Qinghai Province is bordered by Xinjiang in the north, Sichuan in the south, Gansu in the east and the Tibetan Autonomous Region in the west. It’s the largest province in China but you’ve perhaps never heard of it. Unless you’re a seasoned China traveler, you’ve almost certainly never visited.
We recently took a trip to Qinghai and there were so many things we loved about it that we lost count. After coming back down to earth and getting over the excitement of the journey, we wanted to share five reasons why we think every curious traveler should consider Qinghai on their next China trip.
Qinghai – Ethnic Minority Culture and Cuisine
Ethnic minority groups (including Tibetans, Hui, Tu, Mongols, and Salars) make up 46% of Qinghai’s population. On a trip to Qinghai you’ll be constantly coming across different cultures, languages, traditions and cuisines.
21% of that number are Tibetan. If you want to experience Tibetan culture without the hassle of a permit, visiting Qinghai is a great option.
Qinghai – Diverse Wildlife
Qinghai province is sparsely populated and much of the region is protected by the government as ‘areas of no people’. Here, high up on the Tibetan Plateau, wildlife thrives.
The Hoh Xil Nature Reserve, named as the largest and highest plateau in the world by UNESCO in early 2017, is one of our favorite places in Qinghai. The reserve is the official home of the Tibetan Antelope but also serves to protect 230 other rare species of animal. As you pass through Hoh Xil, you’ll cross paths with herds of antelope grazing alongside wild yaks, donkeys and horses. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot the odd wolf or even a bear!
Qinghai – Unique Landscapes
As well as having the world’s largest and highest plateau, Qinghai province is the proud location of China’s biggest lake. Located just a 2hr drive from the provincial capital of Xining, we’d highly recommend spending a summer’s day cycling by the lake’s shore.
Qinghai – Fascinating History
Qinghai has it’s fair share of classical Chinese history. According to legend, Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty (618–907) was betrothed to marry the great Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo as means of keeping peace between the two empires. The princess traveled for 3 years on horse-back from Chang’an (modern day Xi’an) to Qinghai, where she was met by the king. The princess was devoutly Buddhist and she ordered for Buddhist scriptures to be carved into every mountain they passed to ensure their safe passage. Today, in Yushu prefecture, you can still see many of these scriptures and locals often find Tang Dynasty coins in the river.