It’s time to slow down and experience China’s natural wonders on foot. An active walking holiday through fog-shrouded mountains or bamboo-forested karst terrain will reveal the natural settings of one of the world’s most ancient cultures. Here are some of China’s most celebrated destinations for walking and exploring.
Yellow Mountain (Huangshan)
Sheer granite peaks rise out of a sea of swirling clouds below as you stand to look out over the great Yellow Mountain. Archaic pine trees, crooked but still bristling with life, emerge victoriously from crevices in the 100 million-year-old stone. China’s Yellow Mountain is arguably the most famous mountain in China, a mountain of legends and stunning natural beauty.
Yellow Mountain is at its most majestic in the early morning hours. Wake up while the rest of the world still sleeps and tread quietly along the mountain paths as our local guide shows you his favorite spot for sunrise views. Marvel as the sun begins to cast light into the lush valley floor and streams of majestic clouds cascade in over the tops of the mountain peaks.
Guilin’s Karst Mountains
A ruby red sun illuminates towering bamboo forest and rice fields as it slowly ascends between ancient hills. The broad river meandering below wakens as the mist above its surface meets the soft light, dancing away into the morning air. Welcome to Guilin along the banks of the Li River. It’s home to some of China’s most classic landscapes; a dream for those wanting to slow down and wander on foot.
Meander down old country roads, past picturesque village scenes where farmers still plant and care for rice fields as they have for centuries. Stop in with our local guide for lunch at a farmer’s home. Enjoy a savory bowl of mifen, Guilin’s traditional rice noodles served in a steaming meat broth topped with fresh herbs, chili and an assortment of local pickled vegetables. After lunch, find yourself strolling along flat, dirt trails through jungles of peaceful pomelo trees, heavy-laden with fruit.
If you want a bigger challenge, ascend deep into the karst mountain valleys to seek the same intimate impressions that inspired China’s famous ink-brush paintings, or make the hike up 819 steps to Moon Hill, for a bird’s-eye-view of the surrounding conical peaks.
The Great Wall
The Great Wall stretches itself out like a sleeping dragon among the hills, unraveling into the horizon over yellow wildflowers and past open fields, sandy deserts, and peaceful lakes all the way to the ocean. It’s a welcoming sight to those travelers who love to explore ancient wonders on foot.
Near Beijing alone there are many ways to see the Great Wall, but a favorite is to make your base at the Commune. This collection of unique villas, each designed by a different prominent Asian Architect, blends in brilliantly with the surrounding landscape and is the perfect mix between modern luxury and elegant harmony with nature. From here, wander down private paths into the surrounding countryside until you reach the Great Wall. Stand on the crumbling grey stones of an ancient guard tower and feel history beneath your feet as you take in the surrounding views of forests and mountain meadows. In the evening enjoy a luxurious dinner of regional Chinese dishes at the Commune Kitchen. After dinner, if you’re not enjoying a drink in a private courtyard garden, take a flashlight to head outside and stare in awe at the starlit heavens above you.
Ethereal sandstone pillars thrust up from the earth as mist snakes through deep gorges hundreds of feet below, obscuring the floor of this gravity-defying terrain. The Avatar Mountains seem to float in the air with you as you meander along the cliff-sides and it’s easy to see how they inspired the creation of an alien world in James Cameron’s Avatar.
Follow along the gurgling mountain stream to the foot of a towering rock formation named Yellow Stone village, where local legend tells of a secluded man who once lived here secretly making pills for immortality. Continue on to the famous Sky Column which rises majestically into the heavens before you, aptly earning its newest name, “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.” When your walking adventure comes to an end, take your private chauffeur back to your hotel and enjoy a well-deserved Chinese foot massage.