We started the next day bright and early as we will be visiting the 2 national Geopark of Zhangye. From our hotel, the drive to the Geopark took about 1.5 hours. Throughout the journey, we learnt about the history of Zhangye from our guide and why Zhangye is a very important part of China’s trade history with the rest of the world. Zhangye was also the gateway to the spice trade to India and other parts of the world.
The first park we visited is the BInggou Danxia park which is the less popular and less crowded one. However, there is more steps and slopes involved therefore our guide decided to start the day with this park while our energy levels were still high. The Binggou Danxia has many natural cliffs and rock formations which is pretty picturesque and the fact that it is less crowded allowed us to take in the sight slowly. You can read about the full post on the park Binggou Danxia Geopark
We finished the tour of the park in approximately 2 hours at 11.30 am and headed for lunch at a local restaurant which was nearer to the 2nd park.
Our driver brought us to a local restaurant with Zhangye flavours. The taste of the cuisine in Zhangye is quite similar to the one we had in Xian except I find that the food is even spicier and has even more spices used in their cooking. The steamed fish in chilli and spice is a dish that is very popular around the area. The fish is freshly caught and steamed in the spices immediately so the flesh is tender and sweet paired with the sauce. There is also a local noodle dish that you can try as this is very popular amongst locals called the fish rolled noodles.
As we were planning to catch the sunset at the Qicai Danxia ( Rainbow mountain), our guide advised us to enter the park only around 5.30 pm. Entering in the evening will also be more cooling compared to walking in the hot sun at noon. When we finished lunch, we had 3 hours to spend so we had a rest inside the restaurant playing cards with the guide. Personally, I feel the agency could have planned a separate itinerary for us like visiting the Great Buddha temple which is famous in Zhangye instead of wasting the time. Or we could have started the day later at the 2 Geopark since the 2 venues are an hour drive away.
Anyway, we started our tour into Qicai Danxi around 5pm when it was not too hot so I was expecting the tour to be really cool and breezy but boy was I wrong. There are a total of 4 viewing platforms within the park to see different colour formations of the valley. Since it was a huge valley and flat grounds without any trees and shades, the sun was burning onto our skins at each of the platforms. The heat only started to disperse when it was around 6.30 pm. The tour itself took us a total of 2 hours and you can see my full post. Qicai Danxia Scenic Park
By the time we exit and drove back to our hotel, it was around 8 pm and many of the restaurants and stores around our hotel was already closed.
We managed to find this small little cafe which serves simple local fare including noodles, soup and rice. The food was very basic and we didn’t mind as the price was also very affordable and we wanted to just fill our stomachs and get an early night.
The next day we woke up very early to visit the Mati Temple which is also another 2 hours drive away from the city centre. Mati Temple Grottoes which is a group of 7 grottoes for as long as 30 kilometres. Legend has it that a Pegasus landed in the area and left behind an imprint of its hoof which is why the temple is named as horse hoof temple.
One of the highlights of the grottoes is this 33 heavens grotto which is one of the most popular site around the temple. The back story of all the grottoes and temples are equally intriguing as well. For a full post on the temple, you can read them in my post Mati Temple Grottoes
When we finished our tour of the grottoes, it was close to lunchtime and we had our last meal in Zhangye before heading back to Xian.
Our driver especially took us to a restaurant which he personally liked as the taste of the food and the restaurant is clean and spacious. Indeed, the meal was very satisfying as the taste has a good balance between spices and savoury compared to the other meals we had which had too many spices I would highly recommend this restaurant for anyone visiting. I couldn’t find the location on google so I can’t tag it but you can show the pictures to the driver
We took a domestic flight back to Xian around 5pm with China Eastern Air and surprisingly it is quite a comfortable ride. While there is no entertainment, the food and service standards were still quite acceptable and the legroom and space are still decent for a short flight.
When we arrived back in Xian, it was already in the evening and we headed directly to the hotel to check-in. The agency we booked with picked us up from the airport and send us to the hotel so we could relax in the evening traffic
We chose the Howard Johnson Ginwa Plaza because of it’s proximity to the city centre. You can read my review of the hotel Howard Johnson Ginza Plaza
Because it was late after we checked in, we headed to a small cafe which was connected to the hotel from the back door. They served spicy and non-spicy noodles and vermicelli which is perfect for a late dinner. The service was also great as they were willing to cater to any request we had on our noodles like no greens on one bowl, no onions on another etc. The price is also very reasonable with each bowl costing less than CNY 25. The soup was refreshing for the soup noodles and noodles were springy and chewy with a generous amount of toppings and vegetables.
We headed back to our hotel for an early night since the next day was our last day in Xian and we had 2 separate itinerary planned.