Traveling overland through snow-capped mountains and high-land meadows to visit mysterious Tibetan Buddhist shrines on the world's highest plateau will soon no longer require the grit and resolve of an adventurous backpacker.
This July the first train of the new Qinghai-Tibet railway will whisk passengers from Beijing to Lhasa in 48 scenery-filled hours.
Tourists venturing to the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region from China's national capital can now get there by land in the lap of luxury. Special tourist trains will feature hotel-like services and special viewing cars for the journey to the 'roof of the world'.
Railway officials say they've tried to think of everything to allure the suit-case traveler who might previously eschewed the arduous travel required to get to the world's 'third pole'.
Huang Difu, who is in charge of the Qinghai-Tibet railway construction project says, "The trains will offer suites and hotel-like services. There will oxygen bars to help travelers adjust to the higher altitude,"
The completion of the new rail line, which snakes through rugged mountain regions and a flower-filled idyllic countryside, has been a source of great national pride.
The railway is hoping its trains will also make visiting the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau another of China 'golden' tourist routes.
It is expected to bring many new tourist dollars to Tibet and other provinces. Research by experts with the Academy of Social Sciences in Tibet and the Institute of Industrial Economy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences say that the new overland route could bring fundamental changes to Tibet's tourism.
Tibet is working with the neighboring provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan to jointly explore how to bring more visitors to the region. Developers are expected to invest some 50 billion yuan (6.25 billion U.S. dollars) over the next decade to improve tourist facilities along the railroad.