Xining (西宁; Xīníng; Tibetan: Sulang) is the capital of Qinghai Province and the capital of Xining City District, a prefecture of Qinghai. It has a population of around 2,200,000.
Xining is one of the major gateways to the Tibetan Plateau. It is an ancient highland city on the Yellow River which offers many scenic spots and historical sites. Although the city has a strong Islamic flavor, as it is home to many Hui people, you will start getting a more Tibetan feel as you move away from the city.
- 1 Xining Caojiabao Airport (XNN IATA) (15 km south-southeast of the city). Has flights to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Golmud, Guangzhou, Lhasa, Shanghai, Shenyang, Urumqi, and Xi'an. International flights are significantly more limited, so most likely you will need to transfer in another Chinese airport.
The airport bus makes a run the long distance bus station next to the train station at regular intervals and heads back to the city centre whenever a flight lands. The return bus stand is directly in front of the airport exit door. The 30-min ride to/from the airport ¥21.
2 Xining railway station was renovated and is now fully operational with excellent connections to many destinations throughout Northwest China and the entire country, being connected to both the high=speed and conventional rail network. The station marks the start of the Qinghai–Tibet railway. It is large, clean, and well connected via the city's public bus system and is just a couple 100 meters away from one of the city's main long-distance bus stations (also brand new). Arrive well in advance when buying or picking up tickets because the lines are often very long. During peak travel seasons tickets get sold out very quickly so plan ahead!
Public bus routes: 1路; 5路; 7路; 9路; 11路; 16路; 20路; 27路; 28路; 31路; 40路; 103路; 104路; 107路
LongDistance Bus Station is on Jianguo Road, on the other side of the river in view of the train station.
On March 2016, the bus from Yushu was leaving passengers at another bus station, in the west of the city. So make sure to ask the driver where is the bus going to terminate, or you may find yourself quite lost.
- Lanzhou - takes about 5 hours
- Tongren - takes about 4 hours
- Xunhua - takes about 5 hours
- Yushu - takes about 14-18 hours
- Zhangye - takes about 9 hours
- Dunhuang - takes about 20 hours
- Jiuquan - takes about 10 hours
- Kanbula - takes about 2.5 hours
- Huatugou - There's a direct bus to Huatugou, but the town is closed to foreigners and the PSB is not issuing the Alien Travel Permit. Alternatively, you can go to Golmud and try to get the permission there, or just take a bus directly from Golmud to Ruoqiang.
Nanchuan West Road Bus Terminal 南川西路客运站
If you are headed to any of the regional towns south of Xining, including Guide (贵德) and Guinan (贵南) there are regular buses from the West Bus Station (汽车西站). You don't need to book ahead, so an easy day trip might be to jump on a bus here and see a regional city before catching the last return bus.
If you are headed to Maduo 玛多 there is a bus that leaves at 8AM (there may be other times) it leaves from Nanchuan West Road Bus Terminal. You can buy tickets in advance from either bus station.
There are plenty of buses that get you around town. The most useful is bus #1 that runs through the centre of town along Dajie to the train/bus station. All fares are ¥1 regardless of distance.
Taxis run on the meter (¥8 flagfall) but some drivers are open to negotiation, especially late at night.
- 1 Qinghai Provincial Museum (青海省博物馆), 58 Xiguan Street, Chengxi District (城西区西关大街58号) (The nearest bus stop is Xining Square South (新宁广场南), which is served by bus routes 12, 18, 22, 29, 35, 38, 41, 102 and 506), ☏ . Summer: 09:00-17:00, Winter: 09:30-16:30, no tickets issued in last 30 minutes, closed on Mondays. Nice place for those curious about Qinghai's history and ethnic relationships. Free.
- 2 Qinghai Science and Technology Museum (青海省科学技术馆), 74 Wu Si West Road, Chengxi District (城西区五四西路74号) (Bus routes 51, 59 and 63), ☏ . 09:30-16:30, closed on Mondays. Free.
