When you’re standing on the rooftop of the world, it’s only natural, you’ll be at the best vantage point to see the night sky in all of its spectacular glory.
Dark Sky Reserve in Ngari
With low population density and few urban centres, Ngari in Tibet is a star gazer’s delight, boasting stunning views of some of the brightest stars in the universe.
Located in western Tibet and the northern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, it borders India and Nepal, covering a total area of 34,500 square kilometres. 4500 metres above sea level, it’s the place where the Himalayas, the Gangdise, the Kunlun Mountains and Karakorum Mountains meet.
In a bid to protect the global wonder of this clear, dark sky and its twinkling stars, China has established a “dark sky reserve” which is drawing astronomers and tourists alike from across the globe.
25 kilometres to the south of Shiquanhe town, it’s high altitude, scarce rainfall, lack of cloudy days and light winds make conditions perfect for star watchers.
This reserve, jointly launched by the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation and the regional government of Tibet protects the area from being overcome by light pollution and rapid industrialisation and urbanisation.
Ngari’s population is considerably small but urbanisation is still growing. With 30 districts, 106 townships, and 359 administrative villages it brings greater risks of light pollution.
What to expect in Dark Sky Park in Ngari
The night park is separated into different districts, which includes a constellation district, an observation district, and a tourist service district. There are six refraction and reflection telescopes which tourists can use to admire the craters of the moon as well as the great red spot of Jupiter, and observe the nebulas and constellations hidden deep within space.
Additionally, there are also simple meals, beds to rest on, and popular science ads. As well as observing the chromatically beautiful milky way and planets, tourists have the opportunity to go hunting for shooting stars, in what is one of the most ideal places to look for shooting stars in the northern hemisphere. The park is free and open around the clock but the best time to visit, is after 10pm.
Other must-visit attractions in Ngari
There are many other reasons to visit Ngari. It is also home to a rich landscape filled with beautiful lakes, rivers,and snowy mountain tops, glaciers and clay forests.
The ancient ruins of the mysterious Guge Kingdom have long been a major attraction, with 400 houses and 800 caves and rooms built into the mountain side.
Mount Kailash, known as one of the holiest mountains in the world 6,714 metres above sea level is also a main attraction for pilgrims and is associated with various religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Bon. Surrounding Mount Kailash are four ancient and famous monasteries: Zhabura, Chiu Gompa, Zheri and Zhozhub.
The Saga Dawa festival at Mount Kailash is perhaps one of the most important religious festivals in Tibet, celebrated enthusiastically on the full moon day of the fourth Tibetan Lunar month. The sacred lake of Manasarovar is also popular amongst pilgrims, its freshwater lake appearing in many Tibetan folk songs and dances.
Best time to visit Ngari
With an annual average temperature around 19C the temperatures can vary greatly from day to night. During the day in August, the temperature is above 10C but may drop to the subzero come nightfall.The best time to visit is around May, June, July and from mid September to early October, when the climate is mild and good for travel.
1600 kilometres west of Tibet’s capital Lhasa, you can fly from Lhasa to Ngari Gunsa Airport in just 1.5 hours or it’s a three to four day drive by car. However, in reality it is not recommended to do so. For the dramatic altitude change from Lhasa (3685m) to Ngari(above 4500m) will likely trigger acute altitude sickness to first-timers to Tibet. The safest way is via gradual ascent by tour vehicle. A highly recommended travel route is Lhasa—Gyantse—Shigatse—Everest Base Camp—Manasrovar–Mt.Kailash—Guge Kingdom. Check more details at 15 Days Kailash and Manasarova Small Group Tour
The standard of accommodation in Ngari is fairly poor and baths are only available in Shiquanhe Town. Hostels, rest houses can be found in the village of Darchen and the lakeside village. Temples also provide basic lodging facilities. During peak season camping is also an option worth considering.
For those looking for a star-filled sky in the wilderness – Ngari, Tibet is pure magic. Start making plans now for your pilgrimage to one of the world’s most mystical and remote corners under a starry sky.