Beautifully preserved village of Hongcun near Huangshan
China has so much to offer the curious traveler that there’s simply no way to visit everywhere in just one trip. Most first time visitors cover the ‘must-see’ sites of Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai and Guilin, but there’s so much more to discover and explore. Here we list our top places to visit on a second trip to China.
Our director Guy Rubin’s favorite destination in China is Huangshan – the Yellow Mountains. We recommend two days to enjoy the area fully – one day for exploring the mountain itself and one day for touring the picturesque villages that the area is also renowned for. Ascend the mountain top via a cable car, traversing the granite peaks and, depending on the weather, zipping in and out of swirls of mist. At the top one instantly appreciates the unique beauty of the mountain that has captivated artists and poets for centuries. Back down below, the beautiful villages around Huangshan offer a glimpse of a rural and somewhat idyllic China that is fast-disappearing. It’s hard not to fall for this area’s natural beauty and charming UNESCO heritage site villages.
Taking a relaxing gondola ride on West Lake
Only 2 hours from Shanghai and 3 hours from Huangshan is another China-highlight – the beautiful city of Hangzhou, which Marco Polo once proclaimed to be “by far the most glorious city in the world”. This city adjacent to the vast and serene West Lake is one in which to relax and explore Chinese culture and tradition. Enjoy a morning taichi lesson followed by a private gondola ride on West Lake to the accompaniment of your own private orchestra. The area surrounding Hangzhou is filled with Buddhist temples and peaceful tea plantations to explore during an afternoon. Hangzhou is also a great place to learn and appreciate the Chinese arts such as calligraphy or a tea ceremony.
Bronze masks at Sanxingdui
The city of Chengdu sometimes makes it on to people’s first time itinerary, and for good reason. Seeing and even holding pandas can be a highlight of your trip. There’s much more to Chengdu too – it’s a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city with great restaurants, shopping and nightlife and yet it still retains a very traditional character in its countless teahouses, temples and parks. Another nearby highlight is the archeological site of Sanxingdui, rivalling that of Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors in historical importance. Take an afternoon to explore the spell-binding collection of bronze and gold masks and other jade and ivory artifacts dating from the 12th to 11th centuries BC.
Spinning prayer wheels on the kora in Lhasa
If visiting Lhasa, Tibet we recommend a stay of 4 nights as there’s so much to see and this gives you time to acclimatize to the altitude. Most people therefore incorporate it into their second trip to China. The sights and atmosphere in Lhasa make it a truly special place to visit and another favorite of our director Guy Rubin. Visit the monasteries, temples and Potala Palace; witness the devotion of the pilgrims as you join them on the kora (pilgrimage); watch prayer flags fluttering in the wind against a backdrop of the mighty Himalayan peaks – it’s impossible not to be blown away by the splendor and raw beauty of Tibet.
To see a full itinerary incorporating Huangshan, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Lhasa click here. Other destinations we’d recommend exploring on a second visit to China are Lijiang, Shangri-La, Dunhuang and Pingyao / Datong. For advice on which destinations would suit you please contact us or one of our recommended travel agents.