Guilin and Li River Landscape, China

5 Rarely Seen Spots in China

China’s major cities are teeming with iconic sights and sounds, but beyond the major travel sites are incredible mountain landscapes, fascinating ethnic groups, and gorgeous wildlife. On your China vacation, explore the majestic Gobi Desert, search for Asian elephants in Yunnan, and trace the footsteps of ancient voyagers along the legendary Silk Road.

Unique Yunnan
This real-life animal kingdom is a natural home to an incredible array of animals, including the gentle Asian elephant and the protected golden monkey. Yunnan, which means “the place south of the colourful clouds”, is a province in southwestern China which borders Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. It has high mountains, pristine valleys, more than 18,000 plant species, and an incredible array of animals. This land is known as the real “Plant Kingdom” and “Animal Kingdom.” Yunnan has the most ethnic minorities in China. It is home to 51 of China’s 55 ethnic minorities. Last, but not least, the province celebrates incredible and colourful cultural festivals. The most famous ones include the Torch Festival of Yi Nationality, the March Fair of Bai Nationality, the Water-Splashing Festival of Dai Nationality, and the Knife Pole Festival of Lisu Nationality.

Rapeseed Flowers of Luoping in Yunnan, China
Rapeseed flowers of Luoping in Yunnan

Gorgeous Gobi Desert
Explore epic sand dunes, lunar-like landscapes, flaming limestone cliffs, and fascinating rock paintings in the incredible Gobi Desert. Once part of the great Mongol Empire, the incredible Gobi Desert covers parts of northern and northwestern China and stretches into southern Mongolia. It is the fifth largest desert in the world and is full of ancient fossils and artifacts, including the first fossilized dinosaur egg ever found. Travellers can see the natural wonders of the Gobi Desert on our Trans-Siberian railway journey from Beijing to Moscow, Russia, or on an unforgettable journey to the Gobi and the Mongolian capital of Ulaan Bataar.

Crescent Lake in Dunhuang, Gobi Desert, China
Crescent Lake in Dunhuang in Gobi Desert

The Karakoram Highway
This historical caravan trail formed one branch of the ancient Silk Road, marking the place where Buddhism spread to China and Tibet. Now, the highest paved international road, the Karakoram Highway is one of the very few routes that crosses the Himalayas. In recent years, the highway connecting Western China and Pakistan has become a great adventure tourism destination. At an elevation of over 16,000 feet, travellers can explore the fabled Hunza Valley in Pakistan, traverse soaring peaks, and marvel at long glaciers. The Karakoram Highway is often explored by bicycle or by vehicle.

Landscape on the Karakoram Highway Around Karakoram and Pamir Mountains, Xinjiang, China
Landscape on the Karakoram Highway around Karakoram and Pamir mountains ranges in Xinjiang

Guilin and Mystic Li River
This subtropical South China region has some of the country’s most charming outdoor scenery. The Li River, particularly between Guilin and Yangshuo, is one of the most beautiful sights on the planet. Cruise the Li River, as water buffalo patrol the fields, peasants reap rice paddies, and local fisherman float by on bamboo rafts. Venture out into the countryside of Yangshuo by bicycle, moped, bus, or even on foot, to experience rural China at its most enchanting. Longsheng County boasts fantastic natural scenery with luscious flora and fauna and spiraling terraced rice fields created about 800 years ago.

Li River Karst and Rafts at Mount Yangshuo, China
Li River karst and rafts at Mount Yangshuo

Picturesque Guizhou
This mysterious mountain area is one of China’s best kept secrets – a true hidden gem. Guizhou is a province in China, teeming with magnificent natural beauty and has historical sites, diverse, friendly people and its own unique cuisine. This expansive rural region is also a hiker’s delight. Visit Zhenyuan, an incredible 2,300 year old water town on the Wuyang River, as well as the gorgeous Malinghe River Canyon, which looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. Don’t miss the unforgettable Huangguoshu Waterfall. Places worth a visit in Guiyang, the province’s capital, are Jiaxiu Pavilion, a Ming Dynasty structure built in 1598. Qianling Park is inside the city limits, but feels like it’s in a national park. It is home to Hongfu Temple, another surviving Ming Dynasty treasure that’s now a tranquil Buddhist temple.

Guiyang Skyline at Jiaxiu Pavilion on the Nanming River, Guizhou, China
Guiyang skyline at Jiaxiu Pavilion on the Nanming River

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Adam Hodge
Adam Hodge

VP of Marketing - When he’s not paddling a canoe or drinking copious amounts of coffee, you’ll find Adam talking about some kind of travel plans. He spent a month doing Tai-Chi in China, horse-camped in Mongolia, rode 3rd class trains all over India, tour-guided in Europe, worked in Namibia and surfed in Costa Rica – the travel bug bit this Canadian repeatedly. Food is one highlight of any destination for him, and he’s admitted on a few times to be willing to try just about any food once, and apparently “putrefied shark wasn't that bad”.

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