China / Travel

Off the Beaten Path Travel in China

China can be a bit overwhelming when you start diving into where to spend your holidays, there’s just so much choice. It’s a massive country with so many options, but often it’s harder to find those off the beaten path travel options.

Sure, we all want to go to The Great Wall (although two and a half years of living in China and I never got round to going…!) Xian and the Terracotta Warriors, and see the pandas in Chengdu. But there is so much more to see and tick off that ever growing bucket list!

1) Guizhou Province

Not all our off the beaten path locations in China will be whole provinces, but Guizhou is a special exception. Known as the ‘Switzerland of China’, this landlocked province in South West China, with beautiful mountains and lakes, a refreshing climate, and people speaking in different languages in different regions… it sound a bit like Switzerland!

off the beaten path travel
Photo by Tanya of Looking for Dongxi

Some of you may have heard about the famous Huangguoshu waterfall in Guizhou, the largest waterfall in the whole of Asia. A quick google search will show you just how beautiful it really is, but it is also crowded with bus loads of tourists. For our off the beaten path travel in Guizhou province, we recommend the villages of Matang, Langde and Zhouxi.

Matang village is home of the subgroup ethnic minority of the Miao people, called the Gejia. It is a village famous for the beautiful, handmade wax batik pieces.

off the beaten path travel
Photo by Tanya of Looking for Dongxi
off the beaten path travel
Photo by Tanya of Looking for Dongxi

Langde is a very picturesque village with well-maintained, traditional Diaoujiaolou houses (wooden houses set on stilts). It is a fantastic starting point to hike along the river and out into the rice fields.

Zhouxi is the most relaxing of all the villages, and definitely recieves less tourists. It is famous for indigo dyeing, and you can see women rolling out their lengths of material to dry by the river. This is the perfect off the beaten path travel option in China!

2) Huanglong National Scenic Reserve

A UNESCO world heritage site, Huanglong is located north west of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, and is known for its colourful lakes, snow clad mountains, valleys and forest. You may be more familiar with the nearby, and more famous Jiuzhaigou National Park, but Huanglong offers a rather special treat to visitors – their famous fairy pools.

hot springs

3) Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province

Known as the Porcelain Capital of the World, Jingdezhen in north eastern Jiangxi province is the home of China’s beloved blue and while porcelain. Watch skilled craftsmen sculpt, paint, and fire delicate porcelain wares once fit only for emperors. Then, hike into the mountains that once provided the precious clay for the workshops, and visit Tao Xi Chuan District where contemporary ceramics students display their latest creations.


4) Wuyuan, Jiangxi Province

Staying within Jiangxi province is the stunning Wuyuan scenic area, and most importantly, the amazing Wuyuan Skywells hotel. The 300 year old, restored Chinese mansion is the prefect location to explore the approximately 50 ancient villages still in use today dotted around the scenic area.

If you want to step back in time, this is the place to be. Take a hike through meadows, rice paddies, forests and ancient villages. The locals will carry on with their busy days, walking their ox, washing their clothes in the river, or chatting away in little circles. There are also waterfalls that allow wild swimming, as well as endless cycling and hiking routes. And it’s only two hours away from our York English HQ of Fuzhou!

To enjoy the beautiful countryside and the peace and quiet, avoid visiting during March/April. This is when the famous flowers come into bloom, and the tourists descend!

You can check out our full blog post on Wuyuan, as well as our York English special offer for Wuyuan Skywells, here.

5) The Karakoram Highway, Xinjiang

While not getting into the politics of whether this is China or not….the Karakoram Highway is definitely the most amazing road trip I have ever personally been on. Traveling from the ancient Xinjiang city of Kashgar, all the way to the border town of Tashkurgen, the natural beauty and the cultural difference of this region is so special.

The whole trip takes a day, with a stop at the jaw droopingly beautiful Karakul lake, well as lunch with local Kazakh people, who spend their summers in the region. You can even ride their horses there!

karakoram highway
Lunch time spot. Photo by Cassie Widders

The difficulties in the region mean traveling the Karakoram Highway requires a permit and a guide. We recommend Old Road Tours. They made the process simple and enjoyable!

6) Kashgar, Xinjiang

We couldn’t visit Xinjiang without mentioning the wonder that is Kashgar. The city has a history of over 2000 years and was once a stop on the Silk Road.

off the beaten path travel
Kashgar Old Town. Photo by Cassie Widders

Kashgar is predominantly populated by Muslim Uyghurs, and the architecture and food of the region is more Central Asian than Chinese. Visit Kashgar old town with its beautiful terracotta buildings, or the lively Sunday livestock market, where farmers meet to trade and sell their animals.

