11 Natural Landmarks in China That Will Take Your Breath Away

Written By Wise Healthy n Wealthy

When thinking of China, your mind may spring straight to its man-made wonders, like the Great Wall or the Terracotta Army. Yet what some people don’t realize is that China’s natural world is equally breathtaking.

This enormous, fascinating, and ancient country boasts more than its fair share of natural wonders. In this post, I’ve compiled a list of 11 of China’s most breathtaking and unmissable natural landmarks. Let’s dive in…

1. Yuncheng Salt Lake

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Nestled way off the beaten track in Shanxi Province, the Yuncheng Salt Lake looks like a giant watercolor painting. Otherwise known as ‘The Dead Sea of China’ due to its remarkably high salt content, Yuncheng’s striking appearance stems from the abundance of sulfate in the water.

Algae feasts on the sulfate over the summer, and the salt mixed with the algal blooms produces astonishing colors. Don’t think you can only visit in Summer, though! Once the temperature drops, the salt transforms into a sea of crystals, and the entire lake becomes a glittering winter wonderland.

2. Blue Moon Valley

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Towering above the ancient city of Lijiang is the famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Thirteen snow-tipped peaks make up this towering hulk of stone.

Sprouting at the melting snow line and winding down into the valley below is an impossibly vibrant turquoise river. This is the Blue Moon Valley, named for the beautiful color of the water. As the river rolls down through the foothills, it forms lakes and waterfalls, each more visually stunning than the last.

The entire area is a National Park, and there’s an excellent tourist center, plus a shuttle bus to take you to the main lakes.

3. Red Beach, Panjin

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It looks like a set from a sci-fi film, but Red Beach is very real and utterly otherworldly. Don’t be fooled by the name, however! It’s not a beach at all, but a vast sea of bright crimson grasses. A short distance outside the city of Panjin, you’ll find the world’s largest marsh, a great swath of which appears to be dyed a deep, vivid red.

The grass that provides this pop of color is a rare form of Chenopodium, and it wouldn’t look out of place on Mars. There are strict environmental protections in place to preserve this natural marvel, but you can walk through it on wooden walkways.

4. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

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Ever seen the blockbuster movie Avatar? Remember the impossible floating mountains on the planet of Pandora? Well, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is where James Cameron got the idea. These gravity-defying pillars of stone, inexorably covered in lush vegetation, provide some of the most striking views anywhere on Earth.

It’s no wonder the entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Zhangjiajie has cable cars, trains, elevators, and walkways to transport guests around the park. An admission ticket is valid for four days, and there are plenty of incredible natural sights to keep you occupied.

5. Mount Huangshan

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Known as “The Loveliest Mountain of China,” Mount Huangshan is the subject of countless pieces of art and literature. Way back in the 8th Century, a Tang Dynasty described Huangshan as the place where the elixir of immortality was discovered. Since then, it’s been a place of pilgrimage for believers, poets, artists, and tourists alike.

Fascinating historical carvings and inscriptions adorn the mountain, some over a thousand years old! If you’re lucky with the weather, you’ll see the famous “Sea of Clouds”—where the peaks rise like islands from an ocean of fog. Many adventurers opt to hike their way up, but there’s a cable car if they prefer the leisurely route.

6. The Three Gorges of the Yangtze River

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Yangtze River is the longest river in China and the third-longest in the world. The “Three Gorges” refers to a section of it marked by Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, and Xiling Gorge. Each of these deep ravines boasts its own unique and striking scenery.

Qutang is steep and sheer, narrowing to just 150 meters wide while being a staggering 1200 meters deep. Wu is more mountainous and cuts between the imposing Twelve Peaks of Wushan. There are six peaks on each side of the gorge, and the mist that rolls down off the mountains gives the whole area a mysterious atmosphere. In Xiling, rapids, whirlpools, and waterfalls puncture the water.

A Yangtze River Cruise takes you through all three gorges, and it’ll probably feel like you’ve been to three different countries.

7. Shilin Stone Forest

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Yunnan Province plays host to the Shilin Stone Forest – three hundred square kilometers of incredible stone formations. This geological marvel is almost three hundred million years old. Over the millennia, earthquakes, wind, and water have created these amazing pillars of rock.

Shilin boasts an underground river, and there are mazes of waterways and pathways between the pillars to explore. The native Sani people have inhabited the stone forest for generations, and they are famously hospitable to visitors. If you visit in June or July, you’ll be able to participate in their unique and exciting Torch Festival.

8. Kanas Lake

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High in the Altai Mountains that border Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia lies Kanas Lake. The lake is famous for its vibrant and changing color, moving from turquoise and aquamarine to a deep royal blue as the seasons progress.

The surroundings are equally enchanting. You’ve got dense forests, rolling valleys, harsh peaks, and lush fields to enjoy. The area looks cut straight from a postcard. There are boating trips, horse riding, hiking, and fishing to enjoy.

9. Yangshuo Moon Hill

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It’s not too hard to figure out how Yangshuo Moon Hill got its name. The natural arch that hollows out this hill is a gigantic fifty meters across and fifty meters tall, and the striking silhouette can be seen from miles around.

The legend goes that a moon fairy came to Earth and fell in love with a local farmer. The force of their love was so great it formed the arch as an eternal symbol of their bond. Eight hundred stone steps lead up to the summit of Moon Hill, and the walk up is peppered with perfect photo opportunities. The views are worth the climb. For the more adventurous, Moon Hill is also a popular rock-climbing spot.

10. Tiger Leaping Gorge

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Follow the Jinsha River as it cuts through Yunnan Province, and you’ll find Tiger Leaping Gorge. It’s one of the most spectacular river gorges in the world.

With a dizzying depth of 3,790 meters, you could stack ten Empire State Buildings on top of one another from the river and barely reach the mouth of the canyon! Not only that, at its narrowest, Tiger Leaping Gorge is just 25 meters wide.

The name comes from a legend that says a tiger escaped a hunter by leaping across this narrowest point, using the rock that remains in the middle of the water to this day. If you’re up for the challenge, the High Trail runs all the way along the edge of the gorge. The hike takes a good three days, but the scenery is mind-blowing, and there are plenty of guest houses to rest your legs along the way.

11. Tianmen Cave

Tianmen Cave. Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Tianmen Cave is a natural rock arch located on Tianmen Mountain in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. One of China’s most iconic natural landmarks, this is the highest naturally formed archway in the world. It’s a striking sight – a tunnel through the mountain that’s 50 meters wide and over 130 meters high.

A staircase, known as the Stairway to Heaven (Tianmen Mountain means “Heaven’s Gate Mountain” in Chinese), leads visitors up to it via 999 steps (nine being an important number in Chinese numerology).

This post first appeared on Travel and Intrigue.

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