Travel in China: A China Tour through the provinces of Hunan and Guangxi in the south of China. Guangxi province wakes your enthusiasm with the karst hill landscape around Guilin and Yangshuo and the Longji Rice Terraces near Long Sheng. As an exciting contrast to that there is the largely unknown Hunan province, which is awaiting you with its charming landscapes dotted with many wonderful Dong villages as well as wind and rain bridges. The finale of the trip to Hunan is the visit to the impressive national parks at Zhangjiagie and Wulingyuan. The spectacular landscape of Wulingyuan served James Cameron as a model for the film "Avatar". A magnificent journey through south-central China.

Your host, Adrian Stalder

Adrian Stalder

A Swiss National, passionate traveler and outdoor expert. He graduated from the Swiss business school of commerce and was supposed to start a banking career soon after. More out of curiosity he took an interim job as a tour guide for one of the leading tour operators in Switzerland and that is when he discovered his love and affection for foreign countries and their fascinating cultures and history. In between his assignments he shouldered his backpack and started to explore the remotest corners of the Asian continent. After one year in Thailand he then moved to neighboring Myanmar where he worked as the country manager for a German tour operator for almost 5 years.

He then decided to move on to Kunming, where he realized a long time dream by starting his own travel company, and to share with others his extensive travel experience and profound knowledge about China and South-East Asia. Chinese is just one of 5 languages he speaks fluently. In his spare time he is practicing Tai Ji and studies the Chinese history.

Tour Information


Travel to Yangshuo, Guangxi Province

Travel to Yangshuo in China: the dream landscape of Guangxi province, Southwest China

When you travel to Yangshuo it is very easy to fall in love with this enchanting little town and its astonishing landscape. Yangshuo is located 70km south of Guilin in the midst of China's most spectacular karst landscape. Yangshuo means translated as "shining moon".

Yangshuo is situated in an enchanting landscape in Guangxi province in south China, where the idyllic "Jade Dragon River" flows into the somewhat bigger Li River.

Yangshuo is surrounded by impressive limestone rocks which loom up steeply to the sky from the surrounding emerald-green rice paddies. The beauty of the landscape around Yangshuo is described in many Chinese folksongs, and various well-known painters and poets were also inspired by the bizarre karst hills.

The surrounds of Xingping, a village on Lu River north of Yangshuo, has even made it onto the 20 yuan bank note of the Chinese currency.

That fairy-tale setting around Yangshuo is the starting point of your fascinating journey through the two provinces of Guangxi and Hunan in southern China.

Travel to the rice terraces of Longji near Ping'An and Dazhai, China


Travel to Ping'an Longji rice terraces

From the fascinating karst landscape of Yangshuo you travel north to the impressive Long Sheng, or Longji, rice terraces.

"Longji" is what the locals call their rice terraces. Literally translated the name longji means “dragon’s back” and refers to the innumerable rice terraces that snake like a dragon through the landscape.

From Dazhai you undertake a beautiful hike through the fascinating rice terraces to Ping’An.

The car-free mountain village of Ping'An is the homeland of the Zhuang ethnic minority. On the hike to Ping'An, with a bit of luckk, you come across the women of the Yao ethnic minority.

The Yao women are known for their beautiful long hair. For that reason the Yao women around the village of Zhongliu are also called the “long-haired Yao”.

Your overnight accommodation is at Tiantouzhai, high above Dazhai in the middle of the rice terraces.

"Wind and Rain bridges”: travel through the “valley of Dong villages” in Hunan Province, China


Hunan: Drum towers and "Wind and Rain Bridges"

You travel across the border from Guangxi to Hunan province and travel mainly on small back roads through the predominantly rural Hunan province.

Hunan means literally translated "South of the Lake".

Whereas in summer the roads are mainly bordered by emerald-green rice paddies, in the winter months you are accompanied by golden rapeseed fields and vegetable and cereal fields. Hunan province is one of China’s biggest producers of rice.

Again and again you come across the “wind and rain bridges” characteristic of the region.

Those “wind and rain bridges”, made completely of timber, are partially genuine works of art with artistic wood engravings, little towers and windows.

The roofs of those “wind and rain bridges”, pulled far down, serve as a perfect shelter from the often changeable weather.

