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China's most beautiful landscapes

By Samantha Fergusson

China is a vast territory scattered with landscapes that look like figments of the most wonderful imagination. Mountains and towering karsts crowned with lush vegetation pierce through the clouds to look like islands in the sky, rice terraces ripple around hillsides like green and gold patchwork quilts, fishermen nudge flat boats along tranquil rivers with cormorants balanced on the bows… It’s a land for dreamers and photographers alike, and we’ve picked out our favourite places when it comes to China’s spectacular beauty.

Yuangyuang rice terraces in China

Mount Huangshan

Mount Huangshan - a UNESCO World Heritage site - is a breathtakingly beautiful mountain in eastern China. It has captured the imaginations of generations with it’s soaring peaks and surprising tranquility, earning itself the name Yellow Mountain.

Mount Huangshan in China

The best views can be found from the tops of the peaks where you often rise above the aptly named Sea of Clouds and can see just the crowns of the surrounding mountains, like floating islands.

Sea of Clouds - Huangshan mountain in China

The Li River & Yangshuo

This is arguably one of the most picturesque areas of China. Whether you choose to explore by foot, bike or boat, you will continually come face to face with scenes that have featured in Chinese art for generations.

Cormorant fisherman in Yanghuo, China

Farmers lead their water buffalo from the river and into lush green fields with a background of limestone karts soaring into the heavens, wading birds stalk through the shallows and fishermen direct their cormorants into the depths of the river in a display of partnership that has delighted travellers for centuries.

Farmer grazing cow in Yangshuo, China

Hangzhou and West Lake

Described by Marco Polo as “the city of Heaven” Hangzhou is still, many centuries later, one of China’s true gems. Its most famous site is the UNESCO recognised West Lake, which is a freshwater lake split into sections by causeways and surrounded by beautiful gardens, pagodas, temples and pavilions.

Hangzhou West Lake, China

The West Lake is a year-round destination, as it is beautiful no matter what the season. Arguably the best time to visit is in spring when the willow trees are unfurling their leaves and the area is awash with peach blossom, but summer is also lovely when the lotus flowers are in bloom and tranquility can be found in the cool shade of the bamboo forest and temples.

Lotus flower on West Lake, Hangzhou, China

Sip on tea and admire the fiery foliage reflected in the lake if you travel in autumn and delight in the stark beauty of the snow-covered landscape as you wander the shores in winter.

Winter view over West Lake, Hangzhou, China

Tiger Leaping Gorge

One of the best hikes to be found in China, this spectacular gorge is one of the deepest in the world and part of UNESCO’s Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage Site.

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnun Province, China

Tourists can wander along a well maintained trail along the river at the bottom of the gorge, but you can also lace up your hiking boots and set off on more challenging multi-day hikes along the top of the valley. If you like walking, this is a great way to take in the area’s beauty.

Hiker on Tiger Leaping Gorge trail, China

The Yuanyang Rice Terraces

These are some of the oldest rice terraces in the world. The local people - the Hani - faced a great challenge some 2,000 years ago when it came to cultivating crops on the steep-sided mountains they had made their home, and ingeniously came up with the terraced fields as a solution.

Yuanyang rice terraces, China

Most terraced fields weren’t built in southeast Asia until around the 14th century so they were years ahead of other peoples. These days, the terraces have been recognised as a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage site and make for some truly beautiful views. If you can't make it to Yuagyuang, then head to Longji to see some equally spectacular rice paddies.

Longji rice terraces, China

Jiuzhaigou National Park

Situated near the Tibetan border, the Jiuzhaigou National Park is an area of incredible colours and beautiful scenery. There are 114 lakes throughout the park which vary in colour from dazzling blue to emerald green and, paired with the accompanying foliage of thousands of deciduous trees, these are the main attraction.

Jiuzhaigou National Park in autumn

Legend states that the lakes came into being when a young boy presented a mirror made from the wind to a goddess, who shattered the mirror and let it fall to earth forming the fairytale lakes that you can see today.

Extreme weather conditions and occasional earthquake activity have meant that the park can sometimes be closed to the public, so it is always worth checking that it is open before making the journey to visit it.

Jiuzhaigou National Park, China

The rainbow mountains of Zhangye National Geopark

Hard to access but worth the journey, the wonderful Danxia landscape is very popular with photographers. The name translates to “red, red clouds” and when you see them in person it is easy to understand how they earnt this name - the bands of colour across the stone vary from golden and rusty colours to deep ochre reds, and the landscape undulates towards the horizon looking just like its namesake.

Rainbow mountains of Zhangye, China
Make it happen

If you would like to travel to China to take in its beauty, as well as its many other offerings, then get in touch with our local experts who can plan your perfect tailor-made holiday at the drop of a hat. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.