Gansu is a land of snow-capped mountains, big skies and Silk Road history, with surreal terrain ranging from the arid peaks of Xiahe to the Instagrammable rainbow desert of Danxia National Geopark. Besides this visual feast, local cuisine – especially Lanzhou-style hand-pulled noodles – has earned a cult foodie following.
The province is blissfully well-connected thanks to high-speed rail services and upgraded highways, and a new metro will ease traffic in provincial capital Lanzhou when it opens this year. But sights like the giant Buddha at Bingling Monastery still retain an otherworldly atmosphere. Gansu’s crown jewel and world-class Buddhist art site, the Mogao Grottoes, received a huge upgrade in 2015, but – just like the entire region – remains underrated and relatively crowd-free.