The following guide is part of a mini-series of travel articles that will be appearing in China Explorer Destinations to give those of you who own your own pair of wheels in the shape of a car or motorbike, some ideas for short weekend breaks.
The final city in the series is Beijing and three lesser known locations that with the use your own transport are easily accessible for those days when the city has just become too much and the weather tempts you outdoors.
1. Weishan Lake (微山湖)
Located in Shandong on the course of the old Grand Canal, Weishan Lake and village on its banks flourished during the last 600 years that the canal was in use. The small village flanks the canal on both sides and during its height thrived on being able to sell wares to the people traveling the canal. There are no busy tourist attractions here, just a small village and the large lake that the canal diggers made use of and that forms a peaceful wetland.
Indeed, Weishan Lake is not the only body of water in that area that the Grand Canal passes through. Nanyang Lake (南阳湖) provides for a gorgeous location for a picnic or family weekend in the countryside. Indeed, why not park the car up and take the ferry over the lake/canal to Nanyang Island (南阳岛) where you can enjoy this small car-free village that has sat like a jewel in the Grand Canal for over 600 years.
How to Get There
Take the Jingjintang Express (京津塘高速) 130km to Tianjin and then connect onto the Jinghu Express (京沪高速) for another 270km. Go via Ji’nan (济南) and Taian (泰安市) then at about 50km past Qufu (曲阜) on the Ridong Express (日东高速) turn onto Provincial Road 251 and drive 50 km via Yutai (鱼台) to reach Nanyang Zhen (南阳镇).
2. Mt. Taihang (太行山)
In the Northwestern corner of China’s central Henan (河南) province sits Mt. Taihang and its impressive valley. The valley stretches 50km in length and makes up one of China’s premier National Forest Parks. Take in the sights of the famous Wang Mang cliffs, named after the Han dynasty usurper, and take a stroll among the trees and abundance of wild flowers found growing everywhere.
How to Get There
Drive the 503km to Taiyuan (太原) and then turn off towards Jingdicun (井底村) another 260km, from there then head 30km towards Lizhou (林州).
Lying at 2100 meters above sea level, the Huiteng Xilei Grass Steppe is one of the few examples of high level grazing pastures.
Huiteng Xilei is Mongolian for ‘cool mountain rafter’ and one certainly gets the feeling of being on top of the world and away from all the hustle and bustle of modern life on the 600 sq. km steppe.
The steppe is now a nature reserve and herding has been banned. Visitors can go horse back riding across the steppe and enjoy views of one of China’s biggest wind farms, all part of the government’s efforts for a greener China.
How to Get There
Take the Badaling Express (八达岭高速) to Xuanhua (宣化) and then go 80km along National Road 110 to Jining (集宁).
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