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Overview

Discover Gansu, a corner of China filled with culture but not with crowds. Once a major stop on the Silk Road, the region boasts a fascinating mix of beliefs and customs. See incredible relics left by traders of that era and explore natural wonders, from highland lakes to windswept grasslands. 

Trip Highlights

An Introduction to Gansu, The Little Tibet

Camp in Gansu’s highlands

Spend two nights camping in Xiahe, the perfect base for exploring the beautiful highland scenery and meeting nomadic people.

Explore China’s cultural crossroads

See the blend of ethnicities such as Tibetan, Mongolian, Kazak and more and the cultural relics left by their ancestors. 

Discover Tibetan Buddhism

Explore Labrang monastery with a monk, getting an insider point of view on Tibetan Buddhism and monastic life.  

Itinerary

1

Lanzhou - Arrival

Welcome to Gansu China! Kodachrome Mountains, endless grasslands, Silk Road history and rich culture abound in Gansu, a 450,000 square kilometer province located in China’s northwest. 

Upon arrival, a guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport to the city & hotel.

The adventure will begin in Lanzhou, the cultural, economic and political capital.  While neither a mega-city nor small village, Lanzhou offers a pleasant combination where ancient and modern mingle in ‘countryside’ vibe. 

The city stands on the Yellow River, and hosts the first iron bridge to straddle the waterway -the Zhongshan Iron Bridge. Designed by American and German architects in 1907, the bridge was completed using only imported materials.  It lies directly in front of the  hill that hosts the White Pagoda Temple, a picturesque complex dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)- accessible by steep stairs.

As Lanzhou is the exit-entry port of the Chinese Empire, it is of no surprise that the Regional Museum hosts over 70,000 cultural relics, including painted pottery, silk and wooden sculptures.

For dinner, try the Lanzhou hand pulled noodle–deserving of the city’s name as they are considered one of China’s best noodles.

Overnight in Lanzhou.

2

Lanzhou / Xiahe

Lanzhou – Binglinsi (approx.2h30): 130km Binglinsi – Xiahe: (approx. 3h): 187km *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

After breakfast, begin the drive to Binglingsi.

Pay a visit to the Binglingsi Temple, a network of manmade grottoes adorned with Buddhist sculptures and frescos located in a canyon along the Yellow River, some 130 km south of Lanzhou.

The temple became a meditation center as ascetics took residence in the area from as early as 420 CE. Over time, each dynasty paid homage to the temple’s sanctity, evident in the varying styles of sculpture and fresco. Its idyllic position among the karst formations lining the Yellow River makes for a stunning setting.

Afterwards, take a boat cruise (small and basic, but private) from the cave to a simple restaurant to enjoy lunch on the riverbank.

Continue the drive to Xiahe.

Dinner and bonfire at camp.

Overnight in Xiahe in Luxury Tent.

On request, we may prepare a Finnish sauna: the perfect place to decompress! A bucket-fed hot shower is available to complete the experience and the deck overlooking the river offers the perfect place to linger.

3

Xiahe

Xiahe-Darzong Lake (approx.1h40): 130km Xiahe – Sangke Grassland: (approx. 30min): 15km *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 07:30

Start the day by a short journey through the surrounding nomad pastures bring a traditional Tibetan grassland nomad encampment and the Lungta Cooperative. The Cooperative is a groundbreaking enterprise in finding alternative ways for nomads to use their skills, bringing together many nomadic families and their 140 yaks.

Have a try at yak-riding or a short time horse-ride, observe nomadic life, and share a traditional Tibetan meal, which may include yak or lamb meat, fresh butter, fresh yogurt, local bread and tsampa, a Himalayan staple made with roasted barley flour. Even make a unique tsampa.

Follow this up, afternoon explore around the camp. The camp is spectacularly located in a wildflower-dappled valley, and can hike in all directions. The favorite circuits close to Norden Camp include heading straight up the surrounding hills or into the valley west of camp.

Optional activity: Visit a real Nomad Camp (lunch included – appr.4h) - Journey out into the grasslands for an authentic nomadic experience. Share a lunch with a family and get in contact with a truly different way of life.

Optional activity: Horse riding (possible to combine with Visit a Real Nomad Camp or to be done at local camp) . While motorbikes fit very well in the nomad’s lifestyle, horses are still the real cornerstone of their culture.   Explore the grasslands on horseback, led by one of the local families.

Optional activity: Half Day or Full Day hike (picnic lunch included on request) – Hike into the surrounding hills on a half- or full-day adventure. 

Optional activity: Visits the area’s highlights.  Begin by heading to Darzong, a highland lake located just north of 3,000 meters (10,000 ft.) and surrounded by forested mountains.  Afterwards wander through the Sangke Grasslands, the prominent feature in this Tibetan Enclave where endless green carpets are dotted by black nomad tents and herds of yaks and sheep. 

Note: Not far from Xiahe is a sacred lake, where ritual water burial is sometimes performed. For those interested, we can check to see if it’s possible to visit the lake.

Overnight in Xiahe in Tent

4

Xiahe

Estimated pickup time at 09:30

Explore one of the area’s main highlights: the Labrang Monastery. Once a very well-known university, Labrang hosted thousands of monks and was one of the biggest monasteries outside Tibet.

Led by a local Tibetan monk, wander through a maze of rooms and inner temples while getting an ‘insider’s’ scoop of monastic life.  Moments of prayer and ceremony are commonly held every day, so there is a good chance to witness this.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY:  Hike Around the Monastery -the monastery’s size and majesty can only be fully appreciated from a bird’s eye view. Hike along the hillside surrounding the monastery to appreciate the scale of Gansu’s largest functioning monastery. A hearty picnic based on yak or vegetarian sandwiches can be included and, during lunch, enjoy a stunning view of Labrang’s two eras, the monastery and modern town.

ACTIVITY TIME: 2 hours (supplement for lunch).

Afterwards visit the market to experience the local way of life (guide not included).

Overnight in Xiahe in Tent

5

Xiahe / Linxia / Lanzhou

Xiahe- Linxia (approx.2h): 107km Linxia-Lanzhou: (approx. 3h): 196km *Depends on local situation (the weather/construction/traffic jam, etc…), may take longer

Estimated pickup time at 08:00

After breakfast, a transfer will be provided to Linxia to visit the Dabei Local Street Market and Dagongmei Mosque.

Linxia (also known as Hezuo) was in the past an important commercial center, mainly influenced by the Hui minority, an offshoot of Islam. In the 18th century a conflict between Khuffiya Sufi and the Qing Dynasty led to a ban on Muslims residing inside the city’s walls.  Still today more than 50% of the population belong to Hui minority.

Transfer to Lanzhou airport for the departing flight. 

We advise that do not talk sensitive politics topic with guide and locals to avoid any unpleasant experience.

Important Information

OUR SERVICES INCLUDE:

  • Accommodation in a shared twin or shared double room
  • Meals as mentioned (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner)
  • Transportation with driver in A/C vehicle
  • Service of English speaking local guide
  • Entrance fees and activities where mentioned
  • Drinking water during the tour

OUR SERVICES DO NOT INCLUDE:

  • Camera / video entrance fees
  • Other meals than mentioned
  • Other services than mentioned
  • Gratuities, personal expenses, drinks, and other items
  • International and Domestic Flights
  • Visa of China
  • Travel insurance

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