Train Journey across the Roof of the World
You may dream about visiting Tibet after hearing about the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate “The 14th Dalai Lama” and watching the famous 1997 film “Seven years in Tibet” starred Brad Pitt. In the past, it was not easy to reach this fascinating destination due to its high altitude and mountainous landscape. Tibet is the highest region on Earth. You can easily read Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region located at 3,490 meters above sea level, by flying into Lhasa Gonggar Airport. However, there is an alternative to reach Tibet from China with much more impressive experience.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway, which is the highest railway in the world, allows you to travel from Xining, the capital of the Qinghai Province of China to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. After the last part of the route was inaugurated in 2006, this mysterious area of the world has become much more popular with significantly increase in the number of visitors and economy in the area. During your 1,956 km journey on the train at an average altitude of 4,000 meters above the sea, you can see breathtaking sceneries of snow-capped mountains, unspoiled lakes, small villages, wild animals, and montane grasslands. Many of these areas were unreachable in the past.
As of now, there are 45 stations along the way. Some of these stations are equipped with sightseeing platforms, so the passengers can get off the train to admire the unique nature wonder. The highest elevation is at Tanggula railway station at 5,068 meters above the sea which is the world’s highest railway station and also the longest on a plateau. The construction of the railway was designed with the delicate ecosystem of these areas in mind. There are wildlife crossing railway bridges along the railways to support yaks, Tibetan antelopes, and other animal migration.
The Qinghai-Tibet train is divided into many classes. The most comfortable class is the soft sleeper with 4 bunk beds per bed and lockable door. The hard sleeper class has 6 bunks instead of 4 without door or window blind, just curtains. The bedding in hard sleeper class is also less comfortable. The cheapest class is called hard seat. However, the hard seats in Qinghai-Tibet train are larger than those of the normal trains in China. You can also start your journey from other big cities like Shanghai or Chengdu which will pass Xining and continue on the Qinghai-Tibet railway. During your journey, you might experience altitude sickness due to 35% to 40% lower partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude comparing to those at sea level. You can use oxygen provided onboard, or consult your doctor for some medicine to help alleviate the symptom.
Once you arrive in the Holy Land of Lhasa, you can visit many interesting attractions in the sacred Buddhist mountain town. Upon arriving, you will notice Potala Palace roaming above the city. It is the most famous monastery-fortress and was the residence of the Dalai Lama. Apart from that, you can visit Drepung Monastery which is the largest monastery in Tibet located on the Gambo Utse Mountain in the suburb of Lhasa. Other great monasteries worth visiting are Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery. Within the city, you can visit Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Norbulingka Institute, and Tibet Museum.