As one of the world’s largest and oldest civilizations, it’s no surprise that China is filled with countless lesser-known gems and hidden attractions waiting to be discovered. This diverse country’s astounding man-made attractions are rivaled by its remarkable natural wonders. From singing sand dunes to some of the tallest statues on the planet, here are some of the most beautiful places in China that you need to see.

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#15 Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan China

Jiuzhaigou National Park is a network of valleys in China’s Sichuan Province. In the northern Shuzheng  Valley, the Nuorilang Waterfall cascades from the edge of a large tree-lined lake. The Zharu Monastery is a place of worship for the park’s Tibetan villages. In the south, Rize Valley’s mountains are covered with ancient forests. 

The main attraction of the National Park is it’s Five Coloured  Lake. Fallen trees are scattered on the bottom of the striking, multicolored Five Flower Lake. The beautiful body of water changes color throughout the day and year. The color is caused by a combination of algae and calcified rocks found at the bottom of the lake, as well as the reflection of the surrounding landscape. Autumn is the best time of year to visit the lake, when it takes on a rainbow of different hues.

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#14 Zhangye Danxia Landforms, Gansu, China

Nicknamed the ‘Rainbow Mountains’ of Danxia, this incredible landscape is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In this section of the Gobi Desert, the folding of layered oceanic crust created exposed rock layers of different colors and textures. Their unusual shapes, which resemble strange cones and towers, evolved over centuries of exposure to wind and rain and the colorful sedimentation layers add to the unique striped patterns.

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#13 Guanyin Statue, Hainan,  China

Nicknamed the ‘Rainbow Mountains’ of Danxia, this incredible landscape is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In this section of the Gobi Desert, the folding of layered oceanic crust created exposed rock layers of different colors and textures. Their unusual shapes, which resemble strange cones and towers, evolved over centuries of exposure to wind and rain and the colorful sedimentation layers add to the unique striped patterns.

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#12 Dongchuan Red Land,  Yunnan, China

Dongchuan Red Land is a new tourist destination near Kunming, loved by photographers and backpackers, and praised as "God's palette". These red lands, extending for nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles), are the most striking and distinctive in the world. The region’s subtropical climate causes iron to oxidize and deposit in the soil, which gives it a deep red color. The red soil color is emphasized by the other colors of the surrounding landscape, contrasting against green barley, golden buckwheat, white oil flowers, and the blue sky. Often described as a ‘palette’ of colors, the area is best visited from either May to June or September to November, when various crops are ripe and the colors are most distinct.

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#11 St. Sophia’s Catherdral, Harbin,  China

St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Harbin is the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the Far East. It was built by Russian expats in 1907, managing to survive the Cultural Revolution that saw most of the city’s other Orthodox churches destroyed. In November, 1996, it was listed as one of the Key Cultural Relics under State Protection. Half a year later, the city government repaired it and renamed it as Harbin Art Gallery. It is a respectable landmark for Harbiners and for tourism.

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#10 Yuanyang Rice Terraces, Yunnan, China

These Terraces have been dug into the rolling landscape of the southern Ailao Mountains by the Hani people over many centuries. Covering more than 12,500 hectares, these shallow-sloped terraces reach height of up to 6500 feet above sea level. Depending on the season, the terraces are a masterpiece of richly green or filled with water which reflects the colors and cloud shapes of the sky. Adding to the beauty of the terraces are the fascinating Hani people who farm the lands and still largely live according to the traditions of their ancestors.

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#9 Echoing Sand Mountain and Crescent Lake, Gansu, China

Have you ever heard of a mountain that echoes to the sound of sand as you slide down its slopes? Can you image a perennially limpid lake in an area of desert sand? Here in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, you will have the chance to enjoy the wonderful spectacle of the Echoing-Sand Mountain.

The Echoing Sand Mountain is a series of sand dunes located along the Silk Road, in the Gobi Desert in northwest China. Aside from their interesting shapes, the dunes are known for the haunting echoing sound they produce when strong winds blow over the sands. . On days when a strong wind blows, the fast shifting sand roars; but when the wind is little more than a light breeze, the sand produces gentle, dulcet sounds akin to music. It is the same when you are sliding down the mountainside. At first, the sand under your feet just whispers; but the further you slide, the louder the sound until it reaches a crescendo like thunder or a drum beat. Some say that the sand is singing, while to others it is like an echo and this is how the mountain gets its name.

The dunes surround Crescent Lake, a half-mooned shaped lake that offers a pleasing contrast to the sand with the gardens blooming on its shores.

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#8 Yungang Grottoes, Shanxi, China

The Yungang Grottoes are located in the south of Wuzhou Mountain on the north bank of Ten-Mile River. They are about 16 kilometers to the southwest of Datong in Shanxi Province. Being one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Yungang Grottoes is said to be the best preserved Buddhist cave art in China with 53 caves containing over 51,000 stone carvings of Buddha and Buddhist dating from the 5th and 6th centuries. It is one of the four most famous ancient grottoes artistic treasures of China. The other three are Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang and Maiji Mountain Grottoes in Tianshui. On December 14, 2001, Yungang Grottoes was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

The site is an important Buddhist landmark, reflecting numerous different styles of Buddhist art. The tallest sculpture is 55 feet high, while the two smallest are only a few inches. Five Buddhas sculpted based on five Wei dynasty emperors can be found in grottoes 16 to 20, which are considered to be the most well-preserved caves.

