Sitting at an altitude of 16,628 feet, the Tangula platform is the
world’s highest railway station. The name is inspired by Tangula
Mountain, dedicated to Thang Lha a powerful grassland deity who is
believed to watch over and protect the spectacular Tangula Pass.
The station is also one of the world’s most picturesque, affording
magnificent views of the snow-capped peaks, frozen lakes and
geological splendor of the vast Tibetan plateau.
Beginning summer 2008, Tangula will have an added significance
for travelers in China. Tangula Railtours is the name of a new
luxury train service, which will operate on two routes across
inland China from next year.
The rail company was started in 2002 by two ex-McKinsey
consultants, who identified a need for cultural and scenically
interesting tourism experiences through China’s largely unexplored
hinterland. But providing rail trips from Beijing to both Lhasa in
Tibet (2,525 miles), and Lijiang in Yunnan province (2,433 miles),
wasn’t sufficient: the Tangula dream was to offer once-in-a-
lifetime train adventures combined with luxe accommodations and
five-star onboard services.
Footbridge over Rongshui River, Guangxi.
After receiving official approval from the Chinese Ministry of
Railways to operate the two routes, Tangula signed a deal earlier
this year with Kempinski Hotels to manage both the Beijing-Lhasa
and Beijing-Lijiang train journeys. Five-day, four-night outward
journeys departing from Beijing will be offered to both Lhasa and
Lijiang, with four-day, three-night return trips also available.
Each train will be purpose-built in China by Canada-based
Bombardier and will carry a maximum of 96 passengers.
On board, passengers will be able to enjoy deluxe en-suite cabin
accommodations, high-tech, in-room entertainment systems, butler
service, oxygen-enriched air supply to counter the high altitude
and five-star dining. Off-train cultural and scenic sightseeing
tours will also be included.
The Beijing-Lhasa journey passes across the mesmerizing
Qinghai-Lhasa section of the China-Tibet railway, which was
officially opened last year. Crossing the Tibetan plateau at an
average elevation of more than 13,000 feet, the railway is cut
through the perma-frozen soil of one of the world’s least-visited
natural wildernesses, a logistical feat many scientists believed
impossible. The Beijing-Lijiang route traverses some of southern
China’s most picturesque and colorful scenery, wending through the
river gorges, limestone karsts and alpine mountains of Guangxi and
Yunnan provinces, and including visits to ethnic minority
“Tangula expects three types of travelers,” said Ivor Warburton,
vice president of operations for Tangula Railtours and a fluent
Mandarin speaker, “those who purchase the trip only; those who buy
it as part of a travel package, including hotels and air travel;
and those who include the journey as part of a complete tour of
Warburton adds that clients are expected to come from “regions
where the concept of luxury is already well established,” such as
North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. “However, as knowledge
and understanding of the product grows, we anticipate more
travelers from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan,” he
Pricing details for both journeys will be announced shortly, and
ticket bookings are scheduled to start later this year.