Top ChoiceCave in Dunhuang

Mogao Grottoes

Mogao Grottoes

The Mogao Grottoes are considered one of the most important collections of Buddhist art in the world. At its peak during the Tang dynasty (618–907), the site housed 18 monasteries, more than 1400 monks and nuns,...

Top ChoiceBuddhist Temple in Xiahe

Labrang Monastery

Labrang Monastery

With its succession of squeaking prayer wheels (3km in total), hawks circling overhead and the throb of Tibetan longhorns resonating from the surrounding hills, Labrang is a monastery town unto itself. Many of...

Top ChoiceCave in Tianshui

Maijishan Grottoes

Maijishan Grottoes

Set among wild, green mountains southeast of Tianshui, the grottoes of Maijishan hold some of the most famous Buddhist rock carvings along the Silk Road. The cliff sides of Maijishan are covered with 221 caves...

Top ChoiceBuddhist Site in Zhangye

Big Buddha Temple

Big Buddha Temple

Originally dating to 1098 (Western Xia dynasty), this stunning temple contains an astonishing 35m-long sleeping Buddha – China’s largest of this variety and among the biggest clay and wood reclining Buddhas in...

Top ChoiceFort in Jiayuguan

Jiayuguan Fort

Jiayuguan Fort

One of the classic images of western China, this huge fort once guarded the narrow pass between the snowcapped Qilian Shan peaks and the Hei Shan (Black Mountains) of the Mazong Shan range.Built in 1372, it was...

Top ChoiceArt Studio in Xiahe

Snowland Art

Tucked away down the backstreets of Xiahe not far from Labrang Monastery, Snowland Art is a family-style fine art and handicrafts training school set up by the infinitely resourceful and inspiring Canadian artist...

Top ChoiceOasis in Dunhuang

Singing Sands Dune

Singing Sands Dune

Six kilometres south of Dunhuang at Singing Sands Dune, the desert meets the oasis in most spectacular fashion. From the sheer scale of the dunes, it’s easy to see how Dunhuang gained its moniker ‘Shāzhōu’...

Top ChoiceBuddhist Temple in Hezuo

Milarepa Palace Buddhist Temple

A towering nine-storey layer cake of a temple, the Milarepa Palace is both deeply steeped in mystery and unusual in the Tibetan world as different spiritual leaders from varying sects are worshipped on each...

Top ChoiceMuseum in Dunhuang

Dunhuang Museum

On the road to Singing Sands Dune is this sparkling museum that takes you on an artefact-rich journey through the Dunhuang area (from prehistoric to Qing dynasty times) via hallways designed to make you feel as...

Cave in Southern Gansu

Bǐnglíng Sì

Bǐnglíng Sì

With its relative inaccessibility, Bǐnglíng Sì is one of the few Buddhist grottoes in China to have survived the tumultuous 20th century unscathed. Which is a good thing, as during a period spanning 1600 years,...

Cave in Wuwei

Tiantishan Grottoes

Tiantishan Grottoes

By the Huangyanghe Reservoir (黄羊河水库, Huángyánghé Shuǐkù), it's hard to appreciate how massive the 15m-high Shakyamuni Buddha statue at Tiantishan Grottoes is until you reach his truck-sized feet to peer up at his...

Desert in Dunhuang

Yadan National Park

Yadan National Park

The weird, eroded desert landscape of Yadan National Park is 180km northwest of Dunhuang, in the middle of the Gobi Desert’s awesome nothingness. A former lake bed that eroded in spectacular fashion some 12,000...

Cave in Mati Xiang

Mǎtí Sì

Mǎtí Sì translates as 'Horse Hoof Monastery', a reference to when a heavenly horse left a hoof imprint in a grotto. Between the 5th and 14th centuries a series of caves were almost as miraculously built in sheer...

Taoist Temple in Pingliang

Kongtong Shan

Kongtong Shan, 11km west of Pingliang, is one of the 12 principal peaks in the Taoist universe. It was first mentioned by the philosopher Zhuangzi (399–295 BC), and illustrious visitors have included none other...

Historic Site in Dunhuang

Jade Gate Pass

The Jade Gate Pass, 78km west of Dunhuang, was originally a military station. Together with Sun Pass, it formed part of the Han dynasty series of beacon towers that extended to the garrison town of Loulan in...

Historic Site in Dunhuang

Sun Pass

This Han dynasty military post was one of the two most important gates marking the end of the Chinese empire along the ancient Silk Road. Today, a dusty museum chronicles some of the site's artefacts, but the...

Archaeological Site in Wuwei

Changchengxiang Great Wall

Running between fields near the village of Changchengxiang (itself named after the Great Wall), this section of Great Wall makes for an interesting excursion from Wuwei. The wall runs for around 600m, a...

Buddhist Temple in Tianshui

Fuxi Temple

This hoary Ming dynasty temple was founded in 1483 in honour of Fuxi, the father and emperor of all Chinese people. A statue of Fuxi is in the main hall, surrounded by traditional symbols such as bats, dragons...

Buddhist Site in Dunhuang

Yulin Grottoes

About 180km south of Dunhuang, the 40-plus caves of the Yulin Grottoes face each other across a narrow canyon. The interior art spans a 1500-year period, from the Northern Wei to the Qing dynasty. Many show a...

Buddhist Monastery in Langmusi

Kerti Gompa

Rising up on the Sichuan side of White Dragon River is this monastery – otherwise dubbed the Sichuan Monastery – built in 1413, home to around 700 monks and composed of six temples and colleges. Try catching a...