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Ultimate Guide to Your Nagchu Horse Racing Festival Tour Planning

January,10 2019 BY Master Kungga Dundruk 0 COMMENTS

Tibet is a land where festivals are a major part of the way of life, and as a devout Buddhist region, there are plenty of festivals throughout the year to make even the most festive Tibetan happy. Horse racing festivals are a great way to spend a few days, meeting old friends, spending time with family, and enjoying the great Tibetan foods that are found in huge quantities at any Tibetan festival. And there is no better or bigger horse racing festival than the one held in Nagqu every August. Lasting for anywhere from five to fifteen days, the Nagqu Horse Racing Festival is the best festival of its kind in Tibet.

Best Time for Nagqu Horse Festival

The Nagqu Horse Racing Festival happens either in late July or early August, which is the golden time for the plains and prairies of the Changtang Grasslands of northern Tibet. August is the height of summer in Nagqu, and while it may be the monsoon season, there are still plenty of dry and sunny days on the plateau grasslands in which to hold the festival. Besides, it is better to hold a horse racing event when the ground has a little moisture, and is not cold and dry, as there is less dust to throw up and the softer ground is better for the horses to run on.

Nagchu Horse Racing FestivalNagqu Horse Racing Festival is the grandest horse riding competition in Nagqu.

Summer is the ideal time for the festival, as the grasslands are a rich emerald green, with the summer flowers spreading across the meadows and plains of the Changtang. The temperatures are warm at this time of year, reaching as high as around 15 degrees, which is hot for this high-altitude area of northern Tibet. August is not the peak month for monsoon rainfall either, and since the end of July, the rains have been steadily getting less. Most of the rain in this month falls in the late evenings and overnight, which leaves the days bright and clear for the racing and other events.

Travel Documents Needed for Visiting Nagqu, Northern Tibet

Many parts of Tibet outside Lhasa require you to have the Alien’s travel permit as well as the Tibet Travel Permit, and Nagqu is one of them. Getting the Tibet Travel Permit is a simple process, as we do it for you. Once you have decided on your tour and booked it with us, we will make the application for the Tibet Travel Permit on your behalf, using scanned copies of your passport and Chinese Entry Visa. Once it has been approved, it will be sent to us, and we will forward it to your hotel in China ready for your trip to Tibet. It should be noted that no company in China can arrange the Tibet Travel Permit without you first having booked a pre-arranged tour of Tibet.

The Alien’s Travel Permit, which is required for visiting the unopened areas outside Lhasa, is normally applied for once you reach Lhasa, and requires your original passport and Tibet Travel Permit for the application. The permit will be applied for on your behalf by your guide from the office of the Public Security Bureau in Lhasa, and takes around an hour to process.

What to experience in Nagqu festival?

The Nagqu Horse Racing Festival is the largest single festival in Tibet, and attracts thousands and thousands of people from all over the region, including visitors from the cities who have come up to watch and take part in the festivities. For a week or two before the festival, nomads start to arrive at the site, and set up their tents around the outside of the racing field. Over the course of several days, the arriving nomads and visitors turn the grasslands area into a huge tent city, where you can buy or barter almost anything that can be found in Tibet, from Chinese Herbal Medicine to traditional Tibetan handicrafts.

Locals are performing Tibetan OperaLocals are performing Tibetan Opera during the festival in Nagqu.

The festival opens with an opening ceremony, and continues with a huge number of well-organized events over the next several days, including horse races, with knockout competitions where the last man (or horse) running is the winner. There are also yak races, if you can believe that yaks can race, as well as the tug of war competitions, weightlifting contests, and plenty of singing and dancing that goes on throughout the day and long into the night. Many of the performances are from Tibetan operas, and tell of the great Tibetan epic stories, in song and dance in the traditional way.

Eating and drinking is a major part of any festival, and in Nagqu, there is no bigger feasting event than the horse racing festival. Families get together and enjoy each other’s company, sometimes seeing each other for the first time in a year, and the foods are produced in great quantities, to go along with the vast amounts of Chaang that are being consumed throughout the festival.

How to get to Naqgu?

If you are traveling to Nagqu, then you have two ways of getting there. For domestic and international tourists, it is possible to travel to Nagchu by train from Lhasa to Xining and mainland China, stopping at Amdo Station and Nagqu Station in Nagqu.

Nagqu Railway StationTravelers can take the Lhasa Nagqu Train to visit Nagqu in Tibet.

