Xiahe - Gansu Province
In the southwest of Gansu province lies Xiahe County, part of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Just a few hours drive from Lanzhou, Xiahe is the foremost Tibetan monastery town outside of Tibet itself and is an easy stop for those wanting to experience a bit of Tibet during their time in China. The most important site here is the Labrang Monastery, dating back to 1709, which in its heyday was home to around 4,000 monks. The Cultural Revolution put paid to that and numbers were greatly reduced. Since those dark days life has improved for the monastery and there may be as many as 1,200 monks present these days.
The grasslands around Xiahe afford the chance to witness some Tibetan nomad culture, and the high-altitude Darzong Lake is an easy day trip from Xiahe. A wonderful time to visit Xiahe is during one of the many festivals that take place in line with the lunar calendar, the biggest of which is the Monlam Festival, held 3 days after the Tibetan New Year (usually February or early March).