Skip to content
Site Tools
Increase font size Decrease font size Default font size default color blue color green color
Travel in Qinghai


Golmud (gé ěr mù 格尔木), sometimes transliterated as Ge'ermu or Geermu, is a county-level city in Qinghai Province, Western China. Administrated by Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, it is the second largest city in Qinghai and the third largest in the Tibetan Plateau. The population is now about 205,700. The name of the city derives from Mongolian, and its literal meaning in the local Western Mongolian is "Rivers".


XiningGolmud covers a total area of 124,500 square kilometers. This includes an urban area of 72 square kilometers. Golmud is located in the central-south part of the Qaidam Basin (chái dá mù pén dì 柴达木盆地) with an elevation of 2,809 meters. Around the city there are more than 20 salt lakes of various sizes.

A large part of the county-level city of Golmud forms an exclave, separated from the rest of the county by the western "panhandle" of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (yù shù zàng zú zì zhì zhōu 玉树藏族自治州). Administratively, the exclave forms the so-called Tanggula Town (táng gǔ lā shān zhèn 唐古拉山镇).

Golmud is a fairly easy town to navigate as its streets are laid out in a grid pattern. Any travel done beyond the city requires a Alien Travel Permit which can be gotten in minutes for CNY50 at the PSB. Note that no tickets, train or bus, can be bought without a permit.


Golmud has a plateau continental climate, with long, cold winters, and cool summers. The mean monthly temperature drops to 9.1 °C (15.6 °F) in January and rises to 17.9 °C (64 °F) in July, averaging 5.28 °C (41.5 °F) for the year. Precipitation is very low, totalling only 42 millimetres (1.65 in) per annum, falling on 28 days, most of which are during the summer. Relative humidity averages only 32%, and due to this aridity, the area is one of the sunniest in China, with nearly 3100 hours of sunshine per year. The difference in temperature between day and night is big.


Qarhan Salt Lake

Qarhan Salt LakeQarhan Salt Lake (chá ěr hàn yán hú 察尔汗盐湖) , located in the salt marshes of the Qaidam Basin near the Mongol-Tibetan prefecture city of Haixi (hǎi xī méng gǔ zàng zú zì zhì zhōu 西蒙古藏族自治州) in the northeastern part of Qinghai Province (qīng hǎi shěng 青海省), is the largest salt lake belonging to the Qaidam Basin, sometimes called China's Salt Lake City. Qarhan Salt Lake is also the country's largest salt lake and, in fact, is one of the most famous inland salt lakes in the world. Although the Qaidam Basin is a low-lying marsh, it is situated on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (qīng zàng gāo yuán 青藏高原) at an altitude of 2670 meters. The lake, oriented on an east-west axis, is 160 kilometers in length and varies in width from 20-40 kilometers, while the lake's depth varies from 20 meters to a mere 2 meters.

Qarhan Salt LakeThe area around Qarhan Salt Lake produces so-called pearl salt, a product dubbed the "King of Salt Lake", a pure salt that is as white as driven snow, and glitters like jade. The 32 kilometers (20 miles) long 'Wan Zhang Salt Bridge' is the most famous attraction of the lake. 

Location: About 60 kilometers north of Golmud
Transportation: Tourists can rent cars to get to the lake along the No. 215 National Highway.
Recommended Golden Season: From April to October
Opening Hours: 9:00am—18:00pm
Admission Fee: CNY100
Travel Tips: The sunlight of Qarhan Salt Lake is very strong. Tourists had better protect themselves from the sunburn.

Kunlun Mountains

Kunlun MountainsKunlun Mountain (Kūnlún Shān 昆仑山) is 1,200 kilometers long, 60 to120 kilometers wide and 5,500 meters on the average above see level. The altitude of the highest peak reaches 6,860 meters. The mountains inside Qinghai all belong to the Kunlun Mountain Range, which used to be respected as the origin of all mountains or the mountain of dragon in ancient times. Many fairy tales have something to do with Kunlun Mountain, such as Chang'e (the goddess of the moon), Xi You Ji (Pilgrim to the West), and Bai She Zhuan (Legend of the White Snake).

Kunlun MountainsThe Kunlun Mountains run through the whole area of Qinghai Province. As the cradle of Chinese mythology the mountains are known as the "Ancestor of the Dragon Range", "Dragon Mountain" and "Most Sacred Mountain in China". The mountain range was designated as a national AAAA scenic zone in 2001. Four of the peaks of the Kunlun Mountains are more than 7,000 meters above sea level and 26 of them are more than 6,000 meters above sea level. Spots of interests include Kunlun Mountain Pass, Divine Spring in Kunlun, One-Step Heavenly Bridge, Snow in High Summer in Kunlun and the site of a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in the Kunlun Mountains. The Kunlun Pass on the watershed of the Eastern Kunlun and the Western Kunlun at an altitude of 4,767 meters is an excellent spot to watch the scenery in the Kulun Mountains. The Qinghai-Tibet Highway and the Qinghai-Tibet Railway pass through this place.

