airport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar
Explore your world
Cancel
Kanas Lake, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture I © matthew lee / Flickr
Kanas Lake, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture I © matthew lee / Flickr

8 Places in China That Are Super Hard to Get to but So Worth the Effort

Picture of Rachel Deason
Updated: 19 December 2017

Though China is more navigable now than it has ever been, some of the best pockets of the country remain remote. For those willing to venture beyond Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, there are whole worlds to explore within China’s borders. Here are eight places that are tricky to reach, but stunning to visit.

Hulunbuir Grasslands

Most people don’t even know that Inner Mongolia is part of China; fewer still have been there. Those that do go tend to stick to the capital of Hohhot and the world-famous Gobi Desert. For a taste of Outer Mongolian life, however, a trip to the Hulunbuir Grasslands is essential.

The grasslands of Hulunbuir don’t have roads. So if you want to explore them, you will need to book a group excursion from the small city of Hailar. From there, off-roading vehicles will take you to places that will make you say “I can see Russia from my horse!” Experience the antithesis of city life during the day, and stay in a glammed-up Mongolian ger during the night.

Hulunbuir isn’t just grass as far as the eye can see. Well, most of it is. However, it is also birch forests and wind-whipped rivers and wild reindeer. It is everything you never knew China could be.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture

So few international tourists know about Sichuan’s Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is a shame for them, but a blessing for the few who do decide to make the long trek out there. Situated at the western edge of the province, Garzê, or Ganzi as it is known in Mandarin, is a six-hour drive from Chengdu and may require a special permit to visit, depending on the time of year and the mercurial mood of the government. With Tibetans making up over 77% of the autonomous prefecture’s population, Garzê makes Beijing nervous. During the Tibetan New Year in the spring, the government often enacts travel restrictions to the prefecture, but, even still, it is significantly easier to visit than Tibet itself.

The prefecture seat of Kangding can be skipped, but Larung Gar is unmissable. Larung Gar is a town of 40,000 in the prefecture, made up primarily of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns. The town’s signature red houses are built into the Larung Valley and match the red robes of the pious residents. Here, visitors can not only watch the monks and nuns go about their daily rituals but partake in them as well, as long as they remain respectful.

Another Garzê highlight is Hailuogou Glacier Park. Here you might feel like you’re the only living person that has ever seen these sights, as the nature is so pristine and untouched.

Houtouwan Fishing Village

Houtouwan is an abandoned fishing village on Zhejiang province’s Shengshan Island. Once a bustling community of over 2,000 people, Houtouwan became a ghost town in the early 1990s when residents left in search of better educational opportunities. Since then, the village’s structures have become overgrown by vines, making the island an eerily beautiful spectacle that few adventurers will ever see.

Although only 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Shanghai, Houtouwan is not easy to get to. In fact, the journey requires a combination of bus, boat, taxi, and boat again, taking roughly a total time of four hours.

Namtso Lake

Namtso Lake, the highest saltwater lake in the world, is located in the Nyainqêntanglha mountain range of northwest Tibet. Easily one of the most beautiful destinations in the province, the lake was also once a popular pilgrimage site for Tibetans before being closed to such activity by the Chinese government. Still, it’s no surprise that pious men long found meaning in the caves and islands of Namtso and its awe-inspiring sights.

Of course, a trip to anywhere in Tibet is a logistical challenge. All tourists must go with an official Tibetan tour guide and carry a travel permit issued by the Tibetan Tourism Bureau. It is recommended to apply for the permit a minimum of 200 days in advance of your trip. While the permit itself is free, most tourists decide to conduct all bureaucratic procedures through a travel agency, which will charge fees around RMB2,500 (USD$378). Thus, all trips to Namtso Lake must be planned carefully and well in advance.

TRAVEL TIBET IN WINTER FROM NOV-FEB Most Travelers will travel Tibet between April and October, and the warmer months can be a green and beautiful time to travel. Still, we recommend November till February as a special prime season to visit Tibet. 4 reasons to travel to Tibet in winter. 1. Far fewer tourists Because everyone makes the wrong assumption that it’s unbearably cold on the Tibetan Plateau in winter, tourists congregate in the warmer months, especially from late spring to early fall. The droves of Chinese tourists begin to clear out after the early October Chinese national holidays, and by December and January, there are hardly any tourists at all. 2. Clear skies and great views It’s definitely cold in Tibet in the winter, but not like most people think, especially since December and January are dry months with abundant, the high-altitude sun that really warms you during the day. The average high in Lhasa in January/February is around 45 fahrenheit/7.3 centigrade, and the lows are 15 fahrenheit/-10 centigrades. With the clear skies and the sunshine come fabulous views. 3. Tibetan pilgrims Pilgrims from all over Tibet Pour into Lhasa during the winter months, visiting the Jokhang and the major monasteries. You can see Tibetans from all walks of life, and experience Lhasa’s devout heart — multitudes of Tibetans practicing Tibetan Buddhism. Losar, the Tibetan New Year, happens in late winter and is an amazing cultural moment. 4. Cheaper prices Tours and hotels cost less in winter, as demand decreases. After explaining all above benefits about traveling to Tibet in winter, Tibet Travelers highly recommend all travelers take this great opportunity and travel to Tibet in winter. Tibet Travelers arranges confirmed group tour of 10 days to Namtso Lake and Mount Everest Base Camp on November 3rd, for more information on this tour, you can send us Email at info@tibettravelers.com or if you prefer other dates or private tour, you can also send us Email or visit our website www.tibettravelers.com for more information on traveling to Tibet.

