15 Incredible Landscapes in China You Never Knew Existed!

Here we will take a look at some of the most beautiful landscapes in China. With such varied and vast terrain, the Middle Kingdom is home to some of the most unique and picturesque places in the world.

China is a vast country with many different landscapes and climates. From the icy city of Harbin or the Himalayas to the Gobi Desert and the tropical south, the country is steeped in dramatic and stunning areas of natural beauty.

I spent six years exploring this vast land and all the different China landscapes from the karst mountains of Zhangjiajie to the tropical rainforest o Hainan Island and everything in between. Every time I revisit my picture gallery, it feels like I’m flipping through captivating picture books online. Join me for this journey!

Quick Overview of China Landscapes

  1. Mount Everest – At 8,849 metres (29,030 feet) Everest is the tallest mountain in the world and spans both Nepal and Tibet.
  2. West Lake – Hangzhou’s beautiful West Lake has been a place of rest and relaxation since the times of the emperors.
  3. Li River – Limestone cliffs and cormorant fishermen make the Li River around Guilin and Yangshuo one of the most beautiful places in China!
  4. Dunhuang Silk Road – Witness the incredible Crescent Lake and echoing sand mountain in this ancient Silk Road outpost.
  5. Zhangjiajie – The inspiration behind the landscape in the film Avatar, otherworldly Zhangjiajie is a must-see!
  6. Siguniangshan – Known as Four Maidens Mountain for its four peaks, Siguniangshan in Sichuan’s Tibetan region is truly breathtaking!
  7. Zhangye Danxia Landform – See China’s famous rainbow mountains in the far west Gansu Province.
  8. Wuzhishan Rainforest – One of the wildest places in China, the rainforest surrounding the small town of Wuzhishan on Hainan Island is home to a unique array of flora and fauna.
  9. Lhasa – Dominated by the impressive Potala Palace and surrounding Himalayan peaks, Lhasa is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
  10. Longjing Tea Plantation – Tea has been grown and harvested in the hills outside Hangzhou for centuries.
  11. Songshan and Shaolin Temple – The birthplace of Wushu (Kung-Fu), the Shaolin Temple, Pagoda Forest and surrounding mountain scenery have to be seen to be believed!
  12. Cuihua Geopark – A beautiful national park outside of Xi’an that incudes misty mountain landscapes, lakes and caves.
  13. Yuntaishan – The red sandstone gorge at Yuntaishan is the culmination in millions of years of erosion.
  14. Harbin Ice and Snow World – This annual ice-sculpture festival has been running for over 50 years. The most impressive manmade landscape in China!
  15. The Great Wall of China – This series of impressive fortifications is one of the modern wonders of the world. The most famous of China’s landscapes!

15 Incredible Landscapes in China

1. Mount Everest, Tibet

Straddling both Nepal and Tibet, Mount Everest is the highest mountain on earth at 8,849 metres (29,029 feet). Unlike the two-week trek needed to reach base camp from the Nepal side, EBC Tibet at Rongbuk is easily reachable by road. The Tibetan plateau is one of the most incredible landscapes in China and is considered the “Roof of the World”.

Where: Tibet Autonomous Region

Nearest Major City: Shigatse

2. West Lake, Hangzhou

Hangzhou is one of the most beautiful places in China thanks to the stunning West Lake and nearby mountains. West Lake has been an important destination for centuries and has inspired the design of China’s imperial gardens and parks. It is possible to walk the entire circumference of the lake which can take from three or four hours to a whole day.

Where: Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, Eastern China

Nearest Major City: Hangzhou

3. The Li River

So scenic that it is featured on the ¥20 Yuan note, Xingping is a small settlement on the Li River 27km from Yangshuo, itself one of China’s most scenic destinations. Xingping is surrounded by towering karst mountains and moody landscapes that echo old watercolour paintings of China. You can even see the age-old cormorant fisherman here.

Nearby is just as beautiful and well worth a visit. Check out these fab things to do in Guilin for after your trip to Yangshuo.

Where: Guangxi Province, Southern China

Nearest Major City: Guilin

4. Dunhuang Silk Road

The ancient Silk Road town of Dunhuang is located within an oasis of the Taklamakan Desert (part of the larger Gobi Desert). It is famous for its singing sand dunes (Mingsha Shan) and crescent lake surrounded on all sides by desert. The nearby Mogao caves are another attraction with a system of over 400 temples carved into the rock. One of the most impressive landscapes in China!

Where: Gansu Province, Northwest China

Nearest Major City: Dunhuang

5. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

The landscape at Zhangjiajie is so otherworldly that it was used as the basis for the fictional Hallelujah Mountains in the sci-fi film Avatar. The tree-studded karst mountains rise up from the mist in impressive formation making it one of the most beautiful places in China. Here you will also find some “attractions” like glass bridges and walkways and the world’s highest outdoor elevator!

