UNESCO China Mt Huangshan

Five Must-See China UNESCO Sites


For travelers visiting China for the first time, the most likely attractions to visit, and justifiably so, would be the more well-known places like the Great Wall of China or the Forbidden City in Beijing, Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian, or perhaps to see the mega metropolis city of Shanghai. Others may venture out a bit more and visit places like the Yangtze River, picturesque Guilin, or even Chengdu, where they get to see the Giant pandas. But with 47 UNESCO World Heritage sites belonging to China alone (ranks second in terms of number of World Heritage sites only behind Italy), it is well worthwhile to include in one’s journey, some of the other less popular attractions, but nonetheless, as invigorating and eye-opening.

Here are 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites worth considering while visiting China.

  1. Jiuzhaigou Valley

Jiuzhaigou Valley China Blog

Situated on the northern border of Sichuan Province at the edge of the Tibetan plateau, Jiuzhaigou valley is home to about 110 Tibetan and Qiang families. Awarded a World Natural Heritage Site and a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1992, Jiuzhaigou is renowned for its scenic and aesthetic majesty.  It is a heaven of natural wonders boasting an arsenal of spectacular waterfalls, colorful alpine lakes, limestone terraces, deep valleys and breathtaking snow-capped mountains with a highly diverse forest ecosystem.

The best time to visit Jiuzhaigou Valley is during the autumn season when the mountains, valleys and lakes are saturated in autumn colors of yellow, red, and green mixed with the blue lake water, creating the most incredibly picturesque and breath-taking view.  More than two million people visit Jiuzhaigou Valley annually to gawk at its famous bluer-than-blue lakes, rushing waterfalls and deep woodlands back-lit by snowy mountain ranges.

  1. Old Town of Lijiang

Black Dragon Pond, Lijiang

A central town of the Lijiang Autonomous County in the Yunnan Province, the Old Town of Lijiang is a well-preserved old city occupied by the Naxi Ethnic Minority group.  Suited for families and honeymooners, but welcoming to all travelers, this UNESCO World Heritage site is an ancient city hidden amid towering mountain ranges beautifully accented by centuries old architectures and mesmerizing landscape.

Built in the Song and early Yuan Dynasties and revered by locals and foreigners alike for centuries, Lijiang’s old town comprises of a labyrinth of cobbled streets and tiny alleyways lined with small shops, restaurants and local residences, beautifully complemented by tranquil, Koi-filled waterways, peaceful willow trees, and vibrant red lanterns. Visitors here can enjoy the leisure strolls about the cobbled Old Town to shop and dine; pay a visit to the picturesque Black Dragon Pond;  climb (by cable car) the breathtaking Yulong Snow Mountain; visit a mountain top Tibetan Monastery; or take a stroll through one of the many rural Naxi Minority Tribal villages in the region.

  1. Mount Huangshan, Anhui

Mount Huangshan Anhui

Located in the southern part of Anhui Province, Mount Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is undoubtedly China’s most celebrated mountain for all its grandeur and beauty.  It is celebrated for possessing the Four Wonders of Mountain Scenery: spectacular rocky peaks, odd-shaped pines, crystal-clear mountain springs, and seas of clouds. The spectacular natural scenery has drawn many visitors, poets, photographers and painters here since ancient times. Literature dated back to the year of 747 during the Tang Dynasty described the mountain as “the place of discovery of the long-sought elixir of immortality”.

Also known as “the loveliest mountain under heaven”, and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, Huangshan’s dramatic mountainous landscape consists of a crowd of peaks, 72 of which have names that correspond to the shapes they resemble, emerging through a perpetual sea of clouds. With the alternation of seasons and climates, the mountain scenery changes beyond prediction.  On cloudy days, the mountain peaks loom in mists as if they were illusionary. When the sun shines, they unfold in all their majesty and splendor.

Aside from marveling its grandeur natural beauty, visitors also come to Mount Huangshan to enjoy its clusters of crystal-clear hot springs, its variety of flora and plants, hiking, and observe the sunrise over its peaks.

  1. Wulingyuan Scenic & Historic Interest Area

Zhangjiajie Avatar

One of the most stunning and mesmerizing landscapes on Earth, Zhangjiajie was famed to travelers for being the backdrop in the blockbuster hit movie “Avatar”.  The Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar were inspired by Heavenly Pillars in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, one of four subsections in the Wulingyuan Scenic area.

Famed as one of the most fascinating national parks in the world, Zhangjiajie boasts more than 3,100 immense quartzite sandstone pillars reaching to the clouds, seemingly floating over deep ravines, tranquil streams and spectacular waterfalls. In fact, one of the park’s quartz-sandstone pillars, the 3,544-foot Southern Sky Column, had been officially renamed “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain”.

Due to the two different crustal topographies that Wulingyuan Scenic Area sits on: one – an uplifted, mountainous area and the other – a depressed basin or lake area, visitors to this area can enjoy the spectacular natural landscapes formed from both of these topographical extremes including spectacular jagged stone peaks, luxuriant vegetation cover and clear lakes and streams. Nestled within its towering peaks lie ravines and gorges with streams, pools and waterfalls, two large natural bridges, and some 40 caves.

  1. Longmen Grottoes

Longmen Grottoes

Located on both sides of the Yi River to the south of the ancient capital of Luoyang, Henan province, the Longmen Grottoes comprise more than 2,300 caves and niches carved into the steep limestone cliffs of almost a mile stretch.  The grottoes and niches of Longmen contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art, entirely devoted to the Buddhist religion.  Within these caves contain almost 110,000 Buddhist stone statues, more than 60 stupas and 2,800 inscriptions carved on steles.

500 years of renovation and expansion have created this prestigious world cultural site.  The grotto was first carved in the North Wei Dynasty, over 1,500 years ago, and was expanded through the succeeding East and West Wei Dynasties, North Qi Dynasty, North Zhou Dynasty, Sui and Tang Dynasties, and was finally completed in the North Song Dynasty. The work on the sculptures over the long period illustrates changes in artistic style. The two sculptural art styles, the earlier “Central China Style” and the later “Great Tang Style” had great influence within the country and throughout the world, and have made important contributions to the development of the sculptural arts in other Asian countries.

For those interested in a road less traveled, let Explorient help you plan an unforgettable journey to one of these incredible places.  Your life will forever be changed by the experience.

Recommended Tours:

In addition to the above, Explorient offers a wide range of high-end tour packages to China & Beyond. Please check out our China Tours page and discover the endless array vacation experiences this vast country has to offer.

Comments (1)

  1. meshack July 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Visiting Huangshan could be challenging.The weather at huangshan can be unpredictable.It can be rainning and your trip is ruined.The first two days of our visit was very disappointing.It was drizzling day & night.What we could see was the brief outline of the distant mountain.Our camera equippment bag was soaked with water.The granite path along the major scenic spots could be slippery.Besides,the hill top were choked with local & foreign tourists.It was mind boggling that the eco system of the geopark could accomodate so many people.
    However on the third day,the weather was fine.It was a breath taking experience to see the “Chinese Painting” like scenery unfolded in front of me.It was simply awesome ! No wonder there is a saying :- :after visiting Huangshan, other mountains will not attract you.”
    I recommend people to stay longer to enjoy the awesome scenry.
    One good advice :- you must be phyically fit to visit this beautiful Geopark.