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Nagchu Travel Guide

Perched at 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) on the edge of the Changtang Northern Plateau, Nagchu (Naqu in Mandarin) is one of Tibet's highest towns (not to mention one of the world's highest). Nagchu is also one of the coldest, most windswept cities in Tibet, a set of conditions that has deterred both visitors and agriculture.

Despite the harsh environment, Nagchu is home to nearly 70,000 people as well as hardy sheep and goats-they're the staple here, where oxygen levels are just 60% of those found at sea level. Although Nagchu does not offer many tourist attractions, the Nagchu Horse Racing Festival held in August attracts nearly 10,000 nomads who gather to show off their skills and to bargain and trade tools and supplies.

If you've acclimated sufficiently to Tibet's lower-altitude destinations and are looking to go higher and get even further away from it all, Nagchu is quite the place to find yourself.

Major Attractions

Namtso

Picture of Namtso Lake

Lake Nam-tso is the highest salt water lake in the world at 4,718 meters. It is an important place for Buddhists-filled with wonderful myths about resident deities and fantastical lake creatures (sheep-fish). For non-religious pilgrims the lake is a place of mystical beauty with a stunning turquoise color and surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Most visitors-who come by foot or vehicle from Lhasa-come to camp for a few days (fixed accommodations are limited).

Besides physical beauty, cultural attractions to the lake include resident monks at Tashi Dor Monastery, located on a peninsula jutting into the lake, local nomads in tents described as "spider-like" and the religious pilgrims, whose treks around the lake have led to a religiously worn path in the dirt.

If you come from Lhasa or other "low-lying" areas, give yourself a few days to adjust to the altitude before heading up another 1,100 meters to Lake Nam-tso.

Nyenchen Tanglha Mountain Range

Picture of Nyenchen Tanglha Moutain Range

The Nyenchen Tanglha mountain range is a massive glacier-clad stretch of peaks that crosses roughly the middle of Tibet. Its centerpiece is its eponymous peak, reaching over 7,000 meters above Lake Tam-tso, which in clear weather proves itself a lovely mirror for the mountain.

Nyenchen Tanglha is one of the holiest mountains in Tibet, referred to as "Holy Mountain" with its "Sacred Lake" spouse, Namtso. They really make a striking couple--one of Tibet's finest visual spectacles. There are great views of the peak from all around the plateau, particularly around the lake.

Trekking up into the range is also possible for the adventurous visitor. Nearby is the world's highest railway station: Tanglha Station at 5,067 meters is worth visiting and photographing if you are a collector of superlatives.

Nagchu Horse Racing Festival

Picture of Nagchu Horse Racing Festival

Nagchu Horse Racing Festival or called Qangtang Horse Racing Festival is held at the vast Chongqenkuadu Pasture to the north of Naqu Town in the 8th month of the Tibetan calendar. For the convenience of the tourists, the festival has been fixed on Aug. 10 of the Gregorian calendar every year.

During the one week horse racing festival, other kinds of sports activities will be held too such as tug of war, carrying rocks, shooting and yak racing.

This is also the special season that the young guys and girls fall in love. While enjoying the Guozhuang, Tibetan Bonfire Dance, they will also look for their ideal mates. If the two feel good, they will find a calm place aloof from the crowd to pour their heart out to each other.

Xiangxiong Kingdom

Picture of Xiangxiong Kingdom

The Xiangxiong Kingdom was an important early civilization in Tibet (their kingdom actually extended into what is now much of Western China to the east and into Kashmir to the west). The Xiangxiong flourished on the high plateau, where they not only herded animals but also developed their own written language and the Bon religion.

They disappeared sometime in the eighth century after hundreds of years of regional rule. History has them defeated by the Tubo Kingdom, but the culture and bloodline of the Xiangxiong are unaccounted for in Tibet's history, shrouding their disappearance in mystery. Their Bon religion was partly replaced and partly integrated into Buddhism when it was introduced to Tibet in the 7th century.They left a few clues, however.

In fact there seems to be a trail of artifacts across the Tibetan Plateau from the Xiangxiong Kingdom, but two sites draw particular attention. The kingdom's capital appears to be in Zhada, or Zanda, County in Western Tibet. Great relics remain around the site, but it is a remote and difficult place to get to. Other ruins are found near Qongzon in the Nagchu region.

The remains of an ancient temple and cave-dwellings dug into the mountains can be visited not far off the Qinghai-Tibet railway. Nearby Tangra Yumco Lake (Tsangyang Gyatso Lake) is said to be the holiest lake of the Bon religion.

Qangtang Grassland

Picture of Qangtang Grassland

Qiangtang/Qangtang means "northern highland", refers to the north Tibetan plateau. Located in among kunlung mountains, Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains and Ganddis mountains,its land area covers 2/3 of the whole Tibet. It's total area is over 600 thousand square kilometers averaging about 4,000 meters above sea level.

Cold, Windy and snowy for 8-9 months in a year and frozen land can be seen everywhere. An old folk song sings: "Mysterious Qangtang, So wild, So desolate, First Time to See; Mysterious Qangtang, Becomes So Lovely, Like My Hometown, To Know More."

The north of Qangtang Plateau could be called No Man's Land, thus ideal living area of rare animals such as Wild yaks,Bharals,Tibetan wild donkeys,White-lipped deer etc. It's also the main base for animal husbandry, having a large range of pasture land and grass of high quality. The famous "plateau boat" Yak and Tibetan antelope just live in this area.

In Qangtang Nature Reserve, there are vast prairies and glaciers, numerous mountains and lakes, hot springs, terrestrial heats. The golden season is the period from June to September, during which the temperature can reach 7-12 °C and the north of Tibetan plateau will take on a spectacular view before you with gentle wind, mild sunshine, lush grazing and large number of cattles and sheep.

How to Get in?

By road

One way from Lhasa to Namtso is 300km around. Will cost you 6hrs around to arrive. The hardest part is the road between Damxung and Namtso which will cost you more than 1 hour although the distance is less than 40km.

Best Time to Come to Travel Nagchu

From May to September, Nagqu is relatively warm and enjoys good weather. The annual growing season lasts for 100 days, and during this period the area receives 80 percent of its annual precipitation. At this time the grasslands are emerald and grazed by flocks of sheep.

Nagqu falls within the sub-frigid zone and experiences extreme cold, a scarcity of oxygen, dry air and storms. There are no absolutely frost-free periods. Nagqu has an annual average temperature of -3.3 °C to -0.9 °C, an annual relative humidity of 48-51 percent, an annual precipitation of 380mm.The sunshine time is 2,852.6-2,881.7 hours each year. From November to March the air is dry, the temperature low. The area is exposed to violent sandstorm.



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