Travel the Hunan province: the old trading town of Hongjiang


Fascinating old town of Hongjiang in Hunnan province, China

The seldom visited old center of Hongjiang is a good example of the rise and fall of so many affluent trading towns in China during the Qing dynasty.

Hongjiang was once a busy trans-shipment center for products transported on Yuan River. The many well-preserved “mansions” are till today silent witnesses of the former wealth of some of the trading families in Hongjiang.

Houses with such names as “house of joy” or “house of opium” need no further explanation, and give a good insight into life in Hongjiang in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In Hongjiang you stay overnight at a rustic guesthouse in the old town of Hongjiang.

Travel the Hunnan Province: a little bit of history


Qu Yuan, Hunnan Provinz, Dragon-Boat Races

The first historical mention of Hunan province was in about 350 BC during the “Warring States Period” (475-221), when Hunan province was a part of the influential Chu state, which in about 224 BC was conquered by the armies of the Qin emperor Ying Zheng (later Qin Shi Huang Di). Hunan was the site of many decisive battles between the seven rivals during the "Warring States Period".

The "Warring States Period" is also the fount of the legend of the dragon boat festival, which is supposed to have its origins in Hunan province. According to legend Qu Yuan is supposed to have jumped into Miluo River in Hunan province. Qu Yuan was an honest and upright minister at the court of the Chu emperor before he fell out of favor with the emperor due to a corrupt prince. From anxiety about the future of the Chu state Qu Yuan grabbed a large stone and leapt into Miluo River. In vain fishermen hurried to the spot in their boats to save Qu Yuan, but his body disappeared.

What remains is the tradition of the dragon boat race, which takes place every year on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese calendar.

Travel the Hunan Province: From Zhangjiajie via Wulingyuan to Avatar

Doubtlessly one of the highlights of this journey through Hunan in Chian is the visit to the two magical national parks of Zhangjiajie and Wulingyuan.


Avatar sends his greetings: The Wulingyuan National Park in Hunan Province, China

You travel by one of the world’s longest cable cars up to Tianmenshan.

"Tianmen" means literally “the gate to Heaven”. The name alludes to a gigantic hole in the side of Mount Tianmen which – if looked at from below and with a bit of imagination – in fact looks like a passage into the realm of the sky.

The very brave can take the walk over a glass-bottom-bridge hanging over a vertical abyss 1000 meters deep!

That is followed up by a visit to the no less fascinating Tianzishan in the center of  Wulingyuan national park. It is alleged that the spectacular red stone needles of Tianzishan near Wulingyuan served James Cameron as a model for the “hovering mountains of Pandora” in his film “Avatar”.

A fascinating China journey full of contrasts and beauties of the landscape which can excite the enthusiasm of even experienced travelers in China.

 

"...die Reise war ein voller Erfolg! Insbesondere die Landschaft am Tianzishan hat uns beeindruckt..."
   Francois aus der Schweiz
 


"...wir haben China von einer ganz anderen, uns unbekannten Seite kennen gelernt. Ganz besonders angetan waren wir von der landschaftlichen Schönheit der Hunan Provinz..."
"Herzlichen Dank für die perfekt organisierte Reise..."
   Heidi und Rüdiger aus Deutschland

Tour Map

Tour Itinerary

Day 1:   ARRIVAL IN GUILIN AND TRAVEL TO YANGSHUO


Travel to Yangshuo, Guangxi Province

Arrival in Guilin. The city of Guilin is best reached by plane. For some time Guilin has also been connected to the modern high-speed train network of China.

You are met at the railroad station or airport and you travel (one hour) to Yangshuo, a small city in the midst of exotic karst mountains near Li River.

Yangshuo was discovered almost 25 years ago by backpackers and for a long time was regarded as the one "off the beaten track" destination in China. However, this has changed significantly in recent years.

Because of its position it is a perfect set off point for many activities in the surrounding areas.

After arrival you check in at the hotel. Overnight stay in Yangshuo.

Day 2:   CHINA TOUR: YANGSHUO – XINGPING – YANGDI – YANGSHUO ODER JIUXIAN VILLAGE


Great views over Li River, Yangshuo China

Trip to Xianggongshan. On a well-developed boardwalk you go up in about 15 minutes onto Xianggongshan, from where you have a breathtaking view of Li River and the surrounding karst landscape of Yangshuo. Afterwards there is a 2-hour hike through the beautiful landscape to Xingping.

