You will never know how beautiful the world is, if you don't go far.
You will never know what you can get from a trip, if you are not brave.
If you have the time and the right mood, do not miss the most beautiful, dangerous, and spectacular highways in China.
Hangzhou Bay Bridge
The 36 kilometers (23 miles) long and 14 meters (46 feet) wide Hangzhou Bay Bridge (杭州湾跨海大桥 Hángzhōu Wān Kuà Hǎi Dàqiáo) is one of the world's longest sea-crossing bridges.
Location: Zhejiang Province, from Jiaxing to Ningbo, 110 km northeast of Hangzhou city (1½ hours' drive), 110 km southeast of central Shanghai (100 minutes' drive).
Attractions nearby: Wuzhen Water Town
"S" over the sea: Hangzhou Bay Bridge is designed as an "S" over the sea, which is not only an adaption to the hydrological environment of Hangzhou Bay, but also reduces drivers' boredom when driving.
Rainbow over the sea: The guardrails are colored red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple every 5 kilometers. Looking at the bridge at night from far away, you may see a rainbow over the sea.
Land between the sea and the sky: In the middle of the bridge, there is a platform in the sea, Hai Tian Yi Zhou (海天一洲 'Sea Sky An Island'). It provides a breakdown service, and also is a sightseeing platform. This platform looks like a flying eagle. There is also a 145-meter (476-foot) high tower on the platform, from which you can see the "rainbow" over the sea, as well as the Qiantang Tidal Bore and sea birds.
- Speed limits for the bridge: 80 km/h for the slow lane (right), and 100 km/h for the fast lane (for cars and small vehicles)
- No stops for sightseeing on the bridge: There is a sightseeing platform in the middle of the bridge offering panoramic views, but stopping on the road is not permitted.
- Sightseeing Platform prices: 50 yuan to enter the platform, 60 yuan to go up the tower, and 100 yuan for the combo.
- Check the weather before your trip.
Hanging Tunnel Roads
Hanging tunnels are tunnels linking road on a cliff face, and look like tunnels hanging on the cliff. Such roads offer fantastic views of canyons and mountains. There are seven hanging tunnel roads on the Henan/Shanxi provincial border. Though these seven tunnels are within 70 km north-south, it still takes about 3 days to visit them (including visiting the villages). If you don't have enough time to visit all the tunnels and villages, Guoliang Hanging Tunnel is an ideal example, the most famous and well developed one, located near Guoliang Village.
1. Guoliang Hanging Tunnel Road
Guoliang Hanging Road (郭亮挂壁公路 Guōliàng Guàbì Gōnglù /gwor-lyang gwaa-bee gong-loo/), or Guoliang Tunnel (郭亮洞 Guōliàng Dòng), is the shortest but the most famous one. Villagers worked 5 years to make this less steep, though more convoluted access. It is honored as "the pearl of the Taihang Mountains". Tourism has developed well in this village with the new wide road, and many family inns have been opened. Maybe this is the most beautiful hanging tunnel, thus many students come here for sketching.
Location: Guoliang Village, Hui County, Henan province, 170 km north of the center of Zhengzhou, (3 hours and 20 minutes' drive)
Tunneled road: 700 meters long, with two tunnels of 5 meters high, 4 meters wide. The intervening 200 meters of hanging road is between two different roads on the cliff, all within only 100 meters perpendicular distance! Guoliang Scenic Area: entry 80 yuan (payable in the village)
2. Xiya Valley Hanging Tunnel Road
Xiya Valley Hanging Road (锡崖沟挂壁公路 Xīyá Gōu Guàbì Gōnglù /sshee-yaa goh gwaa-bee gong-loo/) is located near Xiyagou Village, which is isolated by the cliffs and mountains. Villagers worked 30 years to cut this road. In 2003, supported by the government, this gravel road was covered with concrete. There are many family inns that charge a very reasonable price: from 25 yuan to 30 yuan, including room and food.
