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Qinghai Lake: More than Birds' Paradise

Due to its enchanting natural beauty, rich Buddhism culture and excellent ecological environment, Qinghai Lake was honored as the most beautiful lake by China National Geography Magazine in 2006. You can watch the most splendid bird clusters, see the most magnificent cole flowers and join in various activities here such as Tour of Qinghai Lake, hiking and camping.

qinghai lake

 Qinghai Lake, one of the Top Four Holy Lakes and the most beautiful lake in China



Located in Qinghai Province, Qinghai Lake (also known as Blue Lake) is the largest inner land lake and the biggest salt lake in China. According to the statistics issued by Qinghai Institute of Meteorological Science, it keeps expanding during the past eight years. With an altitude of 3260 meters, it is an ideal summer resort with average temperature of 15℃ in August. Scenery here is spectacular. Together with Lake Yamdrok, Lake Manasaronar and Namtso, they are famed as the Top Four Holy Lakes in China.

Four soaring mountains with elevation ranging from 3600m to 5000m embrace Qinghai Lake and a vast grassland flows between them. Stretching 109km long and 67km wide in the broadest point, Qinghai Lake looks like a giant poplar leave covering an area of 4340km2. With circumference of 360km and average depth of 19m, this lake reaches 32.8m in the deepest point. Five lakes sit within it and are home to 163 kinds of birds. Among over 50 rivers instill into it, 5 are relatively bigger.

Qinghai Lake is adorned as the holy lake by the Tibetans and has exerted strong influence on Chinese history and culture. During Han dynasty(220BC-220AD), it was honored as the West Sea. In Tang dynasty(618-907), it was titled as King Guangrun. In Qing dynasty(1636-1911), the “Water God” of this lake was titled as the “Omnipotent Qinghai God”. After quelled the rebellion of one minority group, the Qing government set up the worship ritual of Qinghai Lake aiming to strengthen the bond between them.
With distinctive scenery in four seasons, Qinghai Lake is especially attractive during summer and autumn: the vast and lush grassland will be dotted with flocks of livestock, just like colorful pears scatter along a thick green blanket. The wheat dance in the wind likes waves and over 400 km2 cole flowers sparkle and flow into the horizon. When winter comes, this lake will wear white attire and fall into a long sleep. It will shine under the sunshine like a giant magical mirror. This lake falls into five scenic areas: Niaodao, Shadao, Jinsha Bay, Fairy Bay and Erlang Sword Scenic Area. Besides, it has been enlisted into the key wetland sites in the world.
qinghai lake

 Qinghai Lake's water color changes constantly

Main Scenic Sites of Qinghai Lake

Menyuan County Cole Flower: Menyuan County is located in the northeast part of Qinghai. It belongs to basin terrain surrounded by high mountains. The northwest is higher than the southeast area and the middle area is the lowest. Abundant in sunshine and rain fall, Menyuan County boasts 400km2 cole flower, the biggest one in China. Haomen County floats among the ocean of cole flowers like a lonely island. Two places are good for shooting the pictures: one is in the Yuanshan Flowers Platform(元山观花台) or in the Nanshan Mountain which sits opposite of a cement factory in Qingshizui Town, you can overlook the cole flowers, the Lenglong Ridge and Gangshika Snow Mountain here. The photos you take here features background of four seasons. The other site is Xianmilin Area(仙米林区). The scenery here is composed of virgin forest and Xianmi Valley. Various palettes clash into each other, bringing out superb vision impact. The clusters of cole flowers are not so tall, one can lie down or sit within them to shoot nice photos.
cole flowers in qinghai lake

 Menyuan County has the biggest Cole Flower Field in China: 400km2

Niao Dao Island(Bird Island), the most important one among the Top Eight Bird Protection Zones, sits at the north mouth of Buha River. Niaodao is famous for over ten thousands of birds. The west island of Naiodao is call Haixi Mountain (also known as Egg island), the east island of Niaodao is named Haixipi. This tadpole-shaped island is 1500m long. From March to April each year, migrate birds include gulls, cranes, ducks and wild goose will fly here from south. From May to June, this island will be densely covered with eggs. A number of 165000 birds with over 30 categories gather here at this time. The newly hatched birds will chirp merrily, and their singing can be heard several miles away. During July to August, the birds will fly in the sky and fishing on the water. Since September, they will head south.
 qinghai lakeqinghai lake bird island 

 Niaodao ( Bird Island)

 Cormorants on Bird Island

 qinghai lake bird island qinghai lake bird island

 Brown-Headed Gull on Bird Island

 Cormorants hatching their eggs

Haixi Mountain Island ( also known as Egg island), the west island of Naiodao, resembles the cameral peaks with area of only 0.11 km2 initially, now it emerges above the water surface due to the decline of water level.  7.6 m above water surface, it is home to over 90000 birds now. This island boasts lush vegetation and is the kingdom of cormorants. During Spring, Bar-headed Geese, Brown-headed Gulls and fish gulls will occupy this island. The numerous eggs will spare no room for your foot. When speaking of Niaodao ( Bird Island) or Egg Island, it refers to here.

