Peak season at Qinghai Lake is in May but throughout the year, its emerald blue waters continue to attract visitors to its shores. Circumnavigating the saltwater lake is a goal for everyone from Buddhist pilgrims to pro-cyclists.
Although the lake's main claim to fame is the Tour of Qinghai Lake International Cycling Race, the large majority of riders who cruise the road margins are casual ones. Even as autumn temperatures dip towards zero after nightfall, recreational cyclists come out by the hundreds to ride a four or five day tour around China's largest lake; the large majority of which rent mountain bikes to do so.
Others tour the lake by car or by motorcycle, all frequently stopping to whip out their cameras. The few pilgrims who do the route by foot spend 20 days to complete the journey, though they aren't likely to do so in the present chilly weather.
Locals often sit by the side of the road casually waving flags at passing cars and cyclists in a difficult bid to attract guests or customers, though it may be completely unclear as to what they are selling. It turns out that most of them are offering modest accommodation, and inadvertent peeks into local lifestyles.
Traffic around Qinghai Lake Park may be busier than people expect, and cars and trucks can even get backed up for long distances at spots such as the Qinghai Lake Park. A sign outside of the park boasts about the lake's renowned beauty, and oddly explains that it is also a military torpedo test site.
Another highlight of Qinghai Lake is Bird Island, a small crater of an island that seems like an implant from the moon. In spring, a hundred thousand birds use the island as a sanctuary. In fall, the island remains uninhabited, though the museum about bird conservation and the surrounding area may be of interest to some.
Qinghai Lake is about 100 kilometers west of Qinghai's provincial capital, Xining. Buses and minibuses regularly depart from Xining to the lake.