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The most beautiful places to visit in China

Top 20 of the most beautiful places to visit in China

As the world’s oldest civilization and combined with huge areas of gorgeous unspoiled natural beauty (and the more recent leaps into modernity), China is one seriously interesting travel destination. Its gigantic size makes a condensed list a very tall order, but here is my choice for the best and most beautiful places to visit in China…

1. Fenghuang, Hunan province – one of the most famous and striking old towns to visit in China

Fenghuang - most beautiful places to visit in China

Situated in the Western Hunan Province, the small town of Fenghuang is comparatively difficult to reach. Road conditions and traffic can be hard to negotiate, so getting a bus may be the best option. Once you’re there you’ll want to explore the area by foot.

You can hike up to the Southern Great Wall and enjoy the striking views of the rice terraces. Fenghuang has a bustling feel to it and there are plenty of street vendors who sell local foods at great prices (make sure you try the Ginger Candy)!

Hotels and Airbnbs in Fenghuang, Hunan province

Highlights of Fenghuang captured on film…

2. The Yellow Mountains (Huangshan) – the unique mountain range which is one of the most beautiful places to visit in China

Huangshan China

This beautiful mountain range is known for its hot springs, dense pine forests, and mystical aura. It sits majestically with a misty sea of cloud at its feet but each season gives the mountains a different flavor. In springtime, it is scattered with pretty pink blossoms, bright flowers that illuminate the valleys and fill the air with their heady scent.

In the summer the mountains are densely green, and bubbling streams lap against the rock faces. The turning maples paint the mountains red and violet in autumn before winter turns everything icy white and tranquil. The area is rich with flora and renowned for the monkeys, deer, goats, and rare birds that live there.

The mountain range has been celebrated in many ancient texts, paintings, and poems and this sense of spiritual reverence still remain.

Hotels and Airbnbs in The Yellow Mountains (Huangshan)

The surreal beauty of the Yellow Mountain…

3. Yuanyang Rice Terraces – a stunning and striking beauty spot to explore in China

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

The southern Ailao Mountains house these rice terraces, and the fields take up nearly 31,000 acres. At 6500 feet above sea level, the view is astounding. The Hani people have farmed these lands for centuries.

In fact, in their eyes, nothing has changed for hundreds of years, which means that when you watch them farm, you can get a true sense of how life in this part of the world has been for a very long time. The rolling landscape is just as interesting as the rice terraces themselves, so you’ll never run out of gorgeous views to look at.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Yuanyang Rice Terraces

4. Yangtze River – the longest and most beautiful river in Asia

Yangtze River - most beautiful place to explore in China

The longest river in Asia holds great historical, economic, and cultural importance to the country. It accommodates the controversial Three Gorges Dam which is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world.

It also thought by many to divide Northern and Southern China; both areas are immensely different in terms of climate, culture, economics, folk customs, and landscape. Along the river, there are many areas of historical interest, as well as much natural beauty.

Because of its vast size, one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the river is by taking a cruise or a tour of the area. Independent Asia specialists Exotissimo offers a cruise that includes stops at the mysterious Fengdu Ghost City and the precious stone fortress, Shibaozhai.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Yangtze River

5. Jiuzhaigou Valley – dreamlike scenery and gorgeous natural landscapes

Jiuzhaigou Valley China

This place with its waterfalls, lake groups and abundance of endangered flora and fauna isn’t short on natural beauty either.

It’s a nature reserve and national park located in northern Sichuan province of southwestern China and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This inspirational place has more than its fair share of legends attributed to it and is home to a small population of Tibetan and Qiang people who put on traditional performances and sell foodstuffs and local products – one of the highlights of a trip to this region.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Jiuzhaigou Valley

6. Zhangye Danxia Landform – one of the most stunning places to explore in China

Zhangye Danxia Landform

This is also known as the painted mountains of Danxia and consists of a part of the Gobi Desert with layers of different rock formations that took centuries to form, all of which come in many different colors and textures.

If you step back and view it, you can see numerous stripes of different widths and colors, making the scenery appear to be a puzzle that was put together to look just right. It is gorgeous and hilly, and when you look at it, you quickly realize that only nature could create something so unique and beautiful.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Zhangye Danxia Landform

7. Guilin City – a picturesque place to visit in China which is known for its dramatic landscape of limestone karst hills

Guilin City China - best places to go in China

Guilin is a prefecture-level city in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The combination of natural beauty and historic treasures make Guilin a popular tourist spot.

Crystal clear waters, attractively formed karsts covered in lush bamboos and the deep caves also make the surrounding area a place not to be missed.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Guilin City

8. The Great Wall of China – one of the world’s most iconic and beautiful attractions

The Great Wall of China

Easily one of the most famous landmarks in the world, The Great Wall of China winds through a huge array of scenery, taking in deserts, plateaus, mountains, and grasslands.

