China Hidden Tourist Spots

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces
China Hidden Tourist Spots | Honghe Hani Rice Terraces. Photo by Jialiang Gao,, CC BY-SA 3.0

China Hidden Tourist Spots Top 10 | Sure they are not really hidden, but somehow not easy to reach because distances are huge. The following locations are worth a visit – if you have time and you are willing to live without internet: China’s Hidden Tourist Spots.

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (1)

The Hani Rice Terraces are a system of rice-growing terraces located in Honghe Prefecture, Yuanyang County, Yunnan. The terraces’ history spans around 1,200 years. Core area of the terraces: Yuanyang County. The total area measures approx. 1,000,000 acres. In 2013, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But tourists don’t necessarily have to come to Yuangyang in particular for such amazing views. China has four similar rice paddy locations to offer. Beside Yuangyang you also find beautiful rice terraces in Jiabang, Ziquejie, Longji and Yunhe.

Tulou – Concealed Ancient Chinese Fortress (2)

China Hidden Tourist Spots tulou concealed ancient chinese fortress Chuxi tulou cluster
Chuxi tulou cluster. Photo: wikipedia cc

For hundreds of years, China’s fortified tulous have protected entire villages from outside intruders. Then came China’s modernization madness, leaving the old smelly tulou sites behind in decline. But recently an unexpected savior appeared: Tourism. In 2008 a total of 46 remaining Fujian tulou sites were inscribed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site. About one decade later tourism finally caught up. The tulous are now open to strangers – exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization. UNESCO inscribed sites include the following groups: Chuxi tulou group, Tianluokeng tulou cluster, Hekeng tulou cluster, Gaobei tulou cluster, Dadi tulou cluster, Hongkeng tulou cluster, Yangxian lou, Huiyuan lou, Zhengfu lou and Hegui lou.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (3)

Zhangjiajie national forest park
Zhangjiajie national forest park

Established in 1982, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, inspiration for the movie “Avatar”: The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is the first national park in China and part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area. With its clear streams, weird-looking peaks, wildlife and abundant sub-tropical vegetation, the park is a year-round magnet for national visitors. Key attractions include the Golden Whip Stream where you can see fish swimming in the crystal-clear water. Best time to visit: April/May and August/September.

Lijiang Old Town (4)

China Hidden Tourist Spots Lijiang old town
Lijiang old town. Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
China hidden tourist spot: Lijiang old town
China hidden tourist spot: Lijiang old town

Lijiang Old Town is one of Yunnan Province’s top tourist magnets, drawing visitors who want to sample life in a minority area. Kublai Khan was the first emperor to live in this 800-year-old town that is affiliated with the Naxi minority culture. Almost 350 bridges cross canals that meander through the city, which is a good place to see colorful Naxi architecture and residents wearing native costumes. This location gives tourists a real taste of the past. It feels as if you walk thru the Rothenburg of the East.

Zhouzhuang (5)

Zhouzhuang Venice of the East
Zhouzhuang Venice of the East. Photo by ngader – Red Lanterns Over Stream. wikipedia CC BY 2.0

Zhouzhuang is one of the more famous water towns in China. This tourist spot is actually not so hidden anymore; kind of in reach from Shanghai. Often referred to as the “Venice of the East,” the town is criss-crossed with rivers and streams lined with ancient houses. But yeah, a comparison with Venice might be a bit too ambitious. Located 90 km west of Shanghai City Center (1h 20min ride), Zhouzhuang is famous for its Twin Bridges, Shide and Yongan. The location is dotted with well preserved ancient residential houses and elegant water views. A boat ride will be a good way to see the city. Entry tickets in Zhouzhang are not cheap. You will pay 100 Yuan (US$16) per person to enter the area.