Haixin MountainIsland ( Sea Heart Mountain): located at the center of this lake, this island measures 2.3km long and 0.8m wide, covering an area of 1.14 km2. The highest altitude of this island is 3266m. This rocky island with 50%vegetation coverage shelters temples. You can see the frescos and Buddha statues inside.

Sha Dao Island ( Sand Island): located at the northeast part of this lake, Sha Dao is 13km long and 2.8km wide at the broadest part. With an area of 18km2, it is the largest island. This new moon-shaped island keeps expanding, and now it has become a peninsula already. Various entertainments such as ride motor cycle or SUV on sand land and yacht tour are really interesting. Each July, the International Sand Sculpture Festival will be held here which features grand scale and rich content. You can ride the camels or horses to appreciate the sand sculptures here or live in the folk custom villages, tasting the Tibetan cuisine as well as watching the ethnic dance and songs.

Three Stones Island: this island sits at the south west point of this lake and is composed of seven rocks. Measuring 17m in height, this island covering an area of 0.056 km2. It is 20km from Niaodao and Haixin Mountain. This stony and tiny island is almost bare, with vegetation coverage of less than 5%.

There are over 160000 birds of 163 species live in Qinghai Lake: 21300 Bar Head Geese, 45000 Brown-headed Gulls, 87400 Fish Gulls and 11200 cormorants. Besides, you can also see swans, black neck cranes, and various ducks here. Gymnocypris przewalskii: one of the top five famous fish in China, thrives here. The annual output of it is 5165 tons. Since 1964, this fish has been protected.
qinghai lake grusqinghai lake anser

Qinghai Lake Grus

Qinghai Lake Anser

 qinghai lake bird island qinghai lake crane

 Anser Indicus

Qinghai Lake Crane

 brown headed gull Qinghai Lake Demoiselle Crane

Brown Headed Gull

  Demoiselle Crane

 qinghai lake cormorants qinghai lake fish gull

 Qinghai Lake Cormorants

 Fish Gull

 qinghai lake swans qinghai lake golden eagle

 Winer is best time to see Swan here

 Golden Eagle

 qinghai lake northern pintail qinghai lake tufted duck

 Northern Pintail

 Tufted Duck


Qinghai Folk Song Festival “Hua’er”: Each May to June (lunar calendar), this festival will be held in Hehuang Area, East of Qinghai Province. “Hua’er” is folk love music with simple, straight and passionate lyrics. People will dress up during this festival, singing the songs to their lovers.
Qinghai Menyuan Cole Festival: Each July, Qinghai Menyuan Cole Festival will take place. Among all the cole flowers scenic sites such as Wuyuan in Jiangxi Province, Qinghai Lake’s cole flower is most magnificent. Covering an area of over 400km2, this natural wonder is especially striking against the blue sky and enchanting Qinghai Lake.

Qinghai Yushu Ethnic Horse Racing Festival: This festival takes place from July 25 to August 1. The Tibetans will put on colorful clothes and camp on the grassland. Festivities include horse racing, Yak racing, Tibetan style wrestling, archery, equestrian, shooting, ethic singing and dancing as well as Tibetan fashion show will be launched.
Qinghai Lake International Cycling Contest: Each July to August, the Tour of Qinghai Lake will take place. This contest is authorized by International Cycling Union. The grade of the Qinghai Lake Bike Contest is 2.HC, it is a top sport event in Asia and also an international cycle content held in the highest altitude. This contest has been launched since 2002 and has attracted over 100 participants from worldwide each year. The winner can be awarded with 25000 US dollars. (English Website:

Admission Fee
Qinghai Lake: 100RMB during the peak season (April 15 to October 15), 50RMB during the off season.
Boat: 45RMB. Notice: it is not available during winter.
Niaodao Island: 115RMB     Shadao Island: 70 RMB


Flight: There is no direct flight to Qinghai Lake

Long distance Bus: The highway in Qinghai Lake is very good. Qinghai Lake is 80km away from Xining (4 hours’ drive). From Xining and Taermu, there are several long distance buses head to Qinghai Lake every day. You can take the long distance bus in Xining Long Distance Bus Station (south of the rail station) at 7:45am, and get off in Niaodao, the charge is only 35RMB. Then, you can rent a car heading to Niao Dao (Bird Island), the cost will be 50 RMB per car.

Train: Shanghai to Xining (Capital city of Qinghai). You can take the train T165 or K377, it will take 24 hours. Beijing to Xining: you can take train T151, and you will reach Xining in 24 hours. T27 from Beijing to Lhasa will cost 20 hours. Zhenzhou to Xining: you can take K889 which will leave at 2:15 pm and arrive in Xining in 8:12am the next morning. Chengdu to Xining: T22 or K1058: they will take 20 hours and 24 hours respectively.

