Last Paradise: Birding on the Edge of the Tibetan Plateau
You’re on the edge of the Eastern Tibetan Plateau, in the center of China. Within one hour you’ll be climbing from an altitude of 1000 meters onto nearly 4000 meters, entering the “Roof of the World”. Snow mountains, vast grasslands, hoodoos, lakes and wetlands……diverse landscapes are the backdrop for hundreds of ornithological delights, such as pink-tailed bunting and black-necked cranes.
Due to geographical and language barriers, this region remains one of the least known birding destinations in the world. From Labrang, heading south or north-west, snow-capped forest-covered holy mountains, the largest lake and three of six Ramsar Wetlands of international importance in China, are either homes or migratory routes to about 1/3 of the 1400 or so birds in this country.
This tour is specially designed for birders to appreciate a rich and unique collection of birds at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Led by a local Tibetan English-speaking guide, who has a passion for bird-watching and experience as a bird guide, you’ll explore hotbeds of birds from Gannan to Qinghai or Sichuan, with stops at several stunning Tibetan villages and monasteries. The itinerary can be tailored to suit your specific interests and schedules.
From Gannan to Sichuan
Mt. Aneynangchem, habitat of half the species in Gansu Province.
Mt. Bumozhi (Four Maiden’s Mountain), home to 300 varieties of birds.
Mt. Lhagha, “Mountain of God’s favorite” with enchanting views and unknown species.
Labrang Monastery, the most comprehensive Tibetan Monastery University with six colleges including Philosophy, Medicine, Art and Astrology.
Zhagana, a primitive but exquisite Tibetan village set in a tranquil valley, visited by Joseph Rock, who called it “Birthplace of Adam and Eva”.
Langmusi, “Oriental Switzerland”, splendid monasteries surrounded by snowy mountains and forest.
Danba Beauty’s Valley, ranked as ‘one of the most beautiful villages in China”, featuring stone houses and watch towers scattered in the valley.
DAY 1 Labrang (Xiahe)
Upon arrival in Xiahe or Lanzhou, you’ll be met by your local Tibetan guide, who will drive you to your hotel. Afterwards, some local birds around Labrang will be introduced to you, including red-billed Chough frequently found within the monastery, and wild ducks on the Daxia River. Feel free to join local Tibetans to do a kora along the world’s longest prayer wheel corridor, or visit one of the six colleges of Labrang Monastery, such as Dukhor Dratsang for studying astrology. Overnight in Labrang.
DAY 2 Labrang
In the early morning you’ll climb up the hill overlooking Labrang Monastery, to have a bird’s eye view of the whole town. From there, a guided tour in the mountains around the monastery will let you get familiar with local birds. Time permitting, you can drive to Ganjia Grasslands to see a cliff and valley nearby, which is home to many vultures overseeing a sky burial site.
DAY 3 Mt. Amnye Nangchem
In the morning a three hours’ drive will take you to Mt. Aneynangchem, which is the habitat of over 130 varieties of birds, such as goshawk, lammergeier, snow cock and blue eared pheasant. From grassy pastures along the brook in the valley, onto lush forests on the lower and middle slopes, until the rocky mountaintop, all support unique avifaunae. We’ll spend two days at the bird-rich mountain, to look for conspicuous species and other attractions on your list.
Overnight at a Tibetan village at the foot of the mountain, dwelling in a wooden cottage and tasting typical Tibetan food such as boiled mutton eaten with hands.
DAY 4 Mt. Amnye Nangchem
After another full morning at Mt. Amnye Nangchem exploring birds, we’ll head to Dayugou in the afternoon, making numerous stops en route to view different birds. Overnight in Dayugou, a forest resort deep in a valley.
DAY 5/6 Dayugou
We’ll spend the next two days in the valley, admiring various waterscape such as rivers, lakes and waterfalls, meanwhile searching for birds in the two neighboring valleys. Most species here are unknown to birders. Another attraction here is the splendor of local Tibetan costumes, which is as colorful as birds’ feathers.
DAY 7 Luchu
Luchu is at the crossroads to Gahai Lake and Dzitsa stone forest, both bird-rich areas. We’ll spend a whole day discovering birds in these two areas, such as horned lurk, aythya nyroca, and redshank.
Overnight at a village guesthouse in Dzitsa stone forest.
DAY 8 Zhagana
After another full morning spent in Dzitsa stone forest, we’ll drive to Zhagana, a pristine Tibetan village set in the bottom of a valley. All the mountains around it are good places for either hiking or birding, with chances to encounter golden eagle, blue-eared pheasant, and even snow leopard.
Overnight at a wooden cottage in Zhagana, to savor dishes made of fresh mushrooms and Juema pork.
Day 9/10 Mt. Lhagha
Waking in birdsongs and morning mist of Zhagana, we’ll head to Mt. Lhaga, a holy mountain meaning “Mountain of God’s favorite” in Tibetan. Spending the next two days here, we’ll not only have a chance to walk in King Gesar’s footsteps, seeing battle fields and military dances, but also unexpected species, as it is off the beaten track of ordinary birders.
Overnight at a famous Tibetan village at the foot of the mountain.
DAY 11 Village Boyu
A long and steep road climbing up from an altitude of around 1000 meters to over 3000 meters onto the top of a mountain within an hour, afterwards, down to a valley hidden in the Kan mountain, you’ll find yourself in Boyu Village, a string of Tibetan villages secluded from the world. Local Tibetans wear unique costumes in black and bright-colors, and dance in traditional style. You can expect to find some rare species here, as it is a place seen by very few.
DAY 12 Langmusi
After a full morning discovering birds around Boyu village, we’ll head for Langmusi, a must-visit attraction for many foreigners. “Oriental Switzerland” as it is called, this place is filled with splendid monasteries and interesting shops, with a backdrop of snowy mountains and green forests.
Go birding along several hiking trails, and afterwards indulge yourself at a local café or restaurant, or hunt for souvenirs in local shops. Overnight at Langmusi.
DAY 13 Danba Beauty’s Valley
On the road to another bird-rich habitat Mt. Bumozhi (Four Maiden’s Mountain), we’ll pass this valley, which is ranked as “one of the most beautiful villages in China”, with stone houses and watch towers scattered around the valley.
You’ll join a local family to enjoy a Tibetan meal, including smoked pork and barley wine. If lucky, a romantic affair with a local beauty. Homestay at Danba.
DAY 14/15 Mt. Bumozhi (Four Maiden’s Mountain)
Awakening from the sweet dreams in Danba Beauty valley, we’ll head for the last birding destination. Two days exploration in Mt. Bumozhi may not be enough to get to know its 300 or so species of ornithological delights, but it is guaranteed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to admire one of the most beautiful snow mountains in China, also a world nature heritage site.
DAY 16 Chengdu
The tour concludes in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China province Sichuan. A feast of Sichuan cuisine or just a famous hotpot will give this journey a perfect ending.
Breakfasts, lunches, dinners,
Accommodation: 3/4 star hotel, homestay
English-speaking, native Tibetan tour guide
Mineral water during the tour
Pick-up and drop-off
Transportation: Private SUV 4x4 Landcuriser, MPV, Bus