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2017 Summer Tibetan Plateau Photo Tour
July 16 - Aug 1, 2017

This tour is fully booked. Please email to be waiting listed.

Photo Tour Summary:

Welcome to the roof of the world! This tour takes you to 3 beautiful provinces on Tibetan Plateau in the best season, starting with 7 day jouney through the province of Qinghai, where canola blooms covering along the largest salt lake(Qinghai Lake) in China, then we cross into Gansu province, visiting Zhangye Danxia (Landform) Geopark, one of the most colorful Kast(sandstone) geological sites in China. Our group flies to Lhasa on the 8th day, continue our journey through the heart of Tibet for the next 8 days, then flying from Nyingchi(LZY) to Chengdu(CTN), Sichuan province on Aug 1 to end this great trip. In summary, during 17 days, we will travel through and photograph Tibetan villages, monasteries, canola flower fields, salt flat, colorful sandstone geopark, the largest salt water lake in China, sacred Tibetan lakes, wet lands, mountain passes, glaciers... Do not miss this once-a-lifetime experience!

Important Note: The Tibetan plateau is known as "The Roof of the World", for its high elevation. The average elevation of this tour is around 11,000 ft ( 3,350m ) and the highest pass is 17,027 ft (5,190 m). This tour demands good health and physical condition. Please seriously evaluate your health condition and consult your doctor before signing up for this tour. People with chronicle cardiovascular, respiratory, or over-weight conditions are advised NOT to join this tour. Although this tour is not strenuous, extended periods at high altitude can be tiring and altitude sickness is a possibility. Consult your doctor for prescription medications that can lessen the effect of high altitude. Travel/medical insurance coverage are required. All participants must sign William Yu Photography Workshops/Tours Liability Waiver Form upon signup.

When: July 16 - Aug 1, 2017.
Where: Qinghai province, Gansu province and Tibet
Cost: US$4,450 based on double occupancy ($400 extra for single occupancy)
Group size: Small group tour with 10 persons maximum
Category: Photography Tour
Tour Leader & Photography Instructor: William Yu
Workshop URL:
Language spoken: English

Kumbum Monastery, Qinghai province

The cost of this tour is USD4,450, it includes:

The cost does NOT include:

Chinese government imposes special rules for foreigners traveling to Tibet:

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: July 16 – Xining, Qinghai province (Average elevation: 2,300m)

City of Xining, Qinghai province

All group members meet and greet in the hotel lobby at 7:00pm in the city of Xining (XNN), Qinghai province. We will introduce each other, and have a briefing for the tour.

Day 2: July 17 – Xining (2,300m)–– Jinyintan grassland (3,200m) –– Menyuan Canola flower fileds (2,900m). Travel distance: 289KM.

Canola blossom at Menyuan

After breakfast, we go to Jinyintan grassland, a summer resort of peace and tranquility, where wildflowers bloom at its peak season. herds of cattles dotting on the grassland like stars and clouds; and Mongolian yurts decorated the endless green. Then, we proceed to the county of Menyuan, where 40k acres of blooming canola flowers form an ocean of yellow, extending to the foothills of Qilian mountain range at the horizon. Overnight in the town of Menyuan.

Day 3: July 18 – Menyuan (2,900m) –– Arik Gonchen Monastery –– Qilian (2,800m). Travel distance: 170KM.

Arik Gonchen Monastery

Photographing the sunrise over zhaobi mountain in early morning, then visiting the wetland in the center of canola fields and photographing the horses in the grassland. Proceed to the county of Qilian in the afternoon, photographing the Tibetan Buddhist Geluk monastery of Arik Gonchen. built by Arik Mongols in the seventeenth century as a memorial to the Third Dalai and the Fifth Dalai Lama, both of whom had stayed at the site. The monastery contains art in the Rebkong style. Shooting sunset over Qilian sandstone mountain. Overnight at the town of Qilian.

Day 4: July19 – Qilian (2,800m)–– Zhangye (1,800m). Travel distance: 200KM.

