Qinghai-Tibet Highway (Xining-Golmud-Lhasa, Dec.25 1954-Now)
Introduction to Qinghai Tibet highway:
Qinghai-Tibet highway, one of the highest highways in the world, starts from Xining, the capitla city of Qinghai Province, China. The highway crosses four mountains which were named Kunlun Mountain (4,700 meters-15453ft), Fenghuo Mountain (4,800 meters-15748ft), Tangula Mountain ( 5,231 meters,ie 17162ft at the mountain pass), and Nyainqentanglha Mountain. It spans three rivers, Tongtian River, Tuotuo River and Chuma’er River, averaging 4,500 meters. The Tibetan part of the highway is 544 km, and traverses the Changtang Plain in the north, and converges with the Sichuan-Tibet Highway in Lhasa.
The highway was first built in 1950 to support the Chinese People’s Liberation Army when they marched into Tibet peacefully, and was open on December 25, 1954.
Qinghai-Tibet Highway is 1,160-km (720 miles) long, and is the main state secondary road, with the roadbed being 10-meter wide, and an incline of less than 7%. The speed limit of drive is 60 km per hour.
If the tourists choose to enter Tibet by way of Qinghai, they can first take bus from Xining to Golmud, where they adapt themselves to the plateau climate and then starts for Tibet. Most of the vehicles start from Golmud for Tibet. There are several regular buses shuttling between Golmud and Lhasa. But if you want to look around the plateau, you’d better rent a vehicle for the travel.
Highway Lhasa to Golmud 1163km
Lhasa to Yangbajain-87km
Yangbajain to Damxung 75km
Damxung to Nagchu 164km
Nagchu to Amdo 138km
Amdo to Tanggula Mountain Pass 89km
Tangula Mountain to Yanshiping 100km
Yanshiping to Tuotuo Riverside 91km
Tuotuo Riverside to Wudaoliang 150km
Wudaoliang to Golmud 269km
Scenic tour places along the way
Golmud is a county-level city in Qinghai Province, Western China. Administrated by Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, it is the second largest city in Qinghai and the third largest in the Tibetan Plateau (after Xining and Lhasa). The population is now about 205,700. The name of the city derives from Mongolian, and its literal meaning in the local Western Mongolian is "Rivers". Golmud is not famous for the tour resources, but it is a transfer station for the tourists to go into and out of the city of Lhasa, Tibet.
Kunlun Mountain pass
Kunlun Mountain Pass is located in the middle section of Kunlun Mountain, about 160 km. (100 mi.) south of Golmud City . It is the only route to Tibet from Qinghai and Gansu provinces.
At an average altitude of 5500 to 6,000 m (or 18,045 to 19,685 ft), Kunlun Mountain starts on Pamirs Plateau in the west, extending 2,500 km (1553 mi). Honored as the 'ancestor of all mountains' since ancient times, the mountain is the bed of Taoism and Chinese folklore. The well-known stories such as 'Chang' Flying to the Moon', 'Journey to the West' and 'The White Snake' are all related to the mountain. It is said that the mountain is the home of all deities, led by Queen Mother of the West (Empress of Heaven), while the 'Heavenly Pool' finds its origin in the Black Sea on the northern mountainside. Its two most famous main peaks - Yuzhu Peak and Yuxu Peak, not far from the mountain pass, are said to be the avatar of two sisters of Jade Emperor (Emperor of Heaven), both of them rising more than 6,000 m. (19,685 ft.) above the sea level, and thus capped with snow all year round. As such, they are often chosen as the holy lands for cultivation and worship, near and far.
Kunlun Mountain Pass is about 4,767 m (15,640 ft) high above the sea level, with peculiar icy hills. Miraculously, although the icy earth are frozen throughout the year, green grasses are covered on the surface, where are blooming with various wild flowers in the summer. At the pass stands landmark of the pass and two memorial monuments, one for the mountain pass while the other for Jisang Suonandajie, a Tibetan who dedicated his life to the protection of wild animals in Hoh Xil.
The Tuotuo River, the source of the Yangtze River, originates from the glaciers of the Jianggendiru Snow Mountains located at the southwestern side of the highest Geladandong Peak in the Tanggula Mountain Range. The altitude of the end of the glaciers is nearly 5,500 meters. There are many huge snow mountains, including 20 snow-covered peaks whose altitudes are more than 6,000 meters. The permanent snow line is up to 5,800 meters, and there are 40 modern glaciers on those peaks. The cloud-kissing mountains covered with ice and snow and the clear and bright glaciers are the headwaters of the Yangtze River. The Yangtze River flows eastward via Qinghai Province, the Tibet Autonomous Region, Sichuan Province, Yunnan Province, Hubei Province, Hunan Province, Jiangxi Province, Jiangsu Province and Shanghai City before emptying into the East China Sea. The total length of the Yangtze River is 6,380 kilometers, and it is the third largest river in the world.
The Tangula Mountain pass
The Tanggu La or Tanggu Pass is a wide mountain pass over 5000 meters elevation in the People's Republic of China used by the Qinghai–Tibet Highway and Qinghai–Tibet Railway to cross the Tanggula Mountains. These mountains form part of the watershed separating the Yangtze River to the north and a zone of endorheic basins with internal drainage to the south. They also separate Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province.
Nagqu County is a county within the Nagchu Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, western People's Republic of China. The name of the county in the Tibetan language means "black river"
Located in the northern part of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Nagqu County ranges in latitude from 30° 31' to 31° 55' N and in longitude from 91° 12' to 93° 02' E. Bordering counties within Nagqu Prefecture are Lhari to the southeast, Biru to the east, Nyainrong to the northeast, Amdo to the northwest, and Baingoin to the west, while Lhasa City, the regional capital, is to the south.
With an elevation of around 4,500 metres (14,800 ft), Nagqu has a harsh, alpine climate (Köppen EH), with long, very cold and dry winters, and short, cool summers. In winter, temperatures frequently drop below −20 °C (−4 °F) at night and in summer typically rise to 16 °C (61 °F) during the day. Monthly daily mean temperatures range from −12.6 °C (9.3 °F) in January to 9.0 °C (48.2 °F) in July, and the annual mean is only −1.17 °C (29.9 °F). From June to September, a majority of the days receives some precipitation, and over 80% of the annual precipitation is delivered.
Damxung County is located in the middle of the Tibet Autonomous Region and by the side of the Lhamo Namco Holy Lake. It covers an area of 10,036 square kilometres with a population of 38,473 (1999).
Damxung County is at the area of Gangdise and Nyainqêntanglha Mountains. The Nyainqentanglha range crosses through the whole county.
The biggest lake in Tibet - Lhamo Nam Co is in Damxung County. The lake covers an area of 1920 square kilometres. It's a famous tourism attraction of Tibet.
How to get there
There are daily buses between Golmud city and Lhasa city.
Best time for tourists
Even through it is accessible all year around, it is suggested to take the overland tour from May to early October for tourists to avoid the icy road. Generally speaking from Middle October to middle of April, there are some places with black ice and it maybe not so safe to drive if you do not take good 4WD.