Gansu is one of the most unique places in China. It is the golden part of ancient Chinese Silk Road, one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization, an important habitant of Tibetan and a natural wonder land. It is the heaven for historians to trace back on history, natural lovers to soak in masterpieces of our Mother Nature, adventurers to seek for fun of hiking, camping, safari…
Traveling in Gansu is quite different from traveling other places like Beijing, Guilin, Xian, Chengdu, etc. Our Gansu highlights tour takes you to explore the diversity of this northwestern province. You will get lost in the wild, vast and grand landscape, at the same time discover many historical experiences, such as the Great Wall, ancient Silk Road, ancient military passes... Starting from Lanzhou, via Xiahe, Zhangye and Jiayuguan to Dunhuang, it is an in-depth tour to discover the best highlights of Gansu.
Day 1 Lanzhou Arrival - XiaheLanzhou airport/train pick & drive to Xiahe for accommodation
Welcome to Lanzhou - a city of Yellow River. Your tour guide will pick you up at the airport/train station in Lanzhou, and then drive about 3.5 hours to Xiahe in southwest of Lanzhou, a small pastoral county featuring in Tibetan culture and history and amazing grassland and plateau scenery.
Stay overnight in Xiahe County.
Tips: The average elevation of Xiahe County is within 3,000 m (9,843 ft), seldom incurs high altitude sickness when visiting Xiahe.
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Day 2 Xiahe - Labrang Monastery - Linxia (B, L)Today's Highlights: Labrang Monastery, Sangke Grassland
This morning you will go to visit Labrang Monastery, the most influential monastery outside the Tibet Autonomous Region and also one of the six great monasteries of the Gelug (Yellow Hat) school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also famous for having the most complete Tibetan Buddhism teaching system in China. The monastery is large in scale and magnificent in architecture style, enshrining a lot of huge Buddha statues and various exquisite sculptures, murals and magical instruments. Its pilgrimage corridor has over 2000 prayer wheels, as the longest of its kind in the world. In the southwest corner of Labrang Monastery, there is an ancient wooden bridge. Walking crosses the bridge and walking up to the hill, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Labrang Monastery and surrounding.
In the afternoon, you will take an excursion to Sangke Grassland which is a natural pasture of Tibetan nomads. The grass is lush like a blanket in summer and the cattle and sheep are herding in groups under the blue sky and white clouds. What a pastoral scenery. Every year on July 13th of the lunar calendar, the seven tribes of Sangke region will gather at Sangke Grassland and hold a horse racing festival here.
After Sangke Grassland visit, drive about 2.5 hours to Linxia, the capital of the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture. Check in to your hotel. The rest time is your free time to explore this beautiful city full of Muslim culture.
- Labrang Monastery
- Sangke Grassland - a natural pasture of Tibetan nomads
Day 3 Linxia - Bingling Temple - Lanzhou (B, L)Today's Highlights: Bingling Temple, Liujiaxia Dam Boat Ride
Today you will drive back to Lanzhou. On route, you will take a side trip to visit Bingling Temple, a Buddhist cave with a long history of over 1,600 years. First, you will drive about 1.5 hours to Liujiaxia Dam, a big national hydroelectric reservoir on the upper Yellow River. From the dock, you need to take a speed boat to get to Bingling Temple. During the 40-50 minutes’ boat ride, you can see a different section of Yellow River, very limpid and clear unlike the muddy sights seen in Lanzhou, and layered, red-colored huge Danxia landforms along the riverside, without coverage of any plantations.
After getting off from the boat, walk several minutes to the entrance of Bingling Temple. The temple is actually a site of Buddhist grottoes filled with ancient Buddhist frescoes and sculptures caved into the rocks, along a long narrow valley of Yellow River. Dating back to West Qin Kingdom, the cave preserves about 183 caves, 694 stone statues, 82 clay sculptures and more than 900 square meters murals. You will tour the most spectacular Lower Temple Area, seeing the 27-meter giant sitting Buddha, many colored Bodhisattvas in different gestures and remaining murals from Wei, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Though some figures have been damaged by earthquakes, erosion, these relics are unquestionably outstanding Buddhist artworks revealing previous Buddhism prosperity and remarkable architecture and carving art of ancient China.
After sightseeing, leave Bingling Temple and drive about 3 hours back to Lanzhou. Accommodate in Lanzhou city.
Tips: 1. Bingling Temple in remote mountain area can only be reached by waterway in summer and autumn via Liujiaxia Dam. 2. Additional fees will be charged for visiting special caves. 3.）Be careful when walking up the serpentine plank trail on the cliff.
- Take a boat on Liujiaxia Dam to visit Bingling Temple Grottoes
- Bingling Temple Grottoes
- Bingling Temple Buddhist Mural
Day 4 Train to Zhangye & Danxia Sightseeing (B, L)Today's Highlights: Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park
After breakfast, you will take a morning train to Zhangye city from Lanzhou (about 5 hrs). Enjoy the beautiful landscape along the road. After arriving at Zhangye West Railway Station, you will be met by a local tour guide. Let's get ready for the trip!
