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China's 49 places of ultimate attractions
By Jeff (chinaculture.org)
Updated: 2004-11-25 17:17

Not everyone has the chance to travel the globe. Factors such as economy and time gradually reduce our epic-like dream of voyaging around the world to a mirage that only sparks feelings of frustration and helplessness.

Fortunately, history and nature have endowed China with many places of ultimate lure, thus enabling us to partly fulfill our heroic ideal.

In the following passages, you will be taken on a fantastic tour of the most dynamic and charming places in China. You will visit a wide and diverse range of scenic spots including the superlatives such as the tallest mountain, deepest lake, and coldest place in China (and sometimes in the world).

This journey will provide a pleasant diversion from everyday routines for both those who haven't been to China and for those who have visited but want to come back for more.

1. The tallest saltwater lake: Namtso Lake in Northwest (NW) China's Tibet Autonomous Region

With an altitude of 4,700 meters (m) and an area of 1,940 square kilometers (km), Namtso Lake, China's tallest saltwater lake, is a sacred lake to Tibetans, attracting many disciples to pilgrim from far and near. The lake, like a huge pearl mirror embedded into the north Tibetan steppe, reflects the belief and pursuit of the Tibetans for many generations. Besides, the natural scenery is breathtaking, attracting flocks of photographers to catch its beauty each year.

Best way to explore and special tips: To walk around the lake on foot is the best way to explore, while the best time to travel to the lake is from May to October. From the fifth to the sixth month in the Tibetan calendar, the disciples of Tibetan Buddhism will pilgrim to the lake.

2. The biggest desert: Takla Makan Desert in NW China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

With an area of 330,000 square km, Takla Makan Desert, China's largest desert, was once dubbed "Sea of Death" by western explorers 100 years ago, which is also the literal meaning of term Takla Makan in the local Uygur language.

The boundless expansion and the awe-inspiring desert landscape have always been an irresistible attraction, luring tourists from across the world to trek through it. The desolated sand, or the solemn and stirring poplars fighting to live inspire mediation on the significance of life.

Best way to explore and special tips: It is best to explore behind the wheel. Yet no matter how travelers plan to travel to the desert, professional equipments are necessary.

3. The top of the world: Mount Everest

Not many introductions are needed for Mount Everest. You do not necessarily climb the world's tallest peak to enjoy it, because it is an extraordinary experience to just stand in front of it.

Best way to explore and special tips: The Ascent of Mount Everest is an ultimate dream for many professional adventurers and climbers, but for amateurs, to just walk around it is also very good sport. The best periods to admire the mountain are from April to June and from September to October. Professional physical strength training is necessary before climbing.

4. The largest fall: Huangguoshu Fall in Southwest (SW) China's Guizhou Province

The 74-meter tall Huangguoshu Fall, which is China's largest fall, boasts abundant water throughout the year. Although the water's wildness does not mask its delicacy and elegance, its great momentum overwhelms everyone who has been to the fall. Rainbows are often seen on the fall, leading the visitors to a dreamlike world. The karst landscape nearby is also another tourist attraction.

Best Way to explore and special tips: To swim beneath the fall is exhilarating, and the best time for tourists is from May to October.

5. The largest settlement for wild Manchurian Tigers: Changbai Mountain in Northeast (NE) China's Jilin Province

It is a totally a different experience to enjoy wild Manchurian Tigers from watching the barred creatures in zoos. Changbai Mountain is also known for its almost intact virgin forest; the occasional wild Manchurian Tiger sighting adds further glamour to the mountain.

Best Way to explore and special tips: To look for and photograph the wild Manchurian Tiger is very engaging. Remember, however, that safety always come first.

6. The largest distribution of loess landscape: Loess Plateau of North (N) China's Shaanxi Province

The Loess Plateau, the world's largest distribution of loess which occupies an area of about 540,000 square km, starts from the east Qilian Mountain in the west, links Taihang Mountain in the east, borders Qinling Mountain in the south and reaches the Great Wall in the north. The plateau's unique cultural landscape highlights the place as a sample of how human beings survive the environment.

Best Way to explore and special tips: To drift along the Huanghe River is the ideal way of exploring the river. The best season to travel is from March to October. Due to extreme water shortage in some places, please try to conserve water while traveling.

