As promised, herewith the newly refurbished China sub-list of my Top-100 Most Beautiful – Must-See – Places on the Planet…
But why does China – a single country – have its very own section of the List, like no other geographical area has? All rather straightforward really: because the number of OMG-beautiful natural and cultural and unique must-sees in China is just off the scale – even if it is only one single country (albeit not a small one:). But the funniest, curious-est, strangest bit of all is that outside the country very little at all is known about them. Just as well you’ve got me to tell you all about them, eh?)
Why exactly they’re unknown outside the country I don’t know. But I think it’s because the Chinese aren’t that bothered about attracting foreigners to their priceless natural tourist attractions. But then they don’t have to. They’ve enough on their plate catering to the hundreds of millions of their own citizens. Accordingly, some places – no matter how ‘wow’ – don’t even have a Wikipedia entry. They only become known about through tales of the odd (odd!) foreign tourist or two who accidentally happen on them during their pioneering travels around the country’s hinterland. And one such odd foreign tourist is (to a certain extent, for I still haven’t seen a great deal of the country) me!
But first, a few of the very obvious, very famous Chinese tourist attractions…
56. Great Wall of China.
I’ve been told that several generations ago folks could trek along the wall for several days on end! Alas, these days there’s no chance of that: self-preservation’s the name of the game today; only a short section is open to visitors. Nevertheless, it’s still totally worth checking out, and not only for the tick on your ‘been and seens’: there’s no other wall quite like it in the world. Uniformly unique.
57. Forbidden City.
One of few Chinese ancientnesses spared in the Cultural Revolution. There are other attractions worth checking out in and around Beijing (for example, this, this and this), but the Forbidden City is perhaps the most obligatorily must-see.
58. Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park.
Multicolored rock formations making up the hilly landscapes here, which have been voted as among the most beautiful landforms in China, reports Wikipedia. The brightly colored layers across the rock are… flabbergastingly astonishing (at least they were when I was there). I wonder how different weather affects how it all looks here – say, when it’s raining or when the sun’s shining brightly.
Btw, the rocks here all consist of what is known as the Danxia landform – ‘landscapes that consist of a red bed characterized by steep cliffs’ (– Wiki), and Danxia gets its own entry in my Top-100 – No. 62, below. But Zhangye’s stripes and unique shapes are what sets this particular rockiness apart from other the Danxias.
59. Huanglong National Park.
Bright turquoise pools formed by calcite deposits that run neck-and-neck with Turkey’s Pamukkale – if don’t pip it to the post. Locals say it’s best to check the place out in October, as for the rest of the year (!) the weather will be a major impingement. Always one to take the advice of locals, I got myself there in October of 2015. And was suitably overwhelmed by the overall outstandingness.
Cascades of lakes and waterfalls, crystal-clear turquoise-colored water, and underwater ‘inventory’ eerily wobbling about – all wrapped up in magical mountainous surrounding scenery. And in the fall there are the added bright yellows of the falling leaves as a bonus. Been, seen, was overwhelmed. Must see!
61. Wulingyuan rocky peaks.
Stupefyingly scenic massive rock columns in the Hunan Province: so staggering they inspired the Pandora set for the movie Avatar. Not for vertigo sufferers! Been; loved it.
62. Mount Hua.
A two-kilometer extreme mountain trek across five mountain peaks, taking in ancient Tao installations along the way. A daring hiker’s dream! My recommended ‘greatest hits’ – here.
63. Mount Huangshan.
Undeniably unique granite peaks and sheer cliffs.
An undeniably unique jagged-ragged mountain range, granite rock (the stone has a slightly yellow hue to it, therefore the name – Yellow Mountain (黄山)), jutting rock columns with sheer cliff faces and pine trees on the thin peaks. Was there recently. Loved it – as you will the pics.
64. Danxia landform.
Multicolored hills in different parts of china. Unearthly landscapes. The word ‘Danxia’ looks like it’s the Latinized form of the Pinyin word ‘dānxiá’. However, when pronounced correctly in Pinyin, it sounds to me more like ‘dansya’.
And now a few Danxian sub-entries:
This place gave its name to the whole Danxian geological feature. So it’s bound to be pretty darn dazzling in the big red sandstone column dept, which it sure is. Btw, Danxia in Chinese means ‘red sun rays’ (agree; judge for yourself).
Mount Guifeng (inc. Turtle Rock).
A complex of Danxia rock formations next to Mount Longhu. We saw the ‘turtle’, but weren’t able to climb up onto its huge shell – it was closed to tourists for repairs. Not that it mattered. Around it there are plenty of other peaks to climb – all fitted with the wonderful Chinese paths attached to the sides of the cliff faces. In short – a super day out walking. The icing on the cake – the lake in the valley of four echoes: taking in a sunset highly recommended there.
More mind-blowing Danxia. Apparently it was this particular collection of red rocky mountains that brought Danxia to worldwide attention.
Basically, it’s a collection of hundreds of both large and small valleys in among the tall red rock formations + caves + waterfalls + picturesque rivers and lakes. As if all that natural beauty weren’t sufficient, it’s enhanced yet further by large doses of imposing cultural heritage of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Was there last month. Already want to go back; hopefully it won’t be raining every day next time!
More tall Danxia rock formations – with a mountain river cut through them you can raft down. Known for its quality green teas too. My photos of and words about the place – here.
Mount Longhu is considered birthplace of Taoism so, in addition to the lusciously lush landscapes, get ready for similarly huge helpings of cultural side dishes. Seen it by day and by night; the latter – including a really cool carnival-like light-singing-dancing show.
Three fingers sticking up toward heaven. Kinda. Actually three 300-meter columns, plus countless caves, plus wondrous waterfalls, plus yet more helpings of cultural heritage. Earned some fame outside the country when an American flew through the narrow crack between two of the columns. Alas, the paths to the top were closed when we were there just recently, so we’ll just have to return once they’ve finished with their refurb.
The largest of the Danxian rock masterpieces. Also, they say, the most varied. It has mountains, forests, waterfalls and lots more besides. There are also the Dazu Rock Carvings – ancient Buddhist sculptures set in a rock face.
A spectacularly out-of-this-world location. Kinda like a gigantic labyrinth, whose paths are divided by column-like mountains. Impressive. Haven’t been yet.
65. Lijiang / Li river.
66. Stone Forest Shilin.
Vast park of stone columns. Fantastic photography potential. Details here.
67. Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region.
The ancient Tibetan capital. Sacred. Holy. Must-see!