Three Off the Beaten Path Places in China

China is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Its home to a rich culture, a few millennia of history, great food, significant historical sites, and over 1.3 billion people. Most tourists head for the obvious tourist attractions – the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Warriors, the Shaolin Temple, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square. While they are all amazing (and amazingly crowded), there is much more to China than these crowded tourist sites.

China has amazing areas of beauty that are great to escape to, even if the road leading to them isn’t as beaten down by throngs of tourists. These three places will help enjoy the historical and natural wonders China without the Disney World crowds:

The Longmen Caves
Buddha Teahouse at the longmen caves
The Longmen Cave has an extensive collection of Buddhas near Luoyang. Though still popular, there is more breathing room and more natural scenery here than in other tourist areas of China. Thousands of Buddhas, from neck-craning enormous statues to thumbnail-size ones, are carved into cliffs along the Yi River. From a distance, the cliff looks like a honey comb network. On the opposite side of the river from the giant Buddhas lies a romantic tea house tucked away in the woods, alongside a stream to offer weary travelers a rest. The site is very cheap at 40 RMB.

Don’t Miss the Xi’an City Wall
Xian City Wall
The oldest and most well-kept city wall in China is in Xi’an, a modern city with a lively and chaotic nightly carnival. The red-lantern-lined wall overlooks traditional Chinese buildings, with towers every 100 or so meters, and makes you feel like you are truly in China and not a whitewashed tourist attraction. Start your bike ride before sunset and you’ll be able to ride when the lights along the wall and the lanterns light up to guide your way in the dark.

Song Mountain
Song Mountain in China
Fans of the movie Kung Fu will know the Shaolin Temple well. Sadly, nearly the entire original temple has been destroyed and you share this faux-site with hordes of tourists. However, nearby and included in the Shaolin admission ticket, is one of China’s holy mountains – Song Mountain. To reach the mountain, you must take a 60 RMB lift, which offers a nice view of the surrounding landscape. Once on the mountain, you can walk around cliffs where stacked rocks look like dominoes about to collapse over each other. You can get excellent views of the cloud-covered mountains that look out to the jungle. And the best part? It’s an easy hike, leaving you with no excuses not to explore.

Don’t fall into the trap of only seeing the “must-see” sites in China. In such an old and large country, the secondary sites can give you the same feel of China’s amazing history and natural beauty without the crowds, noise, trash, and lines. You’ll have a better and more relaxed experience.

Laura Ksyer is a teacher in China. For more about living, teaching, and touring China, check out Laura’s China Blog.

  1. There are many more beautiful, hidden treasures in China. I would name them, but then I would be sharing the scenic treasures with many more Laowei’s.

    That being said, I agree, get out of the cities and into the countryside. If you don’t know the language take a translator or book. The Chinese are extremely friendly and curious.

  2. NomadicMatt

    I’m sure there are more than just three but our guest author has just named those three!! any other recommendations?

  3. Stevo | Expatrialogues

    A great list. There are too many beautiful out-of-the-way places in China to list. Get out there, explore, have fun.

  4. Alas, I would love to tell you my pics but want to get there before you…

    I will give you a nibble.

    That being said, for something old different, Ling Canal and Xingan. The canal apparently is as old as the Great Wall over 2000 years, though small in todays standard, it was a feat back then.. If you want a canal town, go to Xitang. It’s similar to Suzhou without the westerners.

  5. Coming from Singapore, I’ve never actually visited China (not even Hongkong). Don’t ask me why but it just never strike me that I should do so though its a pretty popular destination for my parents’ generation.

    Though I cannot be certain, I understand that the Chinese don’t exactly treat Chinese based overseas very well.

    Those pictures look fantastic, especially the one on Song San.

  6. Thanks for reminding us that there are SO many more places to visit in this HUGE country than the regular tourist attractions. It’s so important, no matter what country you’re traveling in, to get off the beaten path, meet the locals and experience the region without your nose being stuck in a guidebook.

  7. I don’t really see how Xi’an’s city wall is an ‘off the beaten place [track]’? Xi’an is home to the terracotta warriors and the wall is pretty much the second attraction to a city visited by hundreds (if not thousands) of tourists a day (and rightly so).

    In fact, I’m tempted to say the same of the other two but as I didn’t visit them so I’m keeping shtum. Doesn’t Song have steps all the way to the top, therefore of you really are off the beaten place/track!

    For me, an off the beaten place is the southern region of Xishuangbanna in the Yunnan Province. A remarkable collage of Chinese tribal people, upholding beliefs and traditions in some of the most amazing scenery on offer in Asia.

  8. Zuo ai

    @ Tina and Christy (the first two posters): Both of you, your horribly shit attempt at Chinese makes my Chinese inner child want to cry, please stop, you two have obviously overestimated yourselves…and in pinyin no less. That shit is fucking clownshoes, you couldn’t even spell the fucking pinyin right, for the sake of god, allah, or whatever for pity’s fucking sake, STFU and never attempt that shit again.

  9. Zuo ai

    @ my first post, I realize it was Greg who should commit ritual suicide and not Christy, but Tina, you still suck. Also, these recommendations are shit, they stink, how taste my big peepee?

  10. You know the forbidden is incredible as well, if only the Chinese government looked at artifacts as a priority. I think they would unocover one of the new wonders of the world. China is a whole country that is undiscovered, the 3 gorgeous damn is going to provide even more sightseeing too

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