There's more to the world's 4th largest country than its big cities. Take a lazy boat ride, climb a mountain, get active and explore China's natural beauty.

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The Dragon Gate (Lóngmén, 龙门) actually refers to a collection of grottoes and sculptures in the stone corridor of Western Hills Park. A series of narrow caves, just wide enough for two thin people in some places, exposes a plethora of ancient inscriptions, drawings and figures. The nooks and crannies inside these caves have incense burners, vases and other historic relics paying homage to the artists of the cave and the rest of the Northern Wei Dynasty of the 5th century.

Juixiang Scenic Area (Kūnmíng Jiǔxiàng Fēngjǐngqū, 昆明九乡风景区) is perhaps most famous for its extensive series of caves, loaded with ancient Yi minority myths (hire a local tour guide to hear some of the stories) and featuring an underground waterfall. Local villages and an impressive view of a scenic gorge round out the highlights of this area which lies 80 km (50 mi) from Kunming. There is a lot to see, so don't hesitate to spend an entire day taking in the countryside. Yunnan guide | Kunming guide | Kunming..

The entire length of the Yellow Dragon Cave (Huánglóng Dòng, 黄龙洞) is about 12 km (7.5 mi) and it has four distinct levels. The cave's massive size houses both dry caves and watery caves, including two "palaces," eight "halls" and 96 "corridors." It's sure to satisfy any avid spelunker, plus the colors from the rock formations are truly a sight to see. Stalactites and stalagmites fill the whole cave, and, if you can bring yourself to do it, when you whack a stalactite hard enough it will resonate at a certain..

    If there is one sight that you should not miss while coming through Datong, it is the Yungang Caves. This masterpiece of early Chinese Buddhist cave art was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. The story behind the grottoes is an interesting one and begins in the Wei Dynasty. The first two Wei emperors, Tuoba Gui and Tuoba Si, were both Buddhists.  However, the third emperor, Tuoba Tao, known as "Taiwu," was a Taoist, as was his Prime Minister Cui Hao and Hao’s teacher, Taoist monk Kou..

This fascinating karst upthrust reminds some people of a towering wave, poised to crash down into the river below; others believe the name comes from the rock formation's interruption of the flow of the Li River. Either way, it's an impressive piece of geology, surrounded by rolling green hills and more karst peaks, water, caves, picturesque rocks, and gardens. You can clamber up stairs leading to Fubo Shan's summit for an excellent view of the city. Of particular note is the stalactite known as the Sword-Testing..

With historic sites from the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), caves, a temple to a goddess of the sea, monuments and one of the largest beaches in northern China, Big Deer Island makes for both a nice retreat from the city and a fascinating historical attraction.  Da LU Dao is not far from  Dagu Shan (Dagu Mountain), so you can follow up a day of hiking the mountain with a great seafood dinner by the water. Pack plenty of water before going, as it is quite expensive on the island itself.

A hot day in the city? Here's yet another easily accessible and worthwhile attraction in Guiyang's long list of easy outdoor getaways. The Tianhe Pool Scenic Area is a popular spot for paddling in rafts through kilometer-deep caves, admiring unearthly karst formations, and strolling through the woods alongside crystalline waters. You'll also have the chance to experience Miao culture while you're here. The Water Cave is the deepest and can be paddled through in rented boats. The cave is not illuminated once inside, so quality flashlights..

The Mogao Caves (Mògāo Kū, 莫高窟), also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas (Qiān Fó Dòng, 千佛洞), are a group of 492 cave-temples in southeast Dunhuang. These astonishing caves, or grottoes, were dug out of the bedrock and cliffs sometime in the fourth century. The story goes that a Buddhist monk named Lè Zūn had a vision of a thousand Buddhas bathed in golden light, inspiring him to build a cave there. During the Tang Dynasty there were over 1,000 caves carved into the cliffs in Dunhuang. However, those..

China's storied landscape is well populated by fantastically shaped natural features named for various mythological figures, especially animals. In fact, there are no doubt more famous rocks named after tigers, monkeys and elephants than there are actual tigers, monkeys and elephants remaining in what's left of the country's wilderness. One of the most famous is Guilin's Elephant Trunk Hill (Xiàng Bí Shān, 象鼻山), a striking natural arch that juts out into the Li River, bearing a clear resemblance to an..

Travelers with the patience and money to endure the journey and entrance fees are well rewarded when they finally reach the Bingling Caves (Bǐnglíng Sì Shíkū, 炳靈寺石窟). Featuring a massive 27-meter (89 ft) statue of the Maitreya Buddha, fantastic frescoes, 183 caves and statues painted in strikingly vivid colors, Bingling is considered one of the top four Buddhist grottoes in the country. Travel to the caves is fairly involved but worthwhile. The trip starts with a 2-hour bus ride from Lanzhou to the Liujiaxia Reservoir..

Guilin's celebrated Reed Flute Cave (Lúdí Yán, 芦笛岩) is just a 15 to 20 minute drive northwest of the downtown area. The cave's serpentine depths wind about within Guangming Mountain (Guāngmíng Shān, 光明山) and feature some remarkable rock formations. Each of these rock formations is named, rather extravagantly in some cases, for the thing it resembles—mushrooms, roses, lions, old men, etc. The cave itself is named for the green reeds growing inside, the same ones you might notice being used to..

Dragon Gate
Dragon Gate
Mountains.
Jiuxiang
Jiuxiang
Miao minority.
Yellow Dragon Cave (Huanglong Cave)
Yellow Dragon Cave..
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Yungang Caves
Yungang Caves
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Fubo Shan (Wave Subduing Hill)
Fubo Shan (Wave..
Time.
Big Deer Island (Da Lu Dao)
Big Deer Island..
Jin Mao Tower.
Tianhe Pool Scenic Area
Tianhe Pool Scenic..
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Mogao Caves (Dunhuang Caves)
Mogao Caves..
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Elephant Trunk Hill
Elephant Trunk Hill
Time.
Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves
Bingling Thousand..
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Reed Flute Cave
Reed Flute Cave
Time.

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