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Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape - How to Choose the Most Scenic Train

24 May 2017 Last updated at 19:03

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
Scenic Tibet Train Journey

Witnessing how the highest railway in the world traversing through the harsh and wild Qinghai Tibet Plateau is not the only highlight of a Qinghai Tibet Railway trip. You will also enjoy the unique charming scenery along the railway. But to enjoy the most beautiful views of Qinghai Tibet Railway, you have got to choose the right route, take the right train, choose the best season and get fully prepared. As you know, the Qinghai Tibet Railway starts from Xining to Lhasa, lasting 1,956 km (1,215 mi). There are 48 Sightseeing Station constructed, but only a few of them are open for passengers. While the trains come from different cities in China and run at different hours on the railway, which make it impossible to see all the scenery along the trip, especially during the night time. At the same time, the train companies may change the schedules sometimes. As a result, the sightseeing you can see from the window will change. With following guideline, you will get a clear idea what scenery you can see, which train should be chosen, and what season is the best.

Major Sights along Qinghai Tibet Railway

Paradise for Photographers - Qinghai Lake

About 150km away from Xining, railway passes by the near shores of the largest salt water lake in China – Qinghai Lake (altitude: 3260m). It covers a vast area of over 4,500 square kilometers. Above the lake are blue sky and pure clouds. Not very far away are stretching snow mountains. The region around the lake is home to many Tibetan Nomads, whose yaks and sheep graze near the lake. From April to July, there are innumerable numbers of migrant birds gathering at Qinghai Lake.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z223 from Chongqing (around 13:30), Z6801 from Xining (around 15:00), Z21 from Beijing (around 16:20), Z323 from Chengdu (around 13:30), Z917 from Lanzhou (around 15:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z166 to Shanghai (around 08:00), Z266 to Guangzhou (around 09:30), Z22 to Beijing (around 12:25), Z324 to Chengdu (around 14:20), Z224 to Chongqing (around 14:20)

Best Time: July to October

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
Enjoy Beautiful Qinghai Lake View from Train Window (August)

Qarhan Salt Lake - Sky Mirror

Qarhan Salt Lake is the largest salt lake in China. It stretches more than 160km from east to west, and 20~40km from south to north, and has a reposition of sodium chloride over fifty billions tons which can allow the whole earth’s population to use for a thousand years. Part of the Qinghai Tibet Railway, around 19.8 miles (32 kilometers), was built on the Qarhan Salt Lake with the salt crystals in the lake. The best view here is the pure and showy reflection of white cloud and blue sky on the lake.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z223 from Chongqing (around 19:15) , Z323 from Chengdu (around 19:15) | Train off Lhasa – Z22 to Beijing(around 06:45), Z224 to Chongqing (around 08:35), Z324 to Chengdu (around 08:35)

Best Time: May to October

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
Qinghai Tibet Railway Pass Through the Qarhan Salt Lake

Mysterious Kunlun Mountains

Keeping running 40km from Golmud Railway Station, the Tibet train will bring you into the arm of the mysterious Kunlun Mountain which was praised as “the forefather of all China Mountains”, “the Oriental Olympus” and “the holy shrine of Chinese myths”. As the rail rising up, you will find your horizon is overtaken by interminable snow mountains which dominate under bizarre clouds.

Mount Yuzhu or Jade Bead Mountain, is the highest peak in the Kunlun Mountains with an elevation of 6,178meters. It is covered by snow and glaciers all year around. Quite different other high peaks on Himalaya Range, Mount Yuzhu’s lie of mountain upraises gently like a giant and round ice-cream.

