China has an unrivalled degree of natural diversity. Deserts, where blistering heat alternates with freezing cold, majestic mountain ranges, forests inhabited by giant pandas and sharp karst peaks which compete for space with rushing water – China has it all. Although the scenery is spread all over the country, most areas are easy to reach by train or by air.
While one fifth of the world’s population lives in China, most of the cities are concentrated in the east, and two-thirds of the vast country consists of unspoiled wood or grassland. There are more bird species here than almost anywhere else in the world, as well as great mammals such as giant pandas and panthers. And China doesn’t only have enormous biodiversity – the country can also pride itself on landscapes in all flavours. There are now ten Chinese natural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and this number continues to grow.
Chengdu is not only the home of the giant panda – Sichuan Province comprises unique mountain landscapes that have been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. There is, for instance, the scenic area whose poetic name Huanglong (Yellow Dragon) already announces its striking colours. Here, glaciers and snow covered mountain peaks tower above hot springs. Basins formed over the centuries by running water are populated by algae which turn the water a yellow to deep green colour. Although giant pandas and leopards live in this area, you’re not likely to encounter these shy animals on your hike.
Mount Emei is in the same foothills of the Himalayas. This is where Buddhism gained its first foothold in China and where the oldest temples in the country can be found. The historic bronze sculptures, gardens and tombs in the woods are often concealed behind a veil of mist, which only adds to the mystical atmosphere.