Try These 7 Little Known Travel Destinations in China

Little Known Travel Destinations In China

While there are many famous travel destinations in China, they are often overcrowded and can be shockingly expensive. However, there are many other beautiful places to visit that may not be as famous, but they are far less crowded and far cheaper to visit.

Travel destinations in China

Historic Jinxi Town in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province: Southern China’s charm

Historic cities in southern China can be found everywhere. But once they undergo modernization, no matter how beautiful they once were, or how many well-known people throughout history lived there, the atmosphere and charm vanish.

An emperor’s concubine in the Song Dynasty was buried in the quiet old town of Jinxi. Along the alley near the river, you can occasionally hear traditional opera performances. In the resonating tones and the rich voices, people find peace.

Fujian Province’s Xiapu County: World’s most beautiful beaches

Fujian’s Xiapu County features highly unique folk customs and natural scenery. You can watch the hardworking Hui’an maidens go about their day, the architectural wonders of the Yongding County Hakka round houses, and the perfect vista of fishermen and their nets along the beach while the sun is setting — all worth the experience.

The red lands of Dongchuan in Yunnan: An astonishing masterpiece of nature

There is an abundance of beautiful scenery in Dongchuan, Yunnan Province, yet this region is often left off the tourist trail. But photography lovers will be amazed by this colorful land and its soft, melodic curves. Whether in shadow or sun, Yunnan is a kaleidoscope of gorgeous colors.

Zhenyuan in Guizhou: A quiet town to escape from the crowds

Zhenyuan in Guizhou Province is a small and quiet town. Its main features are the ancient buildings lining the river banks. Not many tourists come to this small town, so it is a good place to avoid the crowds.

Bama in Guangxi Province: Renowned for long life and beauty

Bama is famous for the long lifespan of its inhabitants. The peaceful and beautiful landscapes probably help its inhabitants to live over 100 years.

Adjacent to Bama, there is a paradise called Fengshan. The scenery is even more breathtaking. The locals here also live long, yet it is a lesser-known area.

Luzhou: Colorful paper umbrellas in the rain

Luzhou is not only known for its wine, it also produces stunning oil-paper umbrellas. Seeing them gives a sense of China’s classical style.

In addition to enjoying traditional handmade crafts, you can also go to Qianwei to see narrow gauge steam locomotives. It is said that when the descendants of steam engine innovator James Watt came to China, they were moved to tears when they saw that these ancient steam locomotives were still in use.

Danba County in Sichuan Province: Ancient kingdom of thousands of Tibetan stone houses

The Tibetan stone houses built in the mountains of Danba County by the ancestors of the Jiarong people, a Tibetan sub-ethnicity, are architectural masterpieces. They still remain sturdy, even after a severe earthquake.

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China’s Most Beautiful Town, Ancient Fenghuang

Ancient Fenghuang

Ancient Fenghuang (image: nspirement)

Ancient Fenghuang is an exceptionally well-preserved town and sits on the western border of Hunan Province. It is in an area with exceptional natural beauty where mountains, water, and blue skies prevail. Upon arrival, you will be captivated by its air of mystery, elegance, and primitive simplicity.

Located on the banks of the Tuojiang River (Tuojiang, 沱江) this old town has kept its original appearance from the Qing Dynasty 300 years ago. The bridges that sit over the water, along with the unique houses built on stilts, display a harmony that is often portrayed in traditional Chinese paintings.

stone castle in fenghuang
The ancient town of Fenghuang has over 300 culture heritages spanning 1300 years, such as Huang Si Qiao Castle, the best-preserved stone castle which was built in Tang Dynasty (year 687). (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Ancient Fenghuang is legendary for its unique ethnic languages (more than half the population belong to the Miao and Tujia ethnic minorities), customs, and arts, and also because of its distinctive Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty architecture. When the early morning mist arrives, it’s not hard to see why the claim of being the most beautiful town in the whole of China is more than justified.

chinese farmer carrying straw on his back inbetween mountains
The town was the only path between Huahua, Jishou (Hunan Province), and Tongren (Guizhou Province) once making it a rallying point for politicos, warlords, bandits, and the local Miao minority people in its ancient history. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Ancient Fenghuang can be divided into two parts. One is the old town, while the other one is the new town. The old one leans against hills and faces the crystal-clear Tuojiang River flowing through the city, and it is the main tourist area in the county. The new town is the normal residential area for local people.

