Starry Expeditions
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Escapes    Starry Land 2023

Starry Land 2023

It is often said “every journey is a pilgrimage”, Starry Land is definitely one of those lifetime journeys.  After convening the small group in the capital, Beijing, you take next two weeks to make the way across the grasslands and mountains of Qinghai province.  It’s a pioneering expedition for the adventurous, to discover a Tibetan Buddhist world in the far reaches of China.  You will witness the daily lives of monks and nuns, camp under the stars, hike alongside nomadic yak herders and even attend an annual horseback racing festival.

By the end of the journey, you will have delved into the culture, real life realities and nature of this remote region that is of great importance both to the historic revitalization of Tibetan Buddhism and to the continuation of ancient traditions into the modern day.


Day 1, Arrive in Beijing

Arrive in Beijing, welcome and transfer to your hotel to check in.  Beijing, the center of politics and culture since the 13th century, showcases China’s best art and imperial culture.  In addition, today’s Beijing offers an excellent performance community, and a healthy variety of fine dining establishments.  Studio 45 at Opposite House for 1 night.

Day 2, Beijing /Xining

Fly to Xining, the provincial capital of Qinghai.  After lunch, head to Kumbum Monastery, also known as Ta’er Monastery, one of the six great monasteries of the Gelugpa (Yellow sect).  Visit the monastery and its ancient treasures, and meet with one of its head Lamas.  Return to the downtown, and visit Dongguan Mosque, which is noted for its magnificent architecture and history.  Luxury Room at Sofitel Xining for 2 nights.

Day 3, Xining

This morning, drive to Kanbula National Geopark – a wonderland known for its unique ecosystem, geological landscapes, and its great importance in the revitalization of Tibetan Buddhism.  Hike 7-8km (4-5mi) through the spectacular Danxia peaks and dense forest to Nanzong Valley – one of the important cradles for the second Buddhist diffusion and development in Tibet.  Inside the valley, visit Aqiong Nanzong Monastery and Nanzong Nunnery, and meet monks and nuns to learn about their daily life.  Return to Xining in the late afternoon, and enjoy buffet dinner at hotel.

Day 4, Xining /Yushu

Fly to Yushu (Bartang Airport at 3,890m /12,762ft) in the morning, and drive through Bartang Grasslands to Gyegu Town (3,780m /12,402ft), the capital of Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture.

Have the rest of the day free at leisure to get acclimatized to the altitude, or walk the pilgrimage of Gyanak Mani (a massive collection of prayer stones) and opt to place your own mani stone there.  Deluxe Room at Yushu Qinggan Hotel for 1 night.

Day 5, Yushu /Longbaotan

Drive to Nianji Lake (Rongpo Tso in Tibetan, at 4,200m /13,780ft).  Every July and Aug, the grasslands around the lake will turn to oceans of flowers, with flocks of birds rippling the lake and the distant mountains providing a peaceful backdrop.  Take a walk from the southern shore to the west of the lake where mother chrysanthemum and other unnamed flowers are in full bloom.  Learn about the lake legends, and picnic on the flowery grasslands.

Continue the drive to Longbaotan National Reserve.  En route, stop for stunning views of the alpine grasslands, and visit Nianji Holy Mountain.  Afterwards, head north, along the Deng E Yong River, to Longbaotan National Reserve.  Guest Room at Longbao Lake Resort for 1 night.

Day 6, Longbaotan /Yushu

Go bird-watching in Longbaotan National Reserve (~4,260m /13,976ft), the biggest bird reserve in the key area of Sanjiangyuan (the headwaters of Asia’s three great rivers – the Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Lancang River).  Every spring, thousands of black-necked cranes, bar-headed geese and ruddy shelducks fly to its wetlands to breed before they migrate back to the south in late autumn.  Drive back to Yushu, and have a private afternoon to unwind.  Deluxe Room at Yushu Qinggan Hotel for 1 night.

Day 7, Yushu /Surmang

This morning, drive south to Surmang (~120km /75mi, 6hrs).  Surmang Valley (~4,000m /13,123ft) is boasted of stunning scenery, with flowery grasslands, clear lakes, as well as the picturesque mountains and dense alpine forest.  Here most villagers still live the traditional nomadic lifestyle – herding yaks and sheep.

Explore the Small Surmang Village and visit Surmang Dutsitil Monastery.  Founded about 600 years ago, Surmang Dutsitil Monastery currently has over 400 monks.  Stargaze in Surmang’s quiet and dark night.  Fully serviced and equipped camping for 1 night.

