Gansu: Origins of the Silk Road

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7 Days
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

For centuries, the winding province of Gansu marked the eastern edge of the exotic Silk Road. 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.

About this Journey

Situated along the legendary Silk Road, Gansu served as a crossroads for China and Central Asia. The temples, Buddhist art, and tombs left behind by travelers, merchants, and artists make Gansu one of the most culturally rich provinces in China. On this trip you’ll stop for a bowl of famous Lanzhou noodle soup and show your satisfaction by slurping it down like a local. Float down the Yellow River in a traditional goatskin raft, explore mysterious grottoes filled with medieval Buddhist art, marvel at the iridescent Rainbow Mountains, and wander along the western edge of the Great Wall.

What we love
  • Learning to make our own bowl of traditional Lanzhou beef noodles
  • Meeting a local Yugu Minority family and learning about their way of life
  • Discovering Dunhuang's Mogao Caves with one of the world's leading authorities on medieval Buddhism's visual culture
Where you're going

Day 1Lanzhou

Meet your local WildChina guide at Lanzhou airport and transfer to your hotel in a private vehicle • If there’s time, cruise down the Yellow River (the second longest river in China) on a traditional goat skin raft. This was the major form of transportation along the river until the first steel bridge was built in 1907.


Day 2Lanzhou – Zhangye

After breakfast, visit a local cooking school and learn the history behind the region’s famous beef noodle soup • Learn the art of pulling noodles as thin as thread and then enjoy your own bowl of noodle soup for lunch • Take the high-speed train to Zhangye (3 hours) and drive to the Danxia land formation, more popularly known as the ‘Rainbow Mountains’ • Hike through five different “platforms” of height and explore the changing views • Get your camera ready for a sunset view over the colorful mountains.

Day 3Zhangye

Start the day early and visit the 12th century Giant Buddha Temple, home to the largest clay Buddha in Asia and the only well-preserved Western Xia Royal Temple in China • Before entering the temple, practice water calligraphy or Chinese Kungfu (weather permitting) from a local master in the temple grounds • Continue your exploration of Zhangye’s unique landscapes when you hike in Pingshanhu Grand Canyon


Day 4Jiayuguan

Meet a local Yugu Minority family and learn about their way of life over a cup of tea. Visit the Matisi Grottoes (1-hour drive) one of the three most important Buddhist Grottoes in Gansu. The legend of Matisi (Horse Hoof Temple) can be traced back to the 4th century. Here you’ll find Tibetan and Chinese cave art and the hoof print of the legendary flying horse who chose the mountains as a holy site • Hike or ride a horse through the surrounding pine forest to Linsong Waterfall (1 hour) • Enjoy a picnic lunch on the way • In the afternoon, drive to Jiayuguan City (3 hours) • Your guide will help you check into your hotel and the evening will be spent at your leisure


Day 5Jiayuguan – Dunhuang

Visit Jiayuguan, the first pass on the western end of the Great Wall. The Jiayuguan Pass has been fully restored and is now the wall’s best preserved fortress • Continue your drive to the Wei-Jin Dynasty Tombs and see underground murals dating back 1700 years • If Try your hand at stone painting – a traditional local craft that uses stones from the Gobi Desert • After lunch, drive to Dunhuang (4 hours), a fertile outpost close to where the Silk Road split into its southern and northern routes either side of the impassable Taklamakan Desert • Spend the evening exploring local night markets or enjoy dinner on the roof of your hotel

Day 6Dunhuang

Start the day in the ‘singing’ Minsha Sand Dunes, named for the way they ‘rumble’ in the wind • Stop by Crescent Moon Lake, an oasis nestled in the desert • Enjoy a local lunch in the city’s most famous food street • Visit the Mogao Grottoes, a complex of 492 grottoes representing the pinnacle of Chinese Buddhist art • The caves were created over the course of 1,000 years and were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 • OPTIONAL: We’ll arrange an expert in Chinese Buddhism to accompany you through caves not open to the general public • In the evening, visit a local artist’s studio or head out on a foodie’s adventure with your guide to Yue Quan Xiao Zhen Market.

Day 7Departure

Watch the sunrise in the desert from the roof of your hotel • Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before transferring to the airport for your departure flight

Silk Road Dunhuang

4 star

Boasting unbeatable views of rolling sand dunes and a traditional design, this hotel brings out the character and history of the ancient Silk Road.

