Hubei Travel Guide - How to Plan a Trip to Hubei
Hubei is in inland China in the middle stretch of the Yangtze River basin. It has one big city, Wuhan, that plays a big role in central China's educational system.
For tourists, the main places to go are urban, natural, and historical such as the Three Gorges.
Yangtze River cruises, quick bullet train links to other major cities, and its central location make the province a tourist transport hub area, and it is a choice place to go for those who want to take a retreat to a less touristy area of China where they can experience average everyday Chinese life.
Hubei Province is in central China along the middle section of the Yangtze River. The province is north of Dongting Lake, hence the name Hubei which means ‘north of the lake.’ Hubei Province borders six provinces with Henan to the north, Anhui to the east, Jiangxi and Hunan to the south, and Shanxi to the northwest.
Landforms: Hubei features three main geographical features: mountains, uplands, and river basin plain. Hubei is bounded by mountains on the western, eastern and northern sides.
Economy: Hubei Province has extensive industry and high-tech research. Wuhan is a fiber-optics production and research center. An extensive university system is centered in the Wuchang district of Wuhan. Compared to the rest of China, Hubei people have a relatively high average per-capita income of about 9,000 USD.
Demographics and Ethnic Groups
The population of Hubei Province in 2019 is about 60 million. The Han people make up 96% of the population, and about 3.5% are Tujia.
Hubei's Capital: Wuhan
Wuhan has a population of about 11.4 million in 2019. The Wuhan metropolitan region has a population of about 20 million.
During the Qing Dynasty era, the area of Wuhan was a summer retreat for the Qing rulers.
Wuchang on the southern bank was a Qing education center for Confucian scholars and literati. Hanyang was next to it. Hankou was on the north bank and was a financial and mercantile center.
When the British controlled Hankou during the 1800s, Hankou was their main inland trading port. Railroads were built that connected the British port with northern China, so it became one of the busiest ports in China. Steamboats carried merchandise more than 1,000 kilometers inland from the coast.
During the late 1800s, Hanyang became one of the Qing Empire's only industrial centers. They used locally produced coal and the convenient transportation to build steel and weapons factories. The local government emphasized developing universities in Wuchang and a more modern army.
Wuhan became a center for support for Sun Yat-sen, and in 1911, the anti-Qing revolution began there. See more Wuhan Facts.
Other Hubei Province Cities
- Yichang has a population of about 5 million in 2019. It is notable as the city closest to the Three Gorges Dam and as the beginning or ending point of most Yangtze cruise ships.
- Jingzhou has a population of about 6 million in 2019.
- Shiyan has a population of 4 million in 2019.
There are 8 other cities with populations of more than 2 million.
The Main Attractions
The natural attractions in Hubei Province are the best attractions. The province has beautiful vast countryside and natural places, but most tourists hardly ever get out to appreciate the vast rural areas, towns and mountains.
The city of Wuhan is an intriguing mix of history and rapid modernization that isn't touristy. You can experience everyday life in a laid back way. One of the good things to do while there is get out to the riverside to appreciate the river and its breadth. You can barely see across it. It is so big it produces its own weather such as fog and hanging mists and moderates the weather in the region.
The Shennongjia Mountains on the western border are said to be ‘the heights of Central China.’ The Shennongjia Forest Preserve is famed for natural scenery, rare animals and plants, albino animals, and mysterious ‘wild men’ (Chinese yeti) that are said to be seen there. Shennong Stream flows down form it and is popular for boat trips.
The Three Gorges Dam is world famous. It is the largest dam in the world, and the heaviest thing ever made with concrete. It weighs 144 billion tons!
Wudang Mountain is one of the Four Famous Mountains of China. It is a good place to hike.
Qu Yuan Ancestral Hall in Wuhan features green tiles and upturned eaves.
Wuhan University was established in 1893 and was one of the first in China.
Sort of a rural backwater area in Chinese history, Hubei became important in Chinese history mainly in more recent times.
The Europeans set up a big port settlement in Hankou, and for this reason, rapid modernization of the city was spurred, and it became one of China's most industrially and educationally advanced cities. When revolts first started against the Qing Empire (1644–1912) and warfare started with Japan around the turn of the 20th century, Wuhan's armaments and educated young people helped to strengthen the modern nationalistic Chinese forces.