Take a stroll through the old town Xingping. Many of the old buildings of the former fishing village originated in the late Ming dynasty.

In Xingping you get into a motorized “raft” and float at leisurely pace upstream through the wonderful karst landscape.

The unique landscape around Xingping even serves as a picture on the 20 RMB banknote. After about 2 hours you reach Yangdi. From Yangdi you drive to the village Jiuxian, where you spend the night in a tastefully set up little boutique hotel with three stars.

Day 3:   YANGSHUO

Today you have a choice:


Fascinating landscapes around Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China

Option 1: bicycle trip to Moon Mountain. From Yangshuo pedal through the beautiful landscape, part of the way along Yulong River to Moon Mountain. En route there are plenty of chances to take a photo. Moon Mountain takes its name from the circular hole in its peak which is supposed to resemble a full moon. Over about 800 steps you climb up the peak of Moon Mountain, from where you enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding karst landscape.

Option 2: Trip on a bamboo raft to Moon Mountain: short car trip to Yulong River. On a bamboo raft you are carried through the wonderful karst landscape down Yulong River. En route there are many chances to take photos. At the bridge your driver is again waiting for you, and he drives you in about 5 minutes to Moon Mountain. Lunch at Moon Mountain (at your expense). Over about 800 steps you climb up the peak of Moon Mountain, from where you enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding karst landscape. Descent and drive back to your hotel.

Optional for the evening:
In the evening we go to the show “Liu San Jie” by the director of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, Zhang Yimou. This impressive open air show with more than 500 participants against the background of the karst hill landscape is a unique spectacle.

Day 4:   CHINA TRAVEL: YANGSHUO – DAZHAI – TIANTOUZHAI LONGSHENG RICE TERRACES


Travel to Dazhai, in the middle of the Longsheng rice terraces

Travel in a northerly direction via Hepingxiang to Dazhai. Dazhai is the set off point for the impressive rice terraces of Long Sheng, and is the homeland of the Zhuang ethnic minority.

Longji, “the backbone of the dragon”, is what the locals call the rice terraces because the terraced rice paddies snake through the landscape like a dragon. Lunch at a local restaurant.  

Afterwards you hike through the wonderful rice terraces up to the village of Tiantouzhai situated high above Dazhai Valley.

Check in at the hotel. In the afternoon you have free time to do a round trip on your own initiative through the extensive rice terraces.

Overnight stay in Tiantouzhai.

Day 5:   TIANTOUZHAI – HIKE FROM TIANTOUZHAI TO PING'AN – TRAVEL TO SANJIANG


Hike through the Longsheng rice terraces from Dazhai to Ping'An, China Travel

Simple breakfast in the local style. From Tiantouzhai you hike for 4-5 hours through the glorious landscape in the direction of Ping’An (easy hiking, about 15 km, up- and downhill).

In Zhongliu you will be given lunch with a local family of the Yao ethnic minority.

The local Yao women are noted for their long hair. By tradition the Yao women cut their hair only once in their life, when they reach their 16th year. The length of hair of the Yao women has even given them a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

You reach Ping‘ An early in the afternoon. There is time for a stroll around this car-free mountain village.

At the parking area of Ping’An your driver will be waiting for your drive to Sanjiang. Check in at the hotel. Overnight stay in Sanjiang.

Day 6:   TRAVEL THE HUNAN PROVINCE: FROM SANJIANG TO TONGDAO

You travel north across the border of the province into Hunan. After the small town of Long Sheng you travel a small country road through the glorious landscape of rural Hunan province. In this area rice is planted mainly in summer; in winter principally rapeseed and vegetables are grown.


The Dong Drum Towers in Hunan Province are popular meeting places of the villagers

Several typical “wind and rain bridges” invite you to make photo stops.

First you take a break at the village of Zhongbu, which you enter across the Wenxing bridge. You inspect the small Buddhist temple and visit the Drumm tower.

In the past every Dong village had its own drum tower. In most villages till today drum towers are used for village assemblies or weddings. As well they are popular meeting places for the elder villagers for playing cards or chess or swapping news. Earlier a drum was hanging in those drum towers and it was beaten on special occasions or as a warning of fire.

The trip continues to the village of Pingtan, which is also waiting for you with a beautiful “wind and rain bridge” and a drum tower.

