Inner China: Why China's Least Visited Cities Have the Most to Offer Visitors

Nov 15

Written by: admin
11/15/2013 

Step off your plane in any Chinese city and you'll be confronted with some immediate differences to 'life back home.' From the incredible range of scents to the near extreme levels of noise that exist in almost all situations, Chinese life is a massive culture shock for most visitors, even in the country's more Westernized and international cities.

But underneath the vast cultural differences, many of China's tourist-heavy cities have some major elements in common. From the constant pestering of taxi drivers to the irritating 'trick them if you can' attitude that's unfortunately common in major Chinese tourist attractions, a trip around China's big tourist center – Shanghai and Beijing in particular – can leave you feel like you've seen little of the 'real China.'

It's not a difficult feeling to understand. With constant business and a rushed schedule, many foreign visitors to the world's most populous country leave feeling as if they've been pushed from one major landmark to the next, lacking the time or setting to sit back and really enjoy China. Often, it isn't a problem with the country itself, merely an issue with their choice of vacation spot within China.

While Shanghai and Beijing offer a convenient look into modern Chinese life, they don't capture the spirit of the country – and the real Chinese lifestyle – like some of its other cities do. If you desire a uniquely Chinese experience on your next vacation, these second-tier cities and less well-known vacation spots could be worth considering in place of the standard cities and tourist attractions.


Chongqing – West China's Growing Economic Hotspot

When most people mention 'Inner China,' the image that pops into one's head isn't of amazing rivers and beautiful nature, but of immense pollution and industrial wastelands. Despite this belief, a great deal of China's landlocked provinces are packed with fresh air, beautiful natural surroundings, and a range of biodiversity that surprised the vast majority of visitors to the region.

Chongqing's Ancient Town has made the city a popular destination for tourists seeking an 'Inner China' experience.
Chongqing's Ancient Town has made the city a popular destination for tourists seeking an 'Inner China' experience.

Chongqing, a growing city in West China that's poised to become China's next economic hub, is the central point for many of these attractions. From the beautiful Mount Shengdeng Forest Park, home to incredible rice fields and flowing rivers, to the large and majestic Yangtze River and its beautiful surroundings, this part of China is heavy on the nature and light on the scams and annoyances.


Hainan – China's Tropical Island Paradise

When it comes to Asian beach destinations, Thailand and Vietnam seem to dominate the travel guides and TV shows. Given their immense natural beauty and popular tourist resorts, it's easy to understand why this is the case. But China, known to most as the home of mega-cities and large industrial parks, is actually home to its own island paradise: the large island of Hainan.

Hainan's gorgeous tropical beaches wouldn't look out of place in Thailand or Vietnam.
Hainan's gorgeous tropical beaches wouldn't look out of place in Thailand or Vietnam.

Located in the South China Sea near Vietnam, Hainan is China's center of beach life. With tropical weather and a more relaxed culture than the mainland, this island attracts a variety of visitors from within Asia and across the oceans, all looking for warmth and relaxation. With SCUBA diving and luxurious beach resorts, Hainan offers a unique look at China that's very different from what you're used to seeing in the news.


Guangzhou – Southern China's Business and Culture Center

While Hong Kong may hold the title of Asia's SkyScraper City, Guangzhou can't be far behind. This dynamic city in the Pearl River Delta is easily accessible from Hong Kong and Macau, but remains absent on all but the most adventurous travel itineraries. With great food, a fantastic culture, and no Shanghai-style tourist hustle atmosphere, it's one of China's best cities for foreign visitors.

If Hong Kong's sky-high prices and Shanghai's assault on the senses have worn you down, Guangzhou is a great modern alternative.
If Hong Kong's sky-high prices and Shanghai's assault on the senses have worn you down, Guangzhou is a great modern alternative.

Thanks to Guangzhou's booming economy and international atmosphere, the city is well developed and aware of Western customs. Horn honking and traffic rage – major issues in many Chinese cities – are blissfully non-existent here, giving the entire city a feeling of unusual peacefulness. Home to some of the country's best street markets, Guangzhou is a truly international shopper's paradise.

While the Pearl River Delta isn't as rich as many other Chinese regions on natural attractions, it is one of the world's best places for food gurus and entertainment fans. From world famous dim sum to delicious fresh seafood, Guangzhou is a great place to experience delicious Cantonese cooking at lower prices than you'd be subject to in overpriced Hong Kong or Macau.


Kunming – The Gateway to Yunnan and China's Tea Capital

Chinese tea is a worldwide phenomenon, attracting tea gurus from all around the world to the large and mysterious country. But did you know that the sweetened, milky tea you're being fed in Hong Kong and Shanghai isn't the real thing? For the true Chinese tea experience, you need to travel to the country's Yunnan province, a gorgeous natural haven in China's internal southern region.

Equal parts 'Old China' and 'New China,' Kunming is the gateway to the Yunnan region.
Equal parts 'Old China' and 'New China,' Kunming is the gateway to the Yunnan region.

Kunming, the region's economic and touristic capital, is home to a variety of great attractions that make it a fantastic all-round Chinese vacation spot. From the city's charming Green Lake Park to the UNESCO-listed Stone Forest, Kunming offers a great mix of Chinese culture and beautiful natural attractions for visitors.

Well connected with other destinations in Yunnan, Kunming is a great travel hub for reaching the other cities in the region. Lijiang, one of China's most charming small cities and a hotspot for the region's tourism industry, is a short train ride away. Likewise, the fun old town of Dali, always a popular spot with adventure tourists and backpackers is a short trip away on the local train network.


While Shanghai and Beijing may dominate China's international tourism coverage, its smaller and less well known cities offer just as much – if not much more – to the international traveler than its major cities do. If you're seeking a true Chinese experience – one that can't be found in faux local markets or giant shopping malls – be sure to add these lesser known destinations to your tour plan.


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3 comment(s) so far...


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Re: Inner China: Why China's Least Visited Cities Have the Most to Offer Visitors

Wonderful article! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our website.

Keep up the good writing.

By Dong D. on   11/17/2013
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Re: Inner China: Why China's Least Visited Cities Have the Most to Offer Visitors

Kunming looks so pretty! That's great advice- really, anywhere you go, if it's feasible, you should try to get off the beaten path.

By Sarahk26 on   11/19/2013
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Re: Inner China: Why China's Least Visited Cities Have the Most to Offer Visitors

I would most likely visit the Yunnan province area because I would love to taste the teas. I also enjoy gardening and would love to see how they harvest and prepare tea's. I wonder if there is anywhere in China that is open to giving that kind of cultural experience.

By Linda White on   11/24/2013

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