These 10 inspiring parts of China are unknown to most travelers. There you'll find spectacular scenery, small towns, ethnic minority people, fascinating histories, and maybe even a better time than at the more reputed destinations.
1) Luoyang — 13 Dynasties' Capital
Luoyang was a major capital of ancient China where various dynasties built their capital. Luoyang is a hub of Chinese history and culture that many fail to rate because they don't know about it, and until recently travel was not very convenient. A newly-built bullet train line makes transportation there much more convenient.
Many of those who have gone consider it a "must see" location while in central China. There are giant carvings, some dating to about 500 AD, caves, and historic scenery around the river and the Longmen Grottoes. There are numerous archeological sites for all the various empires that came and went.
2) Longji near Guilin — Exotic and Scenic
Longji's ethnic villages and terraced mountains should be better rated. The key for enjoying Longji is that you have to walk some more to get out of the crowds... to the best places.
Many people rate Longji poorly because they've only been to crowded Ping'an Village and the Ping'an Terraced Fields. The lesser-known 'Big Mountain-Village' area (Dazhai) is better.
Dazhai is more beautiful, and you have to walk further to see it. The Yao ethnic culture is still strong. The women are known for not cutting their hair. More on Longji >>>
3) Jiuzhaigou — Incredible Valleys and Lakes
The 9-hour drive from Chengdu and even longer bus ride keeps many tourists away from Jiuzhaigou.
Altitude sickness is another big factor leading to underrating. Jiuzhaigou's gate is only at 2,000 meters (6,600 feet), but Huanglong's gate is at 3,200 meters (10,500 feet). Over 3,000 meters, most travelers feel uncomfortable, but acclimating for two days is well worth it.
There is a Tibetan valley town below Jiuzhaigou and valleys around Huanglong that are interesting for sightseeing, staying in little guesthouses, riding horses, and hiking. You can find some happy isolation in nature. See How to Plan a Jiuzhaigou Tour
4) Shangri-La — a Mountain Paradise
Shangri-la is underrated due to its remoteness and high elevation, like Jiuzhaigou. It is four hours from Lijiang, and the elevation is 3,200 meters or 10,500 feet. To appreciate Shangri-la, you'll need to rest for a couple of days so you can acclimate.
"The Chinese Alps": If you love mountain scenery, forests, hiking and Tibetan ethnic culture, Shangli-La has a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2018. There is a domestic airport outside the town for quick access.
5) Deqin — Tibetan Mountain Getaways
Deqin is another alpine Tibetan town about 6 hours on from Shangri-La on the G214. It is even higher up at 3,600 meters (11,700 feet) elevation. Again, the high altitude and remoteness keeps it underrated.
The wilderness and mountain scenery is excellent. There are hot springs, high mountain hiking paths and get-away cabins. The Meili Snow Mountains near Deqin are said to be the most beautiful high-altitude mountains in China. Feilai Temple is the most popular view point.
6) Shaxi near Dali — Ancient Tea Trade Town
Shaxi has been a market town on the Tea Horse Road since the time of the Nanzhao Empire (738–937). It is probably underrated because people tend to hurry past it on their way between Lijiang Ancient Town and Dali's Three Pagodas. Nevertheless, its scenic hiking, ancient sites, and ethnic backdrop are excellent and less touristy.
The Shaxi Market is internationally recognized and preserved by organizations such as the World Monument Watch List. It is the best preserved of the Tea Horse Trade Route towns.More on Shaxi;
7) The Dongchuan Red Lands
The Dongchuan Red Lands is a rising tourist destination near Kunming that is favored by photographers and backpackers. The remoteness is probably keeping tourists away. Dongchuan Red Land is about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Kunming.
These red lands, extending for nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles), are the most striking and distinctive of their kind in the world. When the farmers plant the area in different crops, there is a rainbow of vegetation colors against the red earth. See more about The Dongchuan Red Lands;
8) The Zhangye Rainbow Mountains
The remote Zhangye Rainbow Mountains are in Gansu Province near Xinjiang. The northern Silk Road went by it hundreds of years ago. Again, its the remoteness of Zhangye and also the lack of convenient transportation from Zhangye to the park that keeps tourist ratings low.
The scenery is spectacular. It is one of the amazing highlights of China that foreigners are learning about. It is reminiscent of the Painted Desert near the Grand Canyon in the US, but it is more colorful and beautiful. See more about The Zhangye Rainbow Mountains;
9) Turpan — Grape Valleys and Ancient Civilizations
Much of Turpan is stark desert land below sea level! Sporadic political troubles and rushed tours keep the region of Xinjiang underrated. It is also somewhat remote. But historical sites, colorful culture, and good scenery surround Turpan.
Turpan was a Silk Road frontier area of China's empires, and the ruins and ancient artwork of past eras mix with the present Uighur culture and their excellent food to make it a delightful destination. See more about Turpan;
10) Guangzhou — An Emerging Destination
There is nothing remote about this megacity. It has one of the world's best transportation systems with one of the world's biggest airports, and it is also a bullet train hub.
Guangzhou has been underrated due to it's old factory city reputation, lack of appreciation for its attractions, and relative lack of fame compared to e.g. Shanghai. As recently as 10 years ago, the city felt dingy and crowded, it was fairly smoggy, and there was a lack of exciting things to do.
But Guangzhou's been renovated, beautified, and modernized, and it is a lot less polluted. New tourist attractions have arisen such as Chimelong that is one of China's best amusement parks. For more on its tourism rise, see Guangzhou Travel Tips;
Discover China's Underrated Places with Us
As one of China's biggest national travel agencies, specializing in individualized bespoke tours, we can facilitate travel to all these destinations. If you are interested in touring China's underrated places, our sample tours will give you an idea of what is possible.
- Guilin, Longsheng, & Yangshuo Tour — a 7-day in-depth experience of minority culture and relaxation
- Xi'an to Urumqi Silk Road Adventure by China Oriental Express — a 10-day luxury train tour of Xi'an, Tianshui, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, Turpan and Urumqi.
You could just fill in a Create-My-Trip form with where you want to go, and we will send you a quote and proposed itinerary within 24 hours.