This Asian country is, indeed, one of the largest and oldest civilizations on the planet. As such, this mysteriously beautiful land overflows with countless natural gems and wonders, all waiting to be discovered by the thrill-seekers. In addition to its impressive human-made creations, such as the brilliantly built Forbidden City, China also boasts magnificent landscapes and unique attractions, scattered across its vast and diverse territory.
Whether you’re an architecture lover or a nature enthusiast, China will surely live up to all of your expectations. Once you get here, you’ll feel as though you’ve entered an entirely new world of color, beauty, and character.
With its stunning lakes and beautiful rice fields, spreading out across acres of land, China will undoubtedly become your new favorite place under the sun. Now, forget about the trivial sight of the Great Wall, which is jam-packed with tourists all day long, and join us on an exciting trip through China’s lesser-known gems.
But before you dive headlong into this adventure, make sure to bring a roadmap/travel guide with you to avoid getting lost. Below you'll find a list of 25 lesser-known places in China that may not be that famous as the Great Wall but are totally worth the ride.
25 Anhui: Hongcun Ancient Village
This ancient village of Hongcun is probably as old as the time itself. Here, travelers can explore a 900-year-old architecture with atypical shapes and designs that come with a distinctively Asian feel. As you walk along Hongcun's narrow streets and lanes, you may also catch a glance of endless rice fields in the distant where thousands of farmers work day and night at the backdrop of the Huangshan mountain. Tip: this lovely Chinese village is only 70 km from the charming Province of Anhui as well.
24 Mount Huangshan AKA The Yellow Mountain
How about experiencing a little mountain romance in China?The Chinese Huangshan Mountain is actually more famous as the breathtaking Yellow Mountain. Today this oddly beautiful location is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the reason is quite self-explanatory.
With an elevation of over 1,800 meters, mount Huangshan is nestled amid stunning rock formations and pointy pine trees, all of which providing a one-of-a-kind trek for romantic couples. All in all, nature enthusiasts and family couples will love this place for its unique springs, stunning landscapes, and misty clouds.
23 Fujian: Mount Wuyi
Located about 360 km northwest of Fuzhou, this beautiful landmark is an ideal setting for thrilling boat cruises along the lower gorge of the Asian Nine Bend River. Here, first-time visitors may enjoy 2-hour-long boat trips with fantastic views of Mount Wuyi and the surroundings. Besides being a spectacular location in the southeastern half of the country, the region of Mount Wuyi is another impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site on Chinese soil. Apart from that, Mount Wuyi happened to be the original location where the neo-Confucianism was developed.
22 The Impressive Xiapu Mudflat
This unique mudflat is, without a doubt, a spectacular location that's like nothing else you've seen before.
Although it's a considerably small area, situated along the southeastern coastline, Xiapu Mudflat in Fuzhou has got the full potential to become one of the world's natural wonders. This mudflat spreads out across 400 km of coastline while encompassing over 40 square kilometers.
From its tiger-striped stretch of beaches to its exotic bamboo structures and buoys, the beautiful area of Xiapu Mudflat is, indeed, worth the visit.
21 Echoing Sand Mountain & Crescent Lake, Dunhuang
This surreal Crescent Spring, located in the Gobi Desert, has been around for over 2,000 years. This odd place is surrounded by the unique Echoing Sand Mountain - a series of dunes that owes its name and glory to its aural features, atypical shapes and echoing sounds caused by the blowing winds.Dubbed the Crescent Moon Pool, this Chinese Spring sits right in the heart of the Gobi Desert and attracts visitors with its beautiful gardens. A regular outdoor activity around here is the camel trips across the dunes, which once rose to the incredible height of 250 meters.
20 Fortress Towers, Kaiping
These impressive fortress towers at Kaiping were designed and constructed by Kaipingers - Chinese immigrants from Europe - who'd often replicate Islamic, Greek or even Roman architectural patterns and styles.
Initially, it was believed that the towers were built as a display of fortune and prosperity, but they also served as a practical source of protection for the Chinese nation. Today, over 1800 similar towers still stand proudly amid the endless rice fields in China.
Tip: Regular buses and direct ferries are also available at Kaiping, so if you want to visit other major cities, you can do that at a reasonable price. Also, Kaiping is just 130 km from the Guangzhou, Guangdong, so get ready to explore it.
19 Unique Bamboo Boat Trips In Yangshuo
Take an exciting bamboo boat trip and get ready to see the shiny beauty of Yangshuo like never before. Admittedly, this is such a fantastic way to explore the charming town of Yangshuo and enjoy the sunny weather while relaxing on a bamboo raft, set amid the splendor of the riverside town.
When the Chinese need a daily dose of inspiration, they probably head to the beautiful countryside of Yangshuo to book a bamboo-boat cruise and enjoy fishing. Besides, the area is quite famous for its fishing-village lifestyle, so don't be too shocked to see lots of fishers or farmers there.
