819km (508 miles) SW of Xining. Altitude: 3,700m (12,136 ft.)

Because the Kham region inside the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is closed to individual travel, Yushu is your best opportunity to visit a large, thriving Khampa town. Though named for the Jyekundo Gompa, which looms above the town, Yushu has always been more trading center than monastic town.

The fierce reputation of the Khampas keeps Han migration down (aside from the odd Sichuan restaurant). Housing has improved, and locals are extremely friendly; strangers may rise and grasp your hand before you join them for a meal. The weeklong spectacular Horse Festival is free of the vagaries of the lunar calendar and commences on July 25, on a grassy plain south of town.