China's landscapes range from fertile hills and rice terraces, to sweeping desert and snow-covered mountain ranges - iconic scenes that have inspired artists and poets for centuries.
In the north of the country lies the Great Wall of China, best accessed from the capital Beijing. Within two or three hours you can reach one of a number of panoramic viewpoints, for sweeping vistas of some of the best preserved sections of the wall, gently rolling over the mountainous countryside. Whilst the Badaling Pass is the most well-known and visited, the lesser visited passes at Mutianyu, Jinshanling and Jiankou are arguably more interesting, when in the company of an expert guide.
Guilin in the south is famed for its other-worldly karst landscape. Huge limestone sugarloaf peaks rise out of the Li River as far as the eyes can see, often shrouded in mist and accompanied by traditional cormorant fishermen, large water buffalos and peasants working the adjacent paddy fields. They are best appreciated on an unforgettable boat trip between Guilin and Yangshuo.
Just a couple of hours out of Guilin are the fertile hills, remote villages and magnificent rice terraces of Longsheng. The scenery here changes throughout the course of of the year; in spring the terraces are filled with water to irrigate the paddy fields, in summer they turn a vibrant green, before they are tinged with the soft golden tones of autumn. Finally, winter can often blanket the hills and terraces in a layer of snow.
Heading further west, we come to the striking Kungming Stone Forest (also known as Shi Lin) in the province of Yunnan. Here, infinite bizzarely-shaped limestone pillars, some with wonderfully vivid names, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to create dramatic views at every turn. Mysterious caves, underground rivers and the powerful Dadie Waterfall only add to the drama.
The high altitude plateau of Tibet is a world away from anything else in China. The land here is largely barren desert, intersected by sparkling turquoise lakes and dotted with wandering herds of Yaks, hardy Tibetan foxes and pockets of isolated communities. On the very edge of Tibet, on the border with Nepal, is the tantalizing prospect of Mount Everest Base Camp, reached on a 4 day round trip from Lhasa by road. Travel here is tougher, but rewards intrepid travellers with brilliant isolation and the privilege of witnessing some of the world's most hauntingly beautiful and touching landscapes, seen by relatively few.
Beauty here is not just confined to the Chinese countryside however. The water town of Wuzhen is one of the most attractive in all of China, the city of Lijiang in the Yunnan province is backed by the spectacular Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, whilst the West Lake at Hangzhou is one of the very best places to see the sun go down.
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