Guizhou is China’s greenest and most beautiful province – Come discover the UNESCO-listed treasure often dubbed The Switzerland of China
Lonely Planet may call Guizhou ‘China’s secret province’ but if they’re giving it the Best In Travel for 2020 for nod, rest assured: the secret is out. This land of ethnic minorities, UNESCO-listed karst mountains and some of the largest cave systems on earth, not to mention jaw-dropping waterfalls is, in many ways, China’s most beautiful and among the most rewarding for foreigners to visit. It offers an impressive diversity in minority culture and wilderness so startling, it blows first-time visitors away. All this, in a province that’s compact and boasting world-class infrastructure, making extensive travel very easy. You can simply see, do and experience more in a few days in Guizhou than in many other, much larger and congested provinces, and that’s a tremendous benefit when visiting such a humongous country.
For those who’ve been to China before and appreciate the fact the country is drenched in 3,000 years of fascinating history and has so many natural wonders to discover, seeking authentic travel experiences is a must. In this case, Guizhou delivers, in oversized spades. Plus, it has the added bonus of being almost completely unknown to the outside world so it offers that added anonymity that makes travel off-the-tourist-trail so incredibly enticing. It makes us feel as if we’re the first to discover a magical new place.
Where is Guizhou?
The Guizhou Province is in China’s southwest, nestled between Yunnan and Hunan on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. The capital city is Guiyang, a surprisingly lush and unpolluted metropolis that’s consistently rated China’s #1 summer holiday destination. The beautiful city sits snuggly amongst karst peaks in the Yunnan-Guizhou highlands at an altitude of 1,100m (hence the very pleasant summer temps) and is located in the heart of the province which is simply genius for travelling around. Two main roads head east-west; two north-south. You’re and out in a jiffy, can take loads of day trips and can easily concoct a loop itinerary through the province.
What’s Guizhou like?
The province ranks among the poorest in China which, in actual traveller terms, means it’s among the least industrialised and commercialised. For visitors, it spells amazing news. This is what makes Guizhou such a haven in summer: the kind of polluted air found in larger and more industrialised cities is simply not there and, in place of a million high-rises and grey horizons are an abundance of parks and green spaces, all framed by stupendously fertile peaks. Locals (both people and government) are proud of their green province and very active in environmental initiatives. Guizhou is China’s ‘greenest corridor’, considered a beacon of environmental awareness not just locally but globally, too. The rural landscapes are all the more appealing to those who’ve visited the most famous and touristed sites and now wish to get to know the country’s other sides.
What are Guizhou’s top highlights?
Here are Guizhou’s hot-spots you don’t want to miss:
Qingyan Ancient Town, Guiyang – The Guizhou Province boasts four Ancient Towns, one of which is just south of the capital. It’s a wonderful excuse to stay in the city for a couple of days before starting your ‘big’ tour: the city and its surrounding areas are really worth exploring. Qingyan is lovely to explore on foot for a couple of hours, with only one main drag full of specialty food and craft shops. The traditional architecture and history of this 14th-century treasure are fascinating so take a local guide to get the most out of your visit. They can also teach you the local bargaining tricks when shopping for wares.
Zhenyuan Ancient Town, Guiyang – This ancient town is a little further from Guying but it’s still possible to visit leisurely in a day. Zhenyuan is a Miao ethnic village and was a prominent hub during the Ming Dynasty. Although small, it boasts a lot of historical and cultural delights and is arguably more beautiful to explore than Qingyan (if you must choose, visit this one). Consider staying overnight.
Huangguoshu Waterfall – One of 18 spectacular waterfalls within the boundaries of its namesake national park, Huangguoshu is the largest cascade in China and certainly ranks among the world’s most impressive. It spans over 80 metres across and drops almost 70 metres below. A sensational walking path takes you into the cave behind the fall, making this a truly startling attraction as you can experience the fall from every which way. Just to prove the point of ease of travel here: you can easily visit this waterfall on a day-trip from the capital as well.
Shuanghedong Cave, Suiyang – Asia’s longest cave system (and the 6th-longest in the world) has attracted international cavers for years, only having its impressive creds confirmed earlier this year. Stretching for 200km and boasting eight major caverns and nearly 200 distinct entrances, Shuanghedong is an absolutely mind-blowing treasure. Although open to visitors, it is still very uncommercial which means some caving experience is beneficial. A visit involves meandering through small rock crevices and abseiling. If you’re an adventure seeker, let us know…we’ll get you here! To understand more about the fantastical landscapes in Guizhou, check out this astounding 3D tour of nearby Miao Room made by National Geographic. The cavern has been declared the largest singular cave, by volume, on our planet and is so big it can easily fit in four Giza Pyramids with room to spare.
The King of Caves, in Zhijin, is the easiest to visit and offers a 4-hr tour that includes a LOT of walking and a lot WOWing.
Kaili Minority Villages – Given that almost half of Guizhou’s population belongs to one minority group or another, visiting an ethnic village is an absolute must. Every village is renowned for a very particular skill or tradition, be it ancient textile making (Qingman, considered an ‘open air museum to Miao culture), 600-year-old tradition of wearing micro skirts (Datang and yes, totally random), polyphonic music and grandiose costumes (Zadang), silversmith and jewellery making (Langde, the first minority village to open to the outside world in the 1980s) and beautiful batik (Matang) among many more. Each village offers a unique glimpse into a still-traditional way of life for the primarily Miao and Gejia people. Although every minority village is an enticement of its own accord, we do love to guide guests to those we deem to be fantastic ‘allrounders’, villages which also boast an idyllic setting or nearby national park you can explore on foot.
Mount Fanjiing – The highest peak of the southern UNESCO-listed Wuling Mountains, Fanjingshan is one of the most eye-popping peaks you’ll ever see. The slender karst pillar is considered sacred to Chinese Buddhists and there’s a peak-top temple that is absolutely beautiful. Zoom up on the cable-car in just under 10 minutes for drop-dead-gorgeous views and, if you’re feeling game, continue the steep ascent up to the temple. This spot is popular for many reasons (local tourism and spiritual importance among them) so expect it to always be busy. Stay overnight close by and head here at first light to enjoy it in relative peace and quiet.
Rice Terraces of Jiabang – Reminiscent of Southeast Asia yet somehow much more impressive due to the crazy mountainous landscapes, the rice terraces of Guizhou, in Jiabang particularly, are photogenic gems bar none. Head here in Spring to see them flooded and marvel at the high-altitude mirror-like vision that stretches for more than 20km across the Yueliang Mountains. A slow and winding drive up the mountains past traditional wooden Miao villages, simply adds to the amazing appeal.
Baili Azalea Scenic Park – ‘One hundred miles of blooming azaleas’ is what attracts millions of Chinese to Bijie every spring and if you think the tourist numbers will bowl you over, just wait until you see the flowers! The park is so big, it’s actually subdivided into sections, stretching more than 50km in its widest part. This is no tourist trap, mind you, but rather the world’s largest natural azalea forest. Head here between mid-March and mid=-April to catch this stunning spectacle. Bijie is about a 3hr-drive northwest of Guiyang.
Over 700,000 blooming blossoms – who wouldn’t dream of seeing that?!
As an introductory tour of this amazing province, we’ve created this Highlights of Guizhou Tour Itinerary which we believe offers an impressive taste of what this place is all about. Just a weeklong jaunt around the most rewarding and fascinating sites, which can be tailor made to be longer and include more amazing highlights
Contact us here at Get About Asia to know more.