Hanging Monastery Xuankong Temple (6)

Hanging Temple Xuankong China
Hanging Temple Xuankong. Photo by Zhangzhugang CC BY-SA 3.0

Perched precariously halfway up a cliff about 75m above the ground at Mt. Hengshan, the Hanging Monastery is a remarkable sights in China. Consisting of a complex of 40 rooms linked together by mid-air corridors and walkways, this remarkable monastery appears to be glued to the side of a sheer precipice. The original monastery was built in the 5th century and has been repaired and extended many times during its long history. Entrance Fee: 130 Yuan (US$20).Opening hours: 8:30am – 5:30pm (in winter); 8:00am – 6:00pm (in summer). The closest city is Datong, 65km to the northwest. You can board a plane from Beijing (1 hour) + rent a car from Datong Airport (1h 30min) or you ride the entire distance by car from Beijing (4h 15min) to get to Xuankong. Our version: We did go to Datong City first. Here are your options once you reached Datong:

Bus: One can hop on a bus which leaves for Hunyuan County (浑源县) from the square of Datong Train Station. It did cost 22 Yuan per person in 2017. Then change to a minibus or taxi to get directly to the Hanging Temple Scenic Area. All this might take you 2 hours. There is a direct bus heading to the Hanging Temple  from Datong Bus Station. We are not sure about the schedule though and we did not find this bus stop.

Car: It takes approx. 1.5 hours from Datong City Center.

Taxi: One can also get to Hanging Temple from Datong by taxi. Cost:  is we were given an estimate of 700 Yuan (approx. US$110). We did take the bus instead.

Jiuzhaigou (7)

China Hidden Tourist Spots Jiuzhaigou Valley
Jiuzhaigou Valley. One of the many crystal clear lakes. Photo by Fanghong, wikipedia cc.

Located in western China, Jiuzhaigou is a nature reserve officially known as Jiuzhai Valley in English. This National Park has been described as a fairyland because of its many waterfalls; snow-covered karst mountains, and its 108 blue, turquoise and green colored lakes that are so crystal clear one can see the bottoms. Jiuzhaigou is a part of the Min Shan mountain range, located on the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Himalayan Plateau. There are many Tibetan places of worship within the park that are connected to the natural landscape. Jiuzhaigou features an incredible biodiversity. It’s home to a number of endangered animals including Chinas black and white panda, the Sichuan golden monkey, and the takin.

Li River Cruise (8)

Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo
Li River between Guilin and Yangshuo. Photo: Flora-Victoria, wikipedia.

A Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is the highlight of any trip to northeastern Guangxi Province. With breathtaking scenery and a taste of a life far removed from any concrete metropolis, the landscape along this river is a top tourist attractions in China. Mist-covered karst mountains dot the landscape adding to the aura of serenity. Traditional fishing boats ply the river, using cormorants to catch their fish. The best way to enjoy: take a boat ride between Guilin and Yangshuo. But since the terrain is flat, many travelers also like to bicycle along the river banks. In case you plan a boat trip: Cruises tend to sell out. You better book in advance (US$100 per person).

Find all 8 recommendations on our map:

China hidden tourist spots
China hidden tourist spots

Planning a trip to China? Think twice!

China has tourist sites that can easily compete with the Grand Canyon, Venice, the Alp Mountains or Bali’s rice paddies. In many cases these Chinese versions are even more impressive. Still, the Asian giant with a 5,000-year history apparently is not really that attractive to foreign travelers. Otherwise curious visitors from Germany, the U.S., Scandinavia, UK, France or Australia are still shunning travel destinations in China. Only Hongkong, Beijing and Shanghai got their fair share. That includes Forbidden City and Great Wall – easy to access from Beijing. Other popular tourist destinations in Asia such as Thailand provide better service and are often better advertised. Acquiring a China visa is an enormous hassle and it’s very expensive. China also requires a travel itinerary in advance and this is a big turnoff for many. Potential overseas travelers very often give China a miss and head for more tourist-friendly Asian destinations – Vietnam, Philippines, Japan or Thailand. There they have proper internet and english speaking service.

China | Pick your destination here.
China | Pick your destination here.

China Hidden Tourist Spots. By Chili & Chirp | Hugging Horizons | Check out more about Asia here: Travel Destinations in Asia