As the world’s oldest continual civilisation and combined with huge areas of gorgeous unspoilt natural beauty (and the more recent leaps into modernity), China is one interesting travel destination. Its gigantic size makes a condensed list a very tall order, but here is my choice for 10 of the most beautiful places to visit in China…
The Yellow Mountains
This beautiful mountain range is known for its hot springs, dense pine forests and mystical aura. It sits majestically with a misty sea of cloud at its feet but each season gives the mountains a different flavour. In springtime it is scattered with pretty pink blossoms, bright flowers which illuminate the valleys and fill the air with their heady scent. In the summer the mountains are densely green, and bubbling streams lap against the rock faces. The turning maples paint the mountains red and violet in autumn, before winter turns everything icy white and tranquil. The area is rich with flora, and renowned for the monkeys, deer, goats and rare birds that live there. The mountain range has been celebrated in many ancient texts, paintings and poems and this sense of spiritual reverence still remains.
The longest river in Asia holds great historical, economical and cultural importance to the country. It accommodates the controversial Three Gorges Dam which is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. It also thought by many to divide Northern and Southern China; both areas are immensely different in terms of climate, culture, economics, folk customs and landscape. Along the river there are many areas of historical interest, as well as much natural beauty. Because of its vast size, one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the river is by taking a cruise or a tour of the area. Independent Asia specialists Exotissimo offers a cruise which includes stops at the mysterious Fengdu Ghost City and the precious stone fortress, Shibaozhai.
This place with its waterfalls, lake groups and abundance of endangered flora and fauna isn’t short on natural beauty either. It’s a nature reserve and national park located in northern Sichuan province of southwestern China and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This inspirational place has more than its fair share of legends attributed to it and is home to a small population of Tibetan and Qiang people who put on traditional performances and sell food stuffs and local products – one of the highlights of a trip to this region.
Guilin is a prefecture-level city in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The combination of natural beauty and historic treasures make Guilin a popular tourist spot. Crystal clear waters, attractively formed karsts covered in lush bamboos and the deep caves also make the surrounding area a place not to be missed.
The Great Wall
Easily one of the most famous landmarks in the world, The Great Wall of China winds through a huge array of scenery, taking in deserts, plateaus, mountains and grasslands. It is not just the beautiful views that make The Great Wall a must-see site. The historical connotations and impressive architecture mean it is certainly worth a visit. Although some sections are in ruins, or have been removed altogether, this purely reminds you of its history that spans well over 2000 years.
Wuzhen Water Town
This unusual little town is situated South of the Yangtze River. Its 2000 year old history is reflected in the mysterious floating bridges, intricate wooden carvings and ancient stone pathways. The beauty of this town is that it still maintains a strong traditional feel, and many of the ancient features are beautifully preserved.
Lijiang Ancient Town
This ancient town is located between Lion Mountain – which is dense with vegetation – in the West and the sprawling Elephant and Golden Row mountains in the North. The area is also fringed with rich verdant fields which cut through crystal clear waters. Kubla Khan the first Emperor of the Yuan dynasty set his reign here and the air of importance, prosperity and celebration still remains.
Situated in the Western Hunan Province, the small town of Fenghuang is comparatively difficult to reach. Road conditions and traffic can be hard to negotiate, so getting a bus may be the best option. Once you’re there you’ll want to explore the area by foot. You can hike up to the Southern Great Wall and enjoy the striking views of the rice terraces. Fenghuang has a bustling feel to it and there are plenty of street vendors who sell local foods at great prices (make sure you try the Ginger Candy)!
Jiangsu: Brahmā Palace
Photo credit: art.ekstrax.com
This beautiful sprawling man-made structure lies beneath the foot of Little Lingshan Mountain. Very near you’ll also find Taihu Lake and the 88-metre-tall Lingshan Giant Buddha – also significant tourist attractions. A hugely spiritual place it’s almost like a Buddhist theme park and was built specifically for the the Second World Buddhism Forum in 2009.
Thousand Island Lake
The Thousand Island Lake (or Qiandao Lake) is a manmade lake dotted with numerous small islands (hence the name). The waters are intensely azure and each island is thick with rich green foliage. Several of the islands are now themed, to cater for the ever growing number of tourists who frequent the area. The area was initially created to provide a new hydroelectric power station and reservoir to feed the residents of Hangzhou. To do this several ancient cities were flooded and the remains of these cities still lurk below the waters of the lake. The architecture of which is still eerily preserved, adding an extra intrigue to this beautiful area.