Undiscovered China

China is a vast country with a myriad of opportunities. Whether your interest is nature, history or just exploring somewhere different, you are bound to find something appealing. Here are some of our favourites, and while they are popular with local visitors, you will get the feeling that you are discovering some of China's best kept secrets.

Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie (also known as Wulingyuan) is a scenic area famous for its towering pinnacles and the region is said to be the inspiration for the mountains of Pandora in the film Avatar. The summit of the mountain is easily accessible by cable car or the impressive Bailong Elevator, which at 330 metres high claims to be the tallest outdoor elevator in the world. Either way the views of the rocky peaks, lush forests and swirling mist will astound you.

Enjoy a mountain walk to make the most of the striking scenery. For the more adventurous, take a path around an exposed cliff-face for an eagle’s-eye view of the surrounding landscape. On one section, the glass-bottomed Skywalk clings precariously to the sheer rock 1,430 metres above the valley floor and is definitely not for the faint-hearted!

For a more relaxing experience enjoy a boat ride across the tranquil waters of Baofeng Lake. Nestled between the peaks, this small lake perfectly captures the beauty of the area. The pristine surroundings and verdant trees give the lake a fairy-tale atmosphere.

Confucius Country

Confucius lived around 500 BC and his philosophy, based on study and personal understanding, is recognised across the globe. He was born in Qufu in Shandong Province which now has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites relating to him. The Temple of Confucius is located on the site of the philosopher’s former home and is the second largest historical building complex in China; the nearby Kong Family Mansion is where the direct descendants of Confucius lived until 1937; and the Cemetery of Confucius is where you can discover the grave of the philosopher himself and thousands of his descendants.

A short distance from Qufu is the sacred Mt Tai (Taishan). Rising abruptly from the surrounding plain, the forested mountain has been a pilgrimage site for thousands of years and is known as one of the Five Great Mountains of China, underlining its importance in Chinese history. This important centre for Buddhism and Taoism has many ancient temples and was visited by Confucius. The classic route up the mountain involves an ascent of over 6,000 steps to the summit; however the views can be equally enjoyed on a ride to the top by cable car.

Mt Sanqing

Mt Sanqing (or Sanqingshan) is a mountain of outstanding natural beauty in Jiangxi Province and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is characterised by the numerous granite pinnacles that protrude skyward often piercing the swirling mists. The mountain features a diverse range of flora and fauna and local species of pine trees cover the slopes. Accessing the higher reaches of the mountain is easy using a convenient cable car. From the top station well-made paths allow for straightforward walking although many steps may be involved!

Mt Sanqing has much in common with the more famous Mt Huang but being lesser-known works to its advantage as there are fewer visitors to the mountain. Given that the two mountains are about four hours apart by road they can be visited easily on the same itinerary.

Close to Mt Sanqing is the historical region of Wuyuan. This region features many small villages from the period of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Visit Little Likeng to stroll alongside the babbling waterways, in Qinghua discover the ancient Rainbow Bridge and in Jiangwan take a peek inside some of the traditional dwellings.


Henan

Henan Province is often referred to as the cradle of civilization in China. It has evidence of some of the earliest settlements in the country and was home to some of its first dynasties.

The ancient city of Luoyang has a history stretching back over 4,000 years. Here, the Longmen Grottoes are one of the most important Buddhist sites in China where there are over 100,000 Buddhist statues carved into limestone cliffs. Also visit White Horse Temple, the first Buddhist temple in China, where the picturesque grounds are a tranquil place for reflection. Kaifeng is another ancient capital which reached its peak in the 11th century and was possibly the largest city in the world at that time. Many historical sites remain including the Iron Pagoda, Dragon Pavilion and several ancient temples.

The most well-known monastery in Henan Province is at Shaolin, home of the famous Kung-Fu Monks. Founded in the 5th century the monastery has many traditional temples as well as the Pagoda Forest dating back to the Tang Dynasty. Shaolin Monastery has long been associated with martial arts and you can witness a demonstration of the monks’ skills.

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