7. The place with the most frequent thunderstorms: Danxian County beneath the Five-Finger Mountain of South (S) China's Hainan Province

Annually, average 131 days of thunderstorms strike Chengguan Village, Danxian County of Hainan Province, and the place thus got the alias as "City of Thunders". The thunderstorms, often causing hails or tornados, are extremely destructive. The place is suitable for adventurers to do scientific researches, and has also become a Mecca for many enthusiasts.

Best Way to explore and special tips: Just relax and experience the spectacular natural phenomenon. However, visitors should be extremely cautious of the obvious dangers.

8. The only river that flows into the Arctic Ocean: Ertix River of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

Originating from the Altai Mountain, the Ertix River finally runs into the Arctic Ocean via Russia. The river, which is 546 km long in China, holds an abundant amount of water, only second to Yili River in Xinjiang. The section of the river in Beitui is encircled with thick poplar forests. The lower reaches abound with mires and swamps, forming quite a unique scene in the barren and remote steppe.

Best way to explore and special tips: Drifting and fishing are perfect ways to spend the time in this place, which is best to tour from July to October.

9. The only residence of esculent swifts: Dazhou Island Natural Reserve of Hainan Province

Dazhou Island Natural Reserve is located in the southeast of Wanning County, Hainan Province. The island is composed of two parts: the southern hill, which occupies 270 hectares and rises 289 meters above the sea level; and the smaller northern hill, which is 150 hectares and is 136 meters above the sea. Natural crevices, caves and thick vegetation on the mountainous southern hill all provide a paradise for esculent swifts.

Best way to explore and special tips: Venture to the caves and enjoy the island's special fauna and flora, but please remember to respect the animals and plants on the island.

10. The largest natural reserve: the Arjin Mountain National Natural Reserve of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

The Arjin Mountain is nestled in the southeast part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The reserve is endowed with very diverse topographies. Glaciers, snow caps, lava landscapes, and plateau lakes can all be found here. Rarely visited by people, the reserve has maintained a well-preserved natural ecological system. Hordes of wild yaks, Tibetan donkeys and antelopes can be found from time to time.

Best way to explore and special tips: Driving across the reserve is the most convenient way of exploring. The reserve's cold climate deters most common travelers; the best time to go is during the summer from June to August.

11. The railway with the highest altitude: the Qinhai-Tibet railway

The Qinhai-Tibet railway, which is yet to be completed, starts from Xining, the capital of NW China's Qinghai Province in the east, and reaches Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region in the south. Spanning 2047 km long, this railway still under construction also has the highest altitude in China. It is not hard to realize the dream tour of traveling across the remote Qinghai-Tibet plateau.

Best way to explore and special tips: To travel by train up to Lhasa is best but be fully prepared for adverse altitude reactions.

12. The vastest grassland: Inner Mongolian Steppe

Even common scenes like clouds spotted in the azure, cattle, sheep, and the smoking chimneys above the Mongolian tents never fail to inspire the feeling of purity that comes with a closer link to nature. Roasted mutton, milk tea, pastorals, and simple and kind people with their Hada (a piece of silk used as a welcoming gift) have provided a haven for those who are tired of the hectic industrial society.

Best way to explore and special tips: Go horseback riding across the steppe. The best season to travel is summer, but no matter what season, travelers should pay attention to the rites and the taboos of the local people.

13. The coldest in China: Mohe County of NE China's Heilongjiang Province

Mohe's average annual temperature is 4 degrees Celsius below zero, with the coldest being 52.3 degrees Celsius below zero. Minus 30 to 40 degrees is common in the wintertime. All the statistics prove Mohe as the coldest place in China. The unique aurora and polar day phenomena also distinguish the place from anywhere else in China.

Best way to explore and special tips: Try taking a horse-driven sledge. The best time to travel is from summer to autumn, but if you do travel during winter, remember: It is vital to protect yourself from the cold.

14. The lowest lake: the Aiding Lake in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

The Aiding Lake is 155 meters below sea level -- the second-lowest place in the world after the Dead Sea. The lake's bottom is flat with shallow waters. The lakebed is 40 km long from east to west and 8 km wide from north to south. The water is only 1 meter deep at its deepest point. The lake now occupies a much smaller area than before, with bitter salt water remaining only in the western part. The water's mineral content is as high as 200 grams per liter, with much niter and salt collecting at the lake's bottom as a result of many years of strong evaporation.

Best way to explore and special tips: Walk on the sand beach barefooted. The tourism season is from July to September, which is also the harvest time of famous Xinjiang fruits.

