Updated: May 9th 2019
In the lead up to summer, many of us dream of escaping our daily routines and capitalizing on the sunshine, fresh air, and great outdoors. Filled to the brim with exciting adventures and immense landscapes, China is a treasure trove of summery expeditions just begging to be explored. From following Silk Road traders to cooling off at higher climates, here are our top five picks for a Chinese summer getaway.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Nestled amongst snow-capped mountains and freshwater streams is the ancient town of Lijiang, stopping off point to the famed Tiger Leaping Gorge (or Hu Tiao Xia 虎跳峡, for the linguists among us). Explore this dramatic valley of steep cliffs and turquoise waters by foot as you hike the well-trod route that runs along the gorge and riverside. With summer on its way, the gorge will be teeming with life and the surrounding foliage bursting with green. Perched at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, the altitude of this destination means that temperatures remain cool throughout summer – perfect for some outdoor activity! There are a range of hiking distances to suit all abilities, as well as a number of Naxi Yi and Hui ethnic minority villages dotted throughout the mountains.
Best for: Hiking, views, and ethnic minority culture
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Summer is the perfect time to travel to the “roof of the world” when the temperature is warm to cool. Hikers will rejoice as even the high-altitude mountain passes of the Himalayas will be snow-free.
Local Tibetans use this warmer season to hold vibrant outdoor markets where you can collect spiritual wares to take back home with you. Likewise, the lushly green grasslands become the site for many festivals and sports contests. The brave among you can saddle up to the Nagqu Horse Racing Festival where you’re sure to see dazzling feats of men with their humble steeds.
Best for: Buddhist culture, festivals, and high-altitude treks
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Situated in the southwest of China, Guizhou is a verdant province boasting outdoor adventures and intimate encounters with ethnic minority groups. With average summer temperatures on the cooler side, Guizhou’s lush natural foliage and vibrant local people make the province a great bet for summer travel.
Set upon a backdrop of dramatic karst peaks, this destination is a haven for adrenaline junkies with opportunities for extreme rock climbing, river rafting, and cliff and waterfall jumps (the Huangguoshu waterfall is a definite must-see). The national liquor of China, Maotai Liquor, also hails from Guizhou, making it the perfect tipple (or two) to end a day of adrenaline-fueled activity.
Best for: Karst landscapes and outdoor activities
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Xinjiang can offer the best of both worlds. Spend time walking in the footsteps of ancient traders as you journey along the Silk Road, stopping at some of the most exotic cities in China such as Kashgar and Urumqi. Muslim culture permeates throughout the region, from specialty dishes to authentic Islamic architecture, making Xinjiang both a vibrant and fascinating destination for foodies and culture-vultures alike. As you’d expect, summer temperatures can soar in Xinjiang, but we have a solution.
Having absorbed the best of Silk Road culture, venture north to the province’s unfathomable alpine landscapes. At a much higher altitude, northern Xinjiang boasts stunning ‘Alps-esque’ views at a much more comfortable temperature than the south. Home to a number of spectacular lakes – of which Kanas Lake reigns supreme – there is a whole range of hikes and activities to enjoy as you venture further north. An overnight stay in an authentic yurt is sure to be the icing on the cake of your Xinjiang experience.
Best for: diversity, ancient culture, and cooler alpine landscapes
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Evoking powerful imagery of an earthly paradise, the fabled ‘Shangri-La’ has been pinpointed to an area of grassy valleys found in Yunnan province. Stradling the southeastern tip of the Tibetan Plateau, the region is dotted with humble villages offering warm hospitality and a healthy dose of spiritual discovery. The mystic ‘Shangri-La’ is characterized by a slow and appreciative way of life and is in stark contrast to our hectic everyday norms. With a number of practicing monasteries carved into the mountainside, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about the culture and customs of Tibetan Buddhism and cross paths with shamans and monks. With average temperatures peaking at 16.5 degrees Celsius/62 degrees Fahrenheit in July, summer marks the perfect occasion to visit this naturally beautiful and deeply spiritual land.
Best for: Spiritual discovery, cultural exploration, and stunning views (of course)
Summer is a great time to visit China – the thriving nature and warm weather provide an ideal scenic backdrop to your Middle Kingdom adventure. With experienced travel designers, we can advise your itinerary to make sure it’s the perfect fit for the perfect time of year.