Zhangye Danxia(Karst) Geopark

Photographing the sunrise over zhuoer mountain in the morning, Then, on the way to the county of Zhangye, shooting the vast Qilian grassland with its cattles, villages and canola fields, one of the most beautiful grasslands in China. Arrive at Zhangye Danxia (Landform) Geopark to shoot sunset over the colorful sandstone hills, one of the geological jewels of China. Overnight in the city of Zhangye.

Day 5: July 20 - Zhangye (1,800m) –– Gangcha ( 3,300m). Travel distance: 378KM.

Zhuoer mountain sunrise

This is a quite relaxed day, proceed to the county of Gangcha after breakfast, arriving in the afternoon, shooting the canola fields sunset. Overnight in the town of Gangcha.

Day 6: July 21 - Gangcha (3,300m) –– Bird Island (3,300m) –– Heimahe (3,300m). Travel distance: 145KM.

Bird Island, Qinghai Lake

In the morning, photographing the coastal wetland of Qinghai Lake, the largest salt water lake in China, where colorful wildflowers are blooming from June to October every year. Then proceed to the famous Bird Island in the lake, photographing thousands of pelicans, cranes, gulls and other birds living here. Then shooting sunset along the shores of the lake. Overnight at the town of Heimahe.

Day 7: July 22 – Heimahe (3,300m) –– Chaka (3,100m). Travel Distance: 100KM

Chaka Salt Lake

Heimahe is the best sunrise spot along the lake, we're shooting here in the morning. Then proceed to the most beautiful salt lake in China – Chaka, it's dubbed " The mirror of the sky". There is a long railway track extending to the center of the lake. Visitors can walk along the track to view the splendid scenery on the water. In addition to the beautiful sceneries at day, If weather permits, it's also the ideal place to shoot star trails at night. Overnight at the town of Chaka.

Day 8: July 23 – Chaka (3,100m) –– Kumbum monastery (2,700m) –– Xining (2,300m). Travel Distance: 322KM

Kumbum monastery, Qinghai province.

After breakfast, we drive to the famous Tibetan Buddhist temple: Kumbum monastery, where Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, was born in 1357, and soon after his birth, a sandalwood tree grew on the spot, known as the "Tree of Great Merit." The leaves and the bark of this tree were reputed to bear impressions of the Buddha's face and various mystic syllables and its blossoms were said to give off a peculiarly pleasing scent. The four-storied golden-roofed temple built around the tree where Tsongkhapa is said to have been born is called "Golden Tree" and is considered the holiest place at Kumbum. Section of this tree are now preserved in a stupa in the Great Golden Temple. The Kumbum monastery is still very much a repository of Tibetan culture and art, including various sculptures, statues and religious artifacts. It certainly is a repository of the Western respect for Tibet, as so many wayfarers from the West apart from David-Néel (P. Pelliot, Ella Maillart, Peter Fleming, E. Huc, André Migot) have spent time there. After the visit of the monastery, we drive back to Xining, and overnight there.

Day 9: July 24 – Flying from Xining (2,300m) to Lhasa, Tibet (3,700m)

Lhasa, Tibet

Today we are flying from Xining to Lhasa in the morning, arriving around noon, checking into hotel. It's a day to rest and acclimatize.

Day 10: July 25 – Potala Palace and Jokhang Monastery (3,800m)

Jokhang Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet

We're visiting Potala Palace in the morning and Jokhang Monastery in the afternoon. Potala Palace is the icon of Tibet, the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising. It is now a museum and World Heritage Site. The palace is named after Mount Potalaka, the mythical abode of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. The 5th Dalai Lama started its construction in 1645, the site was ideal as a seat of government. Currently, the amount of visitors per day in the palace are strictly regulated, our shedule may change accordingly based on the condition of that day.

