Qinghai Lake Overview

Qinghai Lake (Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture) Travel Overview introduces Qinghai Lake fast facts including the Basic Information, Population,Climate, Geography, Culture History, Natural Resources, attractions.

Qinghai Lake is a famous tourist destination in Qinghai Province and the source of the province's name. The shoreline of the lake is approximately 360 kilometers long. The lake is surrounded by mountains and grassland, creating a magnificent sight. The lake’s scenery changes with the seasons. Every year in July and August, the many canola flowers around the lake come into bloom. The yellow of the canola fields complements the blue of the lake beautifully. In winter the lake is covered by a massive sheet of ice, creating otherworldly scenery.

Basic Information of Qinghai Lake


Qinghai Lake lies about 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Xining in a hollow of the Tibetan Plateau at 3,205 metres (10,515 ft) above sea level. It lies between the Haibei and Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in northeastern Qinghai Province in northwestern China. The lake has fluctuated in size, shrinking over much of the 20th century but increasing since 2004. It had a surface area of 4,317 square kilometres (1,667 sq mi), an average depth of 21 metres (69 ft), and a maximum depth of 25.5 m (84 ft) in 2008.


Qinghai Lake has a plateau continental climate with sufficient light and strong sunshine. It is cold in winter and cool in summer, with short warm season and long cold season. There are many strong winds and sandstorms in spring. It has less rainfall, and is hot in the rainy season. Qinghai Lake climate also features in distinct dry and wet seasons.

The temperature in the eastern and southern parts of the lake is slightly higher, with the average annual temperature ranging from 1.1℃ to 0.3℃, while the temperature in western and the northern is slightly lower, with the average annual temperature ranging from-0.8 to 0.6℃. The average maximum temperature ranges from 6.7 to 8.7℃, the average minimum temperature ranges from-6.7 to 4.9℃, the extreme maximum temperature ranges from 25℃ to 24.4℃, and the extreme minimum temperature ranges from-31℃ to-33.4℃.

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Best Time to Visit

The best time to watch the birds is from May to July. If you want to the see the best view of the lake, then the best time is July and August. If you want to see the swan, then the best time would be from November to next Febuary. Generally speaking, July– August is the busiest season for Qinghai Lake travel, so lodging and other accommodations may cost more than usual.


Qinghai Lake became isolated from the Yellow River about 150,000 years ago. It has increased in salinity and basicity since the early Holocene.

Prior to the 1960s, 108 freshwater rivers emptied into the lake. As of 2003, 85% of the river mouths have dried up, including the lake's largest tributary, the Buha River. In between 1959 and 1982, there had been an annual water level drop of 10 centimetres (3.9 in), which was reversed at a rate of 10 cm/year (3.9 in/year) between 1983 and 1989, but has continued to drop since. The Chinese Academy of Sciences reported in 1998 the lake was again threatened with loss of surface area due to livestock over-grazing, land reclamations, and natural causes. Surface area decreased 11.7% in the period from 1908 to 2000. During that period, higher lake floor areas were exposed and numerous water bodies separated from the rest of the main lake. In the 1960s, the 48.9-square-kilometre (18.9 sq mi) Gahai Lake (尕海, Gǎhǎi) appeared in the north; Shadao Lake (沙岛, Shādǎo), covering an area of 19.6 km2 (7.6 sq mi) to the northeast, followed in the 1980s, along with Haiyan Lake (海晏, Hǎiyàn) of 112.5 km2 (43.4 sq mi). Another 96.7 km2 (37.3 sq mi) daughter lake split off in 2004. In addition, the lake has now split into half a dozen more small lakes at the border. The water surface has shrunk by 312 km2 (120 sq mi) over the last three decades.


Located at the junction of Gangcha CountyGonghe County and Haiyan County, Qinghai Lake and the areas around are home to ethnic people inlcuding Tibetan, Mongolian and Hui. Owing to the larger population of Tibetans living in the areas around the lake, Qinghai Lake culture features Tibetan folk customs. 

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Qinghai Lake is about 130 kilometers or 80 miles from Xining and is about 3,205 meters or 10,515 feet above sea level. To get to Qinghai Lake, you usually arrive at Xining by plane or train, then you can choose to drive by yourself, charter a car or take a bus to get to Qinghai Lake.

Transfer from Caojiabao Airport

Xining is the capital of Qinghai Province, with convenient transportation, and can choose various modes of transportation, such as planes, trains and cars. Xining Caojiabao Airport is the nearest airport to Qinghai Lake. If you want to go directly to Qinghai Lake from Xining Airport, you are advised to take the airport bus at the Qiyi Bus Station so that you can directly transfer to the bus to Xihai Town. You can also charter a car from the airport to Qinghai Lake, but the price is higher, about 900 yuan.

