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Mt Amnye Machen/China

Introducing Mt Amnye Machen

The 6282m peak of Machen Kangri, or Mt Amnye Machen, is Amdo’s most sacred mountain – it’s eastern Tibet’s equivalent to Mt Kailash in western Tibet. Tibetan pilgrims travel for weeks to circumambulate the peak, believing it to be home to the protector deity Machen Pomra. The circuit’s sacred geography and wild mountain scenery make it a fantastic, though adventurous, trekking destination.

The full circuit takes seven to nine days, or five on a horse, though many foreigners limit themselves to a half circuit. Several monasteries lie alongside the route, including Guri Gompa near Xiàdàwǔ and Chörten Kharpo (White Stupa) at Chuwarna. Some nearby spots are linked to the Tibetan hero Gesar of Ling.

Independent trekkers can hire pack horses and Tibetan- and Chinese-speaking guides (Y50 per day for a horse) from Xuěshān and Xiàdàwǔ, the two main starting points for the trek, but beyond that you need to be totally self-sufficient. Organised trips are possible but not cheap. Travel agencies such as Qinghai Tibet Adventures (Sānjiāngyuán Tànxiǎn Lǚxíngshè; 824 5548; www.cqta.com; Rm 301, 13 Bei Dajie) and Wind Horse Adventure Tours (Xīhǎi Gōngmín Chūrùjìng Fúwùzhōngxīn; www.windhorseadventuretours.com; 824 4629; Nan Dajie) arrange all-inclusive trips for around US$80 to US$110 per day. At the mountain you may find yourself asked for an admission fee of Y100, as well as an ‘environmental fee’ of Y30 per day.

With almost all of the route above 4000m, and the highest pass hitting 4600m, it’s essential to acclimatise before setting off, preferably by spending a night or two at nearby Mǎqìn (3760m). You can make a good excursion 70km north of town to Rabgya Gompa (Lājiā Sì;), an important branch of Tibet’s Sera Monastery. The best months to trek are May, June and September.