Amdo Towns

As one of the closest parts of Tibet to the large cities of Western China, Amdo towns can be a great travel destination for those who happen to be visiting Chengdu, Xining, Lanzhou, or even Xian. There is convenient travel to Amdo Tibet from all these cities by either a short flight, or a few hours overland by bus or private vehicle. Train travel is even an option for some Amdo destinations.

For many of the Amdo towns, you will find stunning monasteries, each unique with its own design and style. Xiahe (Labrang in Tibetan) is home to the Labrang Monastery, known to be one of six great monasteries of the Gelukpa sect of Buddhism. It is far more than a monastery, but a monastic community containing temples and stupas (chortens in Tibetan), meeting halls, dwellings and dormitories for monks, and courtyards for festival times. Or perhaps Tongren (Rebkong in Tibetan) will interest you with its fame in all regions of Tibet for its deep history in Thangka painting. This ancient town grew around the Longwu Monastery after it was established back in 1301.

If monasteries do not spark any interest, Songpan holds historical significance as it was a key border city between the ancient Tibetan and Chinese empires and facilitated much trading between the two powers. Part of Songpan’s city wall still remains as a reminder of the tribal factions that used to exist between the different Tibetan peoples in its long history. Travelers can even purchase a ticket and take a tour on top of part of the old wall. Songpan is the gateway city to Jiuzhaigou National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The surrounding area of Songpan offers beautiful mountain views and close access to the nearby grasslands which Amdo Tibet is most known for.

For a helpful introduction to the geography of Tibet’s three regions relative to each other and the rest of China, be sure to visit our page on Tibet Travel Essentials.

Ngawa (Aba)

Aha County Town

Located in the Northwest of Sichuan Province at an elevation of 3,200 meters above sea level is the town of Ngawa (རྔ་བ་རྫོང།), also known as Aba (阿坝县) in Chinese. Aba is located on the Tibetan plateau, and the town is the seat of Ngawa (Aba) County. The city holds a population of approximately 20,000 people, with 8,000 of them being monks. …

Zoigê (Ruoergai)


The county town of Zoigê (མཛོད་དགེ་རྫོང་།)is located in the Amdo Tibetan region of Sichuan. Known for its Tibetan Nomads, Flower Lake, the Hequ horse, and more, this is a popular place for travellers wishing to see the Tibetan Plateau.Ruoergai (若尔盖) in Chinese. Things to Visit Around Ruoergai Flower Lake Located a half hour drive north of Ruoergai, one can find the Ruoergai …

Hong Yuan (Krhongche)

Hong Yuan County Town

The city of Hong Yuan(红原) is located on the Tibetan Plateau in the Amdo region of Sichuan, and is also known in Tibetan as Krhongche (ཁྱུང་མཆུ།). Hong Yuan sits at an altitude of 3,400m (11,000ft.), and has a population of about 50,000 people. The town was named in 1960 by the Chinese Prime Minister Zhouenlai in memory of the Long …

Rebkong (Tongren)

Tongren 2

The town of Rebkong (རེབ་གོང་།) in the Huangnan Prefecture has much to offer travelers. Known throughout the years for its art, monasteries, agricultural and mining community, and even for its cultural revolution, visitors can spend days taking in all this historic town has to offer. While the town of Tongren is known as such in Mandarin (同仁). Its Humble Beginnings …

Sungchu (Songpan )


Located in the North of Sichuan Province, with a population over 68,000, is Sungchu (ཟུང་ཆུ). Until recently it was an agriculturally dominated community, but with an influx of foreign students and travelers to and from Huanglong, Sungchu, known in Chinese Songpan County (松潘), has added tourism to being one of its top sectors. Songpan’s Strategic Location Built during the Tang Dynasty …

Barkham (Maerkang)

maerkang 5

The prefectural capital of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, sometimes known as Barkham (འབར་ཁམས), Maerkang (马尔康) holds a mostly Han Chinese population of around 50,000, with some Tibetans as well. Because of its elevation, Maerkang has a unique climate resting somewhere between subtropical and humid continental, where monsoons are not uncommon. Sightseeing In the Area Maerkang, which in Tibetan …

Lhamo Gompa (Langmusi)


Borders and Temples Lhamo Gompa (ལྷ་མོ་དགོན་པ།) in Tibetan,or Langmusi (郎木寺) in Chinese, is very unique with a provincial border running directly through the middle of town. The area’s population is mostly filled with Amdo Tibetans and Hui Muslims, with the town split into two halves, each with its own Gompa. Kirti Gompa is located on the Sichuan side (south) and …

Bsang chu rdzong (xiahe xian )

Overlooking Labrang Monastery in Xiahe

Located in Gansu Province, bsang chu rdzong (བསང་ཆུ་རྫོང་།), known as Xiahe’s (夏河)in Chinese.The main road runs parallel along the Daxia River. While some areas outside of town may have difficulties with running water or electricity, the well-worn tourist travelled areas does not experience any of these issues.  Within a short distance of the town there are many historic and natural sites …

Trochu (Heishui)

Stuppas at Heishui

Trochu (ཁྲོ་ཆུ་རྫོང་།), under the Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, is part of Sichuan Province. Most of the Tibetans found here are not Amdo speaking, in fact, they are part of sub-group known as Gyarong, who are Qiangic speaking Tibetans. Known in Chinese as Heishui County (黑水), Heishui County has something to offer for every visitor from the modern luxuries and …

Chabcha (Gonghe)

Panchen Lama Memorial Stupa Gonghe

Among the grasslands of Qinghai province, sitting in its own valley, lies the ever growing town of Chabcha (ཆབ་ཆ།). Known in Mandarin as Gonghe (共和县), this prefectural capital of Hainan has everything from crowded markets to beautiful landscapes and over the years has become a center point for transportation and goods due to its geographical proximity to many other attractive …