If you’re looking to truly get away from China’s mega-cities to have a genuine adventure, experience a melting pot of cultures and traditions, and see some of the world’s most stunning landscapes, Gansu Province surely holds a lot of great surprises for you. From painted rainbow mountains to ancient art on the Silk Road, Gansu is still one of western China’s best-kept secrets when it comes to sheer variety of off the beaten path experiences.

Bordered by the Kunlun Mountains and the Gobi Desert, Gansu Province forms a narrow corridor in northwestern China that leads to both Tibet and Xinjiang Province. With climates ranging from sandy desert to sweeping high altitude grasslands, Gansu may very well be China’s most geographically diverse province.

Gansu’s Incredible Diversity

Historically the northwestern most boundary of China, Gansu formed a link between ancient China, the Middle East, and the West. Travelers along the Silk Road entered China through Gansu Province, before ending their journey in neighboring Xi’an.

Lying at the crossroads between, Han, Tibetan, and Hui (Muslim) China, the culture, much like the geography, in Gansu is incredibly diverse. Gansu Province is home to ancient relics from all three cultural groups, a rare mismatch of treasures to explore in one place.

Out of all the amazing places I’ve visited in China (and the world), and there are many, Gansu without a doubt shoots straight to the top of my list of coolest trips I’ve ever taken. It is so insanely unique there were times I literally thought I was on another planet.

Here are some of the best “pinch me because I can’t believe this is real” things to do in Gansu Province.