In the afternoon, drive about an hour to visit the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park. The Danxia landform is a spectacular petrographic geomorphology landscape which is formed from red-coloured sandstones and conglomerates. The one in Zhangye was formed in the pre-Jurassic Age. Thousands of mountains and stiffs stretch like the colorful sunset glow. The barren mountains are covered by a red grit rock stratum. At the same time, some surfaces of mountains appear in other colors, such as white, yellow, etc, and form many irregular lines and blocks looking like some abstract oil paintings. There are four viewing decks for you to watch and shoot. You will visit one by one, and will be transferred by park buses from one deck to another.
You won't miss the precious opportunity to enjoy the amazing sunset. Viewing Deck No. 4 is the best location to take the sunset of the Danxia Landform. It's better to get there earlier to occupy a good location. After sunset, drive back to Zhangye downtown for accommodation.
1. Pack with sunblocks, sunglasses, protective clothing and hat to protect from strong sunlight in summer; 2. Sunset is the best time for taking photos, which happens around 19:00~20:00 in summer and 18:00~19:00 in winter.
- Zhangye Danxia Landform Views After Rain
- Zhangye Danxia Landform Photography
Day 5 Zhangye - Jiayuguan (B, L)Today's Highlights: Giant Buddha Temple, Jiayuguan Pass
After breakfast, you will go to visit the Giant Buddha Temple, which is famous for having the largest indoor sleeping Buddha in Asia. This temple is a large complex with regal arrangements built in the Xixia Dynasty(1098), and keeps many precious Buddhist scriptures and wall paintings. Its famous treasure is the Sleeping Buddha, which is centrally seated with symmetric buildings situated along both sides. The Buddha statue was carved by wood with a length of 34.5 meters, telling the story of Buddha's Nirvana. His ears are as big as the space in which 4 adults can sit side by side.
After visiting the Buddha Temple, drive about 220 km (2.5hrs) to Jiayuguan City and check into your hotel. Then you will go to visit "the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven", also the westernmost starting point of the Great Wall of Ming Dynasty - Jiayuguan Pass. Start your exploration with an educational visit to the Great Wall Museum to learn some interesting facts about both the Jiayuguan Fort and Great Wall, including history, old photos, relics, etc. Then enter the gate to explore the grandiose Jiayuguan Fort. It is a complex of towers, city walls and other military buildings covering more than 25,000 square meters. The city wall is nearly 11 meters high, and comprises an outer and inner wall. There are two large gates standing at the east and the west of the inner wall. Walkways lead to the top of the wall, allowing horses to climb up the wall.
If time allows, and you are interested, you can take an optional visit to the Xuanbi Great Wall (Overhanging Wall) which is about 18km away from the Fort. The walls were built on lofty cliffs with incredibly large gradients looking like an overhanging cantilever. Climbing up to higher gives you excellent views of the surrounding land and mountains.
- Jiayuguan Fort
- Great Wall Museum
Day 6 Jiayuguan - Dunhuang (B, L)Today's Highlights: Yulin Grottoes, the "sister caves" of Mogao Grottoes
Today you will travel to Dunhuang from Jiayuguan in the early morning. On route, visit Yulin Grottoes which is known as the "sister caves" of Mogao caves. It is a Buddhist cave temple site located about 160 km east of the oasis town of Dunhuang and the Mogao Caves, and was listed as the UNESCO World Heritage sites as part of the Chinese Section of the Silk Road. There are 43 existing caves in the Yulin Caves, with a total of 5,200 square meters of murals and more than 259 colored sculptures. You can visit up to 6 caves in which you can admire magnificent mural paintings which are believed to be even more beautiful than those in Mogao Caves. There are also 3 “special caves” (No. 2, No. 3 and No. 25) with outstanding art value that you can visit with extra charges.
After arriving at Dunhuang city, check in to your hotel.
Nightlife Idea: go out for a walk in the Shazhou Night Market where you can try some local food, relax in a drinking bar, or buy some interesting handcrafts, etc.
- Yulin Grottoes (No. 3 Cave)
- Enjoy the fascinating Silk Road show - Silk Road Flower Rain
Day 7 Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes Exploration & Mingshashan Sightseeing (B, L)Today's Highlights: Mogao Grottoes, Echoing Sand Mountains, Crescent Lake
After breakfast, drive about 10km from the Dunhuang city to visit the newly opened Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center before go to Mogao Grottoes. You will watch two short but well-produced educational documentary movies that introduce the history, arts, and other facts about Mogao Grottoes. After the movies, take the interzonal bus to Mogao Grottoes.