Driving overland from Lhasa, you will travel with your guide and driver to Nagqu. The route overland to Nagchu follows the Qinghai Tibet Highway from Lhasa to Nagqu, which is a drive of around 332 kilometers, which takes around seven hours. The route takes you northwest to Yangpachen, then the road veers northeast through Damxung County and into Nagqu, running through Nagqu to Nagqu Town.

How to choose your hotel for Nagqu trip?

The hotel you get for the tour to Nagqu can be at your own choice, as there are a number of good hotels in Nagqu Town where you can stay while in the area of the festival. Hotels range from excellent four-star hotels like the Citic Naqu Hotel, in Nagqu Town to the cheap hostels that can be arranged for those traveling on a budget. We can help with booking your hotels, and will find you a hotel to suit your needs if you let us know what you want.

Nagchu Hotel in NagquNagchu Hotel is one of the popular hotels in Nagchu county.

As there are often no vacant hotels during the festival, it is advisable to book your accommodation well in advance of our trip, to ensure that you have somewhere to stay when you get there. We can make this booking for you, to ensure that you have the type of accommodation that you require.

How to acclimatize to Nagqu elevation and avoid altitude sickness?

Acclimatizing to the altitude of the plateau should be done once you arrive in Lhasa. Acclimatization takes 1-2 days to allow your body to adjust properly to the increased altitude of the plateau capital, and you should refrain from smoking or consuming alcohol for the period, as well as avoiding strenuous exercise.

Once in Nagqu, which is around 1,000 meters higher than Lhasa, you may need to take things easy at first, to allow your body to get used to the increase in altitude. Normally, there is very little risk of altitude sickness by increasing your elevation by this much for a short period, as long as you do not over exert yourself and refrain from drinking alcohol and smoking. It is essential that you drink plenty of water to remain hydrated, and eat good healthy food for the duration of your trip to Nagqu.

Packing List for Nagqu Tour

The area of Nagqu is higher in altitude than Lhasa, so you may find that you will need warmer clothes more than you will in the capital, even in the summer months, temperatures in Nagqu rarely reach higher than 15 degrees, which is quite cold for some people, so having a good number of thinner layers to wear is advisable. Thinner layers are better to maintain a steady temperature, as you can add or take off layers to suit your needs.

A good pair of boots is essential, as the festival is held on the grasslands outside the town, and the ground is rough, rocky, and uneven in many places. You should also bring a raincoat for those summer evenings where it decides to rain, as this is held in the middle of the monsoon season in Tibet.

The sun at this altitude can be harsher than in Lhasa, and with the thinner atmosphere, the UV rays tend to be stronger than in the capital. A good strong sun cream is essential and you should bring a hat to keep the sun off your head and prevent sunstroke. The wind can also be harsh, so lip balm and moisturizer should keep your lips and skin from drying up and cracking.

Dos and Don’ts for Nagqu Horse Racing Festival

Tibetans are not into having their photos taken, so if you are taking photos of the locals, you should always ask permission first. Your guide can help with that. The Tibetan tents are the people’s homes for the duration of the festival, and while it may be intriguing to know what they are like inside, it is rude to just take a look. Talking to a Tibetan can often get you invited in for some tea, a traditional gesture in Tibet, and you are welcome to accept and enjoy the interaction. It is a great way to learn more about the Tibetan culture of the grasslands.


If you want to spend a tour in Tibet and be able to attend the Nagqu Horse racing festival, then we can arrange the tour for you. We have a spectacular Nagqu horse festival tour that covers eight days in Tibet. The first few days are spent in Lhasa, touring the sights of the city and acclimatizing to the altitude, before heading north for the festival. The route to the festival on our 8-day tour takes you to Nagqu by train, which is the easiest way to travel this far in Tibet, and is more comfortable than driving.

If you are interested in this amazing tour, which would run in August every year for the festival, then our professional and dedicated tour advisors would be more than happy to help you make all the arrangements. All you need to do is arrange your visa, and let us do the rest.

Master Kungga Dundruk

About the Author - Master Kungga Dundruk

The Lhasa-born prodigy used to study business overseas, and got his Bachelor of Business in Nepal and India before moving back to his homeland.With pure passion for life and unlimited love for Tibet, Kunga started his guide career as early as 1997.

Responsible, considerate and humorous, he devoted his entire life guiding and serving international tourists travelling in Tibet.As a legendary Tibetan travel guru with 20-year pro guide experience , he once had an exclusive interview with the US media. Currently he is working in Tibet Vista as the Tour Operating Director. Whenever our clients run into troubles, he is your first call and will offer prompt support.

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