- 3 Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Natural History Museum (青藏高原自然博物馆), 21 JIng'er Road, Biological Science & Technology Park, Chengbei District (城北区生物科技产业园区经二路21号) (Across the road from the Qinghai Tibetan Culture Museum. Bus routes 46, 65, 72, and 504), ☏ . 09:00-17:00, no entry after 16:40. As the name implies, this museum focuses on the natural history of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is said to be one of the largest natural history museums in China. ¥60.
- 4 Qinghai Tibetan Culture Museum (青海藏文化博物院, 青海藏医药文化博物馆 Tibetan Medicine Museum), No.36 Jing'er Road, Biological Science & Technology Park, Chengbei District (城北区生物科技产业园区经二路36号) (Bus routes 46, 65, 72 and 504), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. May to September: 09:00-17:00, October to April: 09:00-16:00. Includes world's longest thangka, at 600m long. ¥60.
Parks and nature
- 5 Laoye Mountain (老爷山), Xiangyang Road South, Qiaotou Town, Datong County (大通县桥头镇向阳路南) (Buses to Datong County depart from the Xinning Road Bus Station. The park entrance is less than a kilometre from the Datong County Bus Station), ☏ , . April 16th to October 15th: 08:00-17:30. October 16th to April 15th: 08:00-17:00. ¥20.
- 6 Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Wildlife Park (青藏高原野生动物园), 9 Xingzhi Road, Chengxi District (城西区行知路9号) (Bus routes 14, k2 and Tourist Bus 1), ☏ , , . 08:30-18:00. General entry is ¥30. Children between 1.2 and 1.4 metres in height pay ¥15. Children under 1.2 metres in height and persons over 65 can get in free. There is an extra charge of ¥50 to visit the aquarium. The panda house charges ¥23.
- 7 Dongguan Mosque (东关清真大寺), 34 Dongguan Street, Chengdong District (城东区东关大街34号) (Bus routes 1, 2, 10, 14, 17, 22, 23, 25, 26, 33, 62, 81, 83, 101, 102, 103, 502, 1001 and 1002), ☏ . 08:00-18:00, Non-Muslims may not visit during Friday's prayer sessions. Free.
- 8 North Mountain Temple (北山寺 Beishan Temple, 北禅寺 Northern Chan Monastery, 土楼观 Tulou Temple), 38 Qilian Road West, Chengbei District (城北区祁连路西38号) (north of the city, Take bus no. 10, 11, 19, 21, 66, 80, 84 or 107 to Beishan Market (北山市场), then walk down Beichan Road (北禅路) until you get to the temple), ☏ . 08:00-18:00. Taoist Temple in the hills. A lot of it is closed for safety reasons. This includes the walkways between man-made caves in the mountain. There is a pagoda above, on the hill. From here there is a great view over the city. Free.
- 9 Southern Chan Monastery (南禅寺), 79 Nanshan Road, Chengzhong District (城中区南山路79号) (Bus routes 16, 19, 21, 38, 49, 71, 103, 105, 601 and Tourist Bus 1), ☏ . 09:00-17:00. Free.
- 1 Qinghai Grand Theatre (青海大剧院), Wu Si Road, Chengxi District (城西区五四西路) (A short distance east of the Qinghai Science and Technology Museum. Bus routes 51, 59 and 63), ☏ (ticket enquiries), (show enquiries), ✉ email@example.com. Ticket office opening hours: 09:00-17:30 (weekdays), 10:00-16:30 (weekends and public holidays).
Handmade Tibetan Handicrafts can be bought at the AmdoCafe (see Drink section)
Xining's main minority groups provide a large portion of the food on offer. The Hui, a broad term for Chinese Muslims, serve up spicy noodles, lamb kababs and flatbread (bing). Tibetan food choices are concentrated around the train station, mostly small places the serve momos and noodles and seat guests on small coaches.
There is a restaurant area right next to the Shuijing Xiang Bazaar, in the center of the city, and throughout the evening and into the night there are many street stalls serving good food around Ximen and on the western side of Jianguo Road.
