Visiting the Valley of the Cats is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Stunning scenery, a colourful and fascinating culture and wonderful wildlife make any visit to the “roof of the world” an unforgettable experience. These are some of the activities visitors can enjoy and any visit can be tailored according to how you want to spend your time.
Note that the Valley of the Cats is at high elevation (3,700-4,700m). The risk of altitude sickness is real and the effects can be life-threatening. Please ensure you take time to acclimatise to the high elevation and know the symptoms. See this link for more information about altitude sickness and how to minimise the risk.
1. Wildlife Tour, including Snow Leopard Quest 寻找野生动物，比如说寻踪雪豹
Duration: one to three days 1-3天
Venture onto the mountain slopes, side valleys and snow-capped mountains in search of the local wildlife, including the elusive Snow Leopard. Follow the favourite prey of the apex predators, Blue Sheep and Yak, look for gatherings of vultures that often indicate a crime scene, or scan the hill sides and skyline for any silhouette… The Snow Leopard is extremely well-camouflaged and difficult to spot but with patience and persistence, you may be lucky. In Tibetan culture, spotting the Snow Leopard is a blessing. Whether or not your quest is successful in finding the mysterious feline, it will take you to areas offering stunning views of the magnificent scenery and offer chances of sighting the other exceptional wildlife in the area, including the Blue Sheep, White-lipped Deer, White Eared-pheasant, Himalayan Vulture and Golden Eagle.
And if you don’t see one, just remember the words of Peter Matthiessen in his book named after this magnificent cat. When asked if he saw a Snow Leopard during his epic trek through the Himalayas with George Schaller, he answered: “No. Isn’t that wonderful?”
The Tibetan Bunting and the Tibetan Babax are two rare species of bird endemic to the region. With the bunting favouring high elevation grassland with scattered shrubs and the babax preferring the forest cover, searching for these elusive birds will see you hike through gorges, over snow and shrub covered slopes and into riverside forests. While searching for the birds, be ready to encounter a large variety of other eye-catching animals and birds, such as Tibetan Snowcock, Tibetan Partridge, Snow Pigeon, Giant Laughingthrush and Mountain Weasel.
2. Trekking 徒步
Trek 1 – To The Ancient Tower 线路一：古塔探秘
The Jirigou Ancient Tower is a Cultural Relics Protection Unit of the Qinghai Province with a history of about 700 years. Among three original towers, two can still be found today, with one of them remains intact. On the way, you can enjoy a splendid view of the snow mountains, Danxia landscape covered with Tibetan junipers that are hundreds of years old, and the meandering Lancang river cutting through the Namsei valley.
Route：Stone momument —— Distant look to Buddha Mountain —— Temple —— Ancient Tower
Tip: Big rocks on the way are good for photographs!
Trek 2 – Buddha Mountain 线路二：佛头山
Duration: 3-4 hours. Elevation: 3900-4100m；Level：Medium
Buddha mountain is the landmark of Namsei. With the change of sunlight, the mountain shows different faces of a Buddha.
During the trip, please avoid touching the stone, which may cause damage.
Trek 3 – Egg Mountain 线路三：球球山
Egg Mountain is close to the road with easy access. From Egg Mountain, you have a view of one of the most famous scared mountains of the area —— Naibon sacred mountain.
Please prepare hiking gear, warm clothes, sunblock, hat, food, and water for the hike. In case of altitude sickness or exhaustion, the affected person needs to be taken downhill immediately.
While visiting, please show respect to the natural and cultural environments. Visitors need to stay on the trail at all times. Please avoid littering, stepping on native vegetation, or feeding or scaring wildlife.
While visiting Buddhist sites, please take off your hats, do not touch or drag the prayer flags, and always ask your guide for permission before taking photos.
3. Buddhism Pilgrimage 玉树周边佛教朝圣
Duration: one day
As monasteries and religious activities form an important part of local residents’ daily lives, this tour will take you to several key sites to help you develop a deeper understanding of Tibetan culture. Hike on Buddha mountain (佛头山), a prominent sacred mountain in the area. When you return to Yushu, along with pious believers, visit the Temple of Princess Wencheng (文成公主庙), built 1,300 years ago to remember the Tang Princess who married the Tibetan leader of the Tubo kingdom, uniting the destiny of the Tang dynasty with that of the Tibetan kingdom. Then, take a drive to Yushu City, to the Gyêgu monastery (结古寺), one of the largest monasteries in the area. Finally, take a look at the fascinating ceremonial of endless pilgrims circumambulating at all hours around the Jiana Mani Stone Mound (嘉那玛尼石堆), the largest pile of the Mani stones in the world.
4. A Day as a Yak Herder 牧区生活体验
Duration: one day
On this excursion, you will live the life of a yak herder. You will experience herding through several means of transportation. In the morning, after milking the yaks, take the traditional way, riding on horseback to take these animals to the grazing areas. Of course, after herding a while, you will need a break with yak milk tea and yoghurt. This will enable you to continue on horseback to explore the township of Angsai. Later in the afternoon, try the modern way.. most families ride motorbikes now!
You will be taken aback by the natural beauty yaks are able to enjoy every day in the region, either in summer when the grasslands are covered with red blue and yellow wildflowers – mile after mile of a kind of rainbow carpet – or in winter, when the snow-hooded mountains are encased in a necklace of white.
5. A look into Shanshui, Angsai (Namsei) Station
Duration: half a day
Shanshui is a major non-governmental organization operating in Sanjiangyuan. Since 2009, it has been carrying out a large set of conservation activities on the ground with the involvement of the local community. Their activities include installing cameras traps on the mountains to better monitor the wildlife, setting up anti-poaching patrols, or creating nature watch activities in the region. Angsai workstation was inaugurated in 2017 and is the first dedicated scientific research station in Sanjiangyuan. It serves as a major outpost for Shanshui conservationists whose actions are deeply rooted in the local community.
Get a deeper understanding of the work of these pioneers by meeting them, learning about their research, their daily challenges, and their unique insights as bridges between the Tibetan herders, the local government and the scientific community. It is also a chance for you to contribute to the ongoing conservation efforts yourself, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details!
6. Discovering the night sky
Duration: an evening
While you will be stunned by the natural beauty of Sanjiangyuan during the daytime, you will be enchanted by night. Due to the low-levels of light pollution, Sanjiangyuan is a wonderful stargazing location. On clear summer nights, when the skies are the darkest and clearest, embark on a journey to explore the mysteries of the universe and enjoy the starry show of the Milky Way, star clusters, nebulae and meteors. The best two meteor showers are without doubt: the Perseid (mid-August) and the Geminid (mid-December), during which up to 120–160 meteors per hour can be observed. According to a Tibetan saying, if one sees a meteor, they will receive God’s intelligence.
To be best prepared, please download a stargazing APP before you arrive or purchase a guidebook!