With over 5,000 years of history, China has created some incredible things. Still, nothing beats the country’s natural beauty – from heavenly mountains to whistling deserts, China truly has it all. If you’re planning a trip to this most unique of countries, take a look at our round-up of unmissable hotspots.
Karsts of Guilin
Southern China’s city of Guilin has only recently gained the attention of international tourists, who are now learning what locals have known for millennia: it is a truly spectacular place. The city is nestled among sharp limestone cliffs, featured most famously on the country’s RMB20 bill. The hills continue past the city, spreading out along the banks of the Li River, along which visitors can take a bamboo cruise.
Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye
Canyons of Tiger Leaping Gorge
Forget North America’s Grand Canyon – Tiger Leaping Gorge is the best place to go for dramatic canyon views. Located on Yunnan‘s Jinsha River, Tiger Leaping Gorge winds its way between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain. Hiking the length of the gorge will require several days and some strenuous trails are not recommended for beginners. It is possible to drive the length of the gorge as well, although the hiking trail offers more varied scenery.
Singing Dunes of Dunhuang
Located in the same province as Zhangye National Geopark is an equally breathtaking place known as the Echoing-Sand Mountain. More dunes than mountain, Mingshashan, as it is known in Chinese, was named for the sound the wind makes as it whips against the sands of the Gobi Desert. Visitors can experience the sights and sounds by camel, quad bike, electric car, or on foot.
Lakes of Xinjiang
China’s westernmost province, Xinjiang, is chock-full of natural beauty, but its many spectacular lakes take the cake. Crescent-moon-shaped Kanas Lake, located in the Altai Mountains, is famed for its turquoise waters and mythical Kanas Lake Monster. Sayram Lake, located in a remote area of the province near Kazakhstan, is a wonderful place to experience border culture and practice herding sheep with the pros. Karakul Lake is located just 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the major city of Kashgar. For around only RMB100, Kyrgiz locals will offer you the chance to take a three-hour camel or horse ride around the lake.
Peaks of Huangshan
Huangshan, meaning Yellow Mountain, is one of China’s most popular tourist draws for a reason. If you have ever seen a traditional Chinese ink painting, you will recognize the signature look of Huangshan’s granite cliffs and the iconic way that the clouds hover above the peaks on a rainy day. It is these idyllic scenes that have inspired countless paintings and poems and made Huangshan Scenic Area a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mountain requires at least a few days of your time and is best viewed during sunrise and winter snows.
Base Camp of Mount Everest
Did you know that Mount Everest is in China? Well, half of it is, and reaching the base camp is an achievable goal for out-of-shape adventurers. While seasoned climbers can rest here before summiting the legendary peak, less daring travelers will be glad to know that the 16,900 foot (5,150 meters) destination is accessible by bus, at least in the summer. Be aware that you will need two permits from the government to visit, one for Everest itself and another for Tibet. And make sure that you acclimatize yourself properly, as altitude sickness can still strike at this height.
It’s no surprise that Hangzhou’s famous West Lake has long been the subject of poems and songs. It is absolutely breathtaking, especially during sunrise and sunset when the sun floats just above the surrounding hills, painting the sky orange. Rent a boat and try to capture the beauty with a camera, or grab a bicycle and follow the perimeter of the lake, crossing traditional bridges and pavilions along the way.
Rice Terraces of Longsheng
Longsheng County, located in southern China’s Guangxi province, is home to the world-famous Longji Rice Terraces. This is iconic China at its finest, and you would be remiss if you passed it up. The terraces have four unique looks, corresponding with the four seasons. In summer, the terraces are flooded with water, producing bright green baby plants and much-photographed landscapes. In fall, the rice is mature and ready to be harvested, making the whole plant appear yellow. In winter, the frost comes and creates a subtropical white wonderland. And in the spring, the fields live up to their nickname ‘dragon’s backbone,’ when the wet fields resemble dragon’s scales.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.