Near the village Henglun we make a break at the Hui Long bridge. The specialty of that bridge construction is that in contrast to other wind and rain bridges it has a curve. The name “Hui Long” means literally and also fittingly “the twisted dragon”.


Village life in rural Hunnan province, China

In the village of Huangdu there is the Puxiu bridge, probably the most beautiful and impressive “wind and rain bridge” in the region.

The Puxiu bridge was built in 1865. The Puxiu bridge is known above all because it was crossed by Mao Zedong in 1934 during the Long March. That episode is known in Chinese history as the “Tongdao Crossing”.

Last of all you make a detour to the village of Yutouzai, which was founded in 1750. Apart from the lovely drumming tower, the village is known for the “overhanging pavilion”. The pleasant village atmosphere invites you to a lengthy stay.

The trip continues to Tongdao. Overnight stay in Tongdao.

Day 7:   TONGDAO – HONGJIANG – FENGHUANG


Journey to Hongjiang Old Town

Via the newly built freeway G65 we reach the city of Qiangchengchen. The town was formerly an important trading station on the Yuan River.

You take a short stroll round the town center and wander along the boardwalk. 

After that we drive further (30 km) along Yuan River to Hongjiang. Hongjiang was until the 19th century a wealthy and influential trading station for goods transported on Yuan River. You do a lengthy sightseeing stroll through the well-preserved town center.

Buildings with names like “house of joy” or “opium floor” do not need further explanation and give a good insight into life in a trading city during the late Qing dynasty.

You travel back to the freeway G65 for the journey to Feng Huang (2 hours). Check in at the hotel.

Overnight stay in Feng Huang.

Day 8:   FENGHUANG, HUNAN PROVINCE, CHINA

Feng Huang is an old fortress town on the Tao River. The origins of Feng Huang go back to the Spring-Autumn Annals (770-476 BC), but the town center in its present form originated in the early 18th century.


Fenghuang old town, Hunan Province

The town center of Feng Huang extends along both sides of Tuo River. The two banks are linked by many bridges. Without a doubt the most striking of those bridges is the covered Hong bridge.

Feng Huang is often described in western translations as “Phoenix City”. Like the phoenix, Feng Huang is a bird that rose up from fire and represents good luck and longevity.

In the morning you do a sightseeing tour of the town center of Feng Huang. You stroll on the old town walls and visit some of the most striking buildings in the town center. As well, you undertake a short boat trip on Tuo River.

Overnight stay in Feng Huang.

Day 9:   FENGHUANG – RED STONE FOREST "HONGSHILIN" – ZHANGJIAJIE – WULINGYUAN 


Hunan Travel Red Stone Forest Guzhang

After breakfast you leave Feng Huang and travel via the freeway to Jishou. From there the journey goes on along the country road through tobacco and rice fields in a north-easterly direction to Guzhang to the “Red Stone Forest” (Hongshilin).

The collection of those bizarre, almost elegant stone formations dates from over 450 million years ago. When walking through that geopark (area 10 square kilometers) you will discover more and more new stone formations.

After that you travel further via Zhangjiajie (Dayong) to Wulingyuan, the starting point for your excursion tomorrow to Tianzishan. Located in the extreme northwest of Hunan province, Wulingyuan National Park is one of China's most beautiful landscapes. Rugged limestone towers rise from low-hanging clouds and on virtually every horizontal surface, grow prehistoric, subtropical plants.

Overnight stay in Wulingyuan.

Day 10:  ZHANGJIAJIE NATIONAL PARK: WULINGYUAN / TIANZISHAN


Hunan Province in China: Wulingyuan National Park

Wulingyuan is situated about 30 km north of Zhangjiajie and is the starting point of one of the most beautiful and spectacular natural landscapes in China. The more than 3,000 reddish sandstone pillars are part of the main attractions of the geopark, which is on UNESCO’s heritage list.

Some of those impressive sandstone pillars tower up into the sky to as much as 200 meters from the surrounding subtropical rain forest.

You travel by the park bus to the “White Dragon Lift”. In just two minutes the three double-story lifts cover the 300 meters of difference in altitude.

After a short trip by park bus and a short walk on foot you reach the first lookout platform, from which you enjoy a first breathtaking view of the bizarre sandstone pillars.

