The caves can only be reached by boat, and only then between April and early October when water levels are sufficiently high. From Lanzhou, the first stage of the expedition is a two-hour bus ride to the massive Liujiaxia Hydroelectric Dam, a spectacular sight poised above the reservoir. At the dam you board a speedboat, which takes a further hour to reach the caves and offers excellent views of fishermen busy at work and peasants cultivating wheat, sunflowers and rice on the dark, steep banks. Towards the end of the trip, the boat enters a dramatic gorge, where the river froths and churns between jagged hills that have been eroded into bizarre shapes by the wind and water.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

China features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: where to stay in Shanghai

An expert's guide: where to stay in Shanghai

Shanghai has to be a contender for the buzziest city in Asia, a thriving business hub that's brashly modern yet wears its history on its sleeve. Dense with glit…

23 Oct 2017 • Simon Lewis insert_drive_file Article
The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook