China, the fourth largest country in the world in terms of land mass and the world's longest-running civilisation. This magnificent country has had some ups and downs in recent history, closing itself off from the world for over a decade.Today though, things are slightly different. More and more westerners than ever before are flocking to the Middle Kingdom to teach English, travel and discover its history and hidden treasures.
For the adventurous, China is the perfect place to explore. With over 50 world heritage sites as well as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and hundreds of cultural relics, you will never get bored. Besides the famous sites, there are also a few other hidden gems that you never knew existed. This post will help you find these sites, so you can see China like you never knew you could.
China is no stranger to a beautiful mountain range. As soon as you arrive, experienced travellers will be prompting you to visit the Yellow Mountain (Huangshan), the “Avatar Mountains” (Zhangjiajie), or a dozen other breathtaking peaks. However, one mountain that remains relatively untraveled by western explorers is the breathtaking Changbai Mountain. Changbai Mountain is located in northeast China on the Korean borderand is said to be the birthplace of the Korean people. This mountain (which is also a dormant volcano) is a must see due to its natural hot springs, rare animals and forests that stretch as far as the eye can see. As you trekfurther up the mountain, be prepared to pick your jaw off of the ground. At the top, you will see the Heavenly Lake (TianChi Hu) pictured above. No DSLR, smartphone or high-tech gadgetry can truly capture the majesty of the lake; you will just have to see it for yourself.
When you think of Ski resorts, China probably isn't the first place that springs to mind. Europe has the Alps, the American continent has Aspen and Whistler, and Asia has Appi Kogen in Japan. But wait! China is also home to more than one Ski Resort, and they're way better than you think. There are more than a handful of great ski resorts in the north of China. Perhaps Jilin is as far north as you can go before you find yourself in Korea, but there are also resorts like Nanshan and Huabei near Beijing. In fact, the 2222 winter Olympics will be held in Beijing and the surrounding towns in Hebei province. If it's good enough for Olympians, it should be good enough for the rest of us.
There is an abundance of beautiful forests in China. Rainforests in the South, Confreres forests in the north and everything else in between. Out of all of these, no forest quite captures the imagination like Shunan Bamboo Forest in Sichuan. Avid film fans will recognise the scenery from the award-winning Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Despite the movie's popularity early in the year 2000, the location seems to be less well travelled by international tourists. Their loss could be your gain asShunan is the oldest bamboo forest in China, as well as the largest, stretching 120 square kilometres (46 square miles).
One of Asia's most amazing spectacles is the Gobi Desert. The Gobi is Asia's largest desertand is equivalent in size to Peru. The desert itself spans both Mongolia and China, covering much of China's western planes. Contrary to popular belief, the Gobi Desert isn't all sand. The area is also made up of rugged rock and awesome grasslands. If you're looking to explore an area of both natural and cultural diversity, there is no better place to go.
Hidden away in southern China, Sanya is the second largest city in Hainan province. For Chinese nationals, this is a famous holiday destination known for its deep blue sea and silky smooth sandy beaches. In recent years the “Hawaii” of China has really started to live up to its name, with large infrastructural investments and hotel developments. If you're living in the South of China, or you want to take a break without leaving China, Sanya should be at the top of your list.
So, there you have it, some of the places you probably didn't know existed in China, and this list is barely even scratching the surface. China is home to over 50 world heritage sites, as well as other Sites of Special Scientific Interest. There's more to see in China than time permits – don't be surprised if you find yourself staying for a while.