- Lanzhou - 2000 years of history, the capital of Gansu Province
- Dunhuang - Buddhist grottoes, colossal treasure trove
- Jiayuguan - Fort at the western end of the Great Wall, nicknamed "Last Fort Under Heaven"
- Linxia - colorful market town
- Tianshui - more Buddhist grottoes, 194 cave shrines, nicknamed "Gallery of Oriental Sculpture"
- Xiahe - a little piece of Tibet for those who cannot make the trek to Tibet
- Wuwei - former garrison town on the Great Wall of China
- Zhangye - former garrison headquarters on the Great Wall of China
- Kongtongshan National Park - important site in the Taoist religion
- Maijishan National Park - Buddhist statues, botanical gardens
- Mingshashan—Yueyaquan National Park - Singing sand amid an oasis location
The northwest province of Gansu spans the Qinghai-Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Loess plateaus in the upper reaches of the Yellow River. The topography is complex and the climate unpredictable. The river valleys in the south belong to a subtropical zone while the north is an arid temperate zone. The province was a center for East-West cultural exchangesas early as the Han and Tang dynasties. Many people go to Gansu to seek out the the roots of world civilization. The 1,600-km-long Silk Road of the Han and Tang dynasties unfailingly brings the visitor to such places as the grottoes at Dunhuang (a veritable world-class treasure house of art), the Jiayu Pass on the Great Wall of China, Majiishan Grottoes of Tianshui, the Labrang Temple of Xiahe, the Great Buddha Temple at Zhangeye and the bronze sculpture of galloping horse in Wuwei.
Gansu contains some of the largest and most important Tibetan monasteries outside of Tibet. Travel by local bus across high, frigid plateaus to reach them. Ride horses across the plateaus past yurts. Share lunch with Tibetan monks. Share yak butter tea with monks. On second thought, don't. It is revolting. This part of China bears almost no resemblance to Eastern Han China. Empty, wild, culturally and ethnically distinct, it offers some of the most exhilarating travel in the world.
Imagine 7 hours of travel across a high plateau in a rickety bus dating from 1970. Every few hours, one of your neighbors, swathed in yak wool, stops the bus, dismounts, and starts walking to the horizon. You can see for 20 miles in all directions. There are no towns in sight. It is an empty and riveting land.
Beware of the time of year you travel there. It is wicked cold even in May. In rural areas (the most interesting areas are rural), very few housing options are available. Probably, there will be no heat. So bring layers or buy a yak wool coat.
The main airport of Gansu is Lanzhou.
Some train access. But to get to the interesting sites, local bus is a necessity. Think of it as an adventure. And get ready to use non-verbal communication.
Foreign tourists are supposed to get insurance for bus trips and are normally charged twice the regular fare paid by locals. This occurs in the main parts of Gansu frequented by tourists but you might be able to avoid this in the outlying areas. CITS sells a policy as well as the Peoples Insurance Company of China.
- Water Curtain Thousand Buddha Caves - located at Luomen, temple built in a cave and a 30 meter Sakyamuni Buddha carved into the cliffside
Ride horses for days on a trek. Hike through the hills. Hang out in monasteries. If you don't like the outdoors, this is not the place for you. Camels are also an option for short trips in tourist locations around Dunhuang. They are actually fairly safe.
Yak meat, yak butter, yak yogurt. In traveler's places, they often have scrambled eggs with tomatoes. Excellent.
Avoid yak butter tea, generally. but try it just once for the excitement.
Beware of local rice whiskey. It will burn like nothing you have ever tasted. And, if homemade, it might just make you blind.
In the city of Lanzhou, beef noodle is one of the most popular foods in China, and its cheap, 2 Chinese Yuan only. In addition, in western side of Lanzhou, lamb is another choice to try.
OK, the horses are fun, but perhaps not the safest option.
This page was last edited at 11:26, on 26 July 2008 by Wikitravel user Episteme. Based on work by Jani Patokallio, David, M. Hogue, amy and Evan Prodromou, Wikitravel user(s) WindHorse and Pashley and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.