China's vast and diverse territory endows the country with some of the most beautiful natural scenery on earth. From the picturesque karst landscape in Guilin and Yanshuo to the precipitous pillars in Zhangjiajie, from the colorful lakes in Jiuzhaigou to the Rainbow Mountains in Zhangye, China's diverse natural beauty is as impressive as its splendid culture.
The Danxia landscape in Zhangye is vividly named "Rainbow Mountains" by many due to its dazzlingly colors. Danxia (丹霞 /dan-sshya/) means 'red, red clouds'. In China's remote northwest, Zhangye is ignored by ordinary travelers, but deeply loved by photographers.
The landscape is composed of curvy, layered, multihued formations, most of which are several hundred meters high. When the sun shines on them, their colors appear in full vibrancy. It looks like an oil painting when the vast red rock formations are simply set against a pure blue sky.
The best time to visit Zhangye is from June to September when the weather is most comfortable. The best time to take photo of these mountains is in the morning and during sunset, especially sunset, when the colors change continuously, showing yellow and red layers covered by a light gray layer.
An image of a twisting pine tree growing from a curiously-curved rock pops into Chinese minds when they hear of the Yellow Mountains.
These mystical and mist-ical mountains are the most beautiful and most famous in China. Their classic attractions are grand dawns and their "four natural wonders": peculiar pines, oddly-shaped rocks, seas of clouds, and hot springs.
About 300 km (200 miles) west of Hangzhou and 500 km (300 miles) southwest of Shanghai, direct flights from Shanghai to Huangshan city take only 30 minutes, then it's about 1½ hours to the scenic area. A bus from Hangzhou to the Yellow Mountains takes only about 2½ hours.
Hongcun is a picturesque village with beautiful watery scenes round its lotus ponds and bridges, as well as charmingly crafted architecture. Villagers have diverted water into "house gardens" and "water yards", which exist only in this village. The village, in its breathing-taking setting, looks like a Chinese painting. The village attracts many Chinese art students to practice their skills.
Hongcun was a setting for "the best Chinese film of all time" — Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Hong Village is at the foot of the Yellow Mountains, and they are usually combined on a tour.
Wuyuan is hailed by Chinese travelers as "the most beautiful countryside in China". The classic image of Wuyuan is rural life under colorful blossoms.
The best time to visit Wuyuan is from early March to mid-April when the land is covered in a yellow carpet of rape flowers. The time to see the flowers may be slightly different each year, so please check with your travel advisor when planning your trip. Fall foliage is another highlight of the area.
Wuyuan is just 50 km (30 mi) south of Huangshan (Yellow Mountain City).
Xiapu is a hidden gem, yet to be discovered by ordinary travelers. The area has picturesque mudflats and a simple lifestyle, and is deeply loved by photographers from all over the world.
The scenery changes constantly. Sometimes there is sea water, and sometimes just mud, with seaweed drying on bamboo poles. Fishermen and seaweed harvesters make a living there, in harmony with the tides that sweep through.
Recommended Tour: 9-Day Xiamen-Yongding-Xiapu Photography Tour
The precipitous pillars in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park are the inspiration for the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar.
Zhangjiajie is famous for its towering peaks, grotesque rock pillars, and deep valleys. The forest of massive pillars is one of the best muses for photographers in China.
The Li River is like an artist's masterpiece, bounded by classic sheer karst hills, which have inspired many poets and ink painters. It is listed as one of the world's "Top 10 Watery Wonders" by America's National Geographic Magazine and the World's "15 Best Rivers for Travelers" by CNN Travel.
A Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is the essence of all Guilin tours, offering an easy and relaxing way to enjoy the picturesque scenery.
Chinese tourists first think of Yangshuo when looking for natural beauty. Yangshuo is famous for its karst hills and rivers. Taking a bamboo raft or having a cycling tour into the countryside, you can enjoy the idyllic, painting-like scenes.
"If you are a traveler, but have never been to Yuanyang,
Yuanyang will feel sad for you;
if you are a photographer, but have never been to Yuanyang,
God will feel sorry for you!"
There are many things that you know will never be surpassed once you see their beauty. And you will find Yuanyang's terraced fields are the most beautiful terraces in the world, once you have been there.
Jiuzhaigou, in remote west China, has inspired dreams of a colorful fairyland among many travelers. Jiuzhaigou features multicolored lakes surrounded by vast mountain forests. These lakes change color throughout the day and year. The colors come from the reflections of surrounding mountainsides and algae and minerals in the lakes.
Fall is the most beautiful season in Jiuzhaigou, when the landscape changes color, providing a vivid backdrop of autumnal hues — an unspoiled, dazzlingly beauty rarely rivaled in China.
Tibet, locked in the Himalayas, holds travelers' imaginations of the lost Shangri-la. From the unspoiled sacred lakes to the world's highest peak — Mount Everest; from the vast untouched Changtang Grasslands to the depths of the Yarlung-Tsangpo Canyon, the Roof of the World is filled with awe and pristine beauty.
It is hard to plan a trip to cover all these naturally beautiful places on your own. Our travel advisors can help you with an itinerary and personal advice. They can help you choose awesome places according to your interests, and plan the trip you want.
If you are planning to travel to these places, click on the links in the article for more information. Or contact us to tailor-make a tour according to your requirements. Or continue to read How to Plan a First Trip to China
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