China's revolutionary mecca, Yan'an is a premier destination for Chinese making the pilgrimage to the endpoint of the legendary communist Long March. Yan'an served as the headquarters of the embattled communist party from 1937-1947. There in caves dug into the yellow loess hills of Shaanxi Province, the communists were able to regroup, strategize and ultimately launch the campaigns that would see them defeat the rival nationalist Kuomintang in the struggle for China's destiny.
Among the 140 revolutionary sites that dot the area are Wangjiaping and Yangjialing, where Mao Zedong once slept, worked and wrote along with comrades Zhou Enlai and Zhu De. For those of you who may not be Chinese Communist Party junkies, Yan'an is still well worth a visit, both for its unique landscape and for the historical treasures that precede the early days of the People's Republic.
Yan'an's location not far from the middle reaches of the Yellow River put it squarely in the cradle of Chinese civilization. Visitors will find fascinating historical sites such as the Huangdi Mausoleum and Zhongshan Grottoes, as well as natural attractions such as Hukou Waterfalls (China's second largest), Fenghuang Hill and Treasure Pagoda—just to mention a few Yan'an area attractions, though it must be noted that some regional destinations require a day trip from the city.
Yan'an remains a rather sleepy town despite recent development, with little in the way of nightlife. Nonetheless, visitors plying the streets will find tasty Yan'an snacks like you gao (deep fried cake), and liang fen (bean helly seasoned with vinegar and spices) to nibble on while perusing Yan'an markets for souvenirs and traditional handicrafts, such as ceramics made from Yan'an's signature purple clay, pyrography, wood engravings and root carvings.