Best Travel Season: During May to June, Qinghai Lake’s Niaodao (Bird Island) is densely distributed with bird eggs and newly hatched birds. This is the best period to watch the birds. During July to August,it is best time to see the cole blossoms in Menyuan County near Qinghai Lake, taverage temperature of this period is 18℃. Besides, you can see the Tour of Qinghai Lake Event during this period.
qinghai lake cole flowers

 July to August is best time to see the cole blossoms in Menyuan County near Qinghai Lake

Weather: the east and south area of this lake is relatively warmer, with annual temperature of 1.1~0.3℃, while the west and north area with annual average temperature of -0.8~0.6℃, is colder. The rainy season starts from May to September.

Wind: From February to April, strong wind will visit Qinghai Lake constantly after middle noon or during the dusk. Averagely, there are 14 sandstorm days per year. The ultimate gale speed in Niaodao can reach 9 to 10 level. The wind speed is higher during winter and spring, while in summer and autumn, it is relatively mild.

Water Temperature: the water temperature here varies with seasons, ranging from -0.9℃ in January to 22.3℃ in August. (Due to the gale, in January, the temperature above water is -0.9℃, while under the ice is 3.3℃. )

Ice: Since the middle of November, Qinghai Lake will freeze. During January, the coldest month in the year, it will form a stable and complete ice layer. The average ice period of this lake is from 108 days to 116 days. The thickness of ice here ranges from 40cm to 90cm. Due to the gale, the ice layer will crackle. Visit this lake in winter is not a bad idea as long as you are well-prepared. You can see the gorgeous scenery transformed by the ice. In March, the glaciers will float to bank of this lake. After middle of April, all the ice will melt completely.

Tour around this lake, you will pass main scenic sites include Riyue Mountain( Sun and Moon Mountain), Daotang River, Huli Mugou Rock Fresco, Xiangpi Mountain, Chakayan Lake, Chaka Temple, Fuai Ancient City, Haixin Mountain, Beixiangyang Ancient Town, Shepuji Rock Painting, Jinyintan Grasssland, Yuanzicheng Xihai Town and the Delta Area of Xihai Town.

Dos and DONTs
If you are heading to Qinghai Lake with small team, you had better join the travel agent, if your team has ten or more members, then you can rent a car to tour this lake, it will cost 1000RMB;
Many places are enclosed with fences, be careful not to venture into them, for the Tibetan mastiff is very fierce;
The inhabitants near Qinghai Lake are Mongolians, Tibetans and Hui minority, thus respect their customs;
Bring the sun scream;
Do not touch the local specialties if you did not plan to buy, for the vendors there do not have good temper;
Bring enough clothes, for though in August, temperature can be low during night;
Do not stay alone after dark, the wolf may appear unexpectedly. You have to camp before 8:30pm;
Do not wonder along on the grassland, for this lake is a wetland, lots of swamps everywhere;
Do not swim in the lake. Qinghai Lake is the holy lake in the eye of the Tibetans, besides, the water is cool in summer and chilly during winter, you will catch cold if do so;
Do not litter in Qinghai Lake, not even in the towns or villages nearby, for there is no effective way to handle those rubbish. They are usually piled up in open place. Thus, you are advised to bring them back to Xining;
Be aware of those dogs;
Wear waterproof shoes. For the bank of this lake is wet. Put on sunglasses and wear sun scream.
Qinghai boasts many specialties such as furs, herbs and handicrafts. Taer Temple's butter sculpture is very famous, which  must be made under extreme low temperature, for even the warmth of hand can melt them. Many sculptors’ hands go handicapped after engraving too many sculptures, but they have no regret, deeming it as a contribution to Buddha. The content of these sculptures spanning from daily items of human to the world of Buddha. Each January 15 (lunar calendar), Taer Temple will stage a grand Butter Sculpture Show which is favored by tourists worldwide.

tibet taer temple butter sculptureqinghai carpet 
 Butter Sculpture: together with fresco and embroidery, they are honored as Top Three Art Treasures in Taer Temple. Qinghai carpet: this famous handicraft boasts ancient history, it is renowned for good quality, various types, high durability and excellent flexibility. The longer time you use, the more radiant they are.
 chinese caterpillar fungus sika deer
 Chinese Caterpillar Fungus: It is a rare specialty of Qinghai Province. Together with Ginseng and Sika Deer, there are famed as Top Three Nourishments. Sika Deer: It is the traditional export items in Qinghai Province. Spliting into two kinds, it can strengthen our heart and body.
 qinghai lake solanum muricatum xining rhubarb
 Solanum Muricatum: Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, this fruit has many species and is good for longevity. Xining Rhubarb is famous for its high quality and output. This herb is good for spleen and stomach as well as can lower the blood pressure.
Author: Sophia   Posted on Aug5, 2013
Yuanyang Travel Tips
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