Although it’s not just the beautiful views that make The Great Wall a must-see site in China. The historical connotations and impressive architecture mean it is certainly worth a visit. Although some sections are in ruins or have been removed altogether, this purely reminds you of its history that spans well over 2000 years.

Hotels and Airbnbs in The Great Wall of China

9. Leshan Giant Buddha – a truly amazing place to visit in China

Most beautiful places to visit in China

Known to be the tallest stone Buddha structure in the world, the statue is 230 feet tall and has toes that are 28 feet long and ears that are 23 feet long. It was built in 713 CE and carved into a cliff face overlooking three different rivers.

The statue took 90 years to complete and is definitely worth the trip to this part of China. The giant Buddha is colorful and eye-catching, not to mention alluring due to its sheer size, and it is the perfect attraction for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Leshan Giant Buddha

10. Wuzhen Water Town – a stunning small town known as the Venice of China

Wuzhen Water Town China

This unusual little town is situated South of the Yangtze River. Its 2000-year-old history is reflected in the mysterious floating bridges, intricate wooden carvings and ancient stone pathways.

The beauty of this town is that it still maintains a strong traditional feel, and many of the ancient features are beautifully preserved.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Wuzhen Water Town

11. Lijiang Ancient Town – a scenic well-preserved old city in which has a history of over 800 years

Lijiang - most beautiful places to visit in China

This ancient town is located between Lion Mountain – which is dense with vegetation – in the West and the sprawling Elephant and Golden Row Mountains in the North. The area is also fringed with rich verdant fields that cut through crystal clear waters.

Kubla Khan the first Emperor of the Yuan dynasty set his reign here and the air of importance, prosperity and celebration still remains.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Lijiang Ancient Town

12. Qiandao Lake – famous for its crystal-clear water and picturesque scenery and otherwise known as the Thousand Island Lake

Qiandao Lake China

The Thousand Island Lake (or Qiandao Lake)  is a manmade lake dotted with numerous small islands (hence the name). The waters are intensely azure and each island is thick with rich green foliage.

Several of the islands are now themed, to cater for the ever-growing number of tourists who frequent the area. The area was initially created to provide a new hydroelectric power station and reservoir to feed the residents of Hangzhou.

To do this several ancient city were flooded and the remains of these cities still lurk below the waters of the lake. The architecture of which is still eerily preserved, adding extra intrigue to this beautiful area.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Qiandao Lake

13. Brahmā Palace, Jiangsu – a luxurious Buddhist palace standing next to the Lingshan Giant Buddha

Brahma Palace

This beautiful sprawling man-made structure lies beneath the foot of Little Lingshan Mountain. Very near you’ll also find Taihu Lake and the 88-metre-tall Lingshan Giant Buddha – also significant tourist attractions.

It’s a hugely spiritual place it’s almost like a Buddhist theme park and was built specifically for the Second World Buddhism Forum in 2009.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Brahmā Palace, Jiangsu

14. Dongchuan Red Land – 0ffers some of the beautiful scenery in China

Dongchuan Red Land

Located southwest of Kunming City, these 77,000 square miles are very colorful and hilly. Because of the oxidation of iron in the soil, it is a gorgeous shade of eye-catching red.

When you place this soil next to strips of green barley, white flowers, and yellow buckwheat, the landscape becomes striped with all types of beautiful colors, especially when contrasted against a bright blue sky. And if you want to catch the area when it’s the most colorful, try visiting it either in May to June or September to November to get the most extraordinary results.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Dongchuan Red Land

15. Echoing Sand Mountain and Crescent Lake – a gorgeous scenic spot to explore in China

Echoing Sand Mountain

This is part of the Gobi Desert in northwest China and consists of huge dunes that are 25 miles long and 12 miles wide. They reach 800 feet at their peak and have both interesting shapes and a rather eerie sound that occurs whenever there are strong winds in the area.

In the middle of the dunes is Crescent Lake, shaped in a half-moon and offering a great contrast to the beautiful whitish-gray sand dunes. The dunes are located along Silk Road, and it’s worth a visit to this area of the desert just to take a look at these amazing structures.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Echoing Sand Mountain and Crescent Lake

16. Guanyin Statue – an interesting place to visit in China

Guanyin Statue - best places to visit in China

Known as the Chinese Buddhist goddess of mercy, Guanyin now has her own statue at the Nanshan Temple Complex and it is nothing short of spectacular. It is an eye-catching statue that stands at 354 feet, so it towers over the area and definitely demands attention. The statue has three faces; one faces the land and the other two face the South China Sea.

