When Western people think of China tours nowadays, they generally only think of Beijing and Shanghai. Of course, both of these cities offer great sites and attractions for first-time tourists, but they can tend to get a bit crowded. For people who are looking for less crowded tourist areas that still offer a true taste of China’s rich history, perhaps you might want to check out these three cities listed below. In this article, we will give you a few ideas about lesser-known sites close to China’s more popular cities for you to consider adding into your next tour package to the Middle Kingdom.
This former capital of China, and current capital of the Henan province, is full of historical treasures. The most important site to check out here is the Longmen Grottoes. Tourists will find over 2,100 grottoes here with thousands sculpted Buddhas. You can then visit the oldest Buddhist temple in all of China here: the White Horse Pagoda. Since this was the site of so many ancient dynasties, Luoyang has preserved various ancient tombs in their world-famous museum. Also, for those kung fu fans in your family, take a day trip to the Shaolin Temple and watch the world’s kung fu masters in action. If you are staying in Xi’an, a trip to Luoyang is only a five-hour train ride away.
This water town in Jiangsu province is only about two-hours away from Shanghai by car. For those into shopping along cobblestone streets, this is the place to be. Some of the buildings here have been standing since the 14th century. There are 14 bridges over which romantic canals flow. You can start your tour of the city by taking a 20-minute gondola ride around the canals. Sometimes your canal driver will actually sing for you. The classic restaurants and relaxed atmosphere of this “Eastern Venice” make Zhouzhuang a very enjoyable place to stay.
If you are in China during wintertime, then you must try to get to Harbin for their annual ice sculpture shows. Since this city is in the northeast, it is quite easy to get here from Beijing. The winter show here is famous around the world for its spectacular ice palaces and lit-up ice sculptures. Of course, be sure you wear heavy jackets, because it can dip well below zero degrees Fahrenheit in wintertime. Also, for those of you interested in Russian culture and food, Harbin has a large immigrant population from Russia. You can both eat authentic Russian cuisine and visit a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church here.
These three destinations may not be on the top priority list for many china tours, but they are close enough to major tourist cities to at least keep in mind. If your tour package takes you to Shanghai, Beijing, or Xi’an, you can easily sneak away to these locales if you have some free time allotted to you. Remember, China is far more than just Beijing and Shanghai. If you really want to get the most out of a China tour, be sure to look into other awesome locales that are equally as welcoming for Western tourists.