Rice terraces are hilly or mountainous slopes claimed from nature for cultivation, usually by minority peoples. Some are hundreds (or even thousands) of years old. They make spectacular places for hiking and photography. We have listed, according to popularity, China’s best five rice terraces, so you can choose the most suitable area based on your itinerary.
The Longji Rice Terraces (a.k.a. the Longsheng Rice Terraces) have become one of the most important tourist destinations in Guilin. They are located in Heping District, Longsheng County, Guilin Prefecture, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Guilin. The Longji Rice Terraces are at an altitude of 300–1,110 meters (1,000–3,700 feet), and the gradients of some rice terraces reach 50°.
Top activities: There are numerous Zhuang and Yao villages among the terraces. The wooden houses there are all built in unique Zhuang or Yao style, and the women there all wear typical ethnic clothing. Experience their ethnic cultures and customs. Hiking around the rice terraces is really popular. The massive tiers upon tiers of rice terraces attract numerous photographers every year.
Sunrise over the Longji Rice Terraces should not be missed. Hotels are available among the terraces. Stay at least one night there, get up early in the morning (as early as 4 o’clock in the morning), hike to a high place, and wait for the moment when the sunshine pierces the horizon.
Best times to visit: The Longji Terraces are worthy of visiting four times in different seasons. For mirror-like irrigated terraces, go mid-April to late June; for green terraces, go July to mid-September; for golden terraces, go late September to mid-November; and for silvery-white terraces go late December to early February after snow fall.
How to get there: There is no direct public bus from Guilin to the Longji Rice Terraces. Take a bus from Guilin Bus Station to Longsheng, and then another to Ping'an or Dazhai in the scenic area. Your entry ticket covers transport within the scenic area. Traveling with a tour group is much more convenient, because the transportation is so complicated.
The Yuanyang Rice Terraces are situated in the southern Ailao Mountains, dug out by the Hani people. Different from the Longji Rice Terraces, the Yuanyang Rice Terraces do not have so many layers, but they are outstanding for their grandiose area with shallower slopes.
Ethnic peoples: Besides the majority of Hani people, there are some other ethnic groups living in the terraced area, including Yi, Dai, Yao, Zhuang, and Miao. It is said these different minorities reside in different layers according to altitude. Hani-style houses look like mushrooms. They are characteristic minority dwellings, though not as uniform as those in Longji.
Best time to visit: After the harvest, when the terraces have been irrigated, is a good time for appreciating Yuanyang's Rice Terraces, and the best time is from January to March, when seas of clouds on the terraces are more likely. In early spring (from late February to March), the terraces are decorated with lots of flowers, including pink peach blossom and white pear blossom. Besides an umbrella, warm clothes are necessary, because the temperature differences there are big.
How to get there: The road passes through mountainous areas, so you need to prepare for possible car sickness. There are four buses a day from Kunming to Yuanyang's old town: Xinjie Town, close to the terraces, and it takes about 8 hours. Instead you could visit Jianshui Ancient Town first (about a 3-hour drive from Kunming), then take a bus to Yuanyang's new town: Nansha Town (a 3-hour drive), and finally a bus to Yuanyang's old town (28 kilometers further).
For photography: Here is a list of popular photography places in the Yuanyang Rice Terraces. For sunrises and rosy dawns: Duoyishu Scenic Spot (多依树); for seas of clouds and sunrises among clouds: a high place near Xinjie Town; for the closest views of terraces and for sunsets: Longshuba Scenic Spot (龙树坝); for sunsets: Bada Scenic Spot (坝达); and for a "bird's eye view" of the terraces: Mengpin Scenic Spot (勐品 in Laohuzui Scenic Area: 老虎嘴). Besides natural scenery, the unique mushroom-shape Haini houses, and the Hani costumes, are great for photography.
Local transport: The terrace area is really large. You will need to catch or rent a local minibus (approximately 150 yuan/half day, 250 yuan/day) to travel between different spots. Traveling with a travel agency can bring a lot of convenience, because you need not worry about the transportation.
Guizhou Province is a good place to experience ethnic cultures and customs; there are many ethnic villages in Kaili and Southeast Guizhou. There are five notable rice terrace areas in Guizhou, and the most famous one is the Jiabang Rice Terraces in Southeast Guizhou.
Scenery: In Jiabang, the picturesque natural scenery of rice terraces is combined with the quaint wooden Miao houses. The Jiabang Rice Terraces were cut from the hilly terrain in hundreds of layers.
Best times to go: You can appreciate mirror-like terraces in spring, verdant terraces in summer, and gold terraces in autumn. The wet weather gifts Jiabang Rice Terraces mysterious scenery with cloud and mist almost every early morning.
Getting there: The Jiabang Rice Terraces are about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Congjiang Town (从江县城), and Congjiang Town is about 257 kilometers (160 miles) from Kaili. You can now take a bullet train to Congjiang. If you plan to have an in-depth tour of Kaili to visit the ethnic villages, you could extend your tour to Jiabang. Due to the complicated transportation, independent travel is not recommended.
The Yunhe Rice Terraces are recognized as the most beautiful rice terraces in China. The entire area of the Yunhe Terraces is 51 square kilometers (20 square miles), covering mountains, hills, and valleys.
Scenery: The altitude of the terraces ranges from 200 to 1,400 meters (650 to 4,600 feet), which gives Yunhe Rice Terraces amazing scenery, with seas of clouds in the early morning, especially during spring and summer. Being further north, you are more likely to see terrace scenery with snow or rime in the winter. In the Yunhe Rice Terraces, the best times for photography are early morning and at dusk.
Rare minority culture: You can learn about and experience the culture and customs of the She ethnic group (畲族), a minority with a very small population in China.
Transportation: The terraces are in Chongtou District of Yunhe County, Lishui Prefecture, Zhejiang Province, East China, only 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Lishui City. It is takes about 2 hours from Wenzhou to the Yunhe Rice Terraces, and 3 hours from Hangzhou to the terraces.
The Ziquejie Rice Terraces are an almost undiscovered heritage of ancient rice farming. They are honored with the appellation "the Terrace Kingdoms", because of their variety and large areas (the largest single terrace covers about 2 square kilometers or 250 acres).
Comparison: The Ziquejie Rice Terraces have the complexity of the Longji Rice Terraces, the magnificence of the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, and the steepness of the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines. Similar to the Longji Rice Terraces, the Ziquejie Rice Terraces show different landscapes in different seasons.
Getting there: Ziquejie is situated in Shuiche District, Xinhua County, Loudi Prefecture, about 285 kilometers west of Changsha City (about a 6-hour drive, so prepare for possible carsickness). You should spend at least one night. Prepare for more basic accommodation conditions in Shuiche or in Xinhua (the best hotel is two-star).
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