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Chinese countryside tours are obviously different from city tours. Traveling in China’s rural areas will help you appreciate some wonderful features of China’s multi-faceted complexity, which you will experience much less fully from its modern cities: natural scenery, minority groups and traditional customs.
Here we offer useful guides to 10 provinces and ethnic minority autonomous regions, where you can find some of the best tours of rural China. In each province, we suggest a specific tour for your inspiration, to whet your appetite for the real rural China.
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is in the southwest of China, and has the largest population of ethnic minority people in China. It is easily accessible and people of all ages can enjoy a fun countryside life there. Guangxi is our number 1 recommendation for your rural tour of China.
A karst landscape, the Li River, rice terraces and traditional minority villages create picture-postcard countryside around Guilin.
Imagine being a Chinese villager in Yangshuo. If you are there in the right season, you can watch local farmers plowing the fields and try it yourself; ride a bike alongside the golden fields; learn tai chi and cooking from villagers; try rock-climbing; etc.
Alternatively, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery at the Longji Rice Terraces, visit a local Miao family in their old wooden house, and learn about customs and lifestyle in Longsheng.
Yunnan Province is on the southwest border of China, and features the splendid cultures of China’s ethnic minority groups, well-preserved ancient towns and villages, deep gorges, and karst mountains.
Visit ancient villages, learn about the lifestyle of the Tibetan people in Shangri-La, lose yourself in the Stone Forest near Kunming, and explore the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge near Lijiang. After the journey, you will marvel at the power of nature.
Guizhou, in the hinterland of southwest China, is a world-renowned destination for mountain tourism. You can have a minority adventure there.
It features centuries-old ethnic civilizations and high mountains. Guizhou hosts colorful ethnic festivals.
You can experience some of the lively festivals near Kaili, such as the Lusheng Festival in February, the Sister’s Meal Festival in April, the Dragon Canoe Festival in June and the Miao people’s New Year in October. People in the ethnic villages are good at singing and dancing. You can join them.
Alternatively, you can hike on Fanjing Mountain in Tongren and learn about traditional Chinese paper-making skills and silver-ornament-making skills in Kaili. After watching how it is done, you can have a go yourself.
Anhui is in the east of China, home to the Yellow Mountains, with Jiangsu and Zhejiang further east.
Go to Bishan in Huangshan city to see how villagers used their creativity to transform dilapidated houses into an artistic utopia, where you can enjoy the tranquility of ancient countryside life and simultaneously feel the atmosphere of modern art.
Visit a traditional Hui-style rural residence with white walls and black tiles. Go to an organic farm and pick vegetables on the farm, as local farmers do. Enjoy local cuisine cooked by a local family and learn some Hui-style cooking.
Jiangsu is on the east coast of China and is one of the most economically active provinces in China. The countryside of such eastern coastal provinces is rich and hosts its own special rural lifestyle.
Suzhou, near Shanghai, is the capital of Jiangsu. Water towns are typical of the local countryside. Fishermen row boats under stone bridges across the river, women wash clothes on the banks, the smell of freshly baked steamed buns wafts through the morning air, and smoke curls up from chimneys at dusk.
Visit Tongli water town , hailed as the Venice of China. Take a small boat along the canal to see the old town. Walk around to explore the nooks and crannies, and visit some interesting shops.
Zhejiang is on the east coast, bordering Shanghai. Its capital city is Hangzhou.
Tea plantations are the biggest highlight of the countryside in Hangzhou, with large longjing (dragon-well) tea plantations. Tea farmers pick tea, stir-fry it, and dry it. They make a good living.
Visit Meijawu tea plantation and become a tea farmer for a day. Learn about the whole process of making tea from the leaves in a plantation. Learn how to pick tea leaves and how to stir-fry tea. Watch a traditional tea performance. Altogether, it should be a wonderful experience.
Tibet is a place of mystery, tranquility and rich national heritage. It’s a place for slowing down and seeping up the natural charm all around.
Tibet is still overflowing with rich Tibetan culture, characteristic Tibetan fortifications, vast grasslands, herds of cattle and sheep, blue skies, clear water and fresh air. There are many villages scattered among mountains, lakes and grasslands.
You can take a stroll around Yamdrok Lake, breathing the fresh air and enjoying a lakeside picnic. Go to Mt. Everest Base Camp, visit Rongbuk Monastery near the base, and observe the hard lives of the monks and nuns there.
Hunan is in central China, adjacent to Guizhou in the west and Guangxi in the south. The rural west of Hunan is full of strong folk characteristics and untouched landscapes.
Zhangjiajie and Fenghuang ancient city give a good taste of Hunan’s countryside .
In Zhangjiajie National Forest Park you can appreciate towering karst mountains. You can stroll round Fenghuang ancient town and visit some interesting shops, learning about Miao people’s costumes and special stilted buildings in western Hunan.
Fujian Province is in the southeastern coastal area, bordering Guangdong Province to the south.
Visiting the rural region of Fujian is a good opportunity to experience Hakka culture. Fujian Tulou, built with clay and sandy soil, is representative of the Hakka. It is a round, fort-like building, a typical residence for Hakka people in the countryside.
Jiangxi Province is in southeast China, on the south bank of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, bordering Guangdong in the south.
Located in the northwest of Jiangxi, Wuyuan County is home to ancient villages and original pastoral scenery, and is reputed to be one of China's most beautiful counties.
In spring, golden rape flowers and green wheat seedlings cover the terraced fields, with rare beauty that attracts many photographers. The best months for photography are March and April.
In China, tourism in the countryside is not as developed as in the cities. When you decide to visit rural areas, you should:
Most of the countryside can only be reached by private transport. The diet is relatively simple, with only local dishes available. There are no hotels, only the possibility of staying in local homes.
Toilets will almost certainly be of the squat variety. Most people in the rural areas speak their own local dialect. Mandarin sometimes doesn’t work.
On the other hand, all these challenges create an impressive experience, an opportunity to get close to local culture.
Many rural areas in China have some old customs and superstitions. Ethnic minorities also have their own distinct customs. Before going, you should get to know local customs. For example, don't touch a Tibetan on the head; step across the threshold of a house, instead of stepping on it; etc...
Read more on Chinese Etiquette — Do's and Don'ts in China.
A private tour can simplify your rural tour. We will arrange your transport, along with a local English-speaking guide to escort you during your journey. He/she will be able to speak the local dialect, tell you what you can and cannot do, and take you to the best locations for seeing the scenery.
You will be able to participate in a variety of activities to experience authentic local customs.
Just tell us your interests and needs to tailor-make your unique tour. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or want to ask for recommendations. Our travel consultant will reply as soon as possible.