Why Phoenix?

“Fenghuang” is Chinese for “Phoenix,” the mythical bird of good fortune and longevity. It is said that the Phoenix set itself on fire when it was 500 years old. However, it was reborn from the ashes and is now immortal.

Phoenix statue. A park south of the city. Nanning, Guangxi.
The Chinese phoenix did not always look like the colorful firebird that we all recognize. (Image: krun via wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0)

As for how the ancient town got its name, legend has it that two of these magnificent birds flew over it and found the town so beautiful they hovered there, reluctant to leave.

How to get to ancient Fenghuang

Ancient Fenghuang is located in the southwest of Hunan Province, bordering the cities of Huaihua to the southeast and Tongren (Guizhou) to the west. It is 37 km away from the nearest city, which is Jishou.

night scene in the center of the ancient city
The center of the ancient city was built in the year 1704 during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of Qing Dynasty, with the Tuo River dividing it. It was originally called Zhen’gan until 1913 when it was re-named Fenghuang. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

To travel to Ancient Fenghuang, you can take a train from the Shanghai South Railway station to Jishou, and then take a bus to the ancient town, or travel by plane from Guiyang (Guizhou Province) to the Tongren Fenghuang Airport.

fenghuang old lady
Don’t accept the free services or gifts. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Travel tips

  1. Never open your umbrella while in local peoples’ houses
  2. Don’t step on the door sills of a house owned by a local family
  3. Male and female cannot sleep in the same room when staying overnight as guests
  4. Don’t whistle in the residential area of Miao Nationally and Tujia Nationality, as locals believe it’s the sound for calling ghosts together
  5. Before you enter the ancient town, make sure you have plenty of paper money, because in the ancient town of Fenghuang, coins are unpopular
  6. Never touch or get too close to married women in the residential area
houses by river fenghuang china
There are a number of remarkable old gardens as well as distinctive residential buildings, elegant bridges, and mysterious towers and pagodas. These architectural delights date from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911). (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Be aware of traps

  1. Take care for the butter-tonsiled drivers and service suppliers
  2. Never trust someone selling cheap tickets or “perfect extra itineraries”
  3. Don’t accept free services or gifts (like the joss sticks and candles burning at a temple), as you will end up paying more for it
women in traditional outfits fenghuang
Fenghuang ancient town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on March 28, 2008, in the Cultural category. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

From April to late October is the best time to visit; November to March is quite cold. There are a lot of choices for accommodation in Ancient Fenghuang, from well-equipped hotels to economic hostels.

If you are looking for well-equipped hotels, you can find them around the ancient town’s scenic area, within walking distance of the ancient town. If you want to save money and stay inside the ancient town scenic area, you can book a hostel inside the ancient town that is operated by local residents.

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China’s Yunnan Province: An Attempt to Decipher Diversity

Yunnan Province, China. China's ethnic melting pot. Its landscapes are as grand as its people are diverse. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

If there were any place that deserves the crown of diversity, then it most probably would be Yunnan Province, China’s ethnic melting pot. Its landscapes are as grand as its people are diverse. While bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Burma, almost half of China’s 56 minority groups are situated here.

Every trip is part of more than a visit to special scenery, the taste of exotic food, or the smell of that salty ocean breeze at the coastline of a dessert or a tropical island.

Travel can also function as a tool to get to know more about who you are, revealing those diverse aspects of yourself that only come to light as you experience the sensations of beauty and wonder imparted by the natural splendors of the world.

Places to visit in Yunnan Province

What better place to start sampling this province, located in the southwest of China, than Kunming, Yunnan’s capital and also its largest city?