18 The Majestic Huangguoshu Waterfall
The Huangguoshu Waterfall is not only a magical sight to see, but the so-called Yellow Fruit Tree towers almost 80 meters over its picturesque area in the charming city of Guangzhou, China. This gigantic waterfall is also the largest one in the entire Asian continent as it plunges 77,8 meters across a 100-meter-wide span. Although the Huangguoshu Waterfall may seem to be quite threatening, it's pretty much accessible from almost any point in the city. The most beautiful visiting season, though, happens to be from June to August when the water tops a peak flow of over 700 c. m per second.
17 The Legendary Statue of Guanyin, Hainan
Located in the province of Hainan, this huge statue is one of the most interesting spots in the entire city. It's said that you have to look beyond Sanya's stretches of beaches to find the most impressive and largest statue in the world. Indeed, the so-called Statue of Guanyin, built near the Chinese Nanshan Mountain, is a historically significant location favored by the locals. The ideally located statue faces mainland China, the entire South China Sea, and Taiwan - meaning that the Chinese Bodhisattva might have blessed the whole world. The figure was enshrined in 2005 and impresses its visitors with a height of 108 meters.
16 Hainan: Yalong Bay
As one of the most brilliant beaches in China, Yalong Bay offers the best tropical setting for a summer getaway. It boasts a crescent coastline dotted with premium hotels and lodges. But apart from the dreamy atmosphere and luxury getaway options in Southeastern China, Yalong Bay has become more and more appreciated for its numerous water sports activities, including surfing and diving. Also, this gorgeous Yalong Bay is located less than 30 km southeast of Sanya. If you plan on coming here during the Spring Festival, you'll be able to learn more about the Chinese traditions and how they celebrate such holidays and festivals.
15 The Shenyang Imperial Palace
The Shenyang Imperial Palace was once known as the Imperial Palace of Shengjing but was later renamed when the Qing Army entered the Shanghai Pass. This perfectly preserved and maintained edifice is among one of the most spectacular and cultural relics in China. Its construction began in the 16th century but was completed under Abahai’s reign. The original building was retrofitted with eight more gates, staircases, plus over 300 weirdly looking rooms and houses. Today this impressive palace enchants its visitors with beautiful red walls embellished with golden tiles.
14 The Charming Chengde Mountain Resort
Another charming location in Chengde is this exotic mountain resort, which once served as a favorite summer palace for many Chinese emperors, including those from the mighty Quing Dynasty. This beautiful palace boasts spectacular gardens, lush greenery, peaceful valleys, all of which making it quite a perfect destination for romantic couples. This fantastic mountain resort has left a lovely first impression on UNESCO as well since it's now part of its "team".
Previously known as Jehol or even Rehe, this charming prefecture-level city is, indeed, another lovely spot in China that most people haven't even heard of until now.
13 Saint Sophia Cathedral, Harbin
Located at 88 Xiulong Jie, Daoli District, Harbin, this impressive edifice is the largest Orthodox church in China; not to mention that it's the country's most Russian-influenced city. Initially, this beautiful Byzantine structure was built in the early 20th century and was thought to be a spiritual symbol and place of worship for the entire Orthodox community in China. This 54-meter tall building was once used as a warehouse by the Communist party as well. Today this impressive Byzantine church enjoys the attention of travelers who come here to explore its extensive art collections and displays of the city's unique architecture.
12 The Peaceful Longtan Valley
Did you know that the beautiful Longtan Valley in Henan is known as the "The No.1 Valley of Narrow Gorges in China"?
Additionally, this U-shaped valley runs for about 12 kilometers and is nicely characterized by a stripe of red quartz sandstone. Today this surreal location, surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush greenery, draws a whole lot of nature lovers, adventurers, and sightseers from all over the world. Tip: once you've enjoyed the beauty of the Longtan Valley in Henan, head to the charming city of Luoyang for more fantastic moments.
11 One Incense Pillar, Enshi Canyon
If you're not scared of heights, then you'll surely enjoy climbing your way up to the very top of the Enshi Canyon. This unusual stick-shaped structure is over 150 meters tall, but it's only about 4-5 meters wide - quite unbelievable, right? This karst pillar stands 150 meters tall between the cliffs and peaks of the beautiful Enshi Canyon, and it's technically the Chinese version of the marvelous Grand Canyon. Additionally, this odd structure survived some of the most devasting and dangerous earthquakes that ever hit China. Well, according to a Chinese legend, that piece of incense is given by their God, so nothing can bring it down.
10 Shennongjia, Hubei - The Exceptional Nature Reserve
If you've ever wondered how the typical Chinese nature reserve looks like, then today must be your lucky day. This fantastic nature reserve, located in the sub-tropical forests of Hubei, stretches over 3,200 square km and pretends to be the world's best-preserved ecosystem with over 5,000 species. Admittedly, that's quite a good number of residents for a nature reserve of this sort. As impressive as it is, Shennongjia is another must-visit stop on your exotic Chinese journey. Here, travelers may meet snub-nosed or golden monkeys alongside other critically endangered species of plants and animals.
