Badain Jaran Desert Tour, China Private Tour

From Badain Jaran to Lhasa


  • Overland Tours
  • Summer Tours
12 Days
2 Flights
Not Child Friendly

This is a fascinating private tour to some of China’s least traveled regions. The trip begins with a thrilling ride through the mysterious sand dunes of the Badain Jaran desert. Dotted with thousands of crystal-clear lakes locked amidst some of the world’s highest sand dunes, Badain Jaran desert features a landscape like non-other. Drive out of the desert and continue through Qinghai Province, part of historical Tibet, and today home to diverse ethnic groups of distinct traditions and religions. After touring Qinghai, hop onboard the Sky Train, a true engineering feat ascending along the Tibetan Plateau all the way to Lhasa. End the trip with few days of exploring some of the most revered sites to Tibetan Buddhism and meeting the Tibetan people and culture up-close.

Recommended dates to travel from Badain Jaran desert to Lhasa are June to September. However, July and August might be a bit more crowded (please refer to the Chinese national holidays’ list below, during which these rates might not apply).




  • Dinner

Land in Beijing, the Chinese capital city. Meet the guide, and drive to the city center. The drive from the airport into the city center tells in many ways the story of China’s swift transition from classic socialism to nearly free market economy, and the social changes that followed such transition. From the suburbs, where luxurious and spacious residential complexes have been built to accommodate those who were quick to take advantage of the arrival of capitalism, the urban landscape gradually changes to old-style communist residential blocks, and then again, once arriving at the heart of the city, luxurious high-risers accommodate the offices of the world’s leading companies and brands. Depending on time of arrival, a first orientation tour might be possible, followed by a welcome dinner- a chance to indulge in an authentic Chinese meal and introduction to Chinese cuisine. Then revert to the hotel for a first night in China.


  • Breakfast

This morning drive back to Beijing airport for the flight to the small town of Zhangye. This might be a direct flight, or might have a stopover in one of the main travel hubs of western China, depending on availability. Arrive in Zhangye, an important trade post on the ancient Silk Road, located right at the entrance to Hexi Corridor- the most convenient route for trade convoys to navigate between the rising Qilian Mountains to the south, and the vast Gobi Desert to the north. Drive to the hotel to check-in before visiting the reclining Buddha temple, dating back to the Western Xia Dynasty of the 11th century. Apart from the impressive 34-meter (112 feet) Buddha statue, the temple complex also features some very interesting religious artifacts that have been recovered from various archaeological digs in the region. In the evening stroll along the lively night street, where city dwellers come to enjoy good local food served at small restaurants and food stalls.


  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

After breakfast at the hotel depart Zhangye for the drive to Badain Jaran. Badain Jaran desert is home to the world’s highest sand dunes, rising to some 500 meters (1,640 feet), featuring challenging drives as well as unparalleled landscapes. Surprisingly, this seemingly endless sea of sands extending to the horizon is dotted with nothing but beautiful blue lakes. No one knows for certain what the source of these lakes is, but it is assumed the water comes all the way from the Qilian Mountains through underground rivers to Badain Jaran. The drive through the dunes and among the lakes leads to Soumin Jaran, a beautiful lake with a typical Mongolian-style temple beside it. Visit the temple, now inhabited by only one monk, and enjoy a walk along the lake shore. Overnight in a very basic guesthouse at Soumin Jaran.


  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Leave Soumin Jaran and drive up to one of the highest dunes in the area for a spectacular view over lakes and breathtaking dunes, beautifully shaped by the elements. From here take a two-and-a-half-hour hike to Nuritu Lake. After a quick lunch take to the vehicles to drive out of the Badain Jaran desert. En route pause by the wall of singing sand and those brave enough can have a quick dip at Bor Tulguu Lake. Leave the dunes and stop at the small local museum to learn more about Badain Jaran desert and its unique ecosystem. Back on a solid asphalt, after two days of driving through the dunes, reach the small settlement of Alxa Youqi. Here say farewell to the jeep drivers and board the bus back to Zhangye, arriving back in town late in the evening.


  • Breakfast

Once again drive out of Zhangye, heading towards Bing Guo. Located at the foot of the Qilian Mountains, this lovely park consists of marvelous sandstone formations. Take a short hike down a valley and climb up to an observation point for a breathtaking view over this unique landscape formed of beautiful sandstone, shaped over the years by wind and water. Back in the vehicle, continue to Dan Xia, a spectacular mountain with somewhat psychedelic patterns of colors in the rock, made be variety of minerals deposited in the rich soil. Drive back to Zhangye to board a Bullet Train to Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province. Arrive in Xining late at night, and drive to the hotel for the night.


  • Breakfast

Today we take an excursion out of Xining to the Canbula National Forest Park, which has impressive rock and land formations and snow-capped mountains. We explore the park by car then hike down the Nanzong Valley to the area of Liujia Gorge, now flooded following the construction of a power station dam, and take a memorable boat ride on the lake formed by the dam (if available). In the late afternoon we drive back to Xining, crossing over the mighty Yellow River. Overnight in Xining.


  • Breakfast

With an early start of the day go to the city's main square to see the crowds taking their morning exercises, from groups of Tibetans dancing to traditional and modern music all the way to individuals mastering their t’ai chi technique. Then walk to the city's food market to stock up on fruit and snacks for the train ride later in the day. Before leaving Xining, stop at one of the city’s largest mosques. Showing a combination of traditional Muslim and Chinese architecture, the mosque is located at the edge of the wide extent of the Chinese Sunni people. Originally constructed during the 14th century, the buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Continue to the train station for an unforgettable ride on the recently opened Sky Train to Lhasa. This ambitious project undertaken by the Chinese government is not only the world’s highest railway but also a true triumph for mankind, overcoming many natural and mechanical obstacles during its construction. Overnight aboard the train.