Kashgar Old Town. Photo by Cassie Widders
off the beaten path travel
Kashgar night market. Photo by Cassie Widders

7) Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture

If you want a taste of South East Asia, without leaving China AND avoiding the SE Asia tourists, look no further than Xishuangbanna. Located in China’s southwestern Yunnan province, it shares a border with Myanmar and Laos.  It’s known for Dai culture, distinctive temples and tropical rainforests, as well as it’s tea!

off the beaten path travel
Photo by Wang Xi

According to history, the first tea trees in Xishuangbanna were planted by the Dai people some 1,700 years ago. The ancient tea planters have since grown, picked and manufactured the prized pu’erh tea in the historical “Six Famous Tea Mountains” region.

8) Qinghai-Tibet Railway

This is the world’s highest altitude railway at 4,000 meters above sea level. Connecting China with Tibet, this near 2,000 kilometre stretch of rail covers some of the most visually stunning landscapes.


This phenomenal railway goes through mountains, across rivers, passing by blue lakes, green oasis’ and prairie land.  As with the Karakoram Highway, you will need to arrange a Tibet tour ahead of your trip, as independent travelers are not permitted inside Tibet.

off the beaten path travel
Final destinations – Lhasa.

If there is anywhere you have travelled to in China that you consider to be off the beaten path travel in China, let us know in the comments!

off the beaten path travel

1 Comment

  • bai cai
    November 28, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    After the completion of Xiangan Tunnel, many undersea tunnel constructions were successively carried out in China, including the completed Jiaozhou Bay Tunnel, and another two tunnels under feasibility study, Bohai Strait Tunnel and Qiongzhou Strait Tunnel.

    Completed projects

    Jiaozhou Bay Undersea Tunnel, also known as the Jiaozhou Bay Tunnel, is China’s longest undersea tunnel of 7,800 meters with 3,850 meters onshore and 3,9 50 meters offshore. The tunnelis located at the mouth of Jiaozhou Bay, connecting Qingdao and Huangdao with six bi-directional driveways.

    The Jiaozhou Bay Tunnel construction in Qingdao started on December 27,2006 and officially opened to traffic on June 30,2011. After the opening, Qingdao citizens could reach Huangdao in only 6 minutes. This tunnel helped to realize the “urban integration”between the eastern and western coast of Qingdao, to end the era of people only relying on ferries to travel across Jiaozhou Bay, and to achieve a half hour economic circle between both sides.

    Projects to be constructed

    Xiamen Second West Passage Tunnel. After completing the east passage(Xiangan Tunnel), Xiamen is considering constructing the second west passage(Haicang Tunnel following the first west passage, Haicang Bridge). Currently, the project proposal has been submitted to National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) for approval, and the start date of the main work is still unknown.

    Xiazhang Tunnel. It would be the third undersea tunnel in Xiamen, connecting Xiamen Island and Zhangzhou Development Zone. After completion, it would take only 10 minutes to drive from Xiamen to Longhai of Zhangzhou, and the most direct beneficiary then would be Zhangzhou Campus of Xiamen University, as well as a series of large-scale real estate projects nearby. The first artificial ecological island “Double Fish Island”approved by the Chinese State Council could also get some profits from this.

    Bohai Strait Tunnel. The scheme for this tunnel was finally determined at the end of 2013. This tunnel is designed to be 123 km connecting Dalian of Liaoning and Yantai of Shandong. This spanwould make it the world’s longest undersea tunnel, largely exceeding the Seikan Tunnel in Japan (about 54 km), and the Channel Tunnel(about 51 km). While the straight-line distance between Dalian and Yantai is only 170 km, it takes 6.5-8 hours to cross by ship. Worse than that is the fact that every year this area for one month this area is unnavigable due to storms. After this all-weather Bohai Strait Tunnel opens to traffic,2 hours will be the maximum time to cross. Insiders assume that if the daily traffic is 30,000 vehicles, and each one saves 500 km of journey, as much as one million tons of oil could be saved each year, equivalent to a whole year’s crude output of a medium-sized oil field.

    Qiongzhou Strait Tunnel. The construction period of Qiongzhou Strait Tunnel is about eight years. It will be completed after 2020, with a total investment of over RMB 100 billion. Currently, relevant research reports have been finished. Once approved, Hainan’s economy will transfer from an”offshore economy”to a”peninsula economy”.

    Currently, relevant experts believe that Qiongzhou Strait is more suited to having a tunnel rather than a bridge. Both technology and environmental factors show the infeasibilities of a bridge.

    There are oil tankers crossing the strait every day, thus the bridge has to be over 70 meters high, which is not technically feasible. Even if the bridge is built in the narrowest part of the strait, it would be 18 km long. Considering the complicated geological conditions, it would be difficult for a bridge to resist super typhoons, super waves, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

    However, the benefits of a tunnel are all obvious. In addition to all-weather operation, the environment, economy, military and security will all get benefits from it.


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