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Rainbow Mountains of Danxia

HOME / DESTINATIONS / CHINA / 13 DAYS OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH GANSU & QINGHAI

13 DAYS OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH
GANSU & QINGHAI

Be enchanted by China's lesser-known Tibetan regions of Qinghai and Gansu, where elderly monks create intricate thangka artworks to the flicker of yak-butter candles, and locals herd livestock across pristine grasslands. "Glamping" among nomads, you'll enjoy a magical blend of cultural immersion and off-the-beaten-track adventure. On this adventurous twist on a classic Silk Road tour, you'll encounter sand dunes that sing in the wind, mountains with colors that dance in the sunlight, and deserts that hide ancient Buddhist art in clandestine caves.

ITINERARY DAY-TO-DAY

1

DAY

XINING

Explore Kumbum Monastery where Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Geluppa (Yellow hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was born. Established nearly 500 years ago, the monastery has attracts a stream of pilgrimage of scholars, religious devotes, and art aficionados. Join the locals at the night market and taste the popular fried flour slices, hand-pulled and dry-stirred noodles, roasted mutton, and steamed buns.

2

DAY

XINING / TONGREN

Drive to Tongren past mountain-framed farmland. Make a stop at Dangcai Village, and visit the former home of the widely revered Dalai Lama. Pass by Xunhua Town, inhabited by the Sala ethnic group who migrated from Central Asia approximately 800 years ago. Devout muslims, they are a world far removed from the neighboring Tibetan towns. Visit the Residence of the late 10th Panchen Lama and learn about his tireless efforts to achieve compromise, moderation, and tolerance for the Tibetan people.

3

DAY

TONGREN

Start your day with a pilgrimage walk around around Longwu Temple, considered one of the most important monasteries in the Amdo-Tibetan area. Drive to Sengeshong village, home to the Upper and Lower Wudun Monasteries, famous for having some of the best thangka paintings and artists. Meet the master artists and students working on these intricate and elaborate motifs. Explore the Nianduhu Monastery renowned for its rare artistic treasures such as the giant barbola mural followed by a visit to Guomari Monastery for Amdo's finest and tallest stupa. 

4

DAY

TONGREN / XIAHE

Drive to Xiahe along paved roads and dirt track before crossing the high ridge to the next valley. En route, we visit Garter Gompa Monastery in Guashize village, a hidden treasure known only to the locals. Revel in the vast Ganjia grasslands and take a glimpse into the nomad's rustic lifestyle on the high plateau. Arrive at Norden Camp, located at 3,200 meters in altitude, blending in with the lush landscapes of the Tibetan plateau and contemporary cultures with carefully curated local food, ambiance, and experiences. 

5

DAY

XIAHE

Take a leisurely hike around the surrounds of Norden Camp and keep an eye for birds native to the area and other wildlife sightings. Learn about the Norlha project that crafts textiles from yak wool and join in other activities such as visiting a local nomad family, lunch at a monk’s home, horseback riding or just indulge in a relaxing spa.

6

DAY

XIAHE

Sitting at an elevation of 3000 meters, explore the Labrang Monastery, one of the six most important monasteries of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect. The monastery’s red walls and elaborate gold and copper colored roofs are incredible against the dramatic Tibetan scenery. 

7

DAY

XIAHE / LINXIA / LANZHOU

Drive to Linxia, dubbed as the 'Mecca of China' for its numerous mosques and minarets. Explore Lanzhou, once a key city connecting central and western China, as well as a primary link to Eastern Europe.

8

DAY

LANZHOU / ZHANGYE

Take the high-speed train to Zhangye and drive to the Danxia land formation, more popularly known as the 'Rainbow Mountains'. Perfect for photography enthusiasts and lovers of hiking, take the afternoon to soak in the scenery and admire this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9

DAY

ZHANGYE

Visit Zhangye and the Giant Buddha Temple, housing the largest reclining Buddha in China. Continue to Pingshanhu Grand Canyon, and explore the maze of twisting red sandstone walls and narrow canyon floors. 

10

DAY

ZHANGYE / JIAYUGUAN

Visit the Matisi Grottoes comprising of 7 small grotto groups stretching as long as 30 km, ranking third in the Three Artistic Treasured Grottoes of Hexi Holy Land. Hike or take a horse ride through grasslands and pine forests to the Linsong Waterfall. Picnic with a view at the foot of the Qilian Mountains. Drive to Jiayuguan. 

11

DAY

JIAYUGUAN / DUNHUANG

Drive to Dunhuang, a fertile outpost close to where the Silk Road split into its southern and northern routes, either side of the impassable Taklamakan Desert.

12

DAY

DUNHUANG

Visit Mingsha Sand Dunes, also known as the 'singing sand mountain' and the geographical wonder of Crescent Moon Lake, a lush oasis against the monotone sandy surroundings. Enjoy a street food lunch. Take an expert led tour of the Mogao Grottoes. Created over the course of 1,000 years, the grottoes were used for meditation, worship and to store paintings, frescoes, and sculptures. Explore Shazhou Night Market, with different specialty sections for items such as handicrafts, antiques, tea and local products. 

13

DAY

DUNHUANG

Catch sunrise from atop Mingsha Sand Dunes. Dubbed by Marco Polo as 'rumbling sands' for the sounds they make when the wind blows. Take a camel ride to Crescent Moon Lake, a dainty oasis of green amid the enormous and notoriously inhospitable Taklamakan Desert.

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