Location: Lingchuan County, Jincheng Prefecture, Shanxi Province
Tunneled Road: 2 km northwest of Xiyagou, between Shanwa and Nan'anshang villages. Access via Wangmang Mountains entrance.Wangmang Mountains Scenic Area (王莽岭景区 Wángmǎng Lǐng Jǐngqū /wung-mung ling jing-chyoo/): 8 km north of Xiyagou, 50 km east of Lingchuan
3. Huilong Hanging Tunnel Road
5 km south of Xiyagou is Huilong Hanging Road (回龙挂壁公路 Huílóng Guàbì Gōnglù /hway-long gwaa-bee gong-loo/). In 1997 villagers dug an 8-km road connecting Xiyagou and Huilong. This road links Henan province and Shanxi province. The most amazing highlight is that this tunnel turns an "S" inside the mountain and comes out the other side of the mountain.
Location: Huixian city-governed county, Xinxiang Prefecture, Henan Province
Tunneled Road: 3 km north of the Huilong Scenic Area entrance (though at least thrice that by road), or access via Wangmang Mountains Scenic Area (see above).
Huilong Scenic Area (回龙景区 Huílóng Jǐngqū): 60 yuan entry, 22 km northwest of Huixian city.
4. Chen Family Hanging Tunnel Road
Chen Family Village Hanging Road (the S331, 陈家村挂壁公路 Chén Jiā Cūn Guàbì Gōnglù /chnn jyaa tswnn gwaa-bee gong-loo/) is near Chen Family Reservoir (陈家园水库 Chénjiāyuán Shuǐkù /chnn-jyaa-ywen shway-koo/), and at the tunnel exit there is a waterfall. This tunnel is the widest and most accessible hanging road, being part of a prefecture level highway.
This tunnel is busy with coal transport now, and often gets traffic jams. It is dusty in the tunnel.
Location: 30 km (more by road) east of Lingchuan Town, Jincheng Prefecture, Shanxi
Tunneled road: a 200-meter tunnel at the reservoir tail, 400 meters of open reservoir-side road, then another 700-meter tunnel ('Flying Waterfall Long Corridor' 飞瀑长廊 Fēi Pù Cháng Láng /fay poo chung lung/), ending next to the waterfall.
5. Jingdi Village Hanging Tunnel Road
Jingdi Village Hanging Road (阱底村挂壁公Jǐngdǐ Cūn Guàbì Gōnglù /jing-dee tswnn gwaa-bee gong-loo/) is near Jingdi Village. Jing di means 'well bottom'. The village gets this name because it is located in a mountain depression like a well, near the top of a 30-km long, steep-sided valley. To get a road out of this "well" westwards, villagers worked 6 years to make a hanging tunnel (Jingdi Tunnel 宑底隧道 Jǐngdǐ Suìdào /jing-dee sway-daow/). There is much attractive natural scenery around Jingdi Village, making it worth a visit.
Location: 2 km southwest of Jingdi village(阱底村), Pingshun County, Changzhi Prefecture, Shanxi Province; on the border with Henan Province to the east, a 5-km, 700-meter-high escarpment separating it from Linzhou City, Henan
Access: Take the S76/22 between Changzhi and Anyang, then the S228 northwest for 10 km outside Linzhou, and then ascend the valley south to Jingdi past Nangudong Reservoir: 30 km of tiny mountain roads. Or take the X672 then X671 from Pinshun, 30 km of county level mountain roads.
Hanging tunnel: 2 km long, with several bends inside the mountain, and linking with 3 km of mountain road following the northern valley side, to the X671
Nearby Attraction: 'Spirit Dragon Bay Heavenly Waterfall Gorge Scenic Area' 神龙湾瀑峡景区 Shén lóngwān tiān pù xiá jǐngqū /shnn-long wan tyen-poo sshyaa jing-chyoo/, 1 km upstream (southwest) on the tunnel road
6. Kunshan Hanging Tunnel Road
Kunshan Hanging Road (昆山挂壁公路 Kūnshān Guàbì Gōnglù /kwnn-shan gwaa-bee gong-loo/) is the most dangerous one. The road takes vehicles from 1,000 to 1,300 meters above sea level, through a series of tunnels. In 2009 the government rebuilt this road, and now it connects Wangmang Mountains Scenic Area entrance and the road to Kunshan Village (3 km north).
Because the tunnel is quite narrow, if two cars meet inside, it's very difficult to get through. Do not go there in winter, because snow will cut the road off.
