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Xiahe, Labrang Monastery, Zhagana Tibetan area, Gansu Province

In Brief: See the Labrang Monastery, Tibetan Buddhist temples, and super high mountain scenery on this trip to the largely Tibetan remote area of Gansu Province. A similar feel to Tibet, without the hassle of getting the official permit.

Mountains of Zhagana, Gansu Province

Mountains of Zhagana, Gansu Province. View more photos from the trip »

See Tibetan culture, Buddhist monasteries and temples, and stretch the legs with some serious hiking on this 5-day road trip.

Highlights include the famed Labrang Monastery in Xiahe, the temples of Langmusi, and several long hikes into the high mountains in this remote and mountainous part of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province.

Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture

On this five-day adventure we’ll make a 900 km road trip through the mountains of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, visiting Buddhist monasteries and temples, and hiking up into the hills and mountains that surround small villages.

Of the a population of roughly 690,000, around 51% are Tibetan. Our trip will take us through four of the counties of Gannan, including Hezuo, the regional capital, and the lightly populated and mountainous Luqu County.

As well as a being the site of a long history of Tibetan culture, Gannan also featured in more recent history, with the Lazikou Pass and the Zoige Marsh the last two major obstacles faced by the First Red Army on their Long March to Shaanxi.

Novice monks debating

Novice monks in a lively debate.

Trip overview

Day One
Fly to Lanzhou, board SUVs and drive to Xiahe, visit Labrang Monastery.
Day Two
Drive to Langmusi, stopping for a hike on the way; tour Langmusi and Langmu Temple. At altitudes between 3,000-3,800m.
Day Three
Hiking in the Zhagana area, peaking at approx. 3,650m.
Day Four
Second hike in the Zhagana area; drive to Hezuo, stopping for a hike on the way.
Day Five
Drive to Lanzhou, stopping for a hike on the way. Fly back to Beijing.

Highlights

The major sights on the trips are the Buddhist monasteries and temples at Xiahe and Langmusi, inhabited by practicing monks of the Gelupa (Yellow Hat) sect and visited by pilgrims from rural areas of Gannan.

Labrang Monastery, Xiahe

Labrang Monastery, Xiahe

Monks outside the main entrance of the Labrang Monastery.

‘Labrang’ roughly translates as ‘home of a great lama’. Founded in 1709, Labrang Monastery is considered to be Tibetan Buddhism’s most important monastery town outside of Tibet, and currently is home to around 1,500 monks and novices. At its peak in 1957, the monastery housed around 4,000 monks.

Since the early 20th century the town has seen a lot of troubles, with some very gruesome sackings at the hands of the Hui warlords who controlled the area from 1910-1949, and then complete closure of the monastery in 1958 during the Cultural Revolution.

The monastery was reopened for tourism in the 1970s and became a functioning monastery again in the 1980s. The main assembly hall burned down in 1985, and repairs were not finished until 1990.

This active monastery is well worth a visit, with a great chance of spotting monks engaging in prayer or rowdy debate on interpretation of Buddhist scripture.

Monasteries in Langmusi, Luqu County

One of the two monasteries in Langmusi.

One of the two monasteries in Langmusi.

Langmusi is a small town that sits right on the border of Gansu and Sichuan. The temple on the Gansu side is called Setri Gompa, with the Kirti Gompa temple on the Sichuan side.

As with Labrang Monastery, these two temples are active, and in the streets of the town we’ll spot monks and novices, as well as pilgrims from the surrounding countryside.

Hiking in mountains and around villages

Mountains in the Zhagana area

Mountains in the Zhagana area, seen on the big hike on the third day of the trip.

On the trip we’ll have time for quite a bit of hiking, and in such a picturesque and mountainous area we’re going to take the opportunity to do as much hiking as we can!

On the second day of the trip we’ll hike for a few hours in the mountains near Xiahe. In Beijing we’d rate it as somewhere around Level 3, but at around 2,600m above sea level it may feel a little tougher.

The third day of the trip is a big hiking day, with a five-hour walk up a canyon to a broad plateau sited somewhere around 3,000m above sea level - amazing views of mountains and steep crags and cliffs, with the chance of bumping into locals taking their yaks up to graze. This hike is a solid Level 4 on our scale of difficulty.

