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10 Days Northwestern China Treasures - Qinghai Gansu Highlights Tour $1647

Discover Another "Tibetan Land" Plus Colorful Gansu

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The northwestern China is full of infinite treasures which are greatly different from what you can see in other parts of China – plateau lakes and grasslands, rainbow mountains, ancient Buddhist grottoes, authentic Tibetan culture, etc. Bordering to each other, Qinghai and Gansu are two most highlighting regions in the northwestern China to explore. It is the most classic trip to travel from the beautiful Qinghai Lake to the southern pasture and Tibetan habitants of Gansu, then goes northwestward to Zhangye Danxia Geopark, Jiayuguan Pass and reaches Mogao Grottoes and Mingshashan Desert. There are so many special cultures to experience, and endless magnificent landscape to enjoy on the tour.

Highlights of this tour:

  • Enjoy breathtaking high plateau sceneries of Qinghai - expansive Qinghai Lake, snow mountains, vast prairies;
  • In-depth tour to explore the most recommended sites of Gansu Province – World Heritage Site Mogao Grottoes, western start of Great Wall - Jiayuguan Pass, rainbow mountains of Zhangye Danxia Landform Park...;
  • Most authentic Tibetan culture exploration in ancient monasteries including Longwu Monastery and Labrang Monastery, living towns and magic Regong Art in mysterious Tongren and Xiahe.

Basic Trip Information

Price:
from $1647
  1. 1. This price is for one person, based on a group of 2 adults sharing one double-bed room in a 4-star hotel and traveling in low seasons;
  2. 2. This price is subject to change according to your traveling season, group size, hotel class, change of activities and possible fluctuation of currency exchange rate.
Travel Route:
Xining - Tongren - Xiahe - Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang
Travel Length:
10 Days and 9 Nights
Tour Code:
CD-QGT-10
Group Size:
You, your family, friends or group
Experience:
ArchitectureCulturePhotograph
Departure:
Any day you want

Your tour - at a glance

Day 1~1 Arrival & Xining Qinghai Lake Tour

The Day 1 is free for you to arrive at Xining. On the Day 2, you will have a full day exploration of Qinghai Lake. Stay your night in Xining.

Day 3~5 Travel from Xining to Lanzhou

Travel from Xining to Tongren to explore Regong Art and Buddhist monasteries on the Day 3. Day 4 is to visit the famous Labrang Monastery and take an excursion to Sangke Grassland, and stay overnight in Linxia. On the Day 5, you will travel to Lanzhou city via Bingling Temple Grottoes.

Day 6~10 Travel from Lanzhou to Dunhuang

Take a high speed train to Zhangye to visit Zhangye Danxia Landform Geographical Park on the Day 6. On the Day 7, you will get to Jiayuguan to visit Jiayuguan Pass. Travel from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang, the final destination. In Dunhuang, you will have a full day exploration of Mogao Grottoes, Mingshashan and Crescent Lake. The Day 10 is free for you to depart from Dunhuang.

Full Itinerary Day by Day

Day 1 Xining Arrival

Welcome to Xining (altitude: 2,261 m), the capital city of Qinghai Province in northwestern China. Upon arriving at Xining Caojiabao Airport (or Xining Railway Station), your tour guide will meet you and escort you to your hotel in the downtown by a private vehicle. After checking in, the rest of today is on your own to acclimate to the elevation and explore this historical city of China.

Arrival Ideas: You can take a flight to Xining from Beijing (about 2hrs), Shanghai (about 3hrs), Xian (about 1.5hrs), Chengdu (about 2hrs), Guangzhou (about 3.5hrs), Dunhuang (about 1.5hrs), etc., or get to Xining by high speed bullet train from Xian (about 4hrs), Lanzhou (about 1.5hrs), Zhangye (about 2hrs), Jiayuguan (about 3~3.5hrs) and other connected cities in China.