A post shared by Tibet Travelers (@tibettravelers) on

Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture

The Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in China’s western Xinjiang province shares borders with Kazakhstan to the northwest and Russia and Mongolia to the northeast. At 280,000 square kilometers (108,108 square miles), Ili has no shortage of natural wonders. In fact, it contains some of the most stunning beauty in all of Xinjiang. The Nalati Grassland, worthy of a one to two day excursion, offers a peek into nomadic Mongolian life, and crescent-moon-shaped Kanas Lake, located in the Altai Mountains, is famed for its turquoise waters and mythical Kanas Lake Monster.

It’s easy to look at pictures of the prefecture and question their authenticity, but no, those places really are just that beautiful. And the good news is that, compared to many other Chinese autonomous prefectures, Ili isn’t that difficult to get to. However, the vastness of Xinjiang cannot be underestimated. While the provincial capital of Urumqi appears on maps as just a blip away from Ili, it is, in fact, an eight-hour drive away. Increased security measures have also been placed on the prefecture in recent years, as the ethnic minorities there often clash with the national government and Han locals.

Yingde

With most of Guangdong province being dominated by mega-cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou, it may come as a surprise that it also has miles and miles of rural farmland, much of which is only accessible by dirt roads blocked by informal, toll-taking locals. Arguably the most picturesque area of Guangdong is located near the small city of Yingde. The city isn’t known for much, but its local black tea is famous worldwide. You can visit the tea plantations where the leaves are harvested and play tea-picker for a day. When you’re done with that, take a bamboo cruise on an offshoot of the Beijiang River, past the ancestral home of the Peng clan. Pengjiaci, as it is known, is made up of crumbling old houses built up the side of a hill, where members of the family still reside to this day. Whereas most Chinese ‘ancient sites’ have succumbed to the tourism monster, Pengjiaci very much maintains its authenticity. In fact, it is so under the radar that a quick Google search for the place doesn’t return any results.

Shuangfeng Forest Farm

Overshadowed by its flashy neighbor, the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival, remote Shuangfeng Forest Farm in northeastern Heilongjiang province doesn’t get the love it deserves. Nicknamed “China Snow Town” for its annual seven-month long snowfall, Shuangfeng Forest Farm is the place to experience China’s deepest snows. Once just a one-street logging village, China Snow Town has gradually transformed into an idyllic tourist destination, with many of the original homes now converted into guesthouses. The town is accessible via a tourist bus from the city of Mudanjiang but cannot easily be combined with a weekend trip to Harbin due to its remoteness.

Huanglong Scenic Area

Prior to August 8, 2017, Jiuzhaigou National Park was one of Sichuan’s top destinations. Sadly, on that day, the area suffered a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, and Jiuzhaigou will remain closed to tourists for a year while the damage is cleared.

Located in the same mountain range as Jiuzhaigou, Huanglong Scenic Area is a wonderful alternative to the national park while it undergoes restoration. Huanglong is famous for its tiered calcite-deposit pools and hot springs, and lucky visitors might even get to see a giant panda in the wild or, more likely, a few golden snub-nosed monkeys.

Hopefully, the unfortunate closure of Jiuzhaigou will finally bring Huanglong the attention it deserves.

Долина Хуанлун – каскады желтого дракона. На высоте 3000 метров природа выделила себе местечко для творчества. В низине с трех сторон окруженной лесистыми горными склонами, расположился длинный склон усеянный каскадами, сияющими оттенками голубого цвета. Вода в озерцах окрашивается от светло-лазурного цвета внизу склона, до насыщенного бирюзового вверху. Весной и летом близлежащие полянки покрываются разноцветным ковром из красных, пурпурных, белых и фиолетовых цветов, а осенью, когда листва на деревьях желтеет вся долина приобретает вообще не земной вид. Ваш #EV #elegantvoyages #китай #china #долинахуанлун #хуанлун #желтыйдракон #huanglong #huanglongscenicarea #sichuan

A post shared by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀🔱♛Elegant Voyages♛🔱 (@elegantvoyages) on