Saying goodbye to Mount Yuzhu, the train will take you drilling into the 1686 meters’ long Kunlun Mountain Tunnel which is recorded as the longest frozen-earth tunnel in the world.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 05:30) | Train off Lhasa – Z224 to Chongqing (about 07:00), Z324 to Chengdu (about 07:00)

Best Time: May to October

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
Mount Yuzhu - the Highest Peak in the Kunlun Mountains

Wild Hohxil Nature Reserve

Hohxil, in Mongolian, means “beautiful girl”. It is China’s largest and the world’s third largest unpopulated areas, also one of the best reserved of wild areas in China. Many books describe it as “the forbidden zone of life” because Hohixl is dry, cold, lack of oxygen and drinking water, and locates over 5,000 meters above sea level. While, there are many rare wild animals habiting here, such as Tibetan Antelope, yak, birds, etc.

Chumaer River originating from hundreds miles away flows to the far west on the Hohxil. Over the Chumaer River, it’s the longest rail bridge in the world – Qingshui River Bridge which is 11.7km long and specially constructed for Tibetan Antelopes and other wild animals to migrate during Spring and Summer.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 6:30) | Train off Lhasa – Z224 to Chongqing (around 6:00), Z324 to Chengdu (around 06:00)

Best Time: May to October

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
Wild Scenery of Hohxil Nature Reserve

The Host of Qinghai Tibet Plateu - Tibetan Antelope

Tibetan Antelope is famous as “the Pride of Hohxil” as well as the “Elf of Qinghai Tibet Plateau”. They mainly inhabit in Hohxil Nature Reserve. Tibet and Xinjiang also have some Tibetan Antelopes. It is one of most endangered animals in the world under China’s First-Grade State Protection. They have a good-looking appearance with bronzing hairs on the back, pale gray hairs on the belly and long hard horns. May to August is the time of migration of Tibetan Antelopes. You can see crowds of antelopes migrating to farrow.

In every June and July, the female Tibetan Antelopes from different regions in Hohxil Nature Reserve gather in masses, and migrate hundred and thousand mile to mild and fertile places such as Zhuonai Lake and Sun Lake to breed. A month later, they will return to the same way back to their habitats.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai, Z223 from Chongqing, Z323 from Chengdu | Train off Lhasa – Z224 to Chongqing , Z324 to Chengdu, Z22 to Beijing

Best Time: June to August

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
“Elf of Qinghai Tibet Plateau” - Tibetan Antelopes

Trace the Origin of Yangtze River

After passing through Fenghuoshan Tunnel (Wind-Fire Mountain Tunnel), the highest-altitude frozen-earth tunnel in the world (4905m), the train runs steady along the meadow, then get to the origin of Yangtze River – Tutuo River which is formed by numerous flowing from ancient glaciers. You will find that watercourse is very wide but water is small and shallow. In summer and autumn, Tuotuo River looks like many bright slices bars lying on the grassland. While in winter, the whole river will get frozen.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 8:00) | Train off Lhasa – No Train

Best Time: May to October

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
Tutuo River Is the Origin of Yangtze River

Dominating Tanggula Mountains

Running across the Tongtian River, the train climbs up along the mountain slowly and get to the highest-altitude railway station in the world – Tanggula Railway Station (5072). Tanggula, in Mogolian, means “a mountain that even an eagle can’t fly over”. It is true because all the mountains on the Tanggula Mountain Range are as high as over 5,000~6,000 meters. Standing on the land of Tanggula, one can’t help feeling that he can touch the blue sky and grab a float cloud. Tanggula Mountains is also the headstream of Yangtze River, Langcang River and Nu River. The sunlight shines on the bright snow and glaciers on the top of the mountain, which create a great visual contrast to the indigo and bare mountain under the snow lines.

