Natural Wonders beyond the Great Wall

  • Detailed Itinerary
  • Dates & Prices
  • Trip Notes

The Hexi Corridor is a narrow passage between mountain ranges through which the Silk Routes connected Central Asia and the China heartland. This is where the Great Wall ended and where peoples of dozens of different ethnic groups traded and intermingled. Discover Silk Road legends, early Buddhist temples & grottoes, Muslim traders and markets. Geologically the region is equally diverse; the colours of the rock formations a particular delight to photographers making short hikes (1-5 hours) into different areas on most days.
A great compliment to any China trip or, as you end in Xining, continue by overnight train to Lhasa, Tibet.

Day 1 Arrive Jiayuguan
Nihao! Welcome to Jiayuguan, its Ming-dynasty fort symbolically marking the end of the Great Wall and the border between the civilized world of China and the wilds of central Asia, inhabited by desert demons and barbarians.
You will meet your guide in the hotel lobby at 6.30pm who will go through the details of your itinerary and answer any questions. Then head out for an orientation walk and welcome dinner.

Accommodation:
•Great Wall Hotel or similar (2 nights)
Meals Included:
• Dinner

Day 2 Jiayuguan sightseeing – Wei Jin Tombs, Jiayuguan Fort
Today’s sightseeing starts with a visit to the dead in the Wei Jin Tombs (AD220-420). There are thousands of tombs in this desert site with incredibly preserved wall paintings depicting everyday life of the times.
In the desert west of Jiayuguan stand the remains of the First Beacon (or Fire Tower) of the Great Wall; its position high on the cliffs above the Tao Lai River allowed enemies to be seen far-off and the town warned. We can cross the river by suspension bridge.
The Great Wall Museum includes photos shot by William Lindsay who explored the Great Wall during 1907-1908 as well as history of its construction and successes and defeats.
Lunch in a local restaurant before visiting the famous Jiayuguan Fortress. Built in 1372, primarily as defense against the Mongolians, it is also known as “The First Pass Under Heaven”; its walls and buildings well-preserved.
Of immense strategic importance the C16th section known as the Hanging Great Wall was reconstructed in 1987. It is an incredible point to watch the sunset – walking for about 1 hour you have sweeping views of the desert backed by distant snow-capped mountains.

Accommodation:
•Great Wall Hotel or similar (2 nights)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3 Train to Zhangye – Zhanghe Danxia Geological Park Rainbow section
It is 1.5 hours journey to Zhangye by bullet train, arriving in time for lunch in town.
In the afternoon visit Danxia National Geological Park, the largest of China’s danxia landform areas. Danxia is a landform unique to China; once an undersea area red sandstone was deposited as mountains rose and rivers formed. The sedentary layers formed have different colors of red, purplish red, yellowish green, grayish green, and gray as well as wonderful shapes. They are often called the Rainbow Mountains or Rainbow Danxia.
The lighting is best for photos in the late afternoon.
The lighting on the red landforms will be excellent for pictures when it is late in the afternoon. There are a total of 4 scenic platforms, 3 of which are pretty large and each stay depending on your preference, half an hour to an hour ro so. For Rainbow Danxia, afternoon is better than morning in terms of lighting and photographing and Binggou Danxia is better in the morning with Qilian Snow Mountains in the far distance facing the sunlight.

Accommodation:
•Hua Qiao Hotel or similar (2 nights)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4  Zhangye Danxia Geological Park Binggou (Ice Valley) section
This morning drive 30km to Binggou Danxia. The Binggou Danxia (Ice Valley Landform) is smaller than Rainbow, but it is a very different rock formation. The precipices, stone columns, aiguilles and hills are often considered to look like Buddhas from a distance. Generally it takes about 3 hours to make the circuit of scenic points, however keen photographers may take longer.
The afternoon is spent hiking around the newly founded Alien Valley Geological Park. The landforms here are often compared to the surface of the planet Mercury.

Accommodation:
•Hua Qiao Hotel or similar (2 nights)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5  Zhangye – The Horse-Hoof Temple
Continue to explore the Alien Valley Geological Park, visiting the Jupiter Gorge, characterized by its deep canyon, steep cliff and memorable colors, as well as its mystery. The hike takes about 5 hours, covering 9 km.
After lunch, we will drive though the grasslands to Mati Si, the Horse-Hoof Temple. Dating from the C4th and described by Marco Polo this is a vast series of cave temples and grottoes carved into the hill side.
The Puguang Temple comprises 33 caves anit is here, according to legend, that a horse from the heavens once left its hoof prints, hence the name. There is a clear Tibetan influence in the style and decoration. Your guest house is within the scenic area.  