Nightlife idea: go to enjoy a great dinner and stunning night view of Xining city on Pearl of Puning which is a 188 meters tall TV & Sightseeing tower alike Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

  • Xining Railway Station Xining Railway Station

Day 2 Xining – Qinghai Lake (B, L)

After breakfast, drive around 150 km (2.5 hours) to see the picturesque Qinghai Lake from Xining via Huangyuan, Riyue Mountain, etc. You won't feel bored along the driving since the fascinating scenery of green grassland, blue sky, white clouds and clustered herds unfold like a photo gallery. As the largest inland lake, as well as the largest salt water lake in China, Qinghai Lake (3200 m) stretches 105 km in length, 63 km in width and occupies a water area of over 4,500 square kilometers. It was elected as the Most Beautiful Lake in China by China’s National Geographic, attracting thousands of photographers to take photos every year.

You will spend a wonderful time appreciating the beauty of Qinghai Lake in Erlangjian Scenic Area - the essence of the whole scenic area of Qinghai Lake. It shapes like a long and narrow sword inserting into the lake. Walking on the plank road, you will be delivered a far-reaching panorama of the sea-like lake. Due to the different salt content of different parts of the lake, the water presents different colors in the refraction of sunlight. More than the lake view, the scenic surrounding - endless grassland and rapeseed flower lands, soft sand beaches as well as flocks of grazing sheep, horses and yaks also make you enjoy yourself to the fullest. On a clear day, you will feast your eyes on a charming vista of the snow-capped mountains in the distance as well as the huge sand dunes of Sand Island on the far shore. At the same time, Qinghai Lake is a sacred Tibetan Buddhist site. There are many devoted Buddhist coming from afar to worship to Qinghai Lake each year.

Optional Qinghai Lake Cruise: Taking a cruise allows you to admire Qinghai Lake from a different perspective. There are two kinds of cruises available in Erlangjian Scenic Area: High Speed Cruise and catamaran. The former offers a 25 minutes’ single trip from Erlangjian Wharf to Erlangjian Peninsula at the cost of CNY140. The latter offers a 50 minutes’ round trip at the cost of CNY180. This price doesn't include your personal expense on the ship, such as drinking, food, etc. This cruise is only available during the period from May to October.

After sightseeing, drive about 10 minutes to Viewing-deck in Nanshan Mountain for a panoramic view of Qinghai Lake. The beautiful shoreline is seen clearly and the water takes on bluer color. Then, drive back to Xining for accommodation.

Warm Tips: 1) It is available to visit Qinghai Lake all the year around, but May to October is the best time because of the most comfortable weather. If you want to savor the sea of rape flowers, remember to visit in July and August. 2) The sunlight is very strong in Qinghai Lake, and it is necessary to bring hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. to protect your skin from sun burn especially in summer. 3) Few people get serious high altitude sickness in Qinghai Lake, but it is important to be wary of high altitude sickness if it's your first time to enter the high plateau. Avoiding strenuous exercise and drinking more water will be helpful.

  • Qinghai Lake walking Qinghai Lake walking
  • Riyue Mountains Riyue Mountains
  • Qinghai Lake Cruise Enjoy a cruise on Qinghai Lake
  • Seagullings in Qinghai Lake (Erlangjian Scenic Area) Seagullings in Qinghai Lake (Erlangjian Scenic Area)

Day 3 Xining – Tongren – Xiahe (B, L )

After breakfast, drive about 165km (2.5 hours) to Tongren, which is located in the southeastern upland of Qinghai Province.

Start exploration with a visit to Longwu Monastery which is one of the three most influential Tibetan monasteries in Amdo region with a history over 700 years, but barely visited by big tourist groups so that you can enjoy a peaceful Tibetan Buddhism inspiration here. Explore the resplendent Buddhist palaces, temples, halls, academies, stupa, and beautiful Thangka paintings to get inspired by the most authentic Tibetan culture in the region.