Crowne Plaza Lanzhou

4 star

Conveniently located in the heart of the city, Crowne Plaza Lanzhou offers a comfortable stay with contemporary rooms and dining options that serve up Western Chinese cuisine.

Zhangye Hotel

4 stars

Located on the north bank of Beihu Lake, this garden hotel is the only four star hotel in Zhangye.

Jiayuguan Kaitong Hotel

Boutique Hotel

Located on East Lake, this hotel with elegant decor and architecture offers a birds eye view of Jiayuguan City.


Recommended seasons





What’s Included

  • All overland transfers with private chauffeur and in-transport refreshments
  • All admission fees and activity expenses, as noted in the itinerary
  • All meals as noted in the itinerary with complimentary drinking water
  • Ground transportation, including airport transfers
  • Services of an English-speaking WildChina guide
  • Private chauffeur service to and from airport at start and end of your trip

What’s Excluded

  • International and domestic flights, domestic trains, plus relevant taxes
  • Chinese tourist visa, which is required for most foreign passport holders
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Meals, apart from those included in the itinerary, and alcohol
  • Expenses of a personal nature
  • Excursions and activities not included in the itinerary
  • Discretionary gratuities for guides and drivers

Domestic Air & Train Travel

The land costs above do not include domestic flights and trains.


We will love to suggest the perfect accommodation based on your preferences. Just fill-up the form and let us plan your trip! 

Why WildChina

We’re on the ground with you

Our team of advisors will design every detail of the trip with you through close consultation, then orchestrate your entire journey while on the ground. We’re in the same time zone as you, so we can fulfill requests and handle issues without a hitch. With over 40 staff in Beijing and an expansive network of operational partners across the country, we have the manpower to ensure your journey is safe, reliable and comfortable from beginning to end.

Your trip, your way

Flexibility is our highest-ranking compliment. We pull off journeys for pioneers with a 6-hour layover to Hollywood’s elite, and everywhere in between. Our team regularly pulls off unprecedented logistical feats; nearly any time frame or budget is within our realm. No matter how you wish to experience China, we are here to bring that dream to life.

We embody passion

WildChina guides are carefully handpicked for their knowledge and charisma, then meticulously trained to maintain our exceptional service standards. They are expert storytellers and passionate natives of the regions where they guide, having the perfect combination of local insights and service know-how to bring you seamless once-in-a- lifetime moments all across China.

The little things, the big picture

Supporting inspired local economies allows you to experience the soul of the destination, while also protecting and cultivating China’s artisanal culture. From watching artisans hand make shoes in Yunnan, to picking organic vegetables for dinner on a local farm in Fujian, our tours are designed to showcase and protect China’s heritage, both natural and human.

2 Reviews
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Family Traveller

WildChina did an outstanding job of navigating, what is now a difficult to travel in area of China. Once you accept the intense and obvious police scrutiny particularly in Xinjiang Province. The area has much natural beauty and many interesting historical sites.

My twin brother and I went for our 75th birthday and spent approximately 3+ weeks (March 2019) traveling bookending the trip with Beijing and Shanghai. We had both been to China several times, but not to Gansu Province or Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Wild China arranged our guides, drivers, accommodations and permits.

We made dumplings in Beijing; noodles in Lanzhou,and had great barbecue in Hoten. We rode camels In Dunhuang (Minsha Sand Dunes) and in the Taklamakan Desert, and horses near the Matisi Grottoes (Sunan) Zhangye , and had a goatskin raft ride on the Yellow River in Lanzhou. We visited many buddhist caves and grottoes, Including Matisi Grottoes (Zhangye: Mogao Grottoes (Dunhuang); Kizil 1,000 Buddha Caves (Kuqa). Saw extraordinary natural beauty. Kudos to WildChina.

May 15, 2019


Family Traveller

After a previous excursion to X’ian arranged by WildChina, we had the confidence in their services to book a 7-day tour of Kashgar, Turpan and Dunhuang…In each place, WildChina made smooth travel arrangements and engaged local guides who spoke excellent English. Our WildChina representative responded promptly to all requests and questions during the planning phase and was in communication with our guides and with us during the trip. We would highly recommend traveling to this region in the fall, for the weather and all the fresh fruits.

May 15, 2019