Embraced by mountains, Zhenyuan Ancient Town is a hidden gem located in a corner of Kaili, Guizhou Province.
While it is not as famous as other ancient towns, Zhenyuan Ancient Town is a tranquil place to escape from the noisy metropolises and areas that are packed with tourists.
Read on to see what you will discover in this lovely ancient town.
- Chinese: 镇远古镇 Zhènyuăn Gŭzhèn /jnn-ywen goo-jnn/ 'Town-Distant Old Town'
- History: Established in 277 BC, the preserved ancient buildings were built in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).
- Popular activities: a boat trip on Wuyang River, climb Shipin Mountain to view the whole town
- Must-see attractions: Black Dragon Cave Medieval Architecture Complex, the ancient alleys
- Suitable for: history lovers, hikers, photographers
- Time needed: 1 day (it is recommend to stay overnight for the nighttime scenery)
- Open: all day
- Entry: free
Wuyang River (舞阳河)
Wuyang River separates the ancient town into two sections, just like the diagram of yin and yang.
Wuyang River's Three Gorges, namely the Dragon King Gorge, Zhuge Gorge, and West Gorge, are characterized by striking cliffs and clear water. There are also many temple sites and cliff inscriptions along the riverbank.
The road from Zhenyuan Ancient Town to Wuyang River is well-constructed. A boat trip will take about 4 hours (about 1 hour for round-trip transportation, 2 hours for a river cruise, and half an hour's walk on the footpaths).
See more attractions in Kaili.
Shipin Mountain (石屏山)
The highest peak of Shipin Mountain is 204 meters above the Wuyang River's surface. It takes about 1 hour to reach the top via the steps, where you can have a panoramic view of the ancient town.
The scenic area is free to enter before 8am and after 6pm, so an early morning or evening mountain hike is a good choice. If going in the early morning, you may fortunate enough to see the dissipating mist over the mountains.
If you choose to climb in the evening, you will see the nighttime view of the whole town and can use your camera to record this wonderful scenery.
Caution: There is no lighting on the mountain. If you are going to climb at night, prepare reliable lighting devices in advance.
Black Dragon Cave (青龙洞)
Black Dragon Cave is just across the river from Shipin Mountain. Actually, Black Dragon Cave is not just a cave but a medieval temple complex (古建筑群) on Zhonghe Mountain.
Built about 500 years ago, it is known for the way the architecture of the temples blends in with the surroundings. Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist temples exist side by side. The cave area is considered a precious legacy of architectural art.
Things to Do
Visit Ancient Alleys and Dwellings
The ancient alleys of Zhenyuan Ancient Town are long and narrow with a complex structure. Walking in the alleys, people find themselves heading away from the river and the scenery appears to return to that of the old days.
The ancient dwellings in the alleys look like the courtyards in the Yangtze Plain, expect that they are all built on the mountainside.
The most special and interesting feature is that the doors that open along the alleys are never parallel or perpendicular to each alley, but are at a certain angle. The Chinese believe this will bring wealth to the family.
See other things to do in Guizhou.
Stay in a Riverside Guesthouse
There are many guesthouses built on Wuyang riverside, which have an antique beauty. In the historical town of Zhenyuan Ancient Town, it is a wonderful experience to stay in a riverside guesthouse.
The rooms are well-designed and decorated, being just like the rooms inhabited by the ancient Chinese people.
Join in with the Dragon Canoe Festival
The Dragon Canoe Festival (or Dragon Boat Festival) is the largest annual celebration in Zhenyuan Ancient Town. Like other towns and cities on rivers in southern China, Zhenyuan Ancient Town is a popular location for celebrating this festival.
Read more about Guizhou ethnic festivals.
The best travel season is summer as the weather is pleasantly cool and the scenery is better due to the increased water flow in the Wuyang River. However, summer is also the rainy season so rain gear is necessary.
As the temperature varies greatly from morning to evening, prepare some long-sleeved clothing, even if you are going there in summer. Wear a pair of hiking shoes and prepare a pair of sandals, if possible.
Getting to Zhenyuan
Reaching Zhenyuan Ancient Town by train is easy as trains converge on the town from various directions. The town is about 4½ to 5 hours away from Guiyang by train.
The Zhenyuan train station is about 10 minutes from the ancient part of the city. A taxi ride costs about 1 USD.
If you want to reach Zhenyuan Ancient Town by bus, you can travel the 150 kilometers from Guiyang to Kaili in about 3 hours.
Then take another 3-hour bus trip to cover the next 150 kilometers from Kaili to Zhenyuan Ancient Town. The whole trip will take about 6 or 7 hours.
- Xijiang Miao Village — one of the biggest Miao villages in China
- Kaili Sunday Market — a fabulous place to get a glimpse of the local minorities' lifestyles
Visit Zhenyuan Ancient Town with Us
China Highlights can help you with a tour to Zhenyuan Ancient Town. You may check our sample itinerary including Zhenyuan:
Or you may tell us your interests and requirements, and we will assist you with arranging your itinerary and booking a riverside guesthouse. Contact us for a customized tour.