According to reports that fairy-tale landscape served the director David Cameron as a model for the “hovering mountains of Pandora” in his film “Avatar”.


Travel Hunan: Zhangjiajie and Wulingyuan

Afterwards we travel further by park bus (about 30 minutes) to the peak of Mount Tianzi.

Short hikes to the many lookouts enable you to catch here too a fantastic view of the fissured mountain landscape of Wulingyuan.

A lovely hike of 2.5 hours (lots of steps) through pine forests take you down to the bus station „San Suo Xiao Fang“, and from there the park bus will again take you to the park exit.

Overnight stay in Wulingyuan. In the town Wulingyuan, located right outside the National Park, there is a large selection of accommodation. The palette ranges from a simple 2 star guesthouse to the modern 5 star hotel with international standards.

Day 10:  TRAVEL THE HUNAN PROVINCE: WULINGYUANG – ZHANGJIAJIE  – TIANZI SHAN – ZHANGJIAJIE 

In the morning a 15-minute drive to the main entrance. The morning program depends on the weather, your degree of fitness, and your desires and mood:

Sporty types who get up early experience a glorious circular hike of about 4 hours with beautiful views of the spectacular sandstone pillars of Huang Shi Zhai in the eastern part of the park. The climb of 1.5 hours is rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Wuling Range as well as the red sandstone pillars. After you have reached the summit there is a rather easy circular hike, again with spectacular views of Tianzishan on the other side.


Hunan Travel: Magnificent views at Zhangjiajie National Park, China

But if you like things a bit less strenuous, go by the Huang Shi Zhang cable car up to the summit. A lovely circular way of one hour opens up a grand view of the fissured mountain landscape. Whoever wants to can do the return trip on foot; a well-developed path with lots of steps leads down into the valley (about 1.5 hours of hiking). Otherwise, the return trip is done by cable car.

After that drive to Zhangjiajie, the starting point for our excursion to the “Gate to Heaven”.

In the afternoon, after the peak hour for visitors, you go on one of the world’s longest cable car trips (7.5 km) up to the peak of Tianmenshan (Mountain of the Gate to Heaven) at 1520 meters.

For those with no fear of heights the walk along the glass-bottomed walkway, 60 meters long and 70 cm broad, is quite a unique experience. The rocky walls fall almost 1000 meters almost vertically under your feet away into the depths. (The walk across that way can be omitted and is not an obligatory part of this hike).

Afterwards you go by cable car back to the middle station and from there by shuttle bus by a winding road to the “Gate to Heaven”, a gigantic hole on the eastern side of the mountain. According to legend that gigantic hole in the mountain is supposed to be the link between the Earth and Heaven. Climbing 999 steps of the “Stairway to Heaven”, you reach the “Gate to Heaven” (Tianmen).

Overnight stay in Zhangjiajie.

Day 11:   ZHANGJIAJIE – CHANGSHA, CAPITAL OF HUNAN PROVINCE, CHINA


Changsha is the capital of Hunan Province and is the final destination of your trip to Hunan and Guangx in China

Travel to Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. Changsha, among other things, attracts with its contrasts. Whoever takes a glance behind the glass skyscrapers with the modern shopping centers finds now, just as it once was, the traditional China with its winding, busy lanes, markets, the chaos of electric lines, and of course the typical Chinese snack bars.

Depending on the time of your departure you will do a sightseeing tour of Changsha. You visit the Hunan Provincial Museum with an interesting exhibition on the early history of China. The center pieces of the exhibition are the 2000-year old Han graves, discovered in 1972 during excavations. Coffins were exposed that contained a perfectly preserved mummy and 3,000 burial objects.

As well, you visit the Yuelu Academy. Founded in 976 during the Song dynasty, the Yuelu Academy for a long time was one of the four most famous teaching institutions in China.  In 1926 the Yuelu Academy became the Hunan University. Today the Academy hosts a very informative exhibition of original scripts and documents from the periods of the Ming and the Qing.

Transfer to the airport of Changsha. End of your journey through Guangxi and Hunan Provinces in China.

 

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Review

Travel the Hunan Province in China: A journey to the Valley of the Dong villages

Duration:
9-11 days
Travel Hunan and Guangxi in China: Karst Landscapes and Drum Towers
Tour Type:
Private Tours