When considering places to visit in China, thoughts invariably drift to the same old sites. There’s the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Terracotta Army in Xi’an and the Bund in Shanghai. Look a little farther afield, however, and you can find some truly fascinating scenery and settings. Check out my list of five amazing places to visit in China that you’ve (probably) never heard of.
Crescent Lake — An oasis in the desert
Much of China’s tourism is clustered in the east of the country, but there’s a whole different world to be explored out west. One of the highlights of this region is undoubtedly Crescent Lake.
The lake is part of a literal oasis in the desert that surrounds Dunhuang in Gansu. The crescent-shaped body of water has been immaculately preserved so visitors can enjoy one of nature’s true rarities. You can even go for camel rides in the nearby dunes!
Crescent Lake is located just a 15-minute taxi ride from Dunhuang.
Old Dragon’s Head — The Great Wall as you’ve never seen it before
The Great Wall is quite obviously China’s most famous landmark. Millions of visitors from all over the world flock to see it every year.
Typically, most visitors frequent the same sections of the wall at Badaling and Mutianyu. Being over 21,000 kilometers in length, there are, however, countless other places where the Great Wall can be explored. One of the most unusual is Old Dragon’s Head, where the Great Wall meets the sea in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province.
The waves crashing against the stones stirs up a certain poetry. It’s the Great Wall, but not as you know it. After checking out the wall, you can relax on the beach and visit the nearby water parks.
Old Dragon’s Head is part of the Shanhai Pass section of the wall. It can be reached by taxi from Qinhuangdao train station.
Houtouwan — A village like no other
In many ways, Houtouwan is the complete antithesis of what modern China has come to represent. In stark contrast to overcrowded megacities like Shanghai and Guangzhou, Houtouwan is an abandoned fishing village that has been completely overtaken by nature. What could be a better respite from city living?
Located on Shengshan Island, around 65 kilometers from Shanghai, Houtouwan was at one time home to a fishing community of around 2,000 people. In the 1990s, however, much of the population left as the fishing routes dried up and opportunities arose on the mainland. It was not long before Houtouwan was left completely to Mother Nature’s designs.
Over the years, Houtouwan has been transformed into a truly fascinating ghost village, totally covered in local plant life. Nowadays, Houtouwan looks like the set of a horror or fantasy movie.
Perhaps an attarction in itself to intrepid explorers, Houtouwan is not the easy place to get to. From Shanghai, you will need to take a bus from Nanpu Bridge Bus Station to Shenjiawan Dock, then take a boat to Lizhushan Dock on Shengsi Island. From there, you’ll need to take another taxi to Small Caiyuan Dock, where you can finally catch a boat to Shengshan Island.
Panjin Red Beach — The world’s most beautiful marshlands
When you first see a photo of Red Beach, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s photoshopped. The weeds of the beautiful marshland area are a flaming red, making it look more like a far-flung alien planet than anything on Earth.
Red Beach, located in Panjin, Liaoning province, forms part of what is the biggest wetland in the world. The local authorities have done a commendable job in preserving it while still allowing tourists to enjoy the sights. Stilted walkways have been installed so visitors can explore the marshland without trampling on the otherworldly weeds.
From Panjin train station, haggle with the local taxi drivers to take you directly to Red Beach.
Hanging Temple of Hengshan — Not your ordinary place of worship
China has more than its fair share of ancient temples, and some weary travelers may even suggest that when you’ve seen a few, you’ve seen them all. This is not the case until you’ve seen the Hanging Temple of Hengshan in Shanxi.
As interesting to rock climbers as to history buffs, this stunning temple is built into the side of a cliff, justifying its name with the most improbable of locations. The temple dates back to the 5th century, and is curiously home to three religions: Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Made up of 40 rooms, its bamboo stick foundations somehow rest on the slenderest of rock ledges.
The temple is located 60 kilometers southwest of the city of Datong. The perilous trek along cliffside wooden walkways to the temple may not be for the faint of heart, but it’s well worth the fear factor.
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Keywords: living in China
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