- Mojia Market, Mojia Lu (off Dong Dajia). 6AM-whenever. The front end of the market has many small snack stands selling spicy ground meat birds egg pizza-style bing (¥3), spicier Liangpi noodle (¥4.5) and mouth cooling bowl-set yoghurt with a creaming texture and slightly sour/citrus flavour (¥3). Further into the market mounds of dried fruit and nuts from the region can be bought by weight.
Western food options are very slim, but not bad for a city so remote.
- KFC (肯德基), Near the Wangfujing Shopping Mall, Xi Dajie, ☏ . 6AM-10PM. There are three KFCs in the city, but this is by far the most centrally located.
The city is littered with small coffee shops, especially around the newer apartment complexes that are being developed. See below for some of the better ones.
- 1 AmdoCafe 安多咖啡 (Amdocraft Shop), Lenghulu 2, JiesenHuaYuan South Gate 冷湖路2号杰森花园西南门 (West side of Xining), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM-6PM. This coffee shop, which also offers AmdoCraft Tibetan Handicraft products, provides a relaxed, quiet atmosphere in which to sip and sample real, fresh-brewed coffee, or sup on steaming pastries, cakes, and cookies. The coffee is some of the most inexpensive real coffee in the area. Free Wi-fi. 30 rmb.
- [dead link] Cafe Java, 47 Haiyan Road (海晏路47号9-1号铺) (Opposite of Culture Park), ☏ . 8:30AM-9:30PM. Expat couple from the UK opened this cafe in 2009. Excellent coffee and home-made food at a great price. Favourite dishes include Mexican wraps, chilli, bagels of all kinds, pancakes & waffles with sweet or savoury toppings. Also a great place to meet other foreign residents or expats in Xining. Free Wi-Fi.
- Green House Cafe, Xiadu Avenue, Near Yangshan Villas, ☏ . Great little cafe opened up by an American expat in Xining. Relaxed atmosphere, good Wi-Fi, and, some say, the best coffee in the city. They have deserts and sandwiches as well.
A number of bars are located at the end of the city's main snack street. These tiny places each have only a dozen tables, and all offer extensive drink specials. Beer starts at ¥6 for a Tsingtao, but expensive imported liquor is also available. There is usually no cover charge.
- Qilin Bay Bar Strip (Qilin Wan), Intersection of Kunlun West and Huanghe Road. A complex of bars by the riverside, built around an atrium. You can't see them from the road, but just below the bridge you will see a number of cars parked, with steps down into the park. About a half dozen or so small bars.
- Culture Street Bar Strip (文化街酒吧), Culture Street (Wenhua Jie). A large complex with about two dozen bars over three different floors with an open center atrium. You can choose between more relaxed lounge bars, live music venues, or one or two bars that have dance floors on the ground floor.
- Soho (苏荷酒吧), 116 Nanguan Street (West Side of Xining Stadium), ☏ . 9PM-late. Soho is Xining's most popular nightclub, usually busy past 2AM most nights. Lots of tables and a bar, but there is no dancing. Music is mostly live. Soho is a nightclub franchise in China, but this one apparently is an "unofficial club."
- No. 88 Bar (88号酒吧), 7-1 Road, Across from the TCM Hospital (七一路中医院斜对面). Similar to Soho bar, but a larger dance floor. Crowded on the weekends, but a bigger crowd at Soho.
There are dozens of small guesthouses near the train and long distance bus station. Look for the characters "招待所," which in this part of town are on every other building. Most places seem aimable to taking foreigners, and prices range from ¥10 in a grimy four-room bunk (expect the other occupants to smoke in the room all night long) to ¥100 for a deluxe double. More guesthouses can be found around the town's West Gate, or Ximen.
- 1 Lete Youth Hostel (理体青年旅舍), 16th Floor, 5# Building, International Village Apartment, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. In 2011, the hostel changed management and underwent many new renovations to the rooms and bar area. Its cozy environment sits high on the 16th floor with beautiful views of the city and mountainous backdrop. It's within walking distance to many downtown shopping areas. The staff speaks English. There is a travel company upstairs that will organise trips in the local province and into the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Dorm: ¥45-60, Double room: from ¥140.