15. The deepest canyon: the Brahmaputra Canyon

Best way to explore and special tips: Walking is the only way to enter the canyon. Travelers are suggested to avoid winter and the rainy season. The cultural scene of the Menba Ethnic Group should not be missed.

16. The largest tropical forest: Xishuangbanna of SW China's Yunnan Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Go cross-country orienteering. The best time for traveling is from October to June next year. Protection against mosquitoes and other insects as well as protection against the strong sunshine should be emphasized.

17. The largest archipelago: Zhoushan Islands of East (E) China's Zhejiang Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Definitely swim in the ocean. The best time for traveling is from June to October. Seafood is also a necessity besides enjoying the scenery.

18. The longest inland river: Tarim River in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

Best way to explore and special tips: Just drift down the river, but a word of warning: Professional training and equipments are needed before drifting. The best season to travel is summer.

19. The snow mountain that has never been conquered: Meili Mountain of Yunnan Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Go mountain climbing but remember that it is essential to prevent altitude sickness.

20. The longest rift zone caused by earthquake: The Fuyu earthquake fault zone of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

Best way to explore and special tips: Explore on foot. The best time for traveling is at the junction of summer and autumn.

21. The place with most abundant sunbeam: Lenghu area of Qinghai Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Walk across over the region, but be sure to take precautions against the sun's radiation.

22. The only peak above 8,000 meters totally within Chinese territory: Mount Shisha Pangma of Tibet Autonomous Region

Among all the mountains taller than 8,000 meters in the world, Mount Shisha Pangma is the only peak that totally rests within Chinese territory. Located in Nielamu County, the peak consists of three sections. The ice towers, 5,000 to 5,800 meters above the sea level in between the different sections of the peak, span thousands of meters, forming a dreamlike ice forest.

Best way to explore and special tips: Climbing is the way to go and the best seasons to ascent the mountains are spring and autumn.

23.The world's highest and biggest rural wetland: Lhalu Wetland of Tibet Autonomous Region

The Lhalu Wetland is located on the north of Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. Since it was built into a natural reserve under the region's protection in 1995, the wetland's area has increased by 50,000 square meters. About 7,500 more trees have been planted, attracting once vanished birds like black-neck cranes back to the region. Local people vividly call the wetland as a "natural oxygen bar" for the ancient city of Lhasa.

Best way to explore and special tips: Do some bird watching but please disturb the wetland as little as possible.

24. The steepest cable car: Victoria Peak in SE China's Hong Kong

To enjoy the "Oriental Pearl", the first choice is the Victoria Peak, which provides a panoramic view of Hong Kong. Cable cars leading to the peak began operating in 1888. The total length is only 1.4 km, but the cable car is extremely steep.

Best way to explore and special tips: Take the cable car. Dusk is the best time to take the cars, because of the magnificent panoramic night view of Hong Kong. The cable car runs until 1:00AM.

25. The longest alpine skiing run: the ski run of Yabuli International Ski Resort of Heilongjiang Province

A cluster of mountains encircles the ski resort. The place, which was the revenue for the Third Northeast Asian Games, now is the training base for the nation's skiing athletes. The Yabuli ski run is the best Chinese one in the terms of length and slope.

Best way to explore and special tips: Go skiing, although precautions should be taken against the unusual coldness. Yabuli's annual average temperature is only 1 degree Celsius, with the lowest of -44.

26. The largest wonder formed by calcium carbonate sinter: Baishui Terrace in Zhongdian County of Yunnan Province

With an altitude of 2,380 meters, the tableland is approximately 100 km from the county seat, occupying an area of about 30,000 square meters. Being the largest of its kind in China, the place also boasts attractive natural sceneries.

Best way to explore and special tips: Go hiking. The annual average temperature is 11.4 degrees Celsius. The annual precipitation is 652.6 millimeters (mm), and the number in August could reach 1,907mm

27. The wildest tide: Qiantang River Bore of Zhejiang Province

The bore festival on the 18th of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar has always attracted visitors from far and near. The most violent tides, which can mount eight to nine meters tall, gives the tide the reputation as the "No. 1 Tide in China". It has become a time-honored custom to watch the tide in Haining, with a rich legacy of poems and writings by literati throughout Chinese history.

Best way to explore and special tips: Watch the bore in Haining. The 18th of the eighth month in Chinese lunar calendar is the best day to enjoy the natural wonder.