Tanggulang Mountain divides Qinghai Tibet Plateau into two parts which have totally different eco-systems. North from Tanggula is vast dry and cold Gobi and barren land with lest plants. While south from Tanggula there are endless fertile pastures.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 10:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z918 to Lanzhou (around 17:00) , Z6802 to Xining (around 17:00)

Best Time: May to October

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
A Train Is Runnig on Tanggula Mountains

Blue Diamond - Tsonag Lake

With altitude of 4650m, Tsonag Lake is the highest freshwater lake in the world covering more than 300 square kilometers, like a blue pearl on the plateau. Train goes by the eastern side of lake, then head to Lhasa slowly. Tsonag Lake is a scared place for Tibetan. It is believed that the water in the lake can cure diseases and bring the sorrow away. Every Dragon year in Tibetan Calendar, thousands of Tibetans usually come to the lake to worship to the Buddha for a harvest new year. The lake is the source of Nu River. You can enjoy the beautiful lake view very close because the railway is just 20 meters from the lake. What’s more exciting is that you can see Tsonag Lake clearly on every train to Lhasa.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 14:00), Z6801 from Xining (around 6:00), Z917 from Lanzhou (around 6:00), Z21 from Beijing (around 7:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z918 to Lanzhou (around 13:20) , Z6802 to Xining (around 9:50), Z166 to Shanghai (around 15:50) , Z266 to Guangzhou (around 17:40)

Best Time: May to October

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
A Train Is Passing by Tsonag Lake

The Largest Pasture in Tibet - Changtang Grassland

Changtang, one of five pastures of China, is located between Kunlun Mountains, Tanggula Mountains and Kailas range, more than 4500m above of sea level, It is also the largest natural pasture in Tibet. Green grass, lakes, snow mountains, crowding sheep and yaks…all these make you feel relaxing and peaceful. During Tang Dynasty, Wenchen Princess from Tang Empire took the road on the Changtang Pasture, and got to Lhasa to marry Tibet emperor Srongtsen Gampo. Nowadays, Changtang Grassland is the most important pasture in Tibet as well as the place where many Tibetan festivals are celebrated. The most important one is the annual Nagchu Horse Racing Festival which usually is organized on August 1 of Tibetan Calendar, and last for 5~15 days when all Tibetan kids, man and woman will dress ceremoniously to attend the party here.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 15:00), Z6801 from Xining (around 7:00), Z917 from Lanzhou (around 7:00), Z21 from Beijing (around 8:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z918 to Lanzhou (around 12:20) , Z6802 to Xining (around 8:50), Z166 to Shanghai (around 12:50) , Z266 to Guangzhou (around 14:40)

Best Time: July to September

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
Changtang Grassland Is the Largest Pasture in Tibet

Natural Wonder - Yangpachen Geothermic Spring

From long distance, you will see many giant pillars of vapors rising up and gushing into the sky – these are the famous Yangpachen Geothermic Spring. In the morning, there are vast steam clouds formed, like a mantle hanging over the towns and villages. Having a bath in the spring is good for health and helps you get rid of strain, introduced by local Tibetans. From Yangpachen, there is only a 90km’s train journey to get to Lhasa.

Recommended Train: Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 17:00), Z6801 from Xining (around 9:00), Z917 from Lanzhou (around 9:00), Z21 from Beijing (around 10:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z918 to Lanzhou (around 10:20) , Z6802 to Xining (around 6:50), Z166 to Shanghai (around 10:50) , Z266 to Guangzhou (around 12:40)