Location: Wangmang Mountains Scenic Area Entrance, Lingchuan County, Jincheng Prefecture, Shanxi
Tunneled road: 1.6 km long, single lane, including six tunnels
Nearby attractions: Guoliang Village is the next village north
Best time to visit: from May to November
7. Hongti Pass Hanging Tunnel Road
Hongti Pass is one of "the Eight Passes of Shanxi Province". Hongti Pass Hanging Road (虹梯关挂壁公路 Hóngtī Guān Guàbì Gōnglù /hong-tee gwann gwaa-bee gong-loo/) remains in its original state as a dirt road. Along the way to Hongtiguan there are many small waterfalls and quiet villages.
Location: 15 km east of Pingshun Town, Shanxi province, 80 km west of Anyang
Accessed from: Hongtiguan Service Area on the S76 (itself a road with many hanging tunnels), 17 km east of Pingshun
Main tunnel: 1,200 meters long, dirt road, on the X670 from 2 km southwest of the service area. In its vicinity are the twin tunnels and elevated highway of the S76, and a reservoir-side tunnel below. It's a hanging tunnel gallery!
Attractions nearby: Hongtiguan Pass Grand Canyon, Nihong Waterfall, Minghui Master Tower, Traditional Village
Qinling Zhongnanshan Tunnel
Qinling Zhongnanshan Tunnel (秦岭终南山公路隧道 Qínlǐng Zhōngnánshān Gōnglù Suìdào /chyin-ling jong-nan-shan gong-loo sway-daou/) is the second longest twin-tube road tunnel in the world. It is an important section of the Xi'an–Ankang Highway, part of a north–south highway connecting Baotou, Mongolia to Beihai, Guangxi. The 18-kilometer-long tunnel enables you to go through the Qinling Mountains in 15 minutes.
Location: Zhashui County, Shaanxi, 75 km south of the center of Xi'an (1 hour's drive)
The twin tunnels: 18 kilometers long, 5 meters high, 3.75 meters wide each, 60–80 km/h
Manmade greenery: To keep drivers alert, there is manmade greenery in the tunnel, consisting of plastic trees and flowers illuminated by lights. Every 5 km there is an artificial garden, 150 meters long, 7 meters wide, and about 10 meters high.
Before entering: Turn on the car radio to learn about traffic in the tunnel.
No overtaking and no parking.
Aizhai Winding Road
Aizhai Winding Road (矮寨盘山公路 Ǎizhài Pánshān Gōnglù /aye-jigh pan-shan gong-loo/) is a wonder on National Road 319 (G209/319), linking Hunan and Chongqing. This road is built on steep mountains and there are 13 hairpin bends on the way to the top. Driving on this road, you will feel like you are driving in the sky. You will see cars above and below going to and fro.
Although it is dangerous to drive on, this winding road is quite busy, and drivers often meet traffic jams.
Location: Aizhai County, Jishou Prefecture, Hunan province, 400 km west of Changsha (6 hours' drive)
By train: Take the T8308 from Changsha Railway Station to Jishou Railway Station (7 hours 10 minutes, 75 yuan), and then drive to Aizhai Winding Road (23 km, 20 minutes' drive)
Winding road: 6 km long
Aizhai Suspension Bridge
Aizhai Suspension Bridge (矮悬索大桥 Ǎizhài Xuánsuǒ Dàqiáo /aye-jigh sshwen-swor daa-chyaou/) is the world's highest tunnel-to-tunnel suspension bridge above Dehang Canyon. It is part of National Highway 65 (G65), above Aizhai Winding Road. The bridge completed the 800-kilometer-long Chongqing–Changsha Highway, shortening the journey between Chongqing and Changsha from several days to just 8 hours.
The bridge is colored red, with 1,888 lights to increase visibility at night. It is more than 300 meters above the ground. From afar it looks perilous, but beautiful. People often come to look at it. It is a new attraction of Jishou Prefecture.
Location: As above
Dimensions: 336 meters high, spanning 1,176 meters
Attractions nearby: Zhangjiajie, Phoenix Ancient Town, Dehang Scenic Area
No stopping on the bridge for sightseeing.