28. The most zigzagging coastline: the offshore region of E China's Fujian Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Drive along the coastline, but avoid the typhoon season from June to August.

29. The largest clustered caves: Zhijin Caves Scenery Spot of Guizhou Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Venture into the caves. Excessive tourists may flow into the region on the weeklong holidays in May and October, which may affect the caves' adventurous quality.

30. The place of the most hot springs: Rehai in Tengchong County of Yunnan Province

Encircled by steep precipices, Rehai is located one km on the west of Tengchong County. In addition to its hot springs, the place also boasts spectacular natural scenery and an ancient temple.

Best way to explore and special tips: Climb the volcanoes. Take care and choose the right time to bathe in the hot spring.

31. The highest natural wetland: Yushu of Qinghai Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Go horseback riding in the summer, which is the best season for traveling

32. The biggest natural reserve for pandas: Wolong Natural Reserve of SW China's Sichuan Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Look for the wild pandas. The International Panda Festival is held annually in September in Abazhou of the Wolong Reserve.

33. The last hunting tribe: Aoluguya Ewenki Village in Genhe City of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region

Best way to explore and special tips: Go hunting with the villagers. The temperature there can fall as low as minus 49 degrees Celsius, so please take precautions against the cold weather in winter.

34. The largest national forest park: Thousand Islets Lake of Zhejiang Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Go cruising on the lake; the best traveling season is from September to November.

35. The only natural reserve of coral reef: Sanya Coral Reef of Hainan Province

The Sanya Coral Reef Natural Reserve is located on the southwest of Sanya City. The reserve occupies a total area of more than 40 square km. With more than 80 different kinds of corals living under the water, the region also abounds with various fishes, shrimps and other sea creatures. The seawater in the reserve is almost transparent. Diving into it, one feels like he or she has entered a fairytale world.

Best way to explore and special tips: Go diving. Take precautions against the sun radiation and pay attention to the protection of corals.

36. The largest cluster of Tiankengs: Leye Tiankengs in Baise County of S China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

Leye County, located 460 km from Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, boasts the world largest clustered distribution of magnificent and broad Tiankengs (a type of karsts). Among them the Dashiwei Tiankeng, which is 613 meters deep and whose volume is 80 million cubic meters, is generally viewed as the best in the world for its concentration, vastness and uniqueness. The primitive forest at the bottom of Dashiwei Tiankeng is the largest of its kind around the world, occupying an area of 96,000 square meters.

The Leye Tiankengs, spanning an area of 50,000 square meters and which look like an underground palace, also boast many rare animals and plants, which offer invaluable resources for scientific research and exploration. The forest at the foot of Dashiwei Tiankeng is inhabited by more than 1,000 varieties of plants, including many rare and precious species, and animals such as blindfish, crabs, shrimp and flying squirrels.

Best way to explore and special tips: Venture into the caves, but professional training and equipments are needed before venturing. Also, the experience may be a bit claustrophobic.

37. The tallest building: Jinmao Tower of E China's Shanghai Municipality

The 88-storied Jinmao Tower, which is 420.5 meters tall, is a symbolic construction in Shanghai. The building dynamically incorporates modernity with tradition in its design. Its location in the busiest district of the metropolis also contributes to its glamour.

Best Way to explore and special tips: Parachute from the top floor; however, parachuting is an extremely dangerous sport.

38. The place with most frequent hails: Naqu of Tibetan Autonomous Region

Hails visit Naqu County of Tibetan Autonomous Region 35 days every year, making Naqu the place hit with the most hail. Naqu, literally meaning "black river", is located on the north part of Tibet. The average altitude is above 4,500 meters. Straddled by two mountains on the east and west, Naqu is also a place that the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau must cross over. The unique Qiang culture, spectacular natural scenery and unique customs all contribute to its lure.

Best way to explore and special tips: Horse racing is ideal; the best season for tourism is from May to October.

39. The largest reserve for bird protection: Zhalong Natural Reserve in Qiqiha'er of Heilongjiang Province

Occupying 40,000 square km, Zhalong Natural Reserve is famous for its crane birds. Six of the 15 kinds of cranes in the world can be found in the reserve. There are also more than 500 precious re-crowned cranes, accounting for a quarter of the world's total.

Best way to explore and special tips: Definitely crane-watching on the wetland is a must. The best months for tourists are April, May, August and September.