Jokhang Monastery is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. The temple is currently maintained by the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, but they accept worshipers from all sects of Buddhism. The temple's architectural style is a mixture of Indian vihara design, Tibetan and Nepalese design. The Jokhang was founded during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo in 7th century. According to tradition, the temple was built for the king's two brides: Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. Both are said to have brought important Buddhist statues and images from China and Nepal to Tibet, which were housed here, as part of their dowries. In 2000, the Jokhang became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an extension of the Potala Palace (a World Heritage Site since 1994).

Day 11: July 26 – Norbulingka – Tibet Museum – Sera Monastery (3,700m)

Debating Buddhist Teaching, Sera monastery, Lhasa, Tibet

We're visiting Norbulingka in the morning and Sera monastery in the afternoon. Norbulingka is a palace and surrounding park in Lhasa, built from 1755. It served as the traditional summer residence of the successive Dalai Lamas from the 1780s up until the 14th Dalai Lama's exile in 1959. Part of the "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace", Norbulingka is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was added as an extension of this Historic Ensemble in 2001. It was built by the 7th Dalai Lama and served both as administrative centre and religious centre. It is a unique representation of Tibetan palace architecture.

Sera Monastery is one of the "great three" Gelug university monasteries of Tibet, The origin of its name is attributed to a fact that the site where the monastery was built was surrounded by wild roses in bloom. The Monastery, as a complex of structures with the Great Assembly Hall and three colleges, was founded in 1419 by Jamchen Chojey of Sakya Yeshe of Zel Gungtang (1355–1435), a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa.

Sera Monastery is also famous for its "Debates", which among monks on the Buddhist doctrines are integral to the learning process in the colleges in the Sera Monastery complex. This facilitates better comprehension of the Buddhist philosophy to attain higher levels of study. This exemplary debating tradition supplemented with gestures is said to be exclusive to this monastery, among the several other monasteries of Lhasa. Visitors also attend to witness these debates that are held currently around 3-5pm, every day in the 'Debating Courtyard' of the monastery.

Day 12: July 27 – Lhasa – Namtso (Heavenly Lake) – Damxung county (4,200m)

Namtso, Tibet

This morning, we will hump over the hightest mountain pass in this tour: 5,190m Nagenna Pass, then visit Namtso, Tibetan for ‘Heavenly Lake’, one of the three holy lakes in Tibet, is often described as being next to heaven because of its lofty altitude, stunning beauty, pure blue water, and spiritual associations, it was born in the Paleogene age, as a result of Himalayan tectonic plate movements. The lake lies at an elevation of 4,718 m (15,479 ft), and has a surface area of 1,920 km2 (740 sq mi). This salt lake is the largest lake in Tibet. The water is a stunning shade of turquoise and you will be surrounded by magnificent views of the nearby mountains. The wide open spaces, dotted with tents of local nomads, are breathtaking. The sunrises and sunsets of Namtso are breathtaking! The wide lake and the snow-capped Nyenchen Tanglha mountains catch the low angle rays of the sun beautifully. Overnight in the town of Damxung.

Day 13: July 28 – Damxung (4,200m) – Namtso (Heavenly Lake) – Lhasa (3,700m)

Nyainqêntanglha mountain, Damxung, Tibet

After shooting the sunrise at Namtso, we go back the hotel for breakfast. Return to Lhasa in the afternoon. Overnight in Lhasa.

Day 14: July 29 – Lhasa – Basum lake(3,700m) – Nyingchi (2,900m)

Basum Lake, Tibet

We are leaving Lhasa for Nyingchi today, on the way, we will visit the most beautiful lake in Tibet: Basum lake, literally meaning “three rocks” in Tibetan, is a lake covering 28 square kilometres, surrounded by snow capped peaks and forest. Overnight in Nyingchi.

