China is home to some of the most diverse landscapes on the planet. From dry deserts to pillar-like mountains, massive rivers to cascading rice terraces – our list of ‘must-sees’ is enough to fill a large notebook.
But with the diversity of natural landscapes and the vast size of the country, you might find it difficult to decide where to start. That’s why we’ve made this helpful guide to the provinces that offer some of the best natural landscapes in China. And what’s even better is that you can visit these destinations in true WildChina fashion – away from the crowds and with truly unique experiences.
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Best Natural Landscapes in China – Northern Xinjiang
Located in the northeast of China, much of Xinjiang is closer to Kazakhstan than Beijing. Northern Xinjiang is home to the other-worldly red sandstone formations commonly known as the ‘Flaming Mountains’. The erosion of the rocks has formed numerous gullies and trenches that make these mountains look like they are ablaze with fire. Add this to the fact that the mountains are the hottest spot in China (they can reach temperatures of 122 degrees Fahrenheit in summer) and it’s not surprising how they got their name.
The region’s prominent ethnic minority population, the Uighurs, believed that a dragon once inhabited this region and left his mark on the land. On our WildChina Northern Xinjiang journey, you’ll be taken far off the beaten path and into these landscapes with a trusted local guide. They’ll tell you all the fantastical stories that this spellbinding terrain has sparked.
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Best Natural Landscapes in China – Qinghai
Southeast of Xinjiang is Qinghai province – one of the largest and most environmentally diverse regions of China. The province’s name comes from Qinghai Lake, the largest of its kind in China. Here you can witness grazing yak, rolling hills, or even bird island – a large rock jutting like a single, rounded tooth from the water, welcoming dozens of birds to rest atop it.
Qinghai is also home to the recently named UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, Hoh Xil Natural Park. Hoh Xil is the largest and highest plateau in the world and the official home of the Tibetan Antelope. Hoh Xil has been making the rounds as one of the hottest new destinations in China, and you can be among the first foreign travelers to see it. On a WildChina journey, you can picnic inside the park and sit down for tea with a local nomadic family.
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Best Natural Landscapes in China – Tibet
The Tibet Autonomous Region is home to many breathtaking natural wonders. You can stand in awe at the magnitude of Mount Everest or stroll along the banks of holy Lake Yamdrok. After a Dalai Lama passes away, Tibetan monks journey to Yamdrok Lake to find the boy in whom the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama has gone to reside. Monks congregate on the lake’s shore to chant and pray. They throw khata, a ceremonial scarf that symbolizes purity, into the lake, and study its reflection to reveal the Dalai Lama’s reincarnated soul.
The beauty of Tibet might even inspire you to capture it in art, and we can arrange for you to do just that at a thangka painting workshop in Lhasa.
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Best Natural Landscapes in China – Gansu
Nestled between the high-altitude Tibetan and Loess plateaus, China’s Gansu Province has been making international headlines as one of Lonely Planet’s