Sangke Grassland 桑科草原 is on the west side of Xiahe County in Gannan. This site is located mid the Tibetan Plateau, and is in close proximity to the beautiful Labrang Monastery, one of the biggest Tibetan Monasteries in the world.
With undulating hills in the open prairie, Sangke’s charm is amplified during the summers, when green grasses and wildflowers appear everywhere. In addition to horseback riding, you can experience local traditions and customs at one of the local guesthouses.
When to go to Sangke
Sangke and Labrang Monastery are both best enjoyed during the summer. With its beautiful natural scenery and bright blue skies, the grassland will be unbelievably mesmerizing. However, the shoulder seasons are just as enticing. Despite the browning of surrounding fields, Spring and Fall’s lack of tourism and resulting serenity may be more attractive to some.
How to get to Sangke
It is best to visit the Sangke Prairie after a visit to the Labrang Monastery. You can take a dedicated van from the Monastery’s parking lot (CNY 3) or rent a bicycle and embark on a leisure ride. From Xiahe County, the grassland is approximately 18km away. The traffic isn’t too bad and the roads are paved.
What to do in Sangke Grassland, Xiahe County
Spend half a day wandering in the wilderness. First, spend some time by the lake right off of highway S312. There is a beautiful wooden bridge that extends across the lake, with the backdrop of mountain ranges.
The view is magnificent and definitely worth spending an hour or so.
For those interested in horse riding, you can spend some time relishing the lives of a nomad. Speak with one of the local farmers and negotiate a price for a ride. There are many options and they can be flexible based on the activities you seek, some options can be:
1. Riding on the roads. (A reasonable price would be CNY 45)
2. A slow walk around the grasslands with a local leading the horse. (A reasonable price would be CNY 55)
4. A simple photo (A reasonable price would be CNY 5)
Usually, your guide will walk with you along the hillside behind the grassland to their private pastures. They will wait for some time to let visitors take pictures, before leading their guests back by horseback.
You can also stay overnight on the Sangke grassland. Again, most of these experiences are offered by locals, so do speak with those who reside there for Tibetan food and homestay services. The prices are relatively affordable, approximately the same as they would be in the county. In addition to traditional eats such as butter tea and glutinous rice, the hosts may also be able to arrange a more luxurious dinner such as a whole roasting lamb, although this usually needs to be discussed beforehand.
For others wishing to return to Xiahe County, there are a number of stays and eateries available in town as well.
During the summer, there are festivals such as the 香浪节. The Xianglang Festival has many traditions that involve games, ceremonies, singing, and dancing. “Xianglang” can be translated into “picking the firewood” in Tibetan; every June, the monks from Labrang Monastery will collect firewood and head back to the fields reunite with their families. The festivities usually begin on June 6 of the lunar calendar and is a must-attend for those wishing to experience the jubilant grassland lifestyle with the locals.
Tips and Advice
1. Do receive permission to access parts of the grasslands, especially the areas surrounded by barbed wires. These are private properties and may require pre-arranged payment before entrance.
2. Do ask about the fees and charges before participating in bonfire evenings, events, and other activities and meals.
3. Sanko Prairie is most beautiful during the summer seasons, do be aware of the browning fields and colder weather during other months.