town, Kashgar Bazaar, Ancient Tea House and Karakul Lake and Tashkurgan Fort).

Qinghai Tibet Railway - Qinghai Tibet Railway is the world's highest plateau railway, starting from Xining to Lhasa with a length of 1956 km and 85 train stations. The whole train journey needs 20-22 hours. Along the road, you will be amazed by the breathtaking landscaped of Tibet Plateau. You will pass through beautiful Qinghai Lake, deserted mountains in Delingha, Hoh Xil Nature Reserve with scattered Tibetan antelopes, yaks and donkeys, Kunlun Mountains, Sanjiangyuan (Three Rivers) National Nature Reserve and grasslands in northern Tibet.

How to Get to/around Xining

Xining is the gateway city of Qinghai and can be conviently reached by flight, train, or car. Tourists usually get to Xining first and then start their Qinghai trip.

Get to Xining by Flight
Xining Domestic Flight Map

Taking a flight is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Xining, which usually takes several hours only. Xining Caojiabao International Airport, about 28 km (40 minutes’ drive) east of the downtown Xining operates over 60 air lines with 48 cities at home and abroad, which means you can fly to Xining from lots of major tourist cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Lhasa, Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Xiamen, Qingdao, Tianjin, Changsha, Dunhuang, Harbin, Hohhot, Kunming, Urumqi, Wuhan, Zhangjiajie, Yinchuan, etc. Besides, there are irregular flights to Xining from Kuala Lumpur and Nha Trang in Southeast Asia. The airport also operates regional flights from Xining to Golmud, Golog, Huatugou, Yushu and Qilian within Qinghai Province.


Get to Xining by Train
Xining High Speed Railway Map

Xining is the rail transportation hub in Qinghai and a must railway pass to Tibet. Currently, Xining has three railway stations in service: Xining Railway Station, Datong West Railway Station and Huangyuan Railway Station. Xining Railway Station, the largest railway station in Qinghai and Tibet regions is the main train station used by train travelers.

You can get to Xining by bullet train from Xian (4-5h), Lanzhou (70min-2.5h), Zhangye (2h), Jiayuguan (3-3.5h), Dunhuang (6h), Turpan (8-9h), Urumqi (9-10h)… and by normal train from Lhasa (20-22h), Golmud (6.5-10h), Delingha (4-6h), Beijing (19-22.5h), Chengdu (12.5-15h), Chongqing (13.5h), Taiyuan (14.5-20h)...


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