The Kekexinlin National Sanctuary is located in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Haixi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Tibet autonomous region (TAR), and some parts from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The sanctuary covers 83,000 square kilometers at an average elevation of over 4800 meters above sea level. It is also known as Hoh Xil National Sanctuary, which means beautiful girl in Mongolian. Qinghai Hoh Xil is sometimes referred to as the world’s “third pole” due to its frigid climatic extremes.
The plateau’s many glaciers, rivers, streams, and lakes feed one of the essential freshwater sources on the planet. It is one of the largest, highest, and most abundant nature reserves in China. The water that melts from the site’s glaciers forms a vast wetland system of numerous lakes and rivers. The site is where the Yangtze River, Asia’s longest river, takes its source. It is also the world’s third-largest National Nature Reserve. Influenced by a strong west wind all the year round and due to a lack of water and oxygen, it is dry and cold and is not inhabitable for humans. The Last Land that Remains in its Original State with the absence of humans, Hoh Xil, has preserved its primitive state. The reserve boasts a stunning landscape, including valleys, glaciers, frost mounds, stone forests, and boiling springs. The vast undulating hills and plains give expansive vistas. In addition, rivers of all sizes cross on nearly all the whole reserve. There are 107 lakes with an area of over 247 acres and over 7,000 smaller lakes. Of all the lakes, Ulan Ul Lake, with an area of over 130,000 acres, is the largest and the fourth largest lake in Qinghai Province.
The Kekexinlin National Sanctuary has more than 230 species of wild animals despite the harsh climate and altitude. More than one-third of plant varieties and all herbivores are endemic to the plateau. Among those wildlife species, 20 of them are endangered species and under Chinese state protection. Those are wild yak, wild donkey, white-lip deer, brown bear, and Tibetan antelope, also known as Chiru. The Tibetan antelope is the most endangered species as poachers hunted it down in the last decade. Temperatures average sub-zero year-round—glacial meltwater supplies the many rivers, lakes, and marshlands in these reserves. The site is also essential as a calving area and place of seasonal migration of large Tibetan antelope. The male antelope’s testis was in massive demand because the testis is used in many cosmetic products and medicines in China. These days there both local administration and volunteers have worked hard to protect and preserve Kekexinlin. Currently, around five hundred volunteers from various professions and different parts of the country have participated in the protection and research over the years as the population of Tibetan antelopes is slightly growing. This wildlife has been native to the Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures of Qinghai Province and Tibet plateau for centuries. These animals migrate from place to place every season of the year and create unique scenery in the area. This is the best place for the tourist to witness the world’s rarest species and most untouched landscape of all.
The Kekexinlin National Sanctuary is divided into three different landscapes by nature. The places under Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture are plan grasslands surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Geography is terrific, especially in the mid-Spring season and the entire Summer season every year. The UNESCO world heritage site is located in the western half of Zhidoe county and the west of Chimarleb county in the Yushu Tibetan autonomous of Qinghai Province. The places under the Tibetan autonomous region are not as beautiful as Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture because rocky mountains and sandhills surround some plain grassland. The climate is quite warm and dry. The place under Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Prefecture is mostly a desert area, and it is scorched and hot, especially in the summer season. The climate is quite harsh. As the environment in Kekexinlin National Sanctuary is fragile, tourists can enjoy its scenery by driving a car or riding a bike along the Qinghai-Tibet Highway on its eastern edge. You may see Tibetan antelopes, wild yaks, and other endangered species with cultivated pasture lands if you are lucky enough.
The best time to travel in those areas is in July and September. There are sudden things to keep in mind, don’t go too close to the wild animals while you are driving especially wild yaks and Tibetan antelopes, as they like to race with cars, and sometimes they might get scared and attack your vehicle. There are a few ways to go to Kekexinlin National Sanctuary. You can go from Yushu city to the Kekexinlin National Sanctuary by car or bus and go from Xining to Golmud city of Haixi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture by train and then by train car or bus. There is another route from Xining to Ulan county and the National Sanctuary. The best way to travel at Kekexinlin National Sanctuary is by car because you can witness lots of beautiful landscapes and learn more about the lives of rare wild animals of the plateau. We recommend that travelers not go alone and always go with a local guide because they know the place well enough. The national sanctuary is located at high altitudes, so that you might need some first aids kit for precaution. It was advised to refrain from strenuous physical activity at high altitudes, and the oxygen tanks may help provide immediate relief.