Location: The Kunlun Mountains (Kūnlún Shān 昆仑山) extends more than 3,000 km. In the broadest sense, it forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau (qīng zàng gāo yuán 青藏高原) south of the Tarim Basin (tǎ lǐ mù pén dì 塔里木盆地) and the Gansu Corridor (hé xī zǒu láng 河西走廊) and continues east south of the Wei River (wèi hé 渭河) to end at the North China Plain (huá běi píng yuán 华北平原).
Tel: 0971—6122987
Transportation: Take a taxi in Golmud to Kunlun Mountain Pass at the cost of about CNY250
Opening Hours: The whole day
Admission Fee: Free
Travel Tips: The air is thin on the top of Kunlun Mountain because of its high altitudes. Plateau response drugs are necessary for the emergency.

Tuotuo River

Tuotuo River Tibetans call Tuotuo River (tuó tuó hé  沱沱河) the Ma'erqu, which means 'red river'. As the source of the Yangtze River, it originates from the glacier clusters southwest of the main peak of Tanggula Mountain - Geladandong Snow Mountains, made up of 21 snow mountains averaging about 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) above sea level. The main peak of Geladandong is about 6,621 meters (21,722 feet) above sea level with about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from south to north and about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from east to west. About 670 square kilometers (259 square miles) are covered by snow. In the valleys among the mountains, there are 104 glaciers that come into being in the contemporary time. They melt under the sufficient sunlight and become the source of Tuotuo River. The Yangtze River flows eastward via Qinghai Province.

Location: In the Southwest of Qinghai Province
Tel: 400-0003400
Transportation: Visitors can take train No. N917 / N918 to Tuotuo River Railway Station; the train travels between Xining and Lhasa.
Recommended Golden Season: July & Mid-August
Admission Fee: Free
Travel Tips: 1) The altitude of Tuotuo River is 4,500 meters (14,764 feet), so visitors may suffer from serious altitude sickness, therefore, visitors are suggested to finish their tours in Tuotuo River within one day; 2) The sunshine is very strong, so please take suntan lotion, sunglasses and a hat.

Food & Specialty

Golmud has, considering its remote location, a good selection of restaurants. The food served throughout the town is a mixed selection of simple local food, and the cuisine of nearby provinces, including Tibet, Sichuan and Xinjiang.

Chrysanthemum CarpThe Sichuan Food in town is of particular note, and two of the restaurants here serve tasty spicy food that will warm stomachs on even the coldest of Golmud nights. The locals have since ancient times relied upon native food materials that can be found in most areas. These most famously include the Chinese Caterpillar Fungus (dōng chóng xià cǎo 冬虫夏草), Chrysanthemum Carp (jú huā lǐ yú 菊花鲤鱼), Flagelliform Nostoc (fā cài 发菜), and various forms of local Mushroom.

Famous Local Dishes

Gold-fish-shaped Flagelliform NostocThe dishes that derive from these foods are interesting and, if cooked well, can rival much that the more advanced eastern regions can produce. Local restaurants will serve customers such delights as Chicken Cooked with Caterpillar Fungus (dàn bái chóng cǎo jī 蛋白虫草鸡), a nasty sounding, tasty and nourishing dish, Gold-fish-shaped Flagelliform Nostoc (jīn yú fā cài 金鱼发菜), Chrysanthemum-shaped Carp Slices, Steamed Egg with Flagelliform Nostoc (fā cài zhēng dàn 发菜蒸蛋), and Lamb Cooked with Sliced Mushroom (yáng ròu mó gū 羊肉蘑菇片).

Famous Local Snacks

Lamb LiverFor many traveling here, the common snacks are also worth trying, and they will be cheaper. These can be found in the markets and on most streets, cooked in front of your salivating mouths. The specialties are strongly Tibetan or Muslim influenced and the concentration on mutton and noodles reflects this. These include Lamb Tenderloin (fēng ěr lǐ jǐ 蜂尔里脊), Kebab (kǎo yáng ròu chuan 烤羊肉), Wang's Thick Sliced Noodle Pieces (miàn pí 面皮), and Lamb Liver (zhǔ yáng gān 煮羊肝).


KebabsKebabs (kǎo yáng ròu chuan 烤羊肉串) can be found anywhere on the streets of the city or small market town. Migrants from Xinjiang have made these kebabs famous throughout the rest of China's major cities. Anyone who has traveled throughout China has seen the kebab vendors with their long metal stands filled with hot embers and a pile of uncooked meat on sticks. The meat is cooked over the heat with the vendor fanning the embers to quicken cooking. The kebabs are then seasoned with spice powder (either spicy or not spicy) and served. One kebab is not more than a mouthful. Prices can range from between RMB1 to RMB2 per kebab.

Cold Noodles

Cold NoodleCold noodles (known in Chinese as Liangmian,liáng miàn 凉面) are popular with many ethnic groups both in northeast China. The name 'Liangmian' means 'cold noodles'. The noodle is cooked and then let them cold in a special way. Later various ingredients are added, including oil, mutton pieces, cooked tomato and chili peppers. Yet cold noodles taste delicious and refreshing.