Xinghai, known as Tsigortang (རྩི་གོར་ཐང་) in Tibetan, is a nomadic county located in northwest Amdo in Qinghai province. Tsigortang sees very few tourists as there is not much information available about the area. However, it is one of the most beautiful areas of the Tibetan Plateau. Located 290kms southwest of Xining and 630kms northeast of Jyekundo, Tsigortang is remote and well off the beaten path. The Amnye Machen range sits just south of Tsigortang and the Yellow River is found in the eastern part of the county. All together, there are 15 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the county.
The county town of Tsigortang is not what brings people to the area, but what is outside the town does. Driving to Tsigortang from Xining takes you across wide expanses of grasslands that are home to nomad Tibetans. From late spring until early fall the nomads in this area live in white canvas tents and spend their days grazing their yaks and sheep. Most of this area lies between 3300m/ 10,825 feet and 3700m/ 12,140 feet. The mountains in this area are usually snow-capped year round. During the summer, these grasslands are bright green.
The main attraction in Tsigortang county is Drakar Tredzong Monastery. The "White Monkey Fortress" is one of the most famous monasteries in Amdo and brings many pilgrims each year. The monastery currently has around 400 monks, though in the past it has had close to 1000. Located at the base of a 5000m/ 16,400 ft. mountain, Drakar Tredzong has one of the few evergreen forests on the northern Tibetan Plateau. Wildlife such as wolves, deer, foxes, gazelle and a large variety of birds all live above the monastery. There is a pilgrimage kora winding around the mountain that takes 5 or 6 hours to complete. The mountains above the monastery offer abundant hiking routes and have excellent views of the area.
The Tsigortang area is very poor. There is a simple Tibetan style hotel located near Drakar Tredzong Monastery and some slightly better accommodations in the county town. Even though this area is poor, if you are interested in a remote Tibetan adventure, this area will not disappoint you. Most people traveling to Yushu never see this area since it is usually passed through during the night. Due to the high elevation of many areas in Qinghai, Tsigortang serves as a good place to spend a night or two before going to the higher elevation areas of Amnye Machen or the Yellow River source area in Maduo. Tsigortang can be visited as part of a tour that includes Qinghai Lake, Kumbum Monastery and Amnye Machen.