China-Yunnan province. Renowned for it's colorful mix of ethnicity and marvelous landscapes.
China-Yunnan Province, renowned for its colorful mix of ethnicity and marvelous landscapes. (Image: Ahoerstemeier via Wikipedia)


Kunming also goes by the name “spring city,” getting this nickname from to the mild spring-like weather that dominates most of the seasons.

Yunnan University, Kunmin, China. Photo Credit: Daderot via Wikimedia Public Domain
Yunnan University, Kunming, China. (Image: Daderot via Wikimedia Commons)

While surrounded by temples, lakes, and limestone hills, Kunming is also home to 7 million inhabitants, an astronomical observatory, and Yunnan University, which is regarded as the largest and most prestigious university in China.

Sha Xi Village

Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. Photo: Tony Yin
Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

A sense of authenticity and peacefulness, just watching the people go about their daily routines calms your heart and sharpens your mind. The farmers here live in simple homes, and the majority grow crops.

Shi Xi Village, Yunnan, China. Photo: Tony Ying
Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

Most people here still use horseback as their only means of transport. It’s a common sight to see people work their fields relying solely on manual labor to do their farming. This area is remote and cannot be reached by public transportation.

It seems like a forgotten land, isolated, and beyond the concrete maze, peaceful and serene. Without the gray shade of skyscrapers scratching the soft belly of passing clouds, the sky here seems bluer than elsewhere.

Temple-cave on a cliff

Temple along the flank of a cliff. Not far from Shi Xi village, Yunnan, China. Photo: Tony Ying
Temple along the flank of a cliff, not far from Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

Not far from Sha Xi village, isolated from the common routes of public transport, is a little mystifying location in Jian Chuan County. The structures are built around and merged with the naturally existing caves on the flank of the cliff.

No travel agency has this place in its sightseeing package. To even get here, one has to know the location and drive there oneself. To outsiders, this place is unknown. If you are lucky, you can hitch a ride with a group of people from Yunnan University as we did.

The surrounding scenery is beautiful, with green pastures and tree landscapes that are reminiscent of a time long past, but somehow preserved like in a bubble, right here and now. I can only describe the sensations, drawn from the brushes of air, the smell of the moist earth, and the vegetation, as being magical.

Temple along the flank of a cliff. Not far from Sha Xi Village, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

After scaling the path and stairs that lead to the outlook, the view is simply mesmerizing. Overlooking a green valley, do not be surprised if some of the indigenous wild monkeys join you while you are taking in the stunning view and peaceful atmosphere that this more than 200-year-old cave dwelling radiates.

Apparently, this site even has the status of a cultural heritage place. Surprisingly, many of the historic sites in this region are still well preserved.

Ancient Tea Horse Road

Besides being home to numerous ethnic minorities, Yunnan Province was once transited by many merchants and their caravans. Most of them transported tea, which gave a network of caravan paths winding through the mountains of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou in Southwest China its well-known name, the “Tea Horse Road.”

The Li River and Jade Snow Mountain

Compared to the previously described remote areas we visited, this area, close to the Li River and Jade Snow Mountains is quite popular among tourists.

Yunnan Province, China. Photo: Tony Ying
Yunnan Province, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

Nearby, Linhai City’s concrete buildings and skyscrapers grow out of the ground like mushrooms after a rain. Linhai and its surroundings are well visited by tourists, who flock there to see the popular tourist attractions, among them, the famous golf course at the foot of the mountain.

Little Bridge crossing over the Li River, Yunnan, China. Photo: Tony Ying
Little Bridge crossing over the Li River, Yunnan, China. (Image: Tony Ying via Nspirement)

Linhai is a county-level city in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province situated on the banks of the Lin River in Eastern China.

Deciphering diversity

Did I encounter diversity? Yes. The different people in the different parts of Yunnan are like different sorts of flowers growing on a spring field, each with its own color and scent.

While there was much I learned about the Yunnan people and their habitat, there was more I learned about myself, being a part of it in a remotely seen way.

I wasn’t able to find an answer to every question, but every experience on my journey presented a key to a new door of wonderment and magic waiting for me to explore on my next journey, wherever it may take me.

Research by Mona Song, written by Hermann Rohr

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