Mogao Grottoes is famed as the "Louvre of the East", which is outstanding for its exquisite mural paintings and statues. There are now 492 grottoes in which about 45000 square meters mural paintings and 2100 colorfully painted statues from which you can trace the development of Chinese art over 1600 years from one dynasty to the next because each dynasty built own caves to record its own features. There are about 40 common caves opened to the public. In the tourist area, you will be divided into groups by different tour guides who will accompany you to visit the caves (usually 7~8 caves during April~November and 12 caves during December~March) with great introduction. After that, if you want to visit more other caves, you can do it by yourselves or follow other tour guides. Besides, there are 10 special caves (with extra fees) available for your extensional visiting.
The following attraction is Mingshashan, the Echoing Sand Mountains. It is said, in the sunny days, the sand mountains echo like Orchestra music even if there is no wind. If you slide from the sand mountains, you can hear the echoing sound clearly. Your last thing to do for today is the Crescent Lake. Surrounded by the Echoing Sand Mountains, Crescent Lake is a beautiful oasis with some well decorated traditional Chinese architecture, some trees and flowers and a lake that has never dried up and shapes like a crescent moon.
1) It is necessary to make a reservation in advance for at least 7 days for Mogao Grottoes visit during May ~ October when there are usually a lot of visitors; 2) It is not allowed to take photos inside the grottoes; 3) in the summer, travelers can stay up to late night around 21:30 in Mingshashan Scenic Area to enjoy the cool time and beautiful sky of stars. It's usually very hot during 12:00~15:00. You can enter the park later when it is not that hot.
Free Time Nightlife Ideas: Enjoy the fascinating Silk Road Show - Silk Road Flower Rain which is a relaxing feast of unparalleled visual beauty with impressively elaborate dances performed by professional dancers wearing stunning costumes and an incredible set design.(Notice: the Silk Road Show is not available during November to middle April of next year. The tickets of the show sell out quickly. If you want to watch the show, please let your travel consultant or tour guide know in advance.)
- Echoing Sand Mountains
- Watch a documentary film in the Dome Theater of Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center
- the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang
Day 8 Dunhuang Departure ( B )Dunhuang airport/train station drop off
Today is free for you until you tour guide see you off at the Dunhuang Airport/Train Station.
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A full day to explore the remote wild Gobi desert landscape as well as several legendary historical sites in western Dunhuang, including Yumen Pass (Jade Gate Pass) which used to be a military defensive pass as well as an important border for international trading along the ancient Silk Road, the Ruin of Great Wall of Han Dynasty which was built to fight against Xiongnu in the ancient time, Yandan National Geologic Park which also called Devil City in that you will hear the sound just like the devil screaming when the strong wind goes through the desert and Yangguan Pass which was the gate to another branch of ancient Silk Road.
1. This price is for one person, based on a group of 2 adults sharing one standard double-bed room in 4-star hotel and traveling with our private tour in low seasons.
2. This price is subject to change according your traveling season, group size, hotel class, change of activities in your itinerary and possible fluctuation of currency exchange rate. If you want a lower price, you can get more people to join you, or use economy class hotels.
3. This price is only valid to March 31, 2023.
4. Reference exchange rate of USD 1=RMB 6.85. The final quote is based on current exchange rate. It may change according to the currency fluctuation, while the RMB quotation will be remained the same.
I have tried to leave the following review with tripadvisor several times now but somehow it is not accepted, I do not know why.
"Just back from our 9-day trip to Yunnan, long planned and waited for. It was our second time with China Discovery Tours. Once again they tailored the tour according to our ideas and interests - and succeeded in surprising us! Thanks to the local guides we learned a lot about history, traditions and customs, and, of course, food. We always felt in safe hands and the organization was just perfect with enough on spot flexibility. Big thanks to Jack who figured it all out so well and to the next time with China Discovery! Johannes (GER) & Elizabeth (GRC)"
Thanks again for an excellent trip, best regards, Johannes&Elizabeth
It's was great, we loved it! Our tour guide Frank was very kind, informative, and funny :) We loved how easy it was and how much we got to see in a day, I will definitely recommend to our friends!
we will be happy to when we get back to Shanghai It was a great trip and Kevin was a wonderful guide!
Absolutely fantastic trip. We enjoyed every moment and the guides were all really good.
I might only have one more year in China and I would like to see more. I believe that the best way for me is smaller trips leaving Thursday evening and returning Sunday.
Thank for our trip. Well organised. Driver & guide were super ! We have been lucky to have a sunny weather and the lantern festival! And not toooooo cold, only if you compare to the week before !
We are one of the few China travel agencies who have kept active and received lots of feedbacks and reviews during pandemic years
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There will be some meals excluded in your itinerary as you like, and your private guide will be delighted to give you some suggestions and take you to the local restaurants to taste like Beijing Roast Duck, Xian Dumpling Dinner, Sichuan Hotpot, etc., if you are interested in local food tasting.
All the dining options will satisfy your stomach!
Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang
Xining - Zhangye - Badain Jaran Desert
Dunhuang - Jiayuguan - Zhangye - Xining
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