Where: Hunan Province, Southern China

Nearest Major City: Wulingyuan

6. Siguniangshan (Four Sisters Mountain)

Situated in the Aba Tibetan Autonomous region, Siguniangshan, or Four Sisters Mountain, is a 6,000m peak towering above three valleys and definitely one of the most beautiful places in China. Each valley represents a unique hiking opportunity and offers some of the most incredible views in China. The area gives the traveller a taste of nearby Tibet without needing to arrange an expensive tour and permits for Tibet proper.

Where: Sichuan Province, Southwest China

Nearest Major City: Chengdu

7. Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains

The Rainbow Mountains at the Zhangye Danxia Geopark are truly one of the wonders of China. There are four sets of viewing platforms located across the geopark offering stunning views out to this unique landform. Nearby Bingguo Geopark is also well worth a visit for its towering rock formations and sweeping views to the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Where: Gansu Province, Northwest China

Nearest Major City: Zhangye

8. Wuzhishan Rainforest

Wuzhishan is a small town in the central highlands of China’s Hainan Island. Truly one of the most beautiful places in China for its untamed rainforest that laps at the town from every angle. Wuzhishan is easily reachable by 2-hour bus from the popular resort city of Sanya.

Where: Hainan Island, Southern China

Nearest Major City: Sanya

9. Lhasa, Tibet

Known as the “roof of the world” for it’s high elevation in the Himalayas, Tibet is one of the most magical places on earth. Discover Lhasa and the famous Potala Palace before heading across this wild land to the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest!

Where: Tibet

Nearest Major City: Lhasa

10. Longjing Tea Plantation

Longjing Village is situated behind West Lake near Hangzhou and is famed for its Dragon Well Tea. This variety of green tea has been grown at Longjing for centuries and the plantation has been visited by many emperors. The tea bushes cling to the steep hillsides above this charming village and each spring, workers come to harvest the leaves.

Where: Longjing Village

Nearest Major City: Hangzhou

11. Songshan Mountain and the Shaolin Temple

Sanhuang is a village clinging to the side of Shaoshi Mountain close to the world-renowned Shaolin Temple (the birthplace of the Kung-Fu martial art). The trek to the village leads you along steep paths and up and down small crevasses cut into the rock. Waterfalls cascade down the mountain and you must cross a precipitous rope bridge before finally reaching the village.

Where: Henan Province, Northern China.

Nearest Major City: Luoyang

12. Cuihua Mountain Geopark, Xi’an

Nestled within the Qinling Mountains south of Xi’an, Cuihua Geopark displays the remnants of a long ago earthquake that shaped the landscape. There are wind and ice caves to explore as well as the enchanting Heavenly Lake. If you are feeling fit you can ascend the 2,000 Cuiha Peak for stunning views of mist-covered mountains.

Where: Shaanxi Province, Central China

Nearest Major City: Xi’an

13. Yuntaishan Geopark

One of China’s hidden wonders, the scenic area at Yuntaishan was formed by tectonic movements 23 million years ago. The resulting gorges, valleys, rivers and waterfalls create a unique environment perfect for exploring. There is also a beautiful Buddhist temple set at the foot of a mountain and if you’re lucky (or unlucky) you may spot the not so wild monkeys that inhabit the area.

Where: Henan Province, Central China.

Nearest Major City: Zhengzhou

14. Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Although the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is an attraction, it still deserves to be included in a list of the most beautiful places in China for the stunning ice sculpture park! From late December until March, Harbin in China’s far northwest is home to a city made entirely of ice! Harbin is also home to the beautiful Russian-built Saint Sophia Cathedral!

Where: Heilongjiang Province, Northeastern China.

Nearest Major City: Harbin

15. The Great Wall of China

The UNESCO world heritage site that is the Great Wall of China is not a single entity but rather a collection of fortifications running across Northern China. The most well know sections of the wall were built during the Ming Dynasty between 1344 and 1644. The most accessible parts of the wall close to Beijing have been all but rebuilt but it’s still possible to find untouched sections, like in Dandong. The Great Wall is one of the must-see Chinese tourist attractions!

Where: Heibei, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi and more.

Nearest Major City: Beijing

Looking for more amazing China landscapes? Check out my list of these 36 Amazing China Landmarks.

Is China safe to visit in 2022? Find out in my article, how safe is China?

Dunhuang, Gobi Desert, China

About the author:

Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has traveled to over 60 countries, lived in Armenia, China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.

Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of the world by train, bus and boat. He has been interviewed multiple times by the BBC and recently featured in the documentary Scariest Places in the World. See the About page for more info.

Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲

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