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.
One of China's largest freshwater lakes, the Chinese name for Erhai Lake (Erhǎi, 洱海) literally translates to "Ear Sea," a nod to its vast size (250 sq km or 96 sq mi) and long, narrow crescent shape, said to resemble an ear—though when you're looking at a map, you may need a bit of imagination. Sitting at 1,972 m (6,470 ft) above sea level, Erhai is an alpine fault lake, and its clear jade waters are bordered by stunning scenery, with the majestic peaks of Cang Shan rising up to the west. The lake shore is easily accessible..
Erhai Park (ěrhǎi Gōngyuán, 洱海公园) sits on the southern tip of Erhai Lake on the slopes of Tuan Hill (Tuán Shān, 团山) just to the east of Xiaguan (Xiàguān, 下关—sometimes called Dali City or New Dali and not to be confused with Dali a few kilometers away). An attractive, landscaped green space featuring walkways, rockeries and shady pagodas, the Erhai Park is also home to an arboretum, playground, public swimming pool and even a zoo. Starting at the lake edge, it's a steady climb up with 270 stone steps leading..
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..
About 20 minutes north of the Qiantang River (Qiántáng Jiāng, 钱塘江) from Liuhe Pagoda, the Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies (Jiǔ Xī Shíbā Jiàn, 九溪十八涧) make for a lovely stroll or bike ride through attractive countryside. Heading north from the river, the main path passes through paddies and tea terraces, along pleasant streams and, ultimately, to a small lagoon, a teahouse and the Longjing Tea Plantations further into the hills, terminating at Longjing Village (Lóngjǐng Cūn, 龙井村). You can also head south from..
One hundred kilometers north of Lijiang, Baoshan Stone Village (Bǎoshān Shítou Chéng, 宝山石头城) sits atop a massive rock in Jinsha River Valley (Jīnshā Jiāng Pàn, 金沙江畔). Surrounded by cliffs, the only connection to the outside world is a narrow path. The Jinsha River (Jīnshā Jiāng, 金沙江) runs next to the village providing a source of water to an otherwise completely isolated location.
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..
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..
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.
Located on the southern slopes of the Western Hills (Xi Shan), about 16 km from downtown Beijing, Badachu Park (Eight Great Sites Park) is home to eight Buddhist temples and nunneries, some of which date back to the Sui Dynasty (581–619 AD). The eight temples are scattered across three wooded hilltops, with a stream running below them, crossed by five bridges. The park makes for a pleasant and convenient getaway in the warmer months, especially on weekdays, when the crowds are at a minimum. The eight Buddhist..
Situated between Wuxi's rolling hills and the shores of magnificent Tai Lake (Tai Hu), the Plum Garden (Méi Yuán, 梅园) is a sprawling orchard that occupies a prime piece of scenic real estate. There are over 5,000 plum trees in the park, mostly planted in the early 20th century, though a few rogue peach trees date back to the Qing Dynasty. A thoroughly pleasant spot to visit at at any time of year, the Plum Garden really hits its peak in spring when those thousands of tree burst into million pink blossoms as..
Turtle Head Isle Scenic Area (Yuántóuzhǔ, 鼋头渚) is really a narrow peninsula jutting into Tai Lake, which, if you use your imagination, looks like the long craning neck of a turtle. It's primarily a park with some nice, close-up views of the lake. Scenic walking paths, viewpoints, teahouses, boat rides on the lake and the Wuxi Film Studios theme park make up the bulk of the attractions here. The Brightness Pavilion (Guāngmíng Dǐng, 光明顶), sits on an hillside and from its slightly elevated position offers some of the..
Incorporating the two hills Xi Shan (Xī Shān, 锡山) and Hui Shan (Huì Shān, 惠山), Xihui Park (Xīhuì Gōngyuán, 锡惠公园) sits west of town. The top of Xi Shan is the highest point in the park, punctuated by Longguang Pagoda (Lóngguāng Tǎ, 龙光塔)—a rebuilt Ming Dynasty tower with great views of Tai Lake (Tai Hu) and the Grand Canal cutting through Wuxi. The peak can be reached by foot or by cable car. Atop Hui Shan is Hui Temple (Huìshān Sì, 惠山寺), built during the Six Dynasties Period, which is..