China’s 8 most beautiful destinations – Part 1

China’s 8 most beautiful destinations – Part 1

I’ll be honest; travelling China was not always easy. Expect your levels of patience and your personal boundaries to be challenged. However, more importantly, look forward to some of the most stupendous scenery you have ever come across. While heavily polluted, over-crowded and energetic cities may portray where modern China is heading, it really is the outdoors that make it worth discovering.

The Chinese word for eight (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to ‘wealth’ and ‘fortune’, which is why it is considered to be the luckiest number of them all. Here is part 1 of my eight most beautiful destinations in China.

1.  The  Yellow Mountains /Huángshān 黃山

Imagine yourself sitting on a rock overlooking an endless sea of clouds. In the horizon, you can see the sun breaking through and filling the sky blood orange. The mist covering granite peaks and twisted pines is moving fast. Your face feels cold against the wind, but your heart is warm and you feel total bliss.

Well, I have good news. This can actually be you. This breathtaking mountain range is the perfect getaway from Shanghai. Be sure to spend a night atop and visit the hot pools on your way down.

taking it all in
safety first
the perfect lunch stop
crossing boundaries (as usual)
rock formations like nowhere else
casually carrying up concrete slabs thousands of stairs
feeling very much at home in the mountains

2. Tiger Leaping Gorge / Hǔtiào Xiá 虎跳峽

The 16 km long and 3900m high Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest in the world and, despite, being rather challenging and slightly dangerous to hike through, it offers views you will never forget. Remotely located in the southwest of China, it sure is an escape from the hustle and bustle one might need after spending time in Chinese mega cities.

the town of Lijiang and its people are a real gem, especially during off-season
the beginning of the upper trail
you never know what’s around the corner
the view I woke up to
china’s most scenic toilet
along the way
“I’ll take the long way in that case.”
don’t worry too much about the weather; this hike will stun you with and without clouds

Watch your step, take your time and stay in a guesthouse on the mountain (enjoying a green tea on the balcony of the Halfway Guesthouse is a great way to rest your legs) to fully enjoy this awe-inspiring destination.

3. The Great Wall / Chángchéng 長城

To me, the Great Wall of China is what Machu Picchu is to Peru – a destination of incredible cultural and historical importance, inundated with tourist traffic, yet beautiful.

“He who has not been to the Great Wall, is not a real man.”

This unforgettable experience should undoubtedly include a hike along unrestored sections of this historical masterpiece. An ideal day trip from Beijing means an early start to watch the sun rise over Jiankou and spend the rest of the morning wandering towards Mutianyu. This picturesque track offers great authenticity, and countless photo opportunities without the crowds.

it’s not often that I feel so happy and excited to hike through a pitch-black forest at 6am
dawn light
here comes the sun
it was much steeper (and colder) than expected
as far as the eye can see
the peaks of off-season travelling: having the Great Wall to yourself
the peaks of off-season travelling: having the Great Wall to yourself

Wandering the Great Wall of China will leave you feeling inspired to learn and baffled of how something so huge could be built.

4. Jiuzhai Valley National Park / Jiǔzhàigōu 九寨溝

Tibetans tell the legend of the goddess Wunosemo dropping her magic mirror after a fight with a jealous devil. This is said to have caused 114 shimmering turquoise lakes and while you won’t see all of them, a trip to the ‘Nine Village Valley’ will make you want to stay longer. In fact, new regulations allow visitors to camp in the National Park during the warmer seasons.
This remote area full of utter beauty is not the easiest to get to and, if you are travelling in the winter months, be prepared for not only bluer-than-blue lakes but also temperatures that will redefine your idea of cold. In my case, I arrived to not-so-pleasant -20°C and a guesthouse without heating. The extra $5 spent on a room with heating may have saved my life.

mirror, mirror on the lake
half-frozen waterfalls
some Tibetan monks call this beautiful region their home
while this park draws in most visitors in autumn, it will be worth exploring in any season
“Yi, Er, San, Smiiille!”
A spare camera battery will go a long way due to the cold and the countless photo opportunities

Click here for Part 2 of China’s 8 Most Beautiful Destinations.

Where would you most like to go to in China?

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