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Qinghai-Tibet Highway

Qinghai-Tibet Highway starts from Xining in Qinghai Province and ends at Lhasa, Tibet. It is the highest and longest asphalt road in the world, and also the relatively shortest, the best and safest road to Tibet. Along the road, the landscape is majestic with all the prairie, salt lakes, mountains, deserts and other natural landscape. Qinghai-Tibet Highway is open to traffic all year round. It is the busiest one among the 5 highways to Tibet.
With the length of 1937 km, Qinghai-Tibet Highway is the national secondary highway. The width of roadbed is 10 meters, the slope is less than 7%, the minimum radius is 125 meters. The highway’s average elevation is 4,000 meters, and the maximum driving speed on the highway is 60 km / h. At the back of Kunlun Mountains, there are ancient lake landforms, which had built 474 culverts and more than 60 bridges, with a total length of 1,347 km.

Basic Information of Qinghai-Tibet Highway

Qinghai-Tibet Highway
Start Construction:
1,937 km
Average Elevation:
4,000 km
Starting Piont:
Ending Piont:


Construction of Qinghai-Tibet Highway

The highway was constructed in 1950, and opened in 1954. From Xining to Golmud part, climbing Xiangpi Mountain (altitude 3,800 meters), Wanggaxiu Mountain (altitude 3680 m), Tuotu Mountain (altitude 3500 m) and other mountains, the highway then goes across the Dashui River, Xiangride River, Gaikeguang River, Baxi River, Qingshui River, Hongshui River and other rivers, with the length of 782 km. This section is 2200 to 3800 meters above sea level.

Golmud to Lhasa section, across the Kunlun Mountains (altitude 4600 m), Fenghuoshan Mountain (altitude 5010 m), Tanggula Mountain (altitude 5320 m), Touerjiu Mountain (altitude 5180 m) and other mountains, this part of highway then runs across the Chuma'er River, Hongliang River, Qushui River, Xiushui River, Beilu River, Yama'er River, Tongtian River and other rivers, with the length of 1,161 km. The whole Qinghai-Tibet Highway from Xining to Lhasa is almost 4,000 meters above sea level.

Originally the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Highway was with low quality, along with the harsh climate conditions and special adverse geological condition on the plateau, the road had met a lot of problems after opening to public, and had suffered from renovation and remodeling for many times.
In 1974, it began a comprehensive renovation and a road standard was increased to secondary highway, plus asphalt pavement. Xining to Golmud section’s renovation was completed in 1978. Golmud to Lhasa section completed more than 70% reconstruction works till 1984.

Significance of Qinghai-Tibet Highway

The world's "third pole" - Tibet is a magical and beautiful place, which has always been a Buddhist shrine aspired by a lot of people in China and also around the world. However, because of its steep terrain, huge mountains and rivers, it was blocked from the outside world. Early in 1950, the PLA went to Tibet and with the Tibetan people to carry forward the spirit of arduous struggle, overcame hardships, conquer all obstacles to build the Sichuan-Tibet Highway and Qinghai-Tibet Highway with total length of more than 4360 kilometers of through the roof of the world, making modern transportation replaces backward mode of transport in Tibet, and creating a new chapter in the development of transportation in Tibet.
Qinghai-Tibet Highway in Tibet connects with important passages of the mainland, bearing transport mission of more than 85 percent of goods to Tibet and more than 90% of goods in Tibet to the other places, plays an important role on economic development and social stability in Tibet, and is known as Tibet’s "Lifeline” .

Scenery along Qinghai-Tibet Highway

Along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, you may enjoy a great view outside your window.

  • Qinghai Lake


  • ​​​Ge'ermu


  • Kekexili

Tips for Driving to Tibet

  • On most travel guide books, the best way for tourists who are the first time to Tibet is through Qinghai-Tibet Highway. Because of the high altitude, every people have different level of altitude reactions. It is recommended that it's better for you to fly to Tibet and drive back when your body has adapted to the plateau conditions.
  • The best time to visit Tibet is from May to Oct.. Winter is too cold but with less visitors. Even in summer, you need to prepare sweater, down vest and other thick clothes. The rain and snow weather is common in Tibet and the temperature could fall to under zero degree during midnight.
  • The restaurants along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway are mainly Sichuan cuisine restaurants and Muslin restaurants. Travelers could bring some fruits, nuts and chocolates.
  • For self-driving travelers, it is recommended to drive through the high altitude sections as fast as possible. The hard section is from Golmud to Lhasa, which is 1100 km long. If you drive at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, you will arrive at nightfall. The accommodation could be in Nagri, Anduo or Xiongdang, which have relatively better conditions.

Related Information

More about transportation: Tibet Transportation

More travel infromation: Tibet Travel Guide