Most people have heard of China’s famous tourist attractions such as the Great Wall (长城), Mount Huang (黄山), Jiuzhaigou Valley (九寨沟), Mogao Grottoes(莫高窟), Terra-Cotta Warriors (兵马俑) and Suzhou Gardens (苏州园林). So here we are to introduce some of the “hidden jewels” that not only foreigners, but even Chinese people seldom know about.
Hailuogou of Sichuan Province 四川海螺沟 —— Kingdom of Primeval Forests and Glaciers
This has been rated as one of the most beautiful places to visit in winter by the “Chinese National Geography” magazine, and the best time to visit is undoubtedly December.
Spectacular ice waterfalls, silvery-white forests, the sun shining on the mountains to give it a golden look…all add to its charm. Despite the beautiful snow scenery, guests could also enjoy outdoor hot springs in the alpine snow valley, which is a combination of “ice and fire”. When the night falls, guests could also participate in the Kangba Tibetan dance festivals.
The Jade Lake of Qing Hai Province 青海翡翠湖 —— Mirror of the Sky
Jade lake (翡翠湖) is the local name for the numerous colorful brine ponds along the Da Qaidam lake (大柴旦湖), which is a few kilometers away from the Da Qaidam town. The entire area is about 60,000 square kilometers, and as the mineral elements of various ponds are different, the colors of each pond would appear differently as well; forming beautiful colors such as green, blue, yellow and brown.
Under the blue sky with white clouds, the ponds are just like pieces of jade scattered on the ground. The unique shaped ponds have different shades of color that would change throughout the year.
Wuliang Mountain Cherry Valley 无量山樱花谷 —— Flower Feast in the Winter
This valley is located in De’an Village (德安村), Wuliang Town (无量镇) of Yunnan (云南) Province. Every year in late November or early December, the flowers would bloom for around 25 days, cherry trees all over the mountain turn this place into a magnificent fairyland.
The Cherry valley area is around 2000 acres, which is divided into three sections. Free to tourists, the valley is equipped with observation decks, as well as catering and accommodation facilities. Of the three cherry valleys in Yunnan, this is the only place with cherry trees all over the mountains. Tourists could also have a taste of the local tea, as the valley is located inside a tea garden.
Hubei Enshi State 湖北恩施州 —— Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
Located in the southwest of Hubei (湖北), this is the only minority autonomous prefecture in the province, where you can find 29 ethnic groups, including Tujia (土家族), Miao (苗族), Dong (侗族), and Hui (回族). Enshi is mainly a mountainous area with numerous karst caves. Famous scenic spots include Enshi Grand Canyon (恩施大峡谷), Tusi City (土司城), and Tenglong Cave (腾龙洞). Another attractive scenic spot is Elude Gorge (躲避峡), as though it is still undeveloped, the “glass lake” is highly popular on social media, where boats seem to be floating on air, also known as the “Chinese Semporna”.
Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park 张掖丹霞地质公园 —— The Rainbow Mountains
Located in Zhangye City (张掖市), Gansu (甘肃) Province, this is one of the best developed Danxia landform areas in China, which has high scientific and tourist values. Danxia (丹霞) means “red glow from the sun” in Chinese, and Danxia landform indicates “red layer landform characterized by steep slopes”.
Zhangye Danxia Park mainly consists of two areas, which is about 536 square kilometers in total. The colorful mountains with various forms have attracted many film crews and photographers.
Red Beach 红海滩 —— The Most Romantic Recreational Coastline
Located in Panjin City (盘锦市), Liaoning (辽宁) Province; as its name suggests, Red Beach is famous for its color of vivid red. The color is caused by the red plant Suaeda salsa (碱蓬草), where large patches of grass together form a red sea.
October is the best visiting season when the color is most vivid and fresh. This scenic area features various scenes such as the Corridor of Love Declaration (爱情宣言廊) and Lovers’ Island (情人岛). This is a comprehensive green ecological tourism area that combines sightseeing with recreation and vacation.
Leshan Giant Buddha 乐山大佛 —— Largest Sitting Buddha Statue in the World
Located in Leshan City of Sichuan province, the 71-meter Leshan Giant Buddha is the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world, a famous saying is “the mountain is the Buddha, and the Buddha is the mountain”. The statue was constructed in the Tang Dynasty (唐朝), from year 713 to 803, which lasted about 90 years.
