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Gansu Travel Guide

Gansu, situated in northwest China and sharing borders with Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Shaanxi, stands out for its remarkable natural landscapes, profound historical and cultural heritage, and its strategic position along the ancient Silk Road.

With a population of approximately 26 million, predominantly consisting of Han Chinese, Gansu also embraces various ethnic minorities like Hui, Dongxiang, and Tibetan. The capital city, Lanzhou, located on the Yellow River, known as China’s mother river, serves as the largest urban center within the province. Gansu’s distinctive features include the awe-inspiring Qilian Mountains, the renowned Hexi Corridor, the fascinating Mogao Caves, the captivating Maijishan Grottoes, and the historically significant Jiayuguan Pass.

Zhagana Gannan

Chinese: 甘肃 gān sù

Location: Northwest China

Population (urban area): 24,920,000

Why visit Gansu

Natural Beauty: Gansu boasts breathtaking landscapes, from the majestic Singing Sand Mountains to the vibrant colors of Zhangye’s Danxia Landform.

Historical Significance: Explore the ancient Silk Road and witness the remnants of this historic trade route that shaped the region’s culture and history.

Architectural Marvels: Visit Jiayuguan Pass and marvel at the grandeur of the Great Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Spiritual Exploration: Discover Labrang Monastery, a significant Tibetan Buddhist monastery, and immerse yourself in its serene and profound atmosphere.

Artistic Heritage: Admire the intricate Buddhist sculptures and murals at the Maijishan Grottoes, a testament to the artistic prowess of ancient Chinese artisans.

Cultural Immersion: Experience the vibrant local customs and traditions in Tianshui, the birthplace of Chinese philosopher Fuzi (Confucius).

Silk Road Legacy: Follow in the footsteps of ancient traders and discover the rich cultural exchange that occurred along the historic Silk Road routes that traverse Gansu Province.

Top Travel Destinations in Gansu

Top Things to Do in Gansu

Explore the Majestic Mogao Caves:

Step into the ancient world within the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang, where you can admire the intricate Buddhist sculptures, marvel at the vibrant murals that depict stories of spiritual enlightenment, and appreciate the preservation of over a thousand years of history and artistry.

Marvel at the Rainbow Mountains:

Prepare to be awestruck by the surreal beauty of Zhangye’s Danxia Landform, as you wander through the vibrant, multicolored rock formations that resemble an artist’s palette, creating a mesmerizing landscape that is truly one-of-a-kind.

Walk along the Great Wall:

Stand atop Jiayuguan Pass and absorb the grandeur of the Great Wall as it stretches across the rugged terrain, offering panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscapes and serving as a tangible testament to China’s rich historical heritage.

Immerse Yourself in Tibetan Buddhism:

Visit Labrang Monastery, where you can witness the devoted Tibetan Buddhist monks engaging in spiritual rituals and prayers, explore the ornate prayer halls and chapels adorned with intricate Tibetan artwork, and experience a sense of tranquility and spirituality amidst the serene surroundings.

Admire the Maijishan Grottoes:

Journey into the ancient caves of Maijishan and be captivated by the countless Buddha statues, detailed frescoes, and skillfully carved niches that adorn the cliffs, providing a glimpse into the artistic brilliance of ancient China and the religious devotion of its people.

Experience the Silk Road Legacy:

Follow in the footsteps of ancient traders as you traverse the Hexi Corridor, discovering historical sites such as the Yumen Pass and the ruins of ancient cities like Dunhuang, experiencing the cultural fusion that occurred along the Silk Road, and gaining insights into the significant role Gansu played in shaping world history.

Read more about Top Things to Do in Gansu

Jiayuguan Pass Gansu
Jiayuguan Pass

Gansu Weather & Best Time to Visit

Gansu Province experiences a diverse range of weather patterns due to its complex geography and varying elevations. Generally, the region is characterized by dry, sunny, and cold conditions, with significant temperature fluctuations between day and night. The average annual temperature hovers around 10°C (50°F), although winter temperatures can plummet below -10°C (14°F) while summer temperatures can soar above 30°C (86°F). Rainfall is limited even during the rainy season from June to September.

The optimal time to visit Gansu is from May to October when the weather is more pleasant, and the scenery becomes vibrant and captivating.

Summer offers the ideal season to revel in the beauty of the natural grasslands in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where lush green meadows, blossoming flowers, and grazing yaks create a picturesque landscape. Autumn emerges as the peak season to explore Dunhuang and Zhangye, where you can witness the awe-inspiring Danxia landforms, delve into the ancient Mogao Caves, and marvel at the grandeur of Jiayuguan Pass. While spring and winter are also viable seasons for travel in Gansu, it is advisable to come prepared with warm clothing and moisturizers to combat the cooler temperatures and potential dryness.

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Gansu Transportation: How to Get to Gansu

By air: 

Gansu can be easily accessed by air from both domestic and international cities. The primary airports for arrival are Lanzhou Zhongchuan International Airport and Dunhuang Mogao International Airport. These airports offer regular flights connecting to major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Urumqi, and more. Additional airports in Gansu include Zhangye Ganzhou Airport, Jiayuguan Airport, Tianshui Maijishan Airport, and Gannan Xiahe Airport, although they have relatively fewer flight options and connections.

By train:

Gansu boasts a well-connected railway network, serving as a vital corridor between eastern and western China. The prominent railway hub is Lanzhou West Railway Station, offering high-speed train services to major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Chengdu, and more. Moreover, from Lanzhou, you can conveniently board bullet trains to other popular tourist destinations within Gansu, including Dunhuang, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, and Tianshui.

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Lanzhou Zhongchuan International Airport
Lanzhou Zhongchuan International Airport

Popular Food in Gansu

Lanzhou Beef Noodles: This renowned Gansu delicacy features a clear broth brimming with chewy noodles and tender slices of beef. The flavorsome broth incorporates a blend of local spices, chili oil, and radish, resulting in a satisfying bowl of goodness.

Snow Mountain Camel Palm: A rare and exquisite dish prepared by stewing camel’s feet with a medley of seasonings until they turn succulent and tender. Believed to offer health benefits like blood nourishment and bone strengthening, this dish showcases Gansu’s culinary artistry.

Agate Sea Cucumber: Indulge in this delicacy that highlights sea cucumber as the star ingredient. Thinly sliced to resemble agate, the sea cucumber is cooked with chicken soup, ham, mushrooms, and other flavorful components, creating a velvety and satisfying taste sensation.

Lanzhou Roast Suckling Pig: A traditional Gansu favorite, this dish features a whole suckling pig roasted to perfection, resulting in a crispy golden skin and juicy, flavorful meat. Often accompanied by sweet bean paste or garlic sauce, it’s a true delight for the taste buds.

Goldfish Nostoc: Experience the culinary excellence of Gansu with this top-grade dish showcasing nostoc, an edible algae, as the main ingredient. The nostoc is skillfully shaped into goldfish and steamed alongside meat, resulting in a unique presentation and an exceptional flavor profile.

Tianshui Pickled Celery Soup Noodles: Beat the summer heat with this popular cool noodle dish that combines hand-made noodles with a pour of pickled celery soup. The soup imparts a refreshing and tangy flavor, making it a delightful treat during hot weather.

Lamb Mutton: A specialty of the Hui cuisine, this dish features Jingyuan lamb stewed with dried chili, sweet potato noodles, and vegetables. The resulting creation is a spicy and richly flavored delight, showcasing the culinary expertise of Gansu’s diverse food culture.

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