Day 15: July 30 – Nyingchi – Bomi(2,900m) – Ranwu Lake (3,800m)

Namchabarwa Peak, Tibet

After breakfast, we are visiting the picturesque town of Lulang of Bomi county. Snow mountains, forests and farmlands dotted with flowers, cattle and horses make Lulang a paradise, it's been called "The Tibetan Switzerland". Then we will drive across 4,728m Sejila mountain pass, where we will photograph one of the most beautiful snow peaks in Himalayan mountain range – 7,782m Namchabarwa Peak. The town of Bomi is 2,720 meters above the sea level and having a wet subtropical climate (annual average temperature: 8.5C), is often called the summer mountainous resort, with lots of photographic opportunities. Overnight at Ranwu lake.

Day 16: July 31 – Ranwu Lake (3,800m) – Rice Heap Glacier(3,700m) – Nyingchi (2,900m)

Rawu Lake, Rawu, Tibet

Shooting around Ranwu Lake in the morning, then the famous Rice Heap Glacier basin. The glacier is flowing from 4600 m(15,100 ft) peak towards the meadows around 2400 m (7,900 ft). Glistening, soul-stirring ice cliffs are everywhere at the head of the glacier, its leading edges extend into evergreen broadleaf forests. Overnight in Nyingchi.

Day 17: Aug 1 – Nyingchi (2,900m) – Chengdu (500m)

Teahouse in Chengdu, Sichuan province

Our group flys to Chengdu(CTU), the provincial capital of Sichuan province, in the morning(short 1.5hr flight), marking the end of this amazing trip.

Tour Map

Itinerrary Disclaimer:

We try our best to adhere to the original itinerary that described above but sometimes little alterations can be born due to the situations that are beyond our control. The detail itinerary is a general guide to the tour and region, and any mention of specific destination or activities is by no means of guarantee that they will be encountered or carried due to the local circumstances and weather.

Etiquettes and Taboos:

Tibet is totally different from any other places around the world, due to its political sensitivity, rich culture diversity and peculiar geographical formation. Although this means it is not the easiest place to travel, which also makes it so special. During the tour, any political activities are strictedly prohibited, we always advise our clients to refrain from engaging any political conversations and/or activities. Your involvement in such activities would cause severe consequences for the whole group as well as the future livlihood of all your guides, driver and the tour company. If any one does, we have the full right to cancel the trip and we are not responsible for incurred hassles and costs.

Cultural Considerations: Be aware that your cultural values may differ from those of locals. These may include different concepts of time, personal space, communication, etc., which are not wrong or inferior, just different. Making the extra effort to respect local customs and cultural differences will enhance your interactions with locals during your time in Tibet and contribute to building mutual respect between locals and visitors.

Appropriate attire: Most Tibetans are pretty conservative from western perspective so it is always polite to wear long pants at all times (Ladies and Gentlemen). If you wear shorts in rural villages or in the Bakhor district in Lhasa you will definitely get stranger looks than normal! Women should wear long pants or skirts. Shirts should not be revealing and bras should be worn. Unfortunately, many tourists ignore these cultural norms and can be seen in towns and villages wearing shorts and revealing summer attire; while it may be comfortable, it is not appropriate, especially when visiting monasteries.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What to bring for this trip?

How do I sign up and pay for this tour?

A deposit of $200 is required for this workshop to hold your spot, you can pay by Visa, Mastercard or PayPal via or send a check (U.S. residents only). The balance is due on Apr 17, 2017. All participants must sign William Yu Photography Workshops/Tours Liability Waiver Form before the tour starts.

How many participants do you allow?

Photo tour size is limited to 10 attendees, which ensures that every attendee will get full attention. We need minimum of 8 attendees to make the trip.

What photographic skill level is required to benefit from this tour?

Any people who has a basic understanding of exposure all the way to the advanced amateur and professional who is in search of a fresh perspective!

What is your refund or cancellation policy?

No refunds will be given for delays or cancellations due to inclement weather, (which interestingly, can result in some of the most some amazing shots!), either before or during the tour. If the tour is cancelled by the organizer, we will notify you immediately and you will be issued full refund. We are not responsible for any additional costs you may incur due to any delays or cancellations. Cancellations made before April 17, 2017 will be issued full refund*.