Day 8, Surmang /Nangchen

Today, continue your expedition into the heart of the ancient Nangchen Kingdom by driving to Sharnda (~130km /81mi, 5hrs).  En route, meet local nomads inside their yak-haired tents, and visit the impressive Gaden Monastery.  Built in 1535, Gaden Monastery stands atop a hill in the U-shape bend of Dzichu River (an important tributary of Mekong River).  If energy permits, hike uphill to enjoy panoramic views of the monastery and the river bend, which is very impressive and scenic. 

Continue the drive to Maozhuang Village (also known as Surmang Namgyaltse Village), and visit the 600-year old Surmang Namgyeltse Monastery.  Arrive in Sharnda in the late afternoon.  Located on the bank of Lancang River (Mekong), Sharnda (3,660m /12,008ft) is the capital of Nangchen County, and was once the center of the Nangchen Kingdom.  Guest room at a local hotel for 1 night.

Day 9, Nangchen /Gar Monastery

After breakfast, drive south to Gar Village (80km /50mi), a small village of 10 households nestled in the Baizha National Forest. En route, stretch legs and walk around the picturesque Baizha Village (Becha Village).

Upon arrival, tour the Lower and Upper Gar Monasteries.  Surrounded by evergreen forest, Gar Monastery has a history of over 1000 years, and is the biggest monastery of Kagyupa (White sect) in the entire Tibetan area.  This area is also home to a large variety of wildlife, including blue sheep, deer, foxes and monkeys.  Tonight, fall asleep under the clear starlit sky.  Fully serviced and equipped camping for 1 night.

Day 10, Gar Monastery /Gechak Nunnery

Continue the scenic drive to Gechak Nunnery (~150km /93mi).  En route, stop at Jichu Village (Jiqu Village), and walk the pilgrimage circuit of Gyamar Mani Temple.  Continue the drive (32km /20mi) along Jichu River (a headstream of Lancang River) and later onto the rolling mountains to Gechak Nunnery (4,500m /14,764ft) – blocks of drab buildings hidden in the green mountains.  Fully serviced and equipped camping for 3 nights.

Day 11, Gechak Nunnery

Visit the nunnery, and meet the friendly nuns who rarely have guests from the outside.  Opt to join their prayer ceremony.  Founded in 1893, Gechak Nunney is the largest and most important nunnery of Nyingmapa (Red sect) of Tibetan Buddhism in Qinghai, with more than 500 nuns nowadays.  Join the Starry Escapes Moment this evening, and stargaze in Gechak’s peaceful night.

Day 12, Gechak Nunnery

Today, trek into the scenic mountains (~18km /11mi, 6-7hrs, a round trip), and enjoy picnic lunch along the way.  Return to your campsite in the late afternoon, and have dinner at the nunnery.

Day 13, Gechak Nunnery /Yushu

Drive back to Yushu, through a shorter route via Rancha Grand Canyon and Jinisai Village.  En route, take an easy hike at Xurong Gar Valley (flexible, 1-2hrs for 3-6km /2-4mi).  At Sharnda, the capital of Nangchen county, stop to photograph the majestic Lancang River (Mekong River).  Continue the drive to Yushu.  Deluxe Room at Yushu Qinggan Hotel for 2 nights.

Day 14, Yushu

Join the Yushu Horseback Racing Festival.  Horseback Racing Festival is the traditional event for Tibetan herdsmen to celebrate, with horseback racing, horsemanship performance and folk dance.  Watch the horseback racing, and meet local horse riders. Kham people are known for their graceful songs and dances.  As evening falls, join the local people around a campfire for singing and dancing.

Day 15, Farewell

Fly to Xining in the morning, and take an onward flight to Beijing.  Farewell.

Trip Map

Dates & Prices


July 13 – 27, 2023


A small group of 10-12 guests traveling together, each guest USD6,780

Internal Airfare

All internal flights of economy class, starting from Beijing till Beijing, each guest USD1,210

All inclusive and fully serviced for your journey duration in China

All hotel accommodation on double occupancy;

All meals;

All transportation (Toyota Land Cruisers for Yushu from Day 4 till Day 15, with every three persons sharing one vehicle);

All tour and event plans, with the service of an English speaking guide and a driver, starting from arrival to departure at the airport of each destination;

The service of one group leader throughout the trip;

Plus proper flexibility and 24/7 immediate support.


1, The above price includes a donation of USD100 each guest to Gechack Nunnery.

2, For guests who take single occupancy for all hotel accommodation, a single supplement of USD1,110 will be charged.

3, Guests will need to take care of the international flights to and from Beijing, passport and China visa, travel insurance, personal expenses on trip, and optional gratuities to your guides and drivers.

Star Records

Thoroughly researched and developed to feature the best hotels and experiences available, our expeditions are continuously updated and perfected with the incorporation of new opportunities for you to engage with the places and people you visit.

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