Breathtaking Sites in China and How to Get There
When potential travelers think of China as a destination, many consider the usual touristy places such as the Great Wall or the Forbidden Palace. These places are always crowded. What many people don't realize is that China also has some of the most magical landscapes in the world where you can enjoy silence and drink up the beauty of nature. Alpine forrests, cerulean lakes, and rainbow-colored mountains are just some of the sights to behold.
If you are planning to explore China, consider taking the road less traveled and visit the country’s stunning landscapes.
You may have heard about the Rainbow Mountains in Peru, China has its own version in Gansu. This natural wonder took millions of years to form. The mix of red yellow, orange and silver creates a visual spectacle that will make you stop and stare. The best time to visit is from July to September because this provides the ideal amount of sunlight. Go just before sunset to see the colors at their most vibrant. I recommend going by shared taxi so that you can stay until sunset.
How to get there: There are no direct flights to Zhangye from Manila, you’ll have to transit through Beijing. There are many airlines that operate the Manila-Beijing route. Once in Beijing, you can travel by land to Zhangye via overnight train. This takes approximately 18.5 hours and costs roughly P2730 for the hard sleeper.
Fees: P558.50 for the entrance and P372.33 for a shared taxi.
This national park in China gained worldwide acclaim because of the movie Avatar. Zhangjiajie earned its recognition because it is simply beautiful. The park is too big to explore in one or two days. You’ll need to stay for at least three or four days if you want to explore the trails and see everything. Here, towering rock pillars and formations take on different shapes (you have to use your imagination though).
How to get there: There are no direct flights from Manila to Zhangjiajie. You have to pass through Beijing, Guangzhou or Shanghai from Manila; there are many flights to these cities. From any of the three, there are direct flights to Zhangjiajie. If you want to travel by land, the shortest (travel time) overnight trains leave from Guangzhou. The hard sleeper costs around P2300 to P2500, and the trip takes 13 to 18 hours depending on the train you get.
Fees: CNY248 valid for 4 days, which includes the bus ticket inside the park. You pay extra for cable cars, elevators and train rides.
The elevator for a one way ride costs CNY72, CNY50 for the train and CNY80 for a one way ride on the cable car.
Jiuzhaigou is one of the most beautiful and famous parks in China. It comes as no surprise because of the stunning landscapes, colorful lakes, snow-capped peaks and waterfalls you’ll see during your visit. The park closed temporarily because of an earthquake in August 2017. It has recently reopened from March 2018 to March 2019. It will reopen sometime October 2019.
How to get there: Your jump-off point is Chengdu. From the city, you can take the bus from Xinnanmen Bus Station in the morning; fare is around CNY141-CNY158 and the trip may take up to 11 hours. There are direct flights to Jiuhuang Airport from Chengdu and Chongqing. From the airport, it takes 30 minutes to reach the valley. You can take direct flights from Beijing, Guangzhou or Shanghai to Chengdu or travel overnight by train.
Fees: CNY190 during high season Kanas Lake Nature Reserve Located in Xinjiang, this nature reserve is worth the effort to reach.
Kanas Lake provides stunning views of the mountains and the lake snaking through its valleys. The best time to visit is during autumn when the colors are vibrant and varied.
How to get there: Your jump-off point is Urumqi, from the city you can take the overnight bus to Burqin for CNY180. Once in Burqin, board another bus bound for Jiadengyu for CNY40. There are direct flights to Urumqi from Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Fees: CNY220 entrance fee and includes the shuttle that takes you around the nature reserve
Wuyishan Located in Fujian province, Wuyishan provides city dwellers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. This UNESCO-listed destination has stunning rock formations towering over an emerald-tinged river. Other than the landscape, many Chinese visit because of the famous dahongpao tea. The highlight is the view from Tianyou Peak where you’ll see the rock formations and the river snaking around them.
How to go: Your jump-off point is Xiamen; there are direct flights from Manila to this Chinese city. From there, you can take the bullet train or ordinary overnight train to Wuyishan city. I recommend arriving at either Wuyishan Station or Wuyishan North Station.
Fees: CNY225 the ticket at this price is valid for 2 days and the optional boat ride costs CNY130
Huangshan or also known as Yellow Mountain is a popular destination because of the stunning views it provides. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has several rock formations with unique names such as Lotus Peak, West Sea, Flying Stone and Bright Peak Summit just to name a few.
How to go: Shanghai is a possible jump-off point to the mountain. There are numerous direct flights from Manila to this city. Once in Shanghai, take the bullet train to Huangshan town. Once in town, board a bus to Tangkou for CNY19. From Tangkou, get on a bus traveling to Yuping for CNY19.
Fees: CNY230 entrance fee, you have to pay an extra CNY80-CNY100 to use the cable car one way
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan provides hikers with stunning views of the river, gorge and surrounding mountains. The high trail can take two days to finish, but is worth the time and effort. You’ll see rock formations, a waterfall and jaw-dropping cliffs. The low trail takes you close to the raging river.
How to go: Lijiang is a possible first stop for the hike. You can get to Lijiang by train from Kunming for around P1130 for the hard sleeper cabin. There’s a shuttle that will take you to Qiaotou which is the jump-off point to the high trail for CNY40.
Fees: CNY65 entrance fee Stone Forest
The Stone Forest
The Stone Forest or Shilin is a day trip from Kunming City and is a famous attraction in Yunnan. As you explore the park, you’ll see various karst landscapes. Use your imagination to see them take the shape of animals and other objects. The Stone Forest took millions of years to take shape.
How to go: Your jump-off point is Kunming City. The closest port of entry from Manila is Guangzhou, from the latter you can take a high-speed or overnight train to Kunming; fare is around CNY18-CNY29. From the South Railway Station, take the high-speed train to Shilin West. From the station, board bus 99 to the Stone Forest; the fare is approximately CNY10.
Fees: CNY130 entrance fee and CNY25 to ride the battery car
This landscape in Qinghai province will make your jaw drop when you visit during spring. You’ll see yellow flowers, reddish and green hills, and snow-capped mountains during this time. There are platforms that make it easy to explore and take photos.
How to go: From Zhangye board a bus bound for Qilian Town. Fare is around CNY50 and the trip may take up to five hours per way. Once in town, you can take a taxi to Zhuo’er Shan for CNY20 one way. Get the number of the driver so that he or she can take you back to the bus station. I suggest buying the return ticket once you arrive at the station from Zhangye. You can take an overnight train from Beijing to Zhangye.
Fees: CNY80 entrance fee
There are other beautiful landscapes in China besides the ones on this list. Visit the country to discover its natural wonders outside the usual destinations in Beijing and Shanghai. Go to www.trip.com for train schedules and tickets. You can also book flights and accommodation through the website.