The trip to the Zhangye Danxia Landform is one of our favourite long distance trips, taking us to sparsely-populated areas of western China.
The name of the province we visited, Gansu, was first used in the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD), after two areas belonging to previous dynasties were combined. One area was previously named Gan; the other, Su.
The Silk Road passed through Gansu, following a narrow route between the Tibetan Plateau (too cold!) and the Gobi Desert (too hot!) that’s known as the Hexi Corridor.
Zhangye was one of the stops on the Silk Road, and Jiayuguan was at the westernmost end of the area controlled by the Ming Dynasty. Our main focus on this visit was the Danxia Landform, but we also made sure to get a good look the Buddhist sites and relics left by Silk Road travelers.
We spent two days hiking in the Danxia Landform, with visits to temples, caves and grottoes, and Han Dynasty Great Wall on the days either side.
This part of the Great Wall was built from rammed earth.
When the interior of the wall is exposed, the layers of the rammed earth can be photographed.
Entering a temple in Zhangye.
Stones, rocks, and medicinal herbs for sale.
The fortress at Jiayuguan, at the westernmost end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.
Camels ready to ride.
Walking the walls of the Jiayuguan Fortress.
Inside the Jiayuguan Fortress.
We spotted this fellow adventuring around the grounds of the fortress.
A view of the Qilian Mountains, near Zhangye.
The hills of the Zhangye Danxia Landform.
Ridge-walking in the Danxia Landform.
Layers of different-coloured sandstone.
We followed a trail along a ridge.
More views of the amazing colours.
We hiked deeper and deeper into the hills.
Another good lookout point.
Our local guide, and Huijie, and a hiker.
A meal at the guesthouse.
The strange rocks at Binggou.
We climbed up on to a ridge to get a better view.
We hiked by more of the strange rock formations.
We ended up hiking out a canyon.
A huge pagoda in a temple in Zhangye City.
Matisi, a temple dug into the cliffs in the hills near Zhangye City.
We explored the tunnels.
An interesting balcony.
Detail of one of the murals in the caves.
Wide view of the temple.
We hiked across a broad meadow.
A stretch of Great Wall, originally built in the Han Dynasty and restored using the old techniques.
The hiking group in the Danxia landform.