No refund will be given after April 17, 2017.

How do I fly to Xining(XNN), the provincial capital of Qinghai Province?

You can fly to major Chinese hubs like Beijing(PEK), Chengdu(CTU), or Xi'an(XIY), then transit to Xining (XNN).

I have some questions, how do I learn more?

Please send email to

A Tibetan Lady

Testimonials / Endorsement:

"I have worked with William Yu on many occasions and let me state emphatically that he is one of the best workshop instructors ever and one heck of a talented photographer too! You will enjoy your time with William and learn far more than perhaps you ever imagined in the workshops he offers!"

Bryan F Peterson
The Perfect Picture School of Photography

I have never been on a "photo tour" before. We travel a lot and I have to say it was one of the best experiences ever. Most importantly in my mind is that I thought it was well planned out - getting to the locations at the right times and I also liked that we got to go to some of the iconic locations that we see in photos (late at night when no one was there), as well as a few that we don't normally see. I felt the amount of time that we had in most locations was great. It was nice that we could as a group be somewhat flexible to stay one place a bit longer and/or go to other places when the lighting wasn't as good. I appreciated that you corralled people up when they weren't on the bus on time... but always being super nice about it. I liked that we could get to a hotel location and some people could rest, but I usually had several hours to explore the town/area on my own. The accommodations and food were all good, if not excellent. Another thing that I thought was really great was having a bus twice as big as the number of people so we had room to put all of our stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and others in the group and appreciate all that you did to put this trip together. I hope that I can shoot with you again some day.

Lorna Midice, USA

What an amazing 10 days in Iceland. To summarize the experience in a few words will not do it justice. Both William Yu and Lurie B. gave me an experience that will stay with me forever. Both of them combined talent and knowledge about landscape photography and finding wonderful places to shoot. The local arrangements were good and the organization well done. We had plenty of time to set up, to experience and to share. This hand-on experience was good for al level of photographers. We visited some far remote places and some fun places. Shooting pieces of washed away chuck of ice from the glacier was one of the most fun highlight of the trip. Thank you to both of you for sharing your expertise and for making this a safe and fun photo tour. The group was made up of wonderful people, by the end of the trip, our group was really tight. Thank you Guys for this amazing trip. Looking forward at shooting the Northern lights in winter.

Jean-Claude has made a fantastic video presentation of his images from 2015 June Iceland Photo Tour, view it here.

Jean-Claude Veille, USA

The tour was fantastic - way beyond my wildest expectations. perhaps i had no idea how beautiful and picturesque iceland is; it seems like a different planet of its own!. everything was to my satisfaction - the price; the sights which i am sure we could not have seen without William and lurie; they did a good job in picking the right places; the food was delicious and excellent. The driver was great, transportation comfortable and the fact that we had 2 seats each was a big plus.

I am amazed and impressed at the photos that are all popping up in facebook. from the pictures that are being posted i continue to see different perspectives and angles i never would have seen. we all went to the same places but no two pictures are alike. i am lucky to have been with a superb group of photographers. I certainly will take a winter trip to iceland in the future. and looking forward to another learning trip with you - will try to make it to tibet at least!

Many thanks for organizing everything!

Minnie Domingo, USA

Earlier this year, William led a group of 10 on a marvellous and photographically rich tour of minority tribal villages in SW China. It was my first time in China. William's arrangements showed very careful preparation and a smooth liaison with his local co-guide Anton. Notably, we were impressed with Anton's ability to secure accommodation for all of us at five minutes' notice after one hotel declined to acknowledge the booking. Also, William took care to detail his co-guide to quietly offer assistance to an older member of the group. If I had any suggestions it would be to say: "Let's have a bit more time to interact and compare notes each evening." Even so, I can hardly wait to join William again!

Anne Forbes, Australia

If you are thinking of going you should. It is an experience of a lifetime. My husband and I joined William on his September 2013 China workshop. You go to places where you would have difficulty going to on your own. We loved it.