Hubei weather is generally temperate in the fall and spring, but it is hot and humid in the summer. It is especially humid close to the river. The climate makes for beautiful scenery and good agriculture. Spring and autumn are the most comfortable times for touring the province.
- Spring is quite short in Wuhan, and it sometimes feels like summer during May. Wuhan's spring begins in March. The temperature increases quickly to over 20 °C (68 °F).
- Summer is long. It lasts from May to September.. Wuhan is hotter than the countryside. The highest temperature ever recorded in Wuhan is 44.5 °C (112.1 °F). If you like hot, sunny weather, then summer is fine. Rainfall is heaviest from June to August.
- Autumn: is hot through September unlike other places in China. The temperature cools down after September.The average temperature is around 2 0 °C (68 °F) – 25 °C (77 °F).
- Winter begins in December and ends in February. Slush is common during the day, and it freezes at night. The average temperature in Wuhan during the winter is 2 °C (35.6 °F). Sometimes it snows.
See weather in Wuhan.
Wuhan/Hubei style cuisine is noted for being hearty, healthy, and simple but delicious. Fish from the rivers and lakes are the highlight in the restaurants.
On the streets, Re Gan Mian or hot dry noodles with spicy peanut sauce is everywhere. It is an unusually delicious simple food/snack to have day or night and warms you up in the cold winters.
The cuisine is classified as Central Chinese Cuisine. However, it is just mildly spicy compared to the burning hot cuisine of Chongqing and Hunan.
Hubei Province has been a transportation hub since ancient times. Water transport is important. The Yangtze River, Han River, and other rivers form a natural network of navigable waterways that covers more than half the province. Wuhan is a bullet train/conventional railway hub.
There is 1 international airport in Hubei called the Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan. This airport has flights to about 12 countries and territories including Dubai, Moscow, London, Japan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. The are domestic airports in Yichang, Xiangfan, Handan, Enshi, Shashi, and Shiyan. The Yichang airport is popular for tranportation to Yangtze cruises and the Three Gorges. Yichang has international flights to Thailand as of 2019.
High Speed Trains
Bullet train travel is becoming increasingly important as the network grows. For sightseeing, seeing the scenery, and ease of travel in central China, we recommend bullet trains.
There are fast trains to more than a dozen major cities. The important ones for tourists include the Wuhan to Shenzhen North line (including Guangzhou South) in about 5 hours, Wuhan to Beijing West Station in 4 to 6 hours, Wuhan to Shanghai Hongqiao in about 4 to 5 hours, and Wuhan to Yichang in about 2 or 2 and a half hours.
Here is information about Wuhan's 3 railway stations stations.
See Wuhan Transportation.
The conventional train network is extensive. You can go to hundreds of cities on them.
Wuhan is 700 kilometers (420 miles) from the sea, and you can take a cruise ship from Shanghai to Wuhan. We recommend Victoria Cruises for a Shanghai to Wuhan and/or Chongqing cruise. Most cruise companies ply only between Chongqing and Yichang.
Attractions in Adjacent Regions
Other very popular tourist areas around Hubei include:
Changsha is popular in part for its proximity to the national parks around Zhangjiajie that is famous for the rock spires. At present, only one conventional train goes between Wuchang Station and Zhangjiajie, but you go to Changsha by bullet train quickly and then travel onwards by bus or other means.
Chongqing is adjacent to Hubei on the west. It is a popular tourist city, and bullet trains can take you there in 6 or 7 hours. You can also go by cruise ship.
Visa-Free Travel Policies
72-hour visa-free entry is now available at Wuhan International Airport. You could travel around the region for up to 72 hours without a visa.
Tour Hubei and China with Us
In addition to our standard tour packages, you can design your own itinerary for Hubei and the rest of China.
Choose a Hubei Tour to discover the Tourist Essence in the province. All our tours are modifiable. Customize a tour including Hubei.
- Yangtze River cruises: April through October is best for a Yangtze cruise. Victoria Cruises goes to Wuhan.
- 15-Day China Highlights City and Zhangjiajie Combo: Beijing–Xi’an–Zhangjiajie–Yangtze cruise–Shanghai takes you to Hubei and the Three Gorges
- The 14-Day Three Gorges with Classic World of China Tour goes to Hong Kong, Guilin, Shanghai and Beijing and includes a Yangtze River Cruise and a Three Gorges Dam tour. We can extend this so you can see more of Hubei Province.