With just 200,000 residents, Dunhuang is hardly a major city by today’s standards. However, the city is located at the historic juncture of two major Silk Road routes and contains two of Gansu province’s most prominent tourist attractions: Yueyaquan and the Mogao Caves. Yueyaquan, or Crescent Moon Lake, is a small oasis in the desert, and a sight unlike any other. Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes, are located about 25 km (15.5 miles) from Dunhuang proper and are famous for their significant Buddhist art and Christian artifacts still being discovered within. On a separate note, animal lovers will be delighted to hear that Dunhuang is best explored by camel.
Tulou houses, Fujian
Tulou, which translates as “earthen buildings,” are a distinctive architectural style found only in Fujian province’s Yongding District. These doughnut-shaped houses are native to the Fujianese Hakka people, some of whom still reside there today. Each house consists of a circular outer ring surrounding an open-air central shrine. There are over 20,000 tulou remaining in southern Fujian, a small group of which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This group, noted for its large scale and ingenious structure, is a popular tourist destination for the region but is criminally underrated by international tourists.
Volga Manor, Heilongjiang
Heilongjiang province in China’s northeast is best visited in the dead of winter, and that is when most tourists go. However, all of the attention seems to be focused on the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival, leaving nearby Volga Manor nearly empty of tourists. Volga Manor is a Russian-style forest garden that transports visitors to days past when such quaint landscapes were common throughout Harbin. Most of the buildings in the forest are replicas of real Russian buildings that were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
Forget the ice slide at the Snow and Ice Festival. Volga Manor has a giant slide down its own version of Russia’s Petroff Palace. There is also a Russian restaurant, a cathedral, and a frozen lake with winter ice sports on site.
Zhangye National Geopark, Gansu
Located in the same province as Dunhuang, Zhangye National Geopark is one of the few places in the world where you can experience the unique geological phenomenon known in Chinese as Danxia. These vibrant, multi-colored, layered rock formations will transport you to another world with their unique beauty. This incredible landscape is the result of 24 million years of sandstone and mineral deposits and is connected to the same tectonic plate shifting that created the somewhat-nearby Himalayan mountains.
The geopark was chosen by Chinese National Geography as one of the six most beautiful landforms in China.