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Big, bold and beautifully barren, Qinghai (青海, Qīnghǎi), larger than any country in the EU, occupies a vast swath of the northeastern chunk of the Tibetan Plateau. As far as Tibetans are concerned, this is Amdo, one of old Tibet’s three traditional provinces. Much of what you’ll experience here will feel more Tibetan than Chinese; there are monasteries galore, yaks scattered across the hills by the thousands and nomads camped out across high-altitude grasslands.

Rough-and-ready Qinghai, which means 'Blue Sea' in Chinese, is classic off-the-beaten-track territory, often with a last frontier feel to it. Traveling here can be a little inconvenient, but that is part of what makes the province so very special: seclusion is everywhere. Indeed, Qinghai delivers all the adventure you may need, with heavy doses of solitude among middle-of-nowhere high-plateau vistas, Martian-like red mountains, mouthwatering cuisine and encounters with remote communities of China’s ethnic minorities.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Qinghai.