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.
Xiling Mountain (Xilǐng Xuěshān, 西岭雪山)—also referred to as "Xiling Snow Mountain," "Xiling Snow-Capped Mountain" or just "Xiling Xueshan"—is a pleasant get-away just about two hours by car from downtown Chengdu. In spring, summer and fall, it offers hikers alpine wildflowers, waterfalls and colorful autumn foliage. By mid-November, the upper slopes see substantial snowfall, and aided by snow machines are ski-able until around February. The ski area—not quite a "resort" in an Alps or Rockies sense of the..
Fragrant Hills Park (Xiāngshān Gōngyuán, 香山公园) is located some 20 km (12 mi) northwest of Beijing, not far from the Summer Palace. Though the name could easily refer to the area's relatively fresh air (for Beijing) and the scent of trees and flowers, it instead comes from the shape of the hills themselves. If you look closely, squint a bit and crank up your imagination, you might just make out the shape of a Chinese incense burner at the summit of the hills. If this image eludes you, you may be glad to know the park also goes by..
One of Beijing little known scenic spots, Qinglong Xia (Green Dragon Gorge), is a large reservoir located some 75km from Beijing's 3rd ring road, near the town of Huairou. The area's vast body of deep green water curves and snakes around between the feet of a pair of mountains, and when viewed from a height, resembles a typical Chinese dragon—hence the name. There are activities aplenty, enough to please outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers alike. Nature walks up mountain trails take in some beautiful scenery and flora. Set atop the..
Jing Shan Park (Jǐngshān Gōngyuán, 景山公园) is the highest point along Beijing's central axis. With a total area of 23 hectares (57 acres), the park offers an excellent bird's eye view of the whole city from the top of the hill. Over 800 years old, Jing Shan was built in 1179, constructed with displaced earth from the dredging of the Tongzi River and leftover debris from demolished imperial architecture all piled on top of the former site of the Yingchun Pavilion. First named Wansui Shan, the name was later changed to Jing Shan in 1655...
The Fenhuang Ling Scenic Area (Phoenix Hill Scenic Area) is located in northwest Beijing's Hiadian District. Covering a total of 17.88 square kilometers, Fenghuang Ling offers amazing views, large rockeries and rich vegetation. Nestled between the hill's lush peach, apricot and acacia trees are a number of temples, many dating back to the Liao, Jin, Ming and Qing dynasties. Another key attraction is a Northern Wei Dynasty relic, the Taihe stone statue, which, at 1,500 years old, is Beijing's oldest stone statue.
While Dali is no longer the somewhat off-the-beaten-path place it once was and Lijiang is a popular domestic and international tourist favorite, Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hǔtiào Xiá, 虎跳峡) is still a place where travelers can escape the crowds and find a cheap bed to sleep in. A thin, winding trail hugs the side of the Haba Xue Shan (Hābāxuě Shān, 哈巴雪山) range as the white-capped waters of the Jinsha River (Jīnshā Jiāng, 金沙江; part of the Yangtze River) swirl far below and the steep mountain slope and craggy peaks of the Yulong Xue..
White Horse Mound, one of the most beautiful—and most mysterious—places in Tibet, holds sacred meaning for the Tibetans. Tucked away in Yalung Zangbo Grand Canyon, Medog (Motuo) has no public roads or clear access trails. Visitors reach Medog by helicopter or on foot. Two massive snow-covered mountains stand guard over the region and the sole mountain pass can only be traveled between July and October. Even summer brings dangerous rainstorms and mudslides. The difficult journey is well worth the effort, though—awestruck..
The southernmost major peak accessible from the Western Steps, Celestial Capital Peak (Tiandu Feng) is 1,830 m (6,003 ft) high. Something of a Chinese Olympus, the "Celestial Capital" takes its name from its role in legend as the home of the Immortals and location of the city of heaven. Though slighlty lower than nearby Lotus Flower Peak, it is the steepest of them all, with a nearly vertical stretech of the narrow ascent, the Baizhang Ladder. The peak is a popular spot for couples to affix..
Huang Shan's hot springs (wenquan) maintain a steaming temperature of 42ºC (107ºF) year round. Guests may bathe in the healing waters, purported to cure arthritis and skin problems. Don't expect gorgeous natural mountain pools, however—the waters have been channeled into functional pools in a bathhouse next to the Huangshan Hotel. There are a number of other places to stay, and many find it a quieter and more pleasant option than overnighting in Tangkou.
Reaching the dizzying height of 1,864 m (6,000 ft), Lotus Flower Peak is the highest of Huang Shan's major summits. It takes its name from the arrangement of smaller ridges and peaks around it, which are said to resembe a lotus flower. The imaginative interpretation of nature's fantastic shapes here don't stop with the peak: it's famed for pines in the shape of flying dragons. Depending on the time of year, it's also possible to see the rare Yellow Mountain Azalea in bloom. Needless to say, the view is gorgeous, with..
At an elevation of 1,840 m (6,037 ft), Bright Summit Peak is the second highest in Huang Shan. North of Lotus Flower Peak and accessible via the Western Steps and trails to the northeast leading toward Beihai, it is generally regarded as the best place to catch the sunrise and watch the "cloud sea" below. It also provides great views of Celestial Capital Peak, Lotus Flower Peak, the Crucian Ridge and Jade Screen Peak.
As the name implies, these 1,700 year old monuments to both the devotion and engineering aplomb of ancient Buddhists, is set in a cliff side and make for a great place for a little hike close to the city. Just 15 minutes out of town, the structures, and the walkways that join them, were recently renovated. Once you've hiked up to the pagoda at the top of the hill you'll be rewarded with some pretty good views of the city. A pretty good attraction by its own right, but the temple makes a great two-hour activity if..