New options open for journeying to the West

The new high-speed train, which was launched on July 9, slashes the travel time between northwestern China's Gansu province and eastern China.

Many summer vacationers are taking the Baoji-Lanzhou high-speed trains to explore what western China has to offer.

The new high-speed train, which was launched on July 9, slashes the travel time between northwestern China's Gansu province and eastern China. The travel time from Shanghai to Gansu's capital Lanzhou has been halved to less than 11 hours.

The train also allows travelers to explore western China.

Meanwhile, the number of travelers who have booked hotel rooms in Lanzhou has surged by more than 50 percent since the high-speed train was launched, China biggest online travel agency Ctrip reports.

As for the hotel bookings, roughly 70 percent of visitors opted for hotels with three stars and more, with room prices starting at 350 yuan ($52) a night.

Other sites along the route have also witnessed growth in hotel bookings.

Baoji in Shaanxi province saw hotel bookings up by 30 percent, and Tianshui in Gansu saw a 15-percent increase.

In addition, scenic spots have reported more visitors.

The number of visitors to the Baitashan and Wuquanshan parks, two of the most popular tourist attractions in Lanzhou, doubled on the day the train was launched.

Ctrip's bookings to the Lanzhou polar ocean world for the week after the train launch surged 40 percent.

In Tianshui, a one-day trip covering Fuxi Temple, Nanzhaizi and the Maiji Mountain Grottoes also saw visitor numbers up by 20 percent.

Family travelers are the main travel group, accounting for more than 50 percent of all visitors.

The train runs from Baoji across Gansu's Qin'an, Tongwei and Dingxi to Lanzhou, and all these places have abundant cultural and natural tourism resources.

Baoji is known as the hometown of Emperor Yandi, who introduced major agricultural innovations. Visitors can visit his mausoleum or enjoy hot springs at the foot of the Qinling Mountains.

Hiking in the Taibaishan national first park is also a treat.

Tianshui is known for the Book of Changes. There, visitors can visit Fuxi Temple and the grottoes at Maiji and Daxiang.

In Lanzhou, travelers can see the Yellow River from Zhongshan Bridge.

Sheepskin rafting is experience one should not miss. A raft can typically carry five to six people on a bumpy, thrilling ride.

A key point along the ancient Silk Road, Lanzhou was a gateway to Gansu's Dunhuang and the Gannan Tibet autonomous prefecture, Qinghai's provincial capital Xining, and Yinchuan in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

The new train has prompted travel agencies to launch tours to the west.

One of the routes covers Lanzhou, Zhangye, Jiayuguan and Dunhuang.

"The route is steeped in culture and offers magnificent views," says Yu Xiaojiang, the travel strategy community CEO with Ctrip.

On the tour, one can take in the stunning polychromatic Danxia landform in Zhangye, climb the city gate tower at Jiayuguan, and explore the desert and see the vivid murals in Dunhuang.