Qinghai

This vast, barren province in northwest China is large in area but has comparatively few people. Its main touristic attraction is Qinghai Lake, the largest lake in China and home to more than 100,000 migrating birds. Close to the Silk Road, this province on the Tibetan Plateau is also home to a diverse array of ethnic groups, and was once part of the ancient Tibetan province, Ambo.

Aside from the lake, Qinghai Province has mountains, valleys of pasture land, hot springs, ruins and monasteries, as well as wildlife - some of which are protected species. The 44 ethnic groups of the region share strong religious ties and within the province are several key religious landmarks, including the sacred Tibetan mountain, Amnye Machen. Qinghai is one of the lesser-known provinces in China, and travelers who venture here are well off the mass tourism trail.

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Guide

This small town is located at the confluence of the Yangtze, Mekong and Yellow Rivers. Visitors to this Tibetan city can explore the old Qing Dynasty walls, hike the Yellow River Scenic Area and visit hot springs, a 20-minute drive out of town.

Qinghai Lake

This immense body of water covers 1,733 square miles and its name translates to "Blue Lake." Not only is it abundantly endowed with fish, it is home to Bird Island, where more than 100,000 migrating birds roost. This is the most popular tourist site in the province, and many choose to explore it via cruise. The grasslands around the lake are also a popular attraction, either for hiking or yak-rides.

Qinghai Yushu Horse Racing Festival

This popular weeklong festival is put on by Tibetan nomads, in late July and early August of each year. The festival showcases equestrian skills, including archery on horseback and of course, horse racing, alongside traditional singing and dancing performances, with participants donning elaborate costumes. Each year, over 10,000 people attend this event, with participants setting up their traditional Tibetan nomadic yak hair tents around the racecourse.

Ta'er (Kumbum) Monastery

This famous monastery is an important center for Yellow Hat Buddhist monks, covering 36 acres with 9,300 rooms and more than 50 pavilions. This immense and fascinating complex features a silver tower, a Great Hall with a striking gold roof, plus ornate gates and walls embedded with pearls and gems.

Xining

This is the capital of Qinghai Province – a former trading hub along the Silk Road and favored by domestic tourists from neighboring provinces for its dry, cool climate. Xining, which has a history of more than 2,000 years, draws tourists for its Sun and Moon Mountain and the sacred Laoye Mountain, site of annual religious festivals. The Great Mosque is another attraction in Xining, with its ornate minarets and neo-classic gateway. Food is also worth sampling in Xining – distinct from "Chinese cuisine" the city's food takes on myriad cultural influences.

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