The best part is that you can walk the pier leading to the statue and get very close to it, which is, in fact, the best way to realize just how amazing it truly is.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Guanyin Statue

17. Hongcun Ancient Village – one of the most beautiful villages to visit in China

Hongcun Ancient Village

Part of the Huangshan Mountain Range, little has changed in this village in the past 1000 years, so if culture and history are what you crave, this is the place to visit. It consists of more than 140 traditional homes as well as serene lakes, iconic bridges, and old-fashioned clan halls, among other things.

The houses are unique and the mountains are gorgeous; if you spend some time enjoying this quaint little village, it will be time well spent. In fact, if you want to see how the Chinese lived long ago, you can come here and find out.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Hongcun Ancient Village

18. Saint Sophia Cathedral – a striking tourist attraction to explore in China

Saint Sophia Cathedral

Built in 1907, this 177-foot-high cathedral is the largest Orthodox church in East and Southeast Asia. Even during the Cultural Revolution when most other Orthodox churches were destroyed, this one remained intact. Its beauty is due to the green dome tops and yellow crosses.

Inside the church is a museum that is dedicated to the city. In fact, locals often gather in its front square to visit and have a good time. It is located in Harbin and is one of its most noteworthy landmarks, so it is definitely worth visiting when you’re in this part of the world.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Saint Sophia Cathedral

19. Yalong Bay – a pretty, scenic and photogenic spot in China

Yalong Bay - best places to visit in China

One of China’s most beautiful beaches, this bay stretches a full five miles and has a coastline that is dotted with palm trees. It is located along the coast of Hainan and offers opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, jet-skiing, and diving.

You can also enjoy the beautiful sandy beach and work on your tan if you like. If you’d like to stay in the area for a night or two, you can take advantage of one of the many inns, resorts, and hotels that line the beach itself. It is among some of the most beautiful places to visit in China, that’s for sure.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Yalong Bay

20. Yungang Grottoes – a popular tourist spot to explore in China

Yungang Grottoes China

Located in the Shanxi Province, this collection of 53 grottoes consists of more than 51,000 sandstone structures of both Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In fact, it is considered a very important landmark for Buddhists and it’s been around since the fifth and sixth centuries. The statues range from just a few inches in size to 55 feet high.

There are even five Buddhas sculpted from five different emperors to enjoy. These sculptures are kept in grottoes 16 to 20, which most people agree are the most well-preserved caves in this area.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Yungang Grottoes

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Holly’s passion for adventure was first inflamed during a family holiday to Africa at the tender age of seven. With a taste for the exotic, the off-beat and the far flung, her feet have stayed consistently twitchy and a studying for a degree in Japanese and art history only poured more fuel onto her travelling ardor. UK based Holly likes nothing better than unravelling new destinations through the people, the cuisine and the local stories, and a story teller herself, her other indulgences include spoken word poetry, playing the cello, photography and seeking out curios. Counting Japan, Paris, Barcelona and off-the-beaten track family adventures as her favourite travel destinations she’s also a regular columnist for The Green Parent Magazine, an author for Green Books and runs the website Natural Mumma.

11 Comments

  • Avatar

    Trang Tran

    9 February, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Very beautiful. China is so big and that is why there are so many great landscapes to visit. Some of them look similar to the ones in Vietnam like the limestone mountains in Halong Bay or Hoi An ancient town.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    John Simon

    13 June, 2013 at 8:26 am

    All of the photos which have posted are just awesome!!!

    No doubt, that China is a great country with various tourist attractions. I have visited some of the cities in China such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Boping. I am always eager to visit there again and some more cities also.

    Reply
  • Avatar

    Greg Prohl

    9 June, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I have to admit China isn’t really on my travel radar anytime soon, perhaps because it’s simply so huge, diverse and a bit intimidating, especially the more far-flung and unusual destinations. But this article certainly helps in giving the reader some ideas of particular spots and what they might find. And who did the photos? I only see one photo credit, nice stuff.

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  • Avatar

    Sofia

    9 June, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Beautiful! I’ve always been more fascinated by China’s countryside and small towns than its huge concrete jungles. Fenghuang sounds lovely.

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    Pretraveller

    8 June, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Thanks for a really interesting article about China. I have only visited Hong Kong so far, but I am definitely interested in visiting mainland China in the future.

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  • Avatar

    Agness

    8 June, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! I’m so happy to see my favourite ancient town called Fenghuang here. I’m absolutely in love with it and I am glad I used to live in Hunan province as I could visit it every two weeks. I would also add the Zhangjiajie National Park located in Hunan province – a real treasure!

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