By Margaux Schreurs , eChinacities.com

Having a few days off recently, I felt it was a waste to stay in Beijing. Checking flights on multiple platforms, I quickly discovered that everywhere south (ie towards the sun and warmth) was really expensive, but that places further west (and as I was soon to discover, where there was still snow) were relatively affordable. Although way too short, three days was still enough to get out of the city, see some amazing sights, breathe some fresh air, and get a feel for Qinghai Province. Here is the itinerary I followed for those three days.

Xining – A Long Weekend in the West

Photo: topren.net

Day One: Day Trip South

Kumbum Monastery 塔尔寺

A beautiful monastery, especially as it was snowing when I got there, adding to the atmosphere. There were no other tourists around, just local travelers on pilgrimage and the monks who live there. Although be warned that guidebooks all say that this is not the case during the high season (May-August), when this monastery is apparently the most frequently visited one around Xining. Walking around, I got to witness the slapping debates, where monks stand around debating with each other, slapping their hands loudly with each point they make, and had a look inside many of the shrines. I even got to see monks putting together a sand mandala, before being kicked out of the back room of one of the shrines.

Add: 56 Jinta Lu, Xining
地址: 西宁市金塔路56号
How to get there: A bus goes from the crossing between Kunlun Zhonglu and Nan Xiaojie. It costs 3 RMB and takes about an hour. It drops you off at the bottom of a hill, and you keep walking straight to get to the main gate. The same crossing will get you a bus back to Xining.
Price: 80 RMB (or 50 RMB with a student card)
Time Needed: between 2-4 hours depending on how much you want to see

Day Two: Day Trip further Southwest

Youning Temple 佑宁寺

A solitary and quiet monastery, Youning Temple is very much out of the way. It is beautifully set on a hill, and climbing up to the separate temples and shrines is tough but worth it. The top of the mountain is at an altitude of about 3,000 meters, and the further up you go the more amazing the view gets. There are monks living there going about their normal business, and they do not mind visitors strolling around. Some of the paths are not well defined so wear trekking boots if possible. Also make sure to bring enough water, as there are no tourist facilities.

Add:  No 50 Mutual Minority County Village, Dongdi District, Xining
地址:青海省海东地区互助土族自治县威远镇五十乡寺滩村。
How to get there: get a bus to Pingan from Bayilu bus station (5 yuan and takes about one hour), and from there rent a taxi to take you to the temple and back. Do make sure the taxi waits for you, as there doesn’t seem to be another way to get out. The taxi will go for between 80 and 100 RMB return. Getting there can take about 2.5 hours in total.
Price: Free
Time Needed: between 2-4 hours depending on how much you want to see

Day Three: Around Xining Itself

Xining Great Mosque 清真大寺

One of the largest mosques in the country, the Great Mosque serves a third of Xining’s population who are Muslim. Built during the 14th century, the mosque has been restored but is still a great sight. As I visited outside of prayer time, it was extremely quiet and some of the locals were really happy to show me around. As expected, non-Muslims can’t enter the main prayer hall.

Add: 25 Dongguan Dajie, Chengdong District, Xining
地址:城东区东关大街25号
How to get there: Take Bus No. 1, 2, 5, 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 33,  to Dongshaomen station (东稍门站)and alight.
Price: 15 RMB
Opening Times: 7:00-20:00
Time Needed: 30 minutes

Qinghai Provincial Museum 青海省博物馆

The provincial museum looks huge and imposing, but inside there are only two exhibitions. It does have some interesting pottery and other historical artifacts on show, and there are some maps. However, not much is in English except the main introductions to exhibitions, and headings to each section. As it was sunny when I went, I also had a lovely time drinking tea with locals sitting at a café in the square and park front of the museum.

Add: 58 Xiguan Dajie, Xining
地址:西宁市西关大街58号
How to get there:  Bus No. 1 or 22 goes there from Dongguan Dajie (in front of the mosque)
Price: Free
Opening Times: Monday-Saturday 9:00-16:30
Time Needed: 1 hour (and a little while extra to enjoy the park outside the museum)

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Keywords: Travelling in Qinghai Province Xining Guide

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