Christel Sarsfield, Canada

This was my first trip dedicated to photography so I was a little apprehensive about several things including the varying levels of the other participants' photography skills.

William handled all the different skill levels so well. We all received advice, assistance and a healthy dose of positive reinforcement. He was patient and reassuring while handling all our travel details, hotel accommodations, meals and many MANY questions.

William was very knowledgeable about the area we visited and knew exactly where to go, when to be there and how long we should wait for a shot before calling it a day. The sites we visited weren't just the regular landscape and workshopist sights, we also visited markets and villagers in their homes. This was an extraordinary privilege for us to be able to do. It made the trip personal and the resulting photos are more than an improvement in skills, they are warm memories.

I'm an American expat and have lived in Asia for many years but although I have traveled extensively throughout Asia, I cannot imagine that I would ever have had an opportunity to do a trip like this. It's a hard place to reach and to even know about but William made this happen for me. I cannot wait to see what adventure is in store next because I will absolutely be singing up for it.

Rebecca Lynn Fowler Wong, USA

"I was one of the lucky seven who was fortunate enough to go on the trip to Yunnan China offered by William Yu. It was the highlight of my year, still is. As I write this I still cannot get over how much I was able to do and see during this trip. Time travel is hard to do and that is exactly what we did. We stepped back in time and visited a place to marvel over. Yunnan is a wondrous place and William was an exceptional host, good humored, prepared, (even for the tissues to clean the utensils, thank you William) knowledgeable and generous. Photos have appeared on my computer that I would never have believed possible but for William’s help.I am very very happy that I was able to go on this trip and hope to join William on another adventure."

Joanne Martin, USA

Hello, William. My wife and I are still talking about the China workshop, and how we can now say that we left the Shanghai "bubble" and roughed it in the Yunnan province. You hosted a great workshop, and I appreciate how open you were in not only sharing the information but also taking time to explain the concepts. Mr. Ma also definitely had a unique personality brought an interesting mix to our group.

Carl Smiley, USA

January, this year, I attended William's photography Workshop in Yunnan, China. What an amazingly wonderful experience - I have not stopped talking about since my return - to have a chance to photograph those beautiful rice paddies planted on terraces up in the mountains was very special, but even more special was the chance to visit the rural villages to photograph villagers as they went about their daily lives. William organized a superb photography workshop though which photography greatly improved and my world was broadened.

Sheila Wertheimer, USA

This is my first time joining William's China Photo Workshop, It's very impressive. William is very attentative to all aspects of the workshop. It's thoughful of him having Mr. Ma, the most experienced local photograher, as our workshop guide, who enables us to shoot in the right locations at right time.

During the workshop, William is extremely patient to share his photographic knowledge and skills with us, in terms of exposure, composition, post-processing, lighting, lens selection, etc. This trip is well exceeding my expectation, I sincerely hope to join more future China workshops with William. By the way, William is fluent in both English and Mandarin, which is great plus to me.

Louis Huang, Taiwan

Other Photo Tours:

2017 Xinjiang Fall Colors Photo Tour

Patagonia Spring Photo Tour

Tour Leader:

William Yu is San Francisco based travel photographer, photography instructor and the owner of William Yu Photo Workshops. Several times a year, he leads small group of photographers to journey through some of the most unique and beautiful places in the world, capturing culture/people/festivities and landscapes. If you'd like to learn, practice photography and experience the cultures in the most beautiful locations around the world, just follow his lead. William is also travel photography course instructor at Bryan Peterson School of Photography( founded by renowned photographer Bryan Peterson. William's photos have been published in Photography Magazines in USA, China and Europe. His travel photography clients include, Ubisoft, Accenture, Google, Ogilvy One Worldwide, Microsoft, American Airlines, Earnest & Young, MTV Networks, Bloomberg Finance, Westjet, Figaro Magazine, etc. You can view William's work at , follow his instagram Friend him on Facebook at