Tianmen Mountain 99-Bend
Tianmen Mountain's 99 Bends (天门山99道弯 Tiānmén Shān 99 Dào Wān /tyen-mnn shan jyoh-shrr-jyoh daou wann/), or Zhangjiajie 'Sky' Road (张家界通天大道 Zhāngjiājiè Tōngtiān Dàdào /jung-jyaa-jyair tong-tyen daa-daou/), is 11 km long, in Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park in Hunan Province. It is honored as China's "most spectacular road" for its 99 bends and beautiful scenery along the way.
This breathtaking road attracts many enthusiasts to practice extreme sports on it. In July 2012, the French roller skating stuntman, Jean Yves Blondeau wore his special roller skating "wheel-suit" to skate down the road. In 2013 racing drivers Deng Zhilun (Hong Kong) and Federico Sceriffo (Italy) drove their cars down the 99 bends. In 2014 there will be a wingsuit flying competition there.
However, this road is not open to public traffic (only for some special competitions, such as cycle races). Tourists can take the Tianmen Mountain Cableway from Zhangjiajie Railway Station to enjoy the beautiful scenery and get a bird's eye view of the road for 258 yuan.
Location: Tianmen Mountain Scenic Area, Hunan Province, 320 km west of Changsha city (5 hours' drive)
By train: Take the T8308 from Changsha Railway Station to Zhangjiajie Railway Station (5 hours 15 minutes, 55 yuan), and drive to Tianmen Mouintain Scenic Area. Dimensions: 11 kilometers long, 99 hairpin bends
Attractions nearby: Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park
Bring a coat as there is a big temperature difference between the mountain foot and top.
Best time to visit: April to October, and December to February
The 24 Zigzags
The 24 Zigzags (二十四道拐 Èrshísì Dào Guǎi) was built by the Chinese during WWII to transport supplies to help resist the Japanese invasion. After the war ended the 24 Zigzags were forgotten. Many people tried to find it in Yunnan Province, using only an image in a photo. In 2001 Chinese WWII historian, Ge Shuya, finally found it in Guizhou Province.
Motorbikes and tourists are now the main users of the 24 Zigzags. The rugged terrain attracts many people to hold cycle races. Opposite the road, on a mountain, there is a platform for sightseeing.
Location: 6 km southwest of Qinglong Town, Qianxi'nan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province,
By Road: 200 km southwest of Guiyang (4 hours' drive), and 330 km northeast of Kunming (5½ hours' drive)
Description: 4 kilometers long to cover only 350 meters, 5 meters wide, vertical height gain 250 meters, gravel road
The Tarim Desert Highway
It is a dream for some travelers to travel across the Taklamakan Desert, "the sea of death". The Tarim Desert Highway (塔里木沙漠公路 Tǎlǐmù Shāmò Gōnglù /taa-lee-moo shaa-mor gong-loo/) provides the best conditions for travelers to drive across the desert. The 552-kilometer-long desert crossing highway is the world's longest highway across a shifting-sand desert.
Location: From Luntai County south to Minfeng County, Xinjiang Province
To get there: Luntai County is 370 km southwest of Urumqi (9 hours' drive over the mountains or on a circuitous highway)
Tazhong's Oasis: The north–south highway goes through the center of the Taklamakan Desert. Travelers can see desert poplar forests in Tazhong (塔中 /taa-jong/), at the only junction on the desert highway, 300 km south of Luntai. Desert Poplar Park charges 50 yuan entry. Have a rest and refill the tank in Tazhong, still 250 km from Minfeng. There are hotels, garages, shops, restaurants, and Internet bars.
A green corridor in desert: Many plants grow along the highway, taken good care of by desert rangers. So, besides golden sand, travelers can also see green bushes.
Shifting colors: The sunlight looks amazing in the desert. You can see different desert colors at different angles.
Keep your speed down to 60 km/h to avoid rollover in sand drifts.
Travelers come to Tibet in three ways: by train, by plane, or by mountain road. Inter-Tibetan highways provide a scenic and cheap way for travelers to visit Tibet. There are four main highways into Tibet: the Sichuan–Tibet Highway, Qinghai–Tibet Highway, Yunnan–Tibet Highway, and Xinjiang–Tibet Highway.
Unfortunately the Sichuan–Tibet and Yunnan–Tibet highways have not been open to foreign tourists in recent years. We will let you know when you are allowed to use them.