We add more walking about on the fourth and fifth days, exploring villages and hills on the long road back to Lanzhou.

Street scene in Gannan

A street scene from one of the towns passed on the trip.

Weather

Temperatures in the mountains are cool. Expect highs of around 20°C and lows of around 3°C. It could get colder! There’s a small chance of rain, so bring a waterproof jacket just in case.

Accommodation

In Xiahe, Langmusi, and Hezuo we'll stay in nice local hotels. In Zhagana we’ll stay at a comfortable guesthouse..

You’ll be sharing a room with another hiker. If you'd like a guesthouse/hotel room to yourself for the trip, it can be arranged at an extra cost of 600 RMB in total, if rooms are available—usually not a problem!

Further details about room shares and single supplement can be found in the documents we send you as part of the registration.

Flights and transport

We fly to and from Lanzhou for this trip. Land transportation will be via big and comfortable SUVs.

Frequent flyers: Please let us know if you would like to use your frequent flyer miles or if you are a frequent flyer member. If you would like to organise your own flights, we can provide further details.

Food

We will take most of our meals at restaurants in the areas we visit, or at the hotels or guesthouse. On one of the days we include a picnic lunch for you. Bring some spending money for snacks during the trip. Please let us know if you have any special dietary requirements or food allergies.

Things to bring

  • Passport/ID card
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers
  • Thermal underwear and other warm clothing (it could get cold!)
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Thick socks
  • Hiking boots
  • A day pack to take on outings, suitcases or bigger bags can be left at the hotel
  • Camera and charger, batteries
  • Suncream
  • Torch or headlamp
  • Mobile phone, charger
A young monk running to class

A young monk running to class.

Full itinerary

  1. Day One
    07:00 – Meet at the Beijing airport
    08:30 – Fly to Lanzhou
    11:00 – Arrive in Lanzhou, board jeeps for the drive to Xiahe
    15:00 – Arrive in Xiahe, visit Labrang Monastery
    17:30 – Check in at hotel
    19:00 – Dinner
    20:00 – Free time

  2. Day Two
    08:00 – Breakfast at hotel
    08:00 – Drive to Langmusi
    09:30 – Stop for a hike in the Tibetan region
    11:30 – Continue driving to Langmusi
    13:30 – Stop for lunch
    14:30 – Tour of Langmusi town and temple
    17:30 – Check in at hotel
    19:00 – Dinner
    20:00 – Free time

  3. Day Three
    08:30 – Breakfast at hotel, check out
    09:00 – Head out for a hike near Zhagana
    09:50 – Start the hike up to the Zhagana Canyon
    11:30 – Arrive at the canyon, keep hiking
    12:30 – Picnic lunch
    13:00 – Hike up to Daylight Cliff
    14:30 – Arrive at Daylight Cliff, rest, photos
    15:30 – Hike down to the meadows for a a view of the valleys
    16:30 – Finish the hike with a look about a small village
    17:30 – Overnight in local guesthouse
    19:00 – Dinner
    20:00 – Free time

  4. Day Four
    08:00 – Breakfast at guesthouse
    08:30 – Take a walk about the village
    12:00 – Lunch
    14:00 – Drive to Hezuo, passing through the mountains
    15:30 – Stop for a short hike
    18:30 – Check-in at hotel at Hezuo
    19:30 – Dinner
    20:30 – Free time

  5. Day Five
    08:30 – Breakfast at hotel
    09:00 – Drive to Lanzhou
    12:00 – Lunch near Lanzhou
    13:00 – Hike near Lanzhou
    16:30 – Drive to Lanzhou airport
    17:20 – Arrive at the airport
    19:05 – Fly to Beijing
    21:30 – Arrive at the Beijing airport
    All times are approximate, and depend on our speed of movement.

More information

Contact us at any time for more information. Payment terms, conditions, and details will be supplied along with a waiver document and travel guidelines after your registration request has been received.

We usually need to get 8–10 people signed up to go ahead with this trip. Beijing Hikers reserves the right to decide who may participate in this trip.

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