Among the many natural tourist attractions in China, water villages are certainly one of the most popular. There are three popular water towns situated in the province of Zhejiang: Wuzhen, Xitang and Nanxun. The oldest and most historical of the three is the scenic town of Wuzhen. However, despite not being quite as well-known, Xitang and Nanxun don't lack in terms of natural beauty either, and are perhaps quieter and less commercialized.
Wuzhen. Photo: flickr.com
1) WuzhenView In Map
Bearing over 1,300 years of history, Wuzhen (乌镇) is listed as one of China's level 5 national tourist attractions. Although only the eastern and western areas of the town are currently open to the public, the town is fully preserved and maintains its original appearance from the late Qing Dynasty era. Visitors can take the chance to experience the local culture with a home stay program, and are encouraged to check out the former residence of writer Mao Dun, as well as various galleries and shadow puppet exhibitions. In fact, simply walking by the canals and soaking in the relaxing scenery is a good enough excuse to go.
Add: Wuzhen, Tongxiang, Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province
Tel: 0573 8873 1088
Price: 100 RMB (east section, daytime); 120 RMB (west section, daytime); 80 RMB (west section, night-time); 150 RMB (east and west section package ticket)
Opening hours: East section, 8:00-17:30; West section, 8:00-24:00 (17:00-22:00 night-visit)
Getting there: Take a bus from Hangzhou's Jiubao Bus Station to Wuzhen. Buses run every 40 minutes from 6:25 to 18:15 and take around 1.5 hours, costing 26-29 RMB
Xitang. Photo: flickr.com
2) XitangView In Map
One of the six ancient towns south of the Yangtze river, Xitang (西塘) is justly nicknamed the "1,000 year-old town". One of the features that sets Xitang apart from other ancient towns is its 1,000 meter street that features awnings attached to each shop, ensuring that visitors are kept dry even on rainy days. As it hasn't been affected by commercialization, the atmosphere in Xitang still feels very authentic and guarantees one of those hard to find "real China experiences".
Add: Xitang Ancient Town, Jiashan Country, Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province
Tel: 0573 8456 7890
Price: 100 RMB (all inclusive ticket); 100 RMB (daytime boat rental, up to 8 people); 150 RMB (evening boat rental)
Opening hours: 8:00-17:00 (daytime), 17:30-20:30 (evening)
Getting there: Take a bus from Hangzhou's Jiu Bao Station to Xitang. There are four buses that run from 06:55, 09:25, 11:20 and 13:50 that take around two hours to get there and cost 39 RMB
Nanxun. Photo: flickr.com
3) NanxunView In Map
Also one of the ancient towns south of the river, Nanxun (南浔) lies roughly two hours outside of Hangzhou. It's worth checking out the former residence of celebrated businessman Zhang Shiming for its interesting blend of Western and Eastern architecture which, in a historical town such as Nanxun, is definitely a unique feature. It's best to visit Naxun during May, as around this time the frequent rain helps cleanse the air and cool the place down – we all know how hot and sticky it get can in China at this time! As Nanxun isn't as commercialized as other ancient towns, it doesn't get as crowded which makes for a much better travel experience. Boats are available for rent at 100 RMB per boat, though you have to pay an additional charge of 12.5 RMB per person.
Add: Nanxun Town, Northeast Huzhou, Zhejiang Province
Tel: 0572 3915 115
Price: 100 RMB (all inclusive)
Opening hours: 7:30-17:00 (Note: After 17:00 you don't need a ticket to enter, though all the scenic spots are closed)
Getting there: Take a bus from Hangzhou north bus station (杭州汽车北站) to Nanxun Station (南浔汽车站); there are about 10 buses running from 8:00-17:30 which take around two hours and cost 35 RMB. Upon arriving in Nanxun, take a pedicab to the ancient town for around 5 RMB
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Keywords: Zhejiang water towns Nanxun ancient town Xitang ancient town Wuzhen town
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