Move on to Wutong Monastery which outstands in a Tibetan village. It is in Wutong Monastery that the brilliant Regong Art originated and flourished. What makes the temple even more respectful is that Wutong Monastery has been teaching villagers of the area to create Regong Art for centuries, which helps Tongren become the Buddhist center of Amdo Tibetan region. So what is Regong Art? It is a collective art type which includes Thangka, Duixiu(embroidery), sculpture, architectural paintings, butter flowers and many other local art forms. The artists also attach great importance to originality. All the pigments are refined from mineral and plant juice. As the mother of Regong Art, Wutong Monastery collects numerous exquisite Regong art masterpieces. Next, you will go to a local Regong Painting School to observe closely how the teachers and students create Regong Art delicately.

After the meaningful Tibetan culture and art exploration, keep driving about 110km (2.5 hours) to Xiahe for accommodation.

  • Magnificent Wutong Monastery in Tongren Magnificent Wutong Monastery in Tongren
  • A Tibetan monk was painting Mandala in Wutong Monastery A Tibetan monk was painting Mandala in Wutong Monastery
  • Tibetan monks' living in Longwu Monastery in Tongren Tibetan monks' living in Longwu Monastery in Tongren

Day 4 Xiahe - Labrang Monastery - Linxia (B, L)

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 Labrang Monastery
  • Sangke Grassland - a natural pasture of Tibetan nomads Sangke Grassland - a natural pasture of Tibetan nomads

Day 5 Linxia - Bingling Temple - Lanzhou (B, L)

Today you will drive back to Lanzhou (about 3 hrs). 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 back to Lanzhou. Check in to your hotel. The rest of today is free for you to explore this city of Yellow River.

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 Take a boat on Liujiaxia Dam to visit Bingling Temple Grottoes
  • Bingling Temple Grottoes Bingling Temple Grottoes

Day 6 Lanzhou - High Speed Train to Zhangye (B, L)

After breakfast, you will take a morning high speed bullet train to Zhangye city from Lanzhou (about 3.5 hrs). Enjoy the beautiful landscape along the road. After arrival at Zhangye West Railway Station, you will be met by local tour guide. Let's get ready for 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 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 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.

Tips:

1. Pack with sun creams, sunglasses, protective clothing and hat to protect from strong sunlight in summer; 2. Sunset is the best time for taking photos which happen around 19:00~20:00 in summer and 18:00~19:00 in winter.

  • Zhangye Danxia Landform Views After Rain Zhangye Danxia Landform Views After Rain
  • Zhangye Danxia Landform Photography Zhangye Danxia Landform Photography

Day 7 Zhangye - Jiayuguan (B, L)

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 Xixia Dynasty(1098), and keeps many precious Buddhist scriptures and wall paintings. Its famous treasure is the Sleeping Buddha which is the centrally seated with symmetric buildings situating along both sides. The Buddha statue was carved by woods 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 visit the Buddha Temple, drive about 220km (2.5hrs) to Jiayuguan City and check in your hotel. Then you will go to visit "the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven", also the westernmost starting point of Great Wall of Ming Dynasty - Jiayuguan Pass. Start your exploration with an education 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 gradient looking like an overhanging cantilever. Climbing up to higher gives you excellent views of the surrounding land and mountains.

  • Jiayuguan Fort Jiayuguan Fort
  • Giant Buddha Temple Giant Buddha Temple

Day 8 Jiayuguan - Dunhuang (B, L)

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) Yulin Grottoes (No. 3 Cave)
  • Bustling Shazhou Night Market Bustling Shazhou Night Market

Day 9 Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes Exploration & Mingshashan Sightseeing (B, L)

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.

Useful Tips:

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 Echoing Sand Mountains
  • Watch a documentary film in the Dome Theater of Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center Watch a documentary film in the Dome Theater of Mogao Grottoes Digital Exhibition Center
  • the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang

Day 10 Dunhuang Departure (B)

Today is free for you until your tour guide see you off at the airport/train station.

Tips: remember to pack all your belongings carefully, and check out your hotel before 12:00 or extra cost may occur.

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