inspiration

Where to go to see China’s undiscovered gems

By Travel at 60
Image: DANNY HU/Getty

Venture away from the big cities

What do you think of when you think of China? Is it the powerhouses of Beijing and Shanghai with their busy city streets? Or is it the popular historical sites such as the Terracotta Army, that seem impossible to reach being far from the nation’s capital? China may seem like a challenging destination to travel to, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you take a tour. There’s a lot more to the country than its big cities, and it’s easy to venture off the beaten path to its cultural delights. After all, China is bigger than Australia, and nearly 60 per cent of its population live in urban areas. Here are a few underrated travel hotspots in China you may not have heard of.

1. Jingzhou

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The city of Jungzhou is nestled on the banks of the fabled Yangtze River. It was an ancient trading city and distribution centre for 6,000 years. With such a long history, there are many cultural sites preserved that travellers can see today. It is one of the best places to see the relics of the 8th century Chu state with 73 sites featuring Chu culture and more than 800 ancient tombs, including some of ancient kings. While you’re in Jingzhou, be sure to check out the Three Gorges Dam in neighbouring Yichang. It’s a spectacularly scenic area and a beautiful way to see the Yangtze River.

2. Shibaozhai

Shibaozhai, meaning ‘stone treasure fortress’ is a craggy hill in national parkland by the Yangtze River. It’s home to the spectacular Shibaozhai Pagoda, a famous red tiered temple. The nine-floor structure was originally built to get people from the bottom of the cliff to the top.

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3. Lijiang

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Lijang is a beautiful ancient city famous for its UNESCO Heritage Site, the Old Town of Lijang. The old town is full of traditional Chinese shops in narrow cobblestone streets, with charming, orderly waterways and bridges. The traditional Nakhi culture persists here and visitors to the area can experience music and see their intricate carvings in the buildings of the town.

4. Chengdu

Chengdu is the capital of China’s Sichuan province, a large, yet charming city with beautiful attractions such as the Anshun Bridge, Chengdu Panda Base and gorgeous parks. Seeing pandas up close and personal is one of the main drawcards of the region, as are the city’s religious sites such as monasteries and giant Buddha statue. The cuisine in Chengdu is unique, characterised by its hot and spicy flavours as well as dry braising and stewing.

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5. Xi’an

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If you’ve dreamed of seeing the enormous Terracotta Army, Xi’an is where your dreams will come true. The capital of the Shaanxi Province, it’s one of the oldest cities in China and one of the four great ancient capitals. As well as seeing the terracotta warriors, Xi’an is home to the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and old Xi’an City Wall.

Travel at 60
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