- Qinghai Shuili Hotel (青海省水利宾馆; Qīnghǎishěng Shuǐlì Bīnguǎn), 18-8 Kunlun Road, Chengxi District (城西区昆仑路18-8号; Chéngxīqū Kūnlúnlù. Listed rates for doubles from ¥168, discounted from ¥128, no breakfast.
- Home Inn (Xining Central Square) (如家快捷酒店 (西宁中心广场店); Rújiākuàijiéjiǔdiàn (Xīníngzhōngxīnguǎngchǎngdiàn)), Near west building of Ximen Gym, Chengzhong District (城中区西门体育馆西附楼; Chéngzhōngqū Xīméntǐyùguǎnxīfùlóu). Doubles from ¥199.
- Jianyin Hotel, 55 West Street, ☏ , fax: .
- Xining Tower, 61 Jianguo Road, ☏ , fax: .
- Qing Hai Moslem Mansion (Three stars), 65 Qiyi Street, ☏ , fax: . Good hotel, near the railway station, heated in winter. Good restaurant, good American breakfast. ¥360.
- Yinlong Hotel (青海银龙酒店; Qīnghǎi Yínlóng Jiǔdiàn), 38 Huanghe Road, Chengxi District (城西区黄河路38号; Chéngxīqū Huánghélù), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Five star hotel with rooms with free internet. Business center, beauty salon, ticket office, disco, billiards, fitness, massage and sauna available. Chinese and Western restaurants, coffee shop, bar and room service. Listed rates for doubles from ¥1,480, discounted from ¥1,080, including breakfast.
- Qinghai Hotel (青海宾馆), No.158 Huanghe Road, ☏ . Rooms are spacious and clean. Good facilities and restaurants. A cheaper alternative to the Yinlong Hotel. ¥500-2,000.
The new train has two useful locations either side - one is the local bus depot, the other the long distance bus station. The long distance bus station has a Tourism Information Desk and is geared up to help tourists - the staff are very helpful. Don't count on anyone speaking English however.
From the long distance bus station next to the train station you can purchase tickets for a direct tourist bus which will take you to Qinghai Lake, Kanbula Forest Park and Kumbum Monastery in one day. This government run service is around ¥100. Site admissions are extra. First bus leaves at 8:30AM with others put on with demand. Centre opens at 6:30AM and closes around 6PM (!)
- Kumbum Monastery (塔尔寺 Tǎ'ěrsì) - one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist sites in China, in the village of Huangzhong.
- Tu Minority Village - located at Weiyuanzhen (威远镇) Old Village, 32 km from Xining
- Qinghaihu National Park (青海湖 - also called Lake Koko Nor) - this 5,694 km lake is the largest lake in China.
- Kanbula Forest Park - about a 2-3 hr bus ride from Xining, great for a day trip or overnight. Spectacular mountains and danxia landscapes, and beautiful Lijia Reservoir. ¥240/person entrance fee.
- Guide (贵德) - Take a bus to this charming, predominantly tibetan village, beyond the southern mountains from the west bus stop.
Note that China Rail has completely reformed it's ticking booking processes. It is now difficult for ticket scalper a to operate, despite what is reported about Xining elsewhere. In the middle of October Festival 2016 tickets were available a few days in advance to almost any destination available.
Trips from Xining travel agencies offer apparently cheap ¥60 day trips to Qinghaihu National Park. This price does not include entry to 丹噶尔 old town (¥50), 赞普林卡 (¥40), 日月山 (¥40) or the wharf at Qinghaihu (Much100) [the 'park' itself]. The last of these seems the most overpriced for what it is - but you are expected to pay. There may be a couple of forced shopping stops, including a minimum 30-minute wait at a jade/crystal sales outlet.
|Routes through Xining|
|END ←||N S||→ Qinghaihu Lake → Lhasa|