40. The largest inland salt lake: Qinghai Lake of Qinghai Province

Located in the northeast of Qinghai Province, the Qinghai Lake occupies 4,635 square kilometers. Being the largest inland salt lake, its periphery is 360 plus km. The surrounding mountains, livestock, and especially the Bird Island all help form a grand and spectacular scene.

Home for more than 100,000 birds of 20 plus different kinds, Bird Island is also known as Xiaoxi Hill or Egg Island because birds' eggs can be found almost anywhere. From east to west, the island is 1,500 meters long and its slope is not very steep.

Best way to explore and special tips: Just simply walk around the lake to enjoy the scenery. The best time to tour to is from May to September. From mid-October the lake begins to freeze.

41. The largest glacier: Yinsugaiti Glacier of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

Best way to explore and special tips: Go mountaineering. However, the weather of Qiaogeli Peak is abominable. The best time to ascent or just tour is from July to October.

42. The largest clinkstone zone: Fengsheng Village of Banan District in SW China's Chongqing

Best way to explore and special tips: Walk across the region and hit the stones to hear their iron-like rings. There are two kinds of clinkstones in the region: One contains sand inside the stones and the other holds water inside.

43. The largest and wide distributed natural poplar forest: Tarim Basin of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

Best way to explore and special tips: Walk across the region, but put on enough suntan oil beforehand.

44. The active volcano with the earliest record: Haotian Temple in Datong of N China's Shanxi Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Engage in archeological studies, as the traces of volcanic activities are still obvious today.

45. The place with most rainy days: Mount Emei of Sichuan Province

Best way to explore and special tips: Climb the mountain. Each season of Mount Emei is characterized with its specific unique charm, and is suitable for tourism.

46. The longest canal: The Beijing-Hangzhou Canal

Best way to explore and special tips: Just drift along the canal. Unfortunately, many sections of the canal are not as well preserved as before.

47. The youngest volcanic island: Weizhou Island of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

The Weizhou Island is located in the North Bay of Beihai City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The island is a result of submarine volcanic eruption and diastrophism (forming of geological features through deformation). Formed 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, the island is the youngest of its kind in China.

The typical tropical maritime climate contributes to the indistinctive seasons, making weather very pleasant in both summer and winter. In the rainy days, the whole island is shrouded in mists, reproducing the scene of a modern Garden of Eden. The unique topography has given the island the reputation of being a "Natural Geological Museum", attracting many geological enthusiasts every year.

Best way to explore and special tips: Do some water-skiing, which can be done in every season except winter. The place itself is suitable for traveling year round.

48. The largest icefall: Hailuogou Icefall of Sichuan Province

The Hailuogou is situated in the Luding County, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. The place is famous for its modern glacier, icefall and hot spring. The Hailuogou Glacier is 15 km long, with its tale stretching into the virgin forests 2,850 meters above the sea level; it is also the lowest among all the glaciers in the world on the same latitude. The icefall, being 500 to 1,000 meters wide and 1,080 meters tall, is the largest ever found in China. There are three springs in Hailuogou, with the water temperature 50 to 80 degrees Celsius.

More than 70 square km of virgin forest is also located in the region. The vertically distributed vegetations, and glacier together with the springs form a unique natural wonder in the region.

Best way to explore and special tips: Climb the glacier. However, please note that this is a dangerous sport; professional training is necessary beforehand. The entire region is suitable for traveling all year round, while winter is the best season to enjoy the glacier.

49. The deepest crater lake: Heavenly Pool in Changbai Mountain of Jilin Province

The Heavenly Pool in Changbai Mountain, which is 373 meters deep, is the deepest crater lake in China. The pool, enclosed by 16 peaks around it, is a must-go when visiting the Changbai Mountain. On the north side of the pool there is a spectacular 68-meter fall. Clusters of springs are scattered in an area of more than 1,000 square meters on the north of the fall. The Changbai Mountain monster, which is said be in the Heavenly Pool, adds mystery to the natural wonder.

Best way to explore and special tips: The temperature of the lake is only 7 degrees Celsius even in the summertime, thus giving visitors the chance to go "winter swimming" even in summer. The best time for traveling is from June to September. The Changbai Mountain cold noodles should not be missed.

Well, that finished our grand tour. It's been one long and tiring yet magnificent adventure! If you ever have the means to come to China, please don't hesitate to do so! But if you are unable to come to China, don't fret. Just read other fascinating accounts of various historical and dynamic places in China.

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