Tibet Autonomous Region | Population: 462,381
Nagchu (also called Nagqu or Nakchu) is a charming city located at an altitude of 4,507 meters above sea level in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. It is surrounded by two picturesque mountain ranges, namely the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains and the Tanggula Mountains. The city’s old-world architecture, clean air, cool-to-cold weather, rolling grasslands, and snow-capped mountain peaks, deep blue lakes, meandering streams, and the distant lush green virgin forests draws tourists from all over the world, especially during the spring and summer seasons.
Archaeological findings have proved that the Xiangxiong Kingdom was thriving in the region in the 7th century. It was located between Shiquan and the Xiangxiong Rivers. The kingdom belonged to the Bon people and this ethnic group still exists in the area. The Ruins of the Xiangxiong Kingdom near Nagchu City are a popular cultural and historical site.
Today, the city has a peaceful and tourist-friendly environment although it is not as famous as Lhasa or Qinghai. The most enjoyable event is the Horse Racing Festival hosted on the beautiful Qiangtang Prairie in the month of August. Visitors can watch the locals perform dances in colorful traditional costumes. There are platforms from where the horse races can be watched and photographed.
Nagchu City is blessed by nature’s bounties. There is nothing modern, polluted, or artificial about the landscape surrounding the city. The Bon ethnic minority people consider the Tangra Yumco Lake sacred. This lake is at an elevation of more than 4,500 meters above sea level and is surrounded by mountain peaks that are reflected in its mirror-like clarity.
The Chang Tang National Nature Reserve lies at 4,800 meters above sea level and is the highest nature reserve in the world. It consists of large mountains, deep valleys, dense alpine forests, gigantic lakes, waterfalls, ponds, etc. The reserve also has plenty of animals some of which belong to the endangered species but are thriving here.
The magnificent Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains consist of two parallel mountain ranges of the Trans-Himalayan group. The western range has more than 2,900 glaciers and presents the most scenic vistas. The eastern range is equally picturesque with the Yarlung Tsangpo and Nak Chu Rivers flowing down the slopes.
Another attraction that is a must-see and is great for photography is the Quzhong Spring area. It is located near the Jiangqin Village and is surrounded by the Yala Holy Mountain. The turquoise-colored water of the spring remains very warm even when the surrounding areas have sub-zero temperatures. The stunning location of the spring has made it a popular part of the tourist circuit. The Nanqu and Suoqu Rivers flow down the Yala Mountain, adding to the pristine beauty of the region.
The Yaan Cave Hot Spring which is located nearby is so rich in mineral salts that it is believed to have therapeutic properties. Hence, it has become one of the most popular attractions, especially with overseas tourists. Other attractions near Nagchu City are the Basu Rock Paintings and the Yarlung Tsangpo Scenic Area.
Food and Dining
The 3-star hotels have in-house restaurants but they serve very few pseudo-western dishes. Most of the dishes are Chinese or Tibetan and they are not very spicy to suit western tastes. The local cuisine of Nagchu City is typically Tibetan with beef, pork, and lamb being the main ingredients. Whereas the traditional Tibetan food has mild flavors, the local food of Nagchu is slightly spicy. They make liberal use of yak butter, yak milk, and yak meat too in their dishes. Some of the local specialties are Thupka (noodle soup), Barlep Korkun (flatbread), air-dried meat, yak butter and yogurt, tea with yak butter, Shosha (cheese made from yak or goat milk), pork, beef and mutton stews flavored with yak milk or yogurt.
Where To Stay
The accommodation in Nagchu City is limited to 3-star hotels, guesthouses, and lodges. Although they have very few amenities that one expects from 5-star hotels, the rooms are generally clean and the food is reasonable. To attend the Horse Racing Festival on the grasslands, the only accommodation available is in the form of Tibetan tents which are comfortable and spacious. The staff in the 3-star hotels has a little knowledge of the English language but that is usually not the case in the smaller lodgings. So it will be prudent to carry a suitable dictionary or download a translation app.