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Lanzhou is the political, economic, and cultural center of Gansu and the capital of the province. The city is located at an altitude of 1600 meters in a high mountain valley along the southern bank of the Yellow River. The surrounding region is geologically spectacular and incredible ethnically diverse.
Total urban population is around 2 million people and represents a microcosm of Western China. This is a diverse community of Hui, Han, Tibetan, Bonan, and Xinjiang peoples. The general atmosphere this helps gives the city is astonishing as many of these people continue to wear traditional dress, create traditional handicraft, and prepare regional food.
The climate in Lanzhou is one of four seasons. Spring and fall provide warm days and cool nights. Summer can be very hot, but without the humidity of coastal cities. The winters are short and can be quite cold with temperatures dipping below freezing. Overall, the climate is dry in all seasons given the aridity of the surrounding deserts.
Lanzhou has a great selection of traditional Chinese restaurants, hotpot and barbecue. There is a heavy influence of Central Asia flavors to be found in the cuisine and a great number of shops sell very traditional Islamic dishes. From the east, the influence of Shaanxi’s noodle and sauce dishes are easily apparent. Local street food and small family restaurants abound throughout the city and are fantastically cheap. Lanzhou’s most famous delicacy is their legendary Beef Noodles, a dish widely known throughout China. There are numerous restaurants that serve Western food and several KFC outlets around town for when some tastes from home are in order.
Local attractions include two mountains, Five Springs Mountain, and White Tower Mountain. Both are accessible by cable cars, chair lifts, or stair paths. These can also be climbed more traditionally by the more adventurous. Within a few hours of Lanzhou there are many attractions, including the Bing Ling Temple and Xing Long Mountain. The surrounding countryside provides fantastic opportunities for exploration into a variety of cultures. Completely ethnic Tibetan and Hui areas are less than 2 hours in any direction from the city and sit among truly sensational landscapes. The western border of Gansu Province marks the beginning of the Tibetan Plateau where elevations rise to thousands of meters and local culture changes completely.
Lanzhou has an excellent public transportation system featuring clean and quiet modern buses. Taxis are also readily available and very cheap. The surrounding region is serviced well by bus and rail, and Lanzhou is the main transportation hub. Xining and Xiahe are each about 3 hours away. Yinchuan and Xian are easily reached on convenient overnight trains that you board in the evening and drop you off early in the morning. Lanzhou also has a modern airport with flights to major destinations throughout the country.