In a country rich in history and culture like China, the places to visit are almost endless. Many people flock to urbanize shopping havens such as Beijing and Shanghai, while others opt to see the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army. With so many people crowding the area trying to get the perfect selfie, these places can begin to feel quite suffocating. In the end, most travelers just want to experience the secrets, hole-in-the-walls, and off beaten paths that make for a more authentic experience. If you’re one of these people, read on for a peek into 5 underrated cities in China worth visiting.
Known for its gorgeous landscapes, Guilin boasts breathtaking natural sites, including the Reed Flute Cave, Elephant Trunk Hill, Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, and so much more. It’s also considered to be an important cultural city with a history extending back as far as 2,000 years.
The area is very tourist friendly, seeing as they have many transportation options to get to the city (air, train, bus, ship) and have many English-speaking locals. Its location makes for a great base camp as well, considering other scenic destinations nearby. Lastly, the food! Make sure you get to try some of their popular snacks, namely chestnut glutinous rice dumplings, nun noodles, lotus leaf duck, stewed duck with gingko, and local rice noodles.
For a relaxed visit to China’s countryside, Lijiang is a gem waiting to be found. Immerse yourself in their unique Dongba culture, with influences from Tibet and the central plains south of the Yellow River. Visit historical towns rich in culture, featuring sites like the Old Town of Lijiang, Baisha Village, and Shuhe Ancient Town. Travelers will get to see remnants of China’s ancient architecture and fusion of cultures in these well-preserved early settlements. Lijiang’s Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Tiger Leaping Gorge are more scenic sights to behold after a satisfying trek. If you’re up to the task, Authentic Naxi Cuisine plays a different spin on local food and is a treat to try. If not, picky eaters can always help themselves to the fast food restaurants nearby.
Jiangsu’s capital, this city is often overlooked when compared with Suzhou and Zhouzhuang. While it doesn’t have the same waterways, bridges, and classical gardens, it has been known to be the capital of ten dynasties, making it rich historical sites to visit. Drop by the Confuscius temple, Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, and the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. Apart from these important attractions, Nanjing has many iconic dishes to try, like duck blood soup, chicken embryo, and tofu jelly. Less adventurous travelers can have their steamed buns, pan-fried beef dumping, and sesame pancake instead.
Home to UNESCO’s Kaiping Fortress Towers, the area holds watch towers and fortresses that were built for protection during war. As the Qing dynasty collapsed, the people experienced many difficulties and decided to pursue work overseas. Upon returning, Kaiping’s locals applied the Western architecture they saw abroad to the buildings they had back home. As for dishes, head over to the Kaiping Night Market for some good, cheap food.
One of the best things about Fenghuang is its simplicity. Despite the rapid modernization happening in many Chinese cities, this one pays homage to the easy-going lifestyle that they have always had. A trip here is like stepping into the old Chinese paintings and films that can no longer be found in more developed cities. With Tuo Jiang River running through the city, houses on stilts can be seen to avoid seasonal floods.
Make some time for the Huangsiqiao Castle, South Great Wall, and Shanjiang Miao Village as scenic and ethnic stopover worth visiting. Because the people are fond of sour and spicy food, it’s no surprise that most of their popular dishes are pickled. If you get the chance, try the Fenghuang pickled radish, pickled vegetable soup in tofu, and the Miao ethnic style pickled fish.
While China’s glittering splendor are a go-to spot for many people, these cities are some great alternatives to more popular city destinations. Time to get packing!