Transfer from Downtown Xining

By Bus

The best way to get to Qinghai Lake from Xining downtown is to catch a Tourist Express at Ba Yi Bus Staion (located in Yongchang Mansion, 90 Ba Yi Road). The express here usually depart at 7:30, 8:15, 9:15, 9:30, so you’d better take the bus in the morning. The journey takes about 2.5 horus. The ticket fare for the single ride costs RMB 35 and RMB 45 for the return trip. You can easily get to Bayi Bus Station by taking the public buses no.2, 22 and 25.  

You can also take a bus from the main bus station in Xining just south of the train station. Several long-distance buses leave from Xining station for a little Tibetan town called Heimahe that is on the southwest corner of the lake. These buses depart from 7:30 to 9:00. The journey takes bout 3 hours. The bus driver will just stop and drop you off at one of the main tourist areas. To get back to Xining wait on the side of the highway and wave down a bus or minibus. Minibuses are a little more expensive but are quicker and more frequent. Another bonus of the minibus is that it will drop you off anywhere in Xining.

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Things to Do at Qinghai Lake

There are many things for you to try for entertainment at Qinghai Lake, such as  beach motorcycles, sand sliding, horse riding, cycling around the lake, paragliding and archery. 

Top Attractions and Things to Do at Qinghai Lake

Scenic spots near Qinghai Lake are distributed along the lake, starting from Xihai Town. The main scenic spots are Riyue MountainQinghai Husha Island/Sand Island(Shadao), Base 151 (Erlangjian Scenic Spot), Bird Island and Gold and Silver Grassland. Among them, Shadao and Gold and Silver Grassland have recreational items such as beach motorcycles, sand sliding, paragliding and archery. All of the above scenic spots need tickets except for those outside Xihai Town. if you travel to Qinghai lake by chartered car, there is no need to visit the scenic spots which require entrance tickets.

Visit a Tibetan Family

Tibetans are the major ethnic groups living the areas near Qinghai Lake. Visiting a local family is a good chance to learn about their lives. Arriving at the local house, you may find the yak dungs piled in the yard. They are stored for fuel. Entering into the house, and you will be warmly welcomed by the family in Tibetan way. You may find it enjoyable to chat with the hospitable Tibetan people. Butter tea and Zanba will be served. Don’t forget to have a taste, or you could consult the owner how to make them.

Taking A Boat Trip on The Lake

Erlangjian Scenic Area is Qinghai Lake’s main attraction. It is located on the south shore of the lake and is home to a shopping center, restaurants, and hotels. The visitor site consists of two areas, the first of which is located near the entrance and provides a range of commercial facilities and a harbor for tourist boats. The other area is a narrow peninsula that stretches out over 10 km into the lake. Taking a boat trip on the lake is one of Erlangjian’s most popular activities.

Have Fun on Qinghai Husha Island

Qinghai Husha Island is located in the northeast of Qinghai Lake. It’s a huge sand dune that extends into Qinghai Lake. This sand dune covers a very large area. The end of the desert is the broad Qinghai Lake, a uniquely majestic scene. There are two small freshwater lakes on the sandy island as well as reed strewn wetlands, for a beautiful environment. Here you can also enjoy sandboarding, sand motorcycling and other exciting options as well as the chance to see incredible sand sculptures. Various tour options are available.

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Natural Resources 

Bird Resource

As of 2014, the number of bird species recorded in Qinghai increased to 222, belonging to 14 orders and 35 families, with a total of more than 160,000, including more than 21,300 spotted geese, more than 45,000 brown headed gulls, more than 87,400 fish gulls and more than 11,200 cormorants. In addition, the bird species also include phoenix head diving duck, red duck, common mermaid duck, magpie duck, supercilious look duck, spot-billed duck, needle-tailed duck, swan, demoiselle crane, black-necked crane, etc

Fish Resource

The lake is rich in one of the five most famous fish in China-Qinghai naked carp (commonly known as Huangshui fish), cobiti spinalis and cobiti longituba. The average annual output of Qinghai naked carp is 5,165 tons, and 191,180 tons of naked carp were produced from 1949 to 1985. With the lapse of time, the resources declined, and the output of naked carp showed a downward trend year by year. Naked carp swim back to the headwaters river to lay eggs from June to July every year, providing rich food conditions for fish and birds. In 1964, the state listed Qinghai Lake as a protected site and Qinghai naked carp as an important valuable aquatic economic animal.

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