The Yellow River has it's source in Yushu Tibet Autonomous Region in southern Qinghai province. The river is the second longest in China with a total length of over 5400kms /3400 miles. From it's source all the way off of the TIbetan Plateau, the Yellow River area is stunning. It offers everything from high snow-capped mountains, to grasslands filled with yaks to farmlands. The Tibetan culture in this area is some of the best preserved in all of Tibet. Here is an example itinerary through the region.
Day 1: Drive 230km from Xining to Qinghai Lake (Tso Ngon in Tibetan). Qinghai Lake is the largest lake in China. From Qinghai Lake you will go to Chabcha (ele. 2800m) to help acclimatize.
Day 2: Travel 350km from Chabcha to Mado (Maduo) in Golok Tibet Autonomous Prefecture. Mado sits at 4300m / 14,104 feet. It is one of the coldest counties of greater Tibet. Snow can fall here any day of the year. The area around Mado is 100% nomadic (pictured below) with many yaks and sheep. There is a small monastery on a hill on the east end of town with thousands of prayer flags around it. In Mado you will stay in a guesthouse.
Day 3: Travel 110km from Mado to Ngoring Lake (pictured at very top). This huge alpine lake is one of the most beautiful and one of the most unknown lakes in Tibet. The road from Mado to the lake is rough and in bad condition. Though it is only 110km, it takes 4 or 5 hours to reach. Ngoring Lake and the lake next to it, Kyaring Lake, are two of the main lakes that the Yellow River flows out of. The remote temple of Tsowar Kartse Dokha (pictured below) is found near the western shore of Ngoring Lake (ele. 4300m). It has many stupas and huge stacks of hand carved Tibetan scripture made from stone. Even in this remote location, it is possible to see some Tibetan pilgrims and worshippers here. Ngoring Lake provides an excellent remote setting for camping. There are many nomads and yaks in the region.
Day 4: Camp again at Ngoring Lake.
Day 5: Drive 200km from Ngoring Lake to the small town of Huashixia in northwest Golok prefecture. Huashixia sits at 4050m / 13,284 feet. Huashixia is a small town with not a lot to do, but it serves as a good place to stay the night and get a good meal. Accommodation is limited to inexpensive guesthouses.
Day 6: Drive 250km from Huashixia to Machen (Dawu). Machen is the capital town of Golok Tibet Autonomous Prefecture. Sixty kilometers past Huashixia, you will come across the holy mountain of Amnye Machen. Amnye Machen (pictured below) sits at 6282m / 20,605 feet and is the site of pilgrimage for many Amdo Tibetans. It is one of the holiest mountains in Tibet. Much of the road from Huashixia to Machen sits above 4500m / 14,760 feet with passes over 4800m. The population along this route is 100% nomadic. It is an excellent route to experience authentic Tibetan nomadic culture. About 50km before arriving in Machen (Dawu) there is another good place to see Amnye Machen. In Machen there are hotels with dorm style rooms as well as double rooms with attached bathrooms.
Day 7: Stay in Machen. There is a huge collection of prayer flags and hand carved scripture tablets as well as a small temple on a hill in the northwest part of town. It is a great place to go hiking. According to locals, this temple serves as a memorial for a battle that was fought here long ago.
Day 8: Travel 330km from Machen to Guide (Trika in Tibetan). Sixty kilometers north of Machen there is the large monastery of Rabgya (elevation 3100m) which has around 500 monks. Rabgya (pictured below) is right along the bank of the Yellow River with huge cliffs above the monastery. Further north of Rabgya monastery you will drive through regions that look similar to the Grand Canyon. The closer you get to Guide, the more green things become. Guide is an oasis town on the Yellow River (pictured at the bottom) sitting at only 2300m / 7544 feet. Most of the Tibetans who live in Guide are farmers. Guide is famous for its hot springs. There are several hotels in town that have access to these hot springs.
Day 9: Drive 140km from Guide to Xining via Kumbum Monastery. Going north from Guide to Xining you cross over a 3800m / 12,464 feet pass. After crossing this pass it's almost all downhill to Xining (elevation 2275m). Twenty kilomters before Xining you reach the cutoff that goes out to Kumbum Monastery. After visiting the monastery you return to Xining.
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