9 The Cultural Town of Fenghuang
These beautiful stilted houses are just another lovely reason why armies of travelers and backpackers come here every year. It's not only the perfect location to see unique architecture and art displays, but Fenghuang wows its visitors with its charming winding alleys, narrow streets lined with lovely houses and stunning buildings. Besides being synonymous with "Phoenix", Fenghuang honors the prominent Chinese writer, Shen Congwen, while keeping the city's tight connection to the rich Miao culture.
8 Zhangjiajie - The City of Stone Columns
These gigantic sand pillars were the actual prototype for James Cameron's Oscar-winning 3D fantasy "Avatar." This epic 3D movie had an idea to start promoting this wild national forest park located in Zhangjiajie City in central China's Hunan Province. According to the Vice Secretary General of the city, these pillar-shaped formations were the perfect setting for the Avatar's fiction world to evolve between mist-shrouded peaks and dragon birds. Outside the movie though, the largest pillar-like formation here boasts an incredible height of 400 meters.
7 Inner Mongolia: Explore The Singing Sand Bay
No, it's not a twisted delusion but a remote stretch of dunes that boasts an exciting range of themed performances and an example of that is the singing sands in Inner Mongolia. Here, visitors can alternate between camel rides or desert surfing before reaching the so-called area of Xiangshawan aka the "Resonant Sand Gorge." The composition of dunes explains the idea behind these "singing sands."
When disturbed, this composition produces a unique roaring sound, and it still is a super bizarre natural phenomenon that makes travelers exchange confused glances.
6 Jiangsu: Brahma Palace
Flanked by water and mountains, this unique Brahma Palace portends prosperity, good health, and fortune. This beautiful 88-meter tall building symbolizes the traditional feng shui at its best. This Buddhist theme park is nestled beneath the foot of the Chinese Little Lingshan Mountain, and from there, visitors can head to the Taihu Lake as well. This impressive palace was constructed to honor the 2nd World Buddhism Forum, and the park overflowed with glamour and luxury, which is also noticed in its shiny surfaces.
5 Mount Lu, Jingdezhen, Wuyuan
You can't go back home without visiting this charming location, can you? This fabulous place has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the late 90s. Today this beautiful area of the Lushan National Park is a cultural place favored by the Chinese nation, but it's slowly becoming a major tourist attraction as well. This beautiful park is the real centerpiece of Mount Lu, and it's not too shy to inspire famed poets, writers, and painters from around the world. In fact, over 1,500 Chinese painters and poets traveled here to explore the beauty and majesty of Mount Lu in person.
4 Wuyuan - One of The Most Beautiful Rural Areas
Wuyuan is a small county, situated at the junction of three other Chinese provinces, and it's often referred to as one of the most charming rural areas in the entire country. Locals and foreigners favor this picturesque area for its peaceful atmosphere and colorful blossoms. Therefore, the best time to explore this lovely country of Wuyuan is in early spring. While you're here, do not miss the chance to visit other charming cities as well. For instance, the small, yet beautiful town of Jingdezhen is only 98 km away, but its unique architecture is certainly worth the ride.
3 The Heaven Lake, Changbai Mountain
If you ask the Chinese about this sheer Heaven Lake, they'll probably say that it resembles a piece of jade, flanked by dozens of peaks of the awe-inspiring Changbai Mountain National Reserve. This crystal-clear lake lies near the border of North Korea and boasts an incredible depth of over 200 meters, making it the deepest lake in China. Despite the raw beauty of the lake, it's quite chilly up there - meaning that sunny days are a rare occasion in the Changbai Mountain National Reserve.
2 Liaoning: The Surreal Benxi Water Cave
Bursting with color, this stunning water cave was formed millions of years ago. The cave is nicely strewn with stalagmites and stalactites, all covered in beautiful shades of green, yellow and red. This charming place is called the Benzi Water Cave, and its most famous sections are the "water cave" and "drought cave."
The so-called water cave is home to the world's longest underground river (it's about 5,8 km long), but only half of that is accessible by boat. The drought cave, on the other hand, is rather small as not much of it is open to the public. The temperature in both caves goes around 10 degrees, so make sure to put on warm clothes before you get there.
1 Shopping Memories In The Charming City of Dalian
There's no better way to explore the culture and traditions of a place than with a visit to its local stores. Here, visitors can shop for Chinese antiques, gifts, beautiful shell carvings or glassware at super attractive rates. In this sense, the charming city of Dalian is known as the Fashion Mecca in China, so feel free to bargain for goods all day long. Additionally, Dalian boasts lots of cheap and high-end fashion stores, so why not check them out, right? Also, this friendly city hosts the Annual Fashion Festival, so visitors can expect to find lots of trendy goods at super affordable prices.