Accommodation:
•Sunan Wolong Shanzhuang or similar (2 nights)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6  Zhangye –The Horse-Hoof Temple Grottoes - Qilian Mountain
Set into the verdant foothills of the Qilian Mountains along a beautiful river, the caves and surrounding park are a wonderful place for hikers. First hike to the Thousand-Buddha Cave (Qianfo Grottos) before venturing north to the Taoist Thirty-three Heavens Grottoes. In the shape of a pagoda carved into the cliff face, it has 7 floors and 21 grottoes with connecting rock-hewn corridors. Local belief has it that anyone who can reach the thirty-third heaven will enjoy a successful life. There are optional additional sites which you can hike to if you wish.
Lunch in the park town before driving 26km to Golden Tower Monastery, hiking the most scenic 3km of the route. The paintings and here predate Dunhuang by 300 years and it is believed that the inspiration for the more famous caves came from here.
Dinner can be arranged inside a Yugu Yurt for a real life experience with Yugu ethnic people; descendants of nomadic Uighurs who settled in this area in the Ming Dynasty.                      
Accommodation:
•Sunan Wolong Shanzhuang or similar (2 nights)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7  Zhangye – Pingshanhu Grand Canyon, Giant Reclining Buddha Temple
Head out to the Pingshanhu Grand Canyon (116km). It is listed in the world top 5 canyons, equally famous as Colorado Canyon. It is also China’s most famous outdoor photographic site. On arrival the hike in the canyon is about 2.5 hours with quite a lot of climbing.
After lunch continue (60km) to visit the Giant Reclining Buddha Temple. This temple was first built in 1098 and derives its name from the35meter long sleeping Buddha, surrounded by arhats and Qing Dynasty murals; the largest indoor clay Buddha statue of its kind in China.

Accommodation:
•Run Hu Hotel Zhangye or similar (1 night)
Meals Included:
• Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8  train Zhangye to Xining
Today is your last day in Zhangye. You are free until transferring to the station for bullet train to Xining where
trip ends. 

Meals Included:
• Breakfast

Visas - A visa is required for entry into China for all nationalities except Japan, Singapore and Brunei who are allowed visa free stays under 14 days. Travellers holding APEC cards are allowed entrance visa free if their card has already been approved for China.

Under the current guidelines to get a visa you will need to provide the following:

- Letter of Invitation from a Chinese agency

- Copy of Flight tickets

- Hotel booking confirmation

- Travel Insurance (some embassies ask for this document) 

In some cases, you may be required to provide further information or documentation and if this is the case we will notify you as soon as possible.

Booking a Single Room - On this particular tour we are pleased to be able to offer travellers the option of pre-booking a guaranteed single room. Due to the variety of accommodation used on this tour, single rooms are available for a majority of the nightstops, however it would still mean sharing on any overnight trains. All of our tours are planned and operated on a twin-share basis, meaning that the standard cost is based either on individual travellers sharing accommodation with another group member of the same sex, or people who book together sharing accommodation.

Vaccinations and Your Health - We recommend that you contact your primary care physician or a travel doctor for advice on vaccinations and travel health and we advise that you check to see if your tetanus-diphtheria booster is still valid every 10 years. 

Insurance - Travel insurance is compulsory for all our customers. At the start of the trip you must provide us with: the name of your insurance company, your policy number, a 24 hour medical emergency contact number, and the expiry date of the policy. You should ensure that your policy covers you for medical expenses and repatriation. If you are unable to provide all this information at the start of the trip you will not be allowed to join the trip. You can purchase insurance easily online by checking our Travel Insurance page.

Luggage - One main piece of lockable baggage and a shoulder bag. Total allowance: 44lbs/20kgs. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage – so don’t overload yourself. It is essential that your baggage is lockable; the airline/train authorities insist on this. Please be aware, before boarding a flight in China that the Chinese authorities will only allow bottles onto aircraft if they have been checked in as main luggage. Any bottles in the hand luggage may be confiscated.

Itinerary Disclaimer – The information in this trip details has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part of the contract between the client and the operator. The itinerary featured is correct at time of printing. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travellers, comments and our own research. Sometimes it can be a small change like adding an extra meal along the itinerary. Sometimes the change may result in us altering the tour for the coming year. Ultimately, our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. 

Accommodation -Your accommodation is selected for convenient.




8 Days