The traditional Tibetan region of Amdo (ཨ་མདོ) is located on the northeast corner of the Tibetan Plateau. Though most of Amdo lies in modern day Qinghai province, large regions also are located in southwestern Gansu and northern Sichuan provinces. Amdo is broken up into 8 prefectures: Golog, Malho, Tsolho, Tsonub, Tsobyang, Tsoshar in Qinghai province, Ganlho in Gansu province and Ngawa in Sichuan province. Roughly 1.6 million Tibetans live in Amdo which accounts for over 25% of the total Tibetan population. Amdo is famous for producing some of Tibet's most famous spiritual leaders including Tsongkhapa and the late 10th Panchen Lama.
If you have ever seen pictures from Tibet of nomads herding their yaks, chances are it was taken in Amdo. Amdo has large expanses of grasslands which are home to nomadic herders. These herders live in traditional style tents during the summer and usually move to small mud-brick houses during the winter time. The grasslands of Amdo lie between 2800 and 4000m above sea level. Along with the grasslands, Amdo is also home to several large mountains. The mountain that really symbolizes Amdo is Amnye Machen. Amnye Machen rises to 6282m and is considered to be the holiest mountain in the region. Each summer, hundreds of Tibetan families walk the 7 day kora around the mountain in an attempt to gain karma.
Amdo also has a large amount of beautiful lakes. The largest lake on the Tibetan Plateau is Tso Ngon or Qinghai Lake. Many of the lakes in Amdo have high snow-capped mountains behind them and often have nomads camped around them during the summer. Most of the lakes
Amdo has many areas that offer great camping and hiking. With a high amount of nomads and Buddhist monasteries, Amdo is not lacking in traditional Tibetan culture.
Though Amdo is often overlooked by travelers on their way to Lhasa, it is an amazing area that does not get the respect it deserves in guidebooks. Many people who are well traveled in Tibet say that Amdo is one of their favorite regions. Since Amdo is quite cold in the winter, the best times to visit is between May and October. The city of Xining (ཟི་ལིང་) the main starting point for travel in Amdo. From Xining, there are public buses to every Amdo county in Qinghai and to most Amdo counties in Gansu.
Chengdu is the main starting point for exploring the Tibetan prefecture of Ngawa. Most counties in Amdo are open to foreigners without having to book a tour through a travel agency. Some counties in Golog and Ngawa prefectures however, do require an Alien Travel Permit and some counties in northern Qinghai are completely closed to foreigners. Though you an travel through Amdo using public transportation, a private vehicle will allow you to really explore the area. Some of the best areas of Amdo cannot be reached by public bus.
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