Xining Travel Guide

Nora Zheng
2134 Words/9 Minutes, By Nora Zheng, Updated February 15, 2023

Xining, the capital of Qinghai province in northwest China, is a fascinating destination for travelers seeking to experience Tibetan culture, explore stunning natural landscapes such as the Qinghai Lake and Kumbum Monastery, and sample local delicacies like yak meat and butter tea while immersing themselves in the unique blend of modern Chinese city life and traditional Tibetan influences.

History Brief

Xining has a long history of human settlement, with evidence of human activity dating back over 2,100 years.

In ancient times, Xining was an important stop along the Silk Road, serving as a hub for trade and cultural exchange between China and Central Asia. During the Tang and Song dynasties, Xining was a center of Buddhist learning and culture.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Xining became a major center for Muslim culture and education in China, with a large Hui population.

What to do on a Xining trip

Xining offers visitors a variety of activities such as exploring the Qinghai Lake, visiting the Dongguan Mosque, hiking in the stunning Kunlun Mountains, trying local cuisine like hand-pulled noodles, and learning about Tibetan culture through visits to monasteries like the Kumbum Monastery, making it an ideal destination for those interested in outdoor adventure, cultural immersion, and gastronomic experiences.

Xining is the capital city of Qinghai Province in China, and a popular destination for tourists who are interested in Tibetan culture, natural scenery, and outdoor activities. The city is located on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, at an elevation of over 2,200 meters above sea level.

Some of the top attractions in Xining include Kumbum Monastery, Dongguan Mosque, Qinghai Lake, Ta'er Monastery, and the Tibetan Medicine Culture Museum. These sites offer visitors a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Tibetan people, as well as the region's natural beauty.

Xining is also a gateway to the nearby Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and its stunning landscapes, such as the Qilian Mountains, the Chaka Salt Lake, and the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve. Visitors can engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and wildlife watching in these areas.

The local cuisine in Xining is another highlight of the region, with specialties such as Tibetan-style noodles, roasted lamb, and yogurt among the must-try dishes for visitors. Overall, Xining offers a unique and enriching travel experience for those interested in exploring Tibetan culture and the natural beauty of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Attractions: Must-visit attractions in Xining include the Qinghai Lake, Ta'er Monastery, Dongguan Mosque, and the Qinghai Provincial Museum.

Cuisine: Xining is known for its delicious halal cuisine, which reflects its significant Muslim population. Don't miss out on trying traditional dishes such as roasted lamb, hand-pulled noodles, and yak meat dishes.

Climate: Xining has a high altitude and experiences a semi-arid climate with long, cold winters and short, cool summers. It's important to bring warm clothing regardless of the season.

Transportation: Xining has an airport with direct flights to major cities in China. Some trains and buses connect Xining to other cities in China.

Accommodation: Xining has a variety of accommodations ranging from budget guesthouses to high-end hotels. Popular areas to stay in include the city center and the area around Qinghai Lake.

Culture: Xining has a diverse cultural heritage with influences from Tibetan, Muslim, and Han Chinese cultures. Visitors can experience this unique blend of cultures through traditional festivals, food, and architecture.

Interesting activities that can enrich your trip

Top cultural hands-on activities in Xining

Xining is a city with a rich cultural heritage, and visitors can enjoy several hands-on activities to experience the local culture. Here are some top cultural hands-on activities to try in Xining:

Thangka Painting: Thangka painting is a traditional Tibetan art form that involves painting Buddhist images on silk or cotton. Visitors can try their hand at creating their Thangka painting at a local art school or workshop in Xining.

 Tibetan Calligraphy: Tibetan calligraphy is another traditional Tibetan art form that involves writing the Tibetan script with a bamboo pen and ink. Visitors can take a class in Tibetan calligraphy at a local art school or workshop.

Tibetan Opera: Tibetan Opera is a traditional form of drama that combines music, dance, and storytelling. Visitors can watch a live performance of Tibetan Opera at a local theater or even participate in a workshop to learn some of the basic dance moves.

Butter Sculpture: Butter sculpture is a traditional Tibetan art form that involves sculpting images of deities and other figures out of yak butter. Visitors can see butter sculptures at local temples and monasteries, or take a workshop to learn how to make their own.

Handmade Thangka Weaving: This is a traditional craft in Tibetan areas. It takes 2 or 3 months to weave a Thangka. Visitors can learn the techniques and processes of weaving a Thangka at a local workshop.

Taste Local Cuisine: Xining has a unique cuisine that is a mix of Tibetan, Muslim, and Han Chinese influences. Visitors can take a food tour to sample local specialties, such as hand-pulled noodles, lamb skewers, and yak meat dishes.

These are just some of the cultural hands-on activities that visitors can enjoy in Xining. Participating in these activities can help travelers to gain a deeper appreciation for the local culture and traditions.

Top outdoor adventures in Xining

Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province in China, is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are some top outdoor adventures you can experience in Xining:

Qinghai Lake Cycling: The largest saltwater lake in China, Qinghai Lake offers breathtaking scenery and a chance to experience local Tibetan culture. You can rent a bike or take a horseback ride to explore the lake and its surroundings.

Hiking: Many hiking trails around Xining offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Some popular hiking spots include Riyue Mountain and Laoye Mountain, which offer scenic trails and breathtaking views.

