WHS: Qinghai Hoh Xil, China

That Potala Palace Ensemble was quite the site to visit, wasn’t it? Well, today, we’re going to sorta-kinda visit the other World Heritage Site in Tibet,

Qinghai Hoh Xil

Qinghai Hoh Xil


Qinghai Hoh Xil is located in the northeast corner of the vast Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the largest, highest and youngest plateau in the world. The property covers 3,735,632 ha with a 2,290,904 ha buffer zone and encompasses an extensive area of alpine mountains and steppe systems at elevations of over 4,500 m above sea level.

Sometimes referred to as the world’s “Third Pole”, Hoh Xil has a frigid plateau climate, with sub-zero average year-round temperatures and the lowest temperature occasionally reaching -45°C.

With its ongoing processes of geological formation, the property includes a large planation surface and basin on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is the area with the highest concentration of lakes on the Plateau, exhibiting an exceptional diversity of lake basins and inland lacustrine landscapes at high altitude. With its sweeping vistas and stunning visual impact, this harsh and uninhabited wild landscape seems like a place frozen in time. Yet it is a place that illustrates continually changing geomorphological and ecological systems…

This one is … of more selective appeal. It was inscribed in 2017 to some controversy; personally, we figure that it’s likelier to be preserved with the international attention of being an inscribed WHS than if it isn’t … but we’ll see how that turns out.

“Harsh and uninhabited” is certainly a correct description of this plateau. As is “sweeping vistas” — it’s difficult to take pictures that convey the look of the place, they tend to turn out like this…

Qinghai Hoh Xil

… and you’re like well that doesn’t really look like much of anything at all without the mountains marching off into the distance on either side does it.

And it’s not completely uninhabited — every several dozen miles or so you’ll suddenly come across a hut or two by the tracks

Qinghai Hoh Xil

Now, trolls do like their solitude, but even for us, that’s too solitary, thanks!

But for miles upon hundreds of miles, there’s nothing but your train, the steppe, and the yaks grazing in the distance.

Qinghai Hoh Xil

We can’t actually find a map online, but we find in the Wikipedia entry

The Qingzang Railway and China National Highway 109 run along the eastern boundary of the reserve

and hey, we’ll consider that good enough to give this one a tick, that’s the railway we took from Xi’an to Lhasa — which was itself controversial! — as a hedge against altitude sickness. We’ve never suffered from it before, so that might have been overly prudent …

… but we figured that since this is our trip to TIBET!! it would be just fine to err on the side of prudence!

Anyways, if you want a truly unspoiled World Heritage experience, this is the place for you; check out the Trip Advisor listing for some more raves.


p dir=”ltr”>However, for most of you, we recommend that you do exactly what we did; take the train up to Lhasa and gape out the window at the scenery. That’ll be adequate for you to speak with sufficient knowledge of this site, we figure.

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I go places.

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