Close-up view of Mount Amnye Machen and its 6282m peak of Machen Kangri,   Amdo Tibet Region’s most sacred snow mountain. It's located in Qinghai Province, China. ; Shutterstock ID 2033099978; your: Bridget Brown; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI Image Update

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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, adventurous trekking destination.

The full circuit takes around 11 days (including transport to/from Xining), though tourists often limit themselves to a half circuit. Several monasteries lie alongside the route. 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 the nearby Maduo (玛多; 4290m). The best months to trek are May to October, though be prepared for snow early and late in the season.

Since local public transport is almost nonexistent, most trekkers go on an organised tour. Expect to pay around US$180 per person per day, all-inclusive in a group, and double or triple that if you are going solo. Tour agencies in Xining also take trekkers on an alternate (non-pilgrimage) route through parts of Mt Amnye Machen that are less disturbed by the highway.

If you do want to try venturing out on your own, you can take the bus (¥91.50) to Huashixia (花石峡) or Maduo and then hitch or hire a shared minivan (¥300 to ¥400 per person) to Xiadawu (下大武). Maduo is slightly further away but it has better amenities and you can pack in an excursion to the Source of the Yellow River.

In Xiadawu the starting point for the kora (holy hike) path is at Guru Gompa (格日寺, Gērì Sì), and from here follow the road east. After three days the road peters out near Xueshan (雪山, Xuěshān), from where you can hitch a ride to Maqin (玛沁, Mǎqìn). If you intend to continue past Xueshan you’ll need to ask a local to show you the kora path. In Xiadawu, a guide costs ¥150 to ¥200 per day, and it’s about the same price for a packhorse or yak. You'll need to be fully sufficient and bring a tent, sleeping bag etc.

Unfortunately, a recently completed road project has now cut through the region, disturbing the equilibrium, and the full kora from Xiadawu is now broken up by the highway and bridges; it's still doable, but guides recommended travellers do the half kora from Tsam Nak Kham Do and continue clockwise to Xiadawu, from south to north. This route is less disjointed, more continuous and more pleasant. If doing the half kora from Tsam Nak Kham Do, first take a bus (¥95, 7½ hours) from Xining Nanchuan Xilu bus station (南川西路客运站, Nánchuān Xīlù Kèyùnzhàn) to Maqin and then get a ride to Tsam Nak Kham Do.