- Refuel at every town as there is a big distance between some.
- Check the weather before departure, and avoid travel in the winter and monsoon.
- Prepare for altitude sickness.
- Bring rain gear to protect your camera, equipment, and clothes.
1. The Sichuan–Tibet Highway
The Sichuan–Tibet Highway (川藏公路 Chuān Zàng Gōnglù /chwann dzung gong-loo/) goes from Chengdu to Lhasa. The southern route (G118) is 2,115 km at relatively low attitude, so most travelers choose this way. The northern route (G117) is 2,414 km. The highways pass through many towns, so you don't have to worry about food and fuel.
Nujiang Canyon: There is a dangerous stretch of road, the 72 Turns, near the river with the world's second largest canyon, the Nujiang (Salween).
Mudslides: Be warned that on rainy days, there may be mudslides, and you may meet heavy traffic jams. The road is not completely surfaced, and you may meet some really bad road.
Best time to go: May to early June, and September to October
2. The Yunnan–Tibet Highway
The 714-kilometer-long Yunnan–Tibet Highway (G214 滇藏公路 Diān Zàng Gōnglù /dyen dzung gong-loo) goes from Dali to Markam, where it joins the G118 Sichuan–Tibet Highway. It is the most colorful and charming route to approach Tibet. It runs through many minority areas and crosses the Hengduan Mountains and Jinsha River (the upper reaches of the Yangtze).
Major stops: Kunming–Dali–Lijiang–Nyingchi–Lhasa
Attractions nearby: Dali Ancient Town, Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Meili Snow Mountain
Snow: The road conditions are good. However, heavy snow may block the road in winter at Hongla Snow Mountain and White Horse Snow Mountain.
Landslides: In the rainy season, the section from Zhongdian (Yunnan) to Markam (Tibet) has frequent mud-rock flows and landslides. Ask about the road condition before departure and arrange an easy schedule in case of road closures.
Best time to go: August to October
3. The Qinghai–Tibet Highway
The 1,937-kilometer-long Qinghai–Tibet Highway (青藏公路 Qīng Zàng Gōnglù /ching dzung gong-loo/) goes from Xining to Lhasa, with an average elevation of above 4,000 meters. It is the highest and the longest asphalt highway in the world and is known as "the black dragon". It is the quickest and the safest road from Qinghai to Tibet. You can see the plateau landscape of grasslands, mountains, salt lakes, and tundra. This highway is open to traffic all year round, and it is the busiest Tibetan highway.
Because of the good condition of the road, fast driving leads to frequent traffic accidents. Be careful on your journey, and prepare for altitude sickness.
Route: Xining – Tuotuo River (upper Yangtze) – Tangula Mountain (source of the Yangtze, and highest pass) – Nagchu – Lhasa
Attractions nearby: Qinghai Lake, Nagchu, Namtso Lake
Best time to go: May to October
4. The Xinjiang–Tibet Highway
From Kashgar to Lhatse, the 2,143-kilometer-long Xinjiang–Tibet Highway (G219 新藏公路 Xīn Zàng Gōnglù /sshin dzung gong-loo/) runs through five 5,000-meter-high mountain passes and 44 glaciers. It is the highest road in the world and is known as "the Road Laid in the Sky". There is quite some truck traffic on this road, so large stretches are very rutted, and it is extremely dusty. Compared to the other three Tibet highways, the Xinjiang–Tibet Highway is the most difficult one. Along the way, you can see beautiful natural landscapes, like snow-capped mountains, lakes, grasslands, and many rare animals.
Best time to go: May to October
Take a local guide for help en route.
The Suhua Highway
The 118-kilometer-long Suhua Highway (苏花公路 Sū Huā Gōnglù /soo hwaa gong-loo/) hugs the cliffs of Taiwan's east coast, from Su'ao to Hualian. Though it is quite dangerous driving on this road, since there are nasty curves and falling rocks, the beautiful scenery along the winding road attracts many travelers.
Location: Su'ao Town in Yilan Prefecture to Hualian City, Taiwan
Though the Suhua Highway is a sightseeing road, there are often trucks transporting stone and goods on the road. Drive carefully, and watch out for fallen rocks. Avoid the rainy season (summer, June–August), when landslides are most likely.