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#7 Yalong Bay, Hainan

Yalong Bay offers one of China’s most beautiful beaches, a 5-mile stretch of lovely white sands dotted with swaying palm trees. Set along Hainan’s southern coast, the beach is lined with resorts ranging from locally-run two-star inns to luxury international hotel chains. This gorgeous tropical destination is also an excellent spot for enjoying water sports, such as snorkeling, diving, and jet-skiing. The scenery is amazing, with endless rolling hills, serene gulfs, clear blue sea and silvery sand beaches--three times as long as any in Hawaii. Home to several well-preserved coral reefs with tropical fish of varied kinds, colors and shapes, the ocean here is crystal clear.

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#6  Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan, China

Not far from the city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, sits the Leshan Giant Buddha statue. Carved into the side of Mt. Lingyun, the colossal statue is over 1,300-years-old and is considered to be the largest stone Buddha in the world, and by far the tallest pre-modern statue. The statue’s big toes are 28 feet long, and his ears are 23 feet each on its own! The site attracts millions of people every year, including Buddhist pilgrims, making it something of a sacred destination and an ancient wonder of the world.

The statue was carved into a cliff face overlooking the confluence of three turbulent rivers. The project was started by a monk who wanted to calm the rivers’ dangerous currents, and it took more than 90 years to complete.

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#5 Thousand Island Lake (Qian Dao), Zhejiang

Qian Dao Lake, also known as Thousand  Islets Lake, is a man-made lake developed in the 1950s after the completion of the Xin’an River hydroelectric station. Villages, plains and hills were evacuated and flooded, unintentionally creating a dream-like landscape of more than 1,000 tiny islands. Many of these islands have since been developed for tourism, with some featuring themes and offering activities ranging from water skiing to mountain climbing. There is also secret water town under the lake! More can be read about this mysterious under water town in our previous articleGIC: Strange Unresolved MYSTERIES Found in China! (REDIRECT THIS TO OUR PREVIOUS ARTICLE LINK MYSTERIES IN CHINA – THANK YOU!)

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#4 Hongcun Ancient River,  Anhui, China

The Hongcun Ancient Village is a striking traditional village with a history that stretches back more than 1,000 years. With the crescent-shaped Moon Pond at its center, the village is a picturesque expanse of narrow lanes, old-fashioned clan halls, graceful bridges, and serene lakeside views. This charming scene is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Huangshan Mountain Range. Home to more than 140 ancient houses, the village is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

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#3 Qinghai Lake, Qinghai, China

Qinghai Lake is the largest lake in China. Located in northwest China, this beautiful blue lake draws visitors in June and July when flocks of migratory birds can be seen flitting around Bird Island, which is found on the lake’s western shore. The pristine wilderness area around the lake is a popular spot for hiking, camping, and cycling. The scenery is a gorgeous mix of rolling green hills and lush farmlands dotted with sheep.

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#2 Yangshuo, Guangxi, China

Looking straight out of a fairy tale, Yangshuo is a scenic riverside town in southern China, and a haven for adventure travelers. The area is an excellent spot for rock climbing, hiking, caving, and biking. Although the town itself is relatively touristy, the surrounding countryside is tranquil and beautiful, with bamboo boats floating along the river, and farmers working in fertile fields bordered by towering karst peaks. Some of the most beautiful sceneries can be found through a simple bike ride outside town, in Guangxi.

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#1 Larung Gar - Tibet


This destination deserves an article of its own! However we have done our very best to summarise the key elements of what makes this number 1 on our list. Larung Gar is not among the most popular destinations in China and there are still few English information about it on Internet, but this doesn’t mean it is unknown.

An eye opening travel destination given the uniform red houses, the place is situated in a remote area of western Sichuan at 4200 metres above sea level and supposedly to be home to more than 40k people. More specifically, Larung Gar is situated in Serthar County (Sèdá), in Garze Tibetan  Autonomous Prefecture and it is the largest Tibetan Buddhist school in the world. A separate visa is also not needed to enter this city, a Chinese permit would be sufficient to travel in and out.

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Accommodation is available in hotels situated on top of the hill. It is divided into two sections and has a buffet every day at lunch and dinner time (CNY 20 per person – eat as much as you want). The position is perfect, near one of the viewpoint and near a monastery.

Walking through the city is comparable to walking through a maze. It is a mystery how monks and nuns are able to find their houses. The houses are packed so close together where it would nearly look stacked – one on top of the other, giving the city a quaint feel, especially with its perfect symmetry.

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The temples, Buddhist schools and training centres are located right in the middle of the city, which is surrounded by a spectacle of houses which burst with colour. Easily Larung Gar can be labelled as one of the most surreal yet beautiful destinations in China. You will be guaranteed to meet kind locals, understand nirvana and appreciate the beauty that lies in simplicity.

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A word of caution: Because of the high elevation of Larung Gar (~ 4200ft– 5000ft higher than Lhasa) it is recommended that you take a couple of acclimatization days before arriving. AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is no joke and it is quite common above 2700ft. The only way to stop it is by descending. Many people experience only minor symptoms, but it’s certainly best to avoid shocking your system by rising in altitude gradually. These are some of the signs that indicate AMS:

 -  Lack of appetite

 -  Nausea or vomiting

 -  Fatigue or weakness

 -  Headaches

 -  Shortness of breath

 -  Swelling of hands, feet, and face

In addition to ascent gradually, another thing that you can do to prevent altitude sickness is to take the “Rhodiola Rosea” (hong jing tian 红景天 , pictures below). Rhodiola is a herb used for increasing energy, strength and help the body resist environmental stress. You can start to take it from 2-3 days before traveling to Larung Gar twice a day in the morning and in the evening until you leave the place. It is found in any pharmacy in Chengdu (we found it in Kangding as well) and totally recommended. Once in Larung Gar, make also sure you drink a lot of water to hydrate your body properly.

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A totally worthy experience regardless!

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Have you visited any of these gorgeous places in China? Have you seen any other places in China which we can add to our list? Please leave your comments below!


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