The original purpose of construction was to suppress floods in the Minjiang River (岷江), which was initiated by a monk named Haitong (海通). As many stones were thrown into the river, the complicated watercourse gradually flattened, which slowed down water movements. It is said that in the heart of the Buddha there is a hidden cave of treasures, however, when a cave was discovered in 1962, the only valuable item found was a stone tablet carved in the Song Dynasty (宋朝).
Maiji Mountain Grottoes 麦积山石窟 —— Oriental Sculpture Art Exhibition
Maiji Mountain is located in Tianshui City (天水市) of Gansu (甘肃) Province. It is 142 meters high and received its name because the mountain looks like a wheat (麦) stack. Construction began in the Later Qin (后秦) era (384–417) and continued all the way to the Qing Dynasty (清朝, 1636–1912); which reflected the development and evolution of Chinese clay sculpture art, and enriched the cultural history of ancient China.
There are 221 caves, 10632 clay sculptures and stone carvings, and over 1,300 square meters of murals; making it a dazzling “treasure of art”. With around 180 scenic spots, it is one of the most important attractions on the golden tourism route of the ancient silk road.
Hongcun Ancient Village 宏村 —— The Countryside as Beautiful as a Painting
Covering an area of 188.95 square kilometers, Hongcun is located in Huangshan City (黄山市) of Anhui (安徽) Province. Originated in 1131 of the Southern Song Dynasty (南宋), it developed rapidly in the Ming (明朝) and Qing (清朝) Dynasties, and the town currently has over 140 well-preserved architecture of these two eras.
This picturesque village is known for its crescent-shaped Moon Pond, beautiful watery scenes, traditional bridges, narrow lanes, old-fashioned clan halls, as well as its charmingly crafted architecture. The village is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Xijiang River Hmong Village 西江千户苗寨 —— Open-air Museum
Located in Leishan County (雷山县) of Guizhou (贵州) Province, this village is consisted of over 10 natural Miao (苗族) villages built along the mountains, making it the largest Miao settlement village in China, and the area which best preserved the “original ecology” culture of the Miao nationality. Known as the “open-air museum”, this village exhibits the past and development of the Miao people.
Here, you can experience the clothing, architecture, decoration, language, food and a variety of traditional cultures of the Miao people, also see the village transform into a sea of lights at night.
Shitang Town of Wenling City 温岭石塘 —— The Dreamland of a Fairy Tale
Located in Wenling City (温岭市) of Zhejiang (浙江) Province, Shitang is known as the “Oriental Cape of Good Hope”. The town is 28.2 square kilometers and the coastline is 58.6 km. The specialty of this town is “stones”, where you would find stone houses, stone streets, stone lanes, and stone steps.
Of the many fishing villages, the one named “小箬村 (Small Indocalamus Village)” is the most dreamy one, where the houses are painted with colors of macarons. The pace of life at Shitang is very slow, where you could enjoy the scenery, take a leisurely stroll, watch the sailboats come and go, and have a taste of the freshest seafood. The night view of Shitang is also magical, where the lights flicker in dark, adding a touch of art to this quiet harbor.
Flower and Bird Island 花鸟岛 —— The Chinese “Santorini”
Located in the Shengsi County (嵊泗县) of Zhejiang (浙江) Province, this island received its name because it is shaped like a bird spreading its wings; and that the mountains are full of flowers, such as azaleas, lilies, and daffodils.
The island has scenic spots such as Tiger Cave (老虎洞) and Mist Cave (云雾洞), and its lighthouse is the second largest in Asia. This is also one of the few places in China where you could see the “fluorescent sea”, with large numbers of Cypridina floating in the waters during summer nights, forming a mysterious blue glow.
Because the island is very small, there are often restrictions on the number of tourists, do remember to check the availability before planning your trip.
These 12 locations could be considered the hidden jewels of tourist attractions in China which are not that “popular” yet. However, taken the overall population of China into account (1.4 billion in 2019), you will probably find anywhere packed with people.
A practical suggestion is to avoid the following holidays: Chinese New Year (end of Jan, varies each year), May Day (May 1st–5th), and the National Day (Oct 1st–8th).