Skiing: Skiing is a great outdoor activity to enjoy if you visit Xining during the winter months. The Ski Resort at Riyue Mountain offers ski slopes for both beginners and experienced skiers, and you can also enjoy sledding and other winter sports activities.

Qinghai-Tibet Railway: The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which runs from Xining to Lhasa, offers some of the most spectacular views in the world. You can take a train ride and enjoy the stunning scenery of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, including snow-capped mountains, vast grasslands, and nomadic herders.

These are just a few of the many outdoor adventures you can experience in Xining. Whether you're interested in hiking, skiing, or simply enjoying the beautiful scenery, Xining is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Delicious food, what to eat

Xining is known for its delicious and diverse halal cuisine that reflects its significant Muslim population. Here's a brief introduction to some of the must-try dishes in Xining:

Roasted Lamb: Roasted lamb is a popular dish in Xining, and it's typically prepared by roasting a whole lamb on a spit until the meat is juicy and tender.

Hand-Pulled Noodles: Hand-pulled noodles are a staple in Xining cuisine and are often served in a flavorful beef or lamb broth with vegetables and spices.

Yogurt: Xining is famous for its yogurt, which is made from the milk of local yaks and is a refreshing and healthy snack.

Fried Rice with Diced Lamb: This dish consists of diced lamb, carrots, and onions stir-fried with rice and spices, resulting in a delicious and filling meal.

Kebabs: Xining's kebabs are a portion of popular street food and typically consist of skewered pieces of lamb or beef, seasoned with cumin and other spices, and grilled to perfection.

Yak Meat Dishes: Yak meat is a popular ingredient in Xining cuisine and is often used in stews and hotpots. The meat is tender and flavorful and is a must-try for meat lovers.

Luxury hotels, where to stay in Xining

Xining offers a range of luxury hotels for travelers seeking the best of amenities and services. Here are a few options:

Sofitel Xining: A five-star hotel located in the heart of the city, Sofitel Xining offers spacious rooms with panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains. The hotel features a fitness center, indoor pool, spa, and multiple dining options.

Crowne Plaza Xining: This modern and elegant hotel features luxurious rooms with high-quality amenities and views of the city skyline. The hotel also features a fitness center, indoor pool, spa, and multiple dining options.

Jinjiang International Hotel Xining: Located in the central business district, this hotel offers a range of room types, from standard rooms to luxurious suites. The hotel features an indoor pool, fitness center, spa, and multiple dining options.InterContinental Xining: This stylish and sophisticated hotel offers spacious rooms with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The hotel also features a fitness center, indoor pool, spa, and multiple dining options.

Hyatt Regency Xining: This upscale hotel offers luxurious rooms with modern amenities and mountain views. The hotel features a fitness center, indoor pool, spa, and multiple dining options, including a rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city.

Choose the best time and weather to travel

The best time to visit Xining is from June to September when the weather is mild and comfortable.

The temperature during this time ranges between 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). However, it is important to note that Xining is located at a high altitude and can experience sudden weather changes, so it is advisable to pack warm clothes even during the summer months.

The summer months of June to August are the warmest and the best time to visit Xining for outdoor activities such as hiking and sightseeing. The average temperature during this period is around 18-22°C (64-72°F), and it is the peak season for tourism. However, it can get crowded, and prices may be higher than usual.

If you prefer cooler weather and fewer crowds, the months of September to November are a great time to visit Xining. During this period, the temperature starts to drop, and the scenery becomes more vibrant with the autumn foliage. The average temperature during this time is around 4-16°C (39-61°F).

The winter months of December to February are the coldest in Xining, with an average temperature of -12 to 4°C (10-39°F). If you are a winter sports enthusiast, this is the best time to visit as there are several ski resorts in the area. The snow also adds a beautiful layer of scenery to the landscape.

Overall, the best time to visit Xining is during the summer months of June to August for pleasant weather and a bustling atmosphere, or during the autumn months of September to November for cooler weather and beautiful scenery.

How to plan a travel itinerary for Xining

Day 1: Visit the Ta'er Monastery, one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China, Explore the Dongguan Mosque, one of the largest mosques in China, Walk around Xining's central square, People's Park, and try some local street food

Day 2: Head to Qinghai Lake, the largest saltwater lake in China and enjoy the stunning views and fresh air, Visit the Riyue Mountain Scenic Area, which has beautiful scenery and offers great hiking opportunities, Return to Xining for dinner and a restful evening

Day 3: Explore the Tibetan Medicine Culture Museum and learn about the unique history and culture of traditional Tibetan medicine, Visit the Tibetan Plateau Wild Zoo, which has a variety of local wildlife, including yaks, Tibetan antelopes, and more, In the evening, go to the Night Market to try some delicious local delicacies and experience the bustling local atmosphere.

Xining travel itineraries, cycling, and birding are available >>; Or customize a private Xining tour now >>

Nora Zheng

Hi, I’m Nora Zheng, if you like my article, please share it with your friends. Any sugguestions on this aritcle, please contact me. Thanks!

Want to plan a private Qinghai tour? CREATE NOW


CHINA OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2019 We researched several companies and studied reviews on Trip Adviser before contacting who did a very China Culture Tour with an initial query. Right from the outset Grace who owns the company was excellent. She emailed detailed with pictures information and a suggested…read more details

Karen from US

Ready to Create a Unique Dream Travel?

Create My Vacation