The height of the province above sea-level varies between 1000m and 3000m (3300ft and 9900ft), the highest peak being 5808m/19,060ft and the lowest point 600m/1970ft.
Plateaus predominate in the north and east, with steppes covering almost 30 per cent of the land in the south and west. The eastern part of Gansu is a loess (fine, windblown soil) region through which flows the Huanghe river.To the northwest, between the northeastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Gobi Desert, the province is in the form of a long ''corridor'', with oases fed by water from the Qilianshan Mountains marking the course of the Silk Road.The climate has a Continental character, with cold, dry winters and warm, humid summers.Gansu became part of the Chinese empire back in the time of Emperor Shihuang of the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC). Being surrounded by oases the region was well suited to serve as a part of a route linking east to west. Buddhism found its way here along this route as early as the 1st C BC. As a result a number of trading centers along the Silk Road, such as Dunhuang and Jiuquan, became centers of the new religion, accompanied by the construction of numerous cave temples, the most famous of which being those in Dunhuang.Traditionally a poor region, the province has enjoyed rapid industrial development in recent years, with Lanzhou becoming the center of industry and transport. Crude oil exploration has become of great importance, and other natural resources include coal, copper, lead and zinc.There is a water shortage in most parts of the province, so irrigation projects are essential to agricultural development. However, such projects often result in serious problems brought about by large-scale resettlement programs, since most peasants have no desire to leave their land. The major agricultural products are wheat, maize, millet, cotton, linseed and melons. Pigs, sheep, cattle and horses are also reared.The towns of Dunhuang and Jiuquan offer much of interest to the visitor.
The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas date back to the 4th C and have long been a place of Buddhist art. Hundreds of caves contain thousands of clay statues.
Langmusi is home to two monasteries that face each other over the river that runs through the town, and has mountain cliffs to the east and west that offer a breathtaking view from the town.
The Sanke Grasslands are a vast expanse of grassy plains that offer opportunity to hike through the rolling hills or take a tour on horses with the Tibetan nomads, who graze yak herds on the grasslands.