Gansu and Qinghai
Bordering Gansu to the northeast, Qinghai sits on the Tibetan Plateau beneath Mongolia. Named after China’s larges salt water lake, Qinghai Lake, the province enjoys rather a rather cooler climate than most areas. For this reason, many choose to visit during summer when temperatures provide a welcome retreat from the hot and humid climate.
Xining, Qinghai’s capital, is the main tourist destination of the province which is not surprising considering it’s characterised by mild climate and several tourist attractions. First there is the Ta’er Monastery and the fourteenth Dalai Lama’s birthplace, both holy sites located close to Xining. Alternatively head to Jyekundo to view the Gyanak Mani Temple which sports Tibet’s largest carved prayer stone collection. It is believed that there are over two billion stones stacked in the area!
For those adventurous travellers Amnye Machen provides a great trekking mountain to explore. The mountain is one of Tibet’s holiest, and at a height of 6282m is a challenging but fulfilling place to trek. Another scenic area for hiking and camping is the area surrounding Qinghai Lake. If you decide to trek within nomadic areas keep a watchful eye out for dogs. Many are large trained as guard dogs and are easily aggravated to attack.
Another factor to be aware of is the strong sunlight during summer. There is a constant lack of shady areas which exposes you to getting burnt. So bring light covering clothes, a sunhat and sun-block.
Situated on the upper section of the Yellow River, Gansu holds a multinational population of over 23million. There are many cultural attractions in the province which makes Gansu a memorable place to visit. Gansu’s capital, Lanzhou, is also a famous ancient city and China’s largest north-western city.
Your itinerary should begin with the Silk Route Museum where there is a massive exhibition area full of subterranean art including murals and antiques. Once you have had your artistic fix head to the Buddhist Bingling Temple cave complex found near the Yellow River. There are several caves to explore which feature spectacular carvings and sculptures. Another cave worth checking out is found in the capital Lanzhou and is inundated with Han Buddhist gems.
Lastly don’t miss out on getting a glimpse of the Jiayuguan Pass, the largest and most undamaged piece of the Great Wall of China. Found in Jiayuguan, it has been dated back to the early Ming dynasty.