Best Time: May October

Qinghai Tibet Railway Landscape
Yangpachen Geotherm

Qinghai Tibet Railway Attractions Summary Sheet

AttractionsRecommended Trains
Qinghai Lake Train to Lhasa - Z223 from Chongqing (around 13:30), Z6801 from Xining (around 15:00), Z21 from Beijing (around 16:20), Z323 from Chengdu (around 13:30), Z917 from Lanzhou (around 15:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z166 to Shanghai (around 08:00), Z266 to Guangzhou (around 09:30), Z22 to Beijing (around 12:25), Z324 to Chengdu (around 14:20), Z224 to Chongqing (around 14:20)
Qarhan Salt Lake Train to Lhasa - Z223 from Chongqing (around 19:15) , Z323 from Chengdu (around 19:15) | Train off Lhasa – Z22 to Beijing(around 06:45), Z224 to Chongqing (around 08:35), Z324 to Chengdu (around 08:35)
Kunlulm Mountain (Mount Yuzhu) Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 05:30) | Train off Lhasa – Z224 to Chongqing (about 07:00), Z324 to Chengdu (about 07:00)
Hohxil Nature Reserve Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 6:30) | Train off Lhasa – Z224 to Chongqing (around 6:00), Z324 to Chengdu (around 06:00)
Tibetan Antelope Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai, Z223 from Chongqing, Z323 from Chengdu | Train off Lhasa – Z224 to Chongqing , Z324 to Chengdu, Z22 to Beijing
Origin of Yangtze River Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 8:00) | Train off Lhasa – No Train
Tanggula Mountains Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 10:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z918 to Lanzhou (around 17:00) , Z6802 to Xining (around 17:00)
Tsonag Lake Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 14:00), Z6801 from Xining (around 6:00), Z917 from Lanzhou (around 6:00), Z21 from Beijing (around 7:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z918 to Lanzhou (around 13:20) , Z6802 to Xining (around 9:50), Z166 to Shanghai (around 15:50) , Z266 to Guangzhou (around 17:40)
Changtang Grassland Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 15:00), Z6801 from Xining (around 7:00), Z917 from Lanzhou (around 7:00), Z21 from Beijing (around 8:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z918 to Lanzhou (around 12:20) , Z6802 to Xining (around 8:50), Z166 to Shanghai (around 12:50) , Z266 to Guangzhou (around 14:40)
Yangpachen Geothermic Spring Train to Lhasa - Z164 from Shanghai (around 17:00), Z6801 from Xining (around 9:00), Z917 from Lanzhou (around 9:00), Z21 from Beijing (around 10:00) | Train off Lhasa – Z918 to Lanzhou (around 10:20) , Z6802 to Xining (around 6:50), Z166 to Shanghai (around 10:50) , Z266 to Guangzhou (around 12:40)

Train to Tibet Routes Summary

Route Length Dep. ~ Arr. Duration Schedule Soft Sleeper Attractions on Route
Beijing - Lhasa (Z21) 3753km 20:00/12:10 40h30' Daily About ¥1,144 Qinghai Lake, Tsonag Lake, Changtang Grassland...
Chengdu - Lhasa (Z322/323) 3360km 14:48~09:55 43h7' Every other day About ¥1,062 Qinghai Lake, Qarhan Salt Lake, Tibetan Antelope, Tsonga Lake...
Shanghai - Lhasa (Z164/165) 4373km 20:10~19:20 47h34' Daily About ¥1,262 Kunlun Mountain, Tuotuohe River, Hohxil, Tanggula Mountain, Tsonag Lake...
Guangzhou - Lhasa (Z264/265) 4980km 11:45~17:05 53h45' Daily About ¥1,468 Tuotuo River, Tangula Mountains, Changtang Grassland...
Chongqing - Lhasa (Z223) 3641km 15:42~09:55 42h13' Every other day About ¥1,079 Qinghai Lake, Qarhan Salt Lake, Tibetan Antelope, Tsonga Lake...
Lanzhou - Lhasa (Z917) 2188km 11:16~11:10 24h4' Every other day About ¥823 Qinghai Lake, Tsonag Lake, Changtang Grassland...
Xining - Lhasa (Z6801) 1960km 14:01~11:10 21h55' Every other day About ¥781 Qinghai Lake, Tsonag Lake, Yangpachen Geotherm...

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Check out our most popular train tour packages departing from most popular gateway cities to Tibet - Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Xining, Shanghai, etc. All packages are customizable according to your requirements. If you have more time, you can extend your trip from Lhasa to other popular destinations, such as Shigatse, Mount Everest, Nyingchi, Ngari, etc. Check more >Tibet Train Tours

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