  • Dinner

Reach Lhasa in the early afternoon and drive directly to the hotel to rest after the 24-hour train ride. At nearly 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) above sea level, the air in Lhasa is very thin. For those who need some time to acclimatize, a free afternoon at the hotel is offered. Those with enough stamina will leave the hotel and walk to the bustling Barkhor, a circular street around the Jokhang Temple, Tibet’s holiest temple, and home to the most sacred statue for the Tibetan people- the Jowo Rinpoche. After exploring the Barkhor, with its hustle and bustle of many hundreds of pilgrims taking the kora around the Jokhang along busy market stalls, enter the temple itself, dating back to the 7th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


  • Breakfast

Today explore Lhasa’s most prominent sites and temples, beginning with a morning visit to Norbulingka. Built in 1775, this was the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas from the time of its construction until the present Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959. With its vast, well maintained gardens, and the light breeze blowing from the lake right at the center of the vast complex, this is a perfect refuge from the heat of the city in summer. Proceed to the Potala Palace with its whitewashed fortified walls, a formidable protection from both invaders and earthquakes. The massive site stretching for some 140,000 square meters (nearly 35 acres) on top of a hill looking over the entire Lhasa Valley. The Potala features more than 1000 shrines, the tombs of most of the Dalai Lamas, and an excellent display of Tibetan and Buddhist art and workmanship. Leave the palace and head to Sera Monastery, one of the three main colleges of the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism. At the center of this large complex of shrines, temples and study halls, in a shaded courtyard, Tibetan monks are conducting elaborate theological debates. The ceremony around these debates, dozens of them taking place simultaneously, stage a mesmerizing sight. After attending the debates revert to the hotel for a second night in Lhasa.


  • Breakfast

Leave Lhasa for a drive along the Kyi River Valley. En route pause at a sacred site where Tibetan families give a ‘water burial’ to children who have passed away. Continue driving to Gamba La pass at 4,800 meters (15,748 feet) above sea level for a view over the crystal blue Yamdrok Lake, one of Tibet’s most sacred lakes. From here descend back to the Kyi Valley, heading towards Tsedang and straight to Yumbulakhang Palace, believed to be not only the palace of the first king of Tibet but also the first building ever to have been built in its territory. With very few written records about the palace, which now functions as a monastery of the Gelugpa sect, it is assumed that its construction started in the 2nd century BC. It was severely damaged during the Cultural Revolution but was reconstructed in 1983 to its current state. The palace offers great view over cultivated plots, providing an insight into rural Tibet. Late in the afternoon arrive in the small town of Tsedang and set here in a simple hotel for the night.


  • Dinner

Take the short drive from Tsedang to Samye Monastery. This is the first ever Buddhist monastery built in Tibet, with its construction assumed to have begun in 775 AD. The five-story monastery is built in the form of a mandala and is a major pilgrimage site for Tibetans from all over the country. Leave Samye and drive along the Yarlung River, which, when flows into India, is known as the Brahmaputra. After the visit, board the vehicle and drive to Lhasa’s airport for an afternoon flight to Beijing. Arrive in Beijing rather late in the evening and head to the hotel by the airport for a last night in China.


  • Breakfast

After breakfast at the hotel transfer to Beijing airport for the international flight out of China.

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Dates & Pricing

Badain Jaran to Lhasa private tour rates are quoted in US Dollars and are valid for two confirmed travelers and above.

Note: Trip rates are valid all year round, but are not valid for trips that occur (in whole, or in part) during Chinese national holidays:
New Year (1-3 Jan 2021)
Chinese Spring Festival (11-17 Feb 2021)
Qingming Festival (4-6 Apr 2020, 2-4 Apr 2021)
Labor Day Holiday (1-5 May 2020, 28 Apr-2 May 2021)
Dragon Boat Festival (25-27 Jun 2020, 12-14 Jun 2021)
Mid-Autumn Festival (19-21 Sep 2021)
National Day Holiday (1-8 Oct 2020, 1-7 Oct 2021)

[email protected] reserves the right to change China private tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.

Prices are based on twin share occupancy.

Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$3782/ person
6 travelers- US$3391/ person
8 travelers- US$3284/ person

  • Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.

16th June, 2021–27th June, 2021

  • $4,590 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $631 Single Room Supplement

Additional Information

  • 2 domestic flights Beijing/Zhangye-Lhasa/Beijing
  • Accommodation at hotels selected including breakfast
  • Bullet train Zhangye-Xining by 1st class
  • Soft-sleeper (4-berth) compartment for Sky train Xining-Lhasa
  • Transfer by private A/C vehicle (except transportation in Badain Jaran- no A/C)
  • 4WD for 2 days in Badain Jaran Desert
  • Meals as indicated in the program
  • English speaking guide for each area as per program
  • Entry fees for all sightseeing as mentioned on the program
  • Badain Jaran desert travel permit
  • Tibet travel permit

Granting travel permits to both Badain Jaran and Tibet are at the absolute discretion of the Chinese Government, and might be declined at any time without prior notice.

  • International travel to and from China
  • Travel insurance
  • Chinese tourist visa
  • Excess luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Anything not clearly mentioned in the program

  • Beijing – Park Plaza Wangfujing Hotel 4-star
  • Zhangye – Dinghe International Hotel 4-star
  • Badain Jaran - Local simple guesthouse
  • Xining – Enraton International Hotel 4-star
  • Lhasa – Four Points by Sheraton 4-star
  • Tsedang – Tsedang Hotel 4-star
  • Beijing at the end of the trip – Crowne Plaza Beijing International Airport 5*

Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.

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