We all know that China is so much more than Beijing or Shanghai, but how many of us have actually bothered to venture outside of these cosmopolitan cities? Trust us when we say much can be found in the secondary cities of the world’s most populous country. From regional food specialities to scenic attractions, and so much history, there’s no reason not to see a different side of China with these 10 places still untouched by mass tourism. Psst, there are also 10 pairs of air tickets to these featured cities to be won! Check out the deets here.
Guizhou Province is home to many ethnic minority groups in China and this diversity adds colour to the culture and cuisine you will find in its capital city, Guiyang. The vibrant street food scene includes many must-try items like the famed Intestine Noodles – Chang Wang Mian (RMB 10) and Tofu Of Love- Lian’ai Doufu (RMB 3). Don’t forget the equally happening nightlife scene where speakeasy bars are tough to find but totally worth it. Hop on a bus and go to the picturesque Huaxi district or discover the ancient town of Qingyan, built during the Ming Dynasty, on the cheap (RMB 5).
Sanya, located at the southern tip of Hainan Island, is famous for China’s most beautiful white sand beaches. Sanya Bay and Dadonghai allow for mesmerising views of sun, sea and sand. Surround yourself in the natural beauty at Yalong Bay’s Tropical Paradise Forest Park and cross the suspension bridge to snap a stunning picture. You will also find Guanyin of Nanshan, one of the tallest statues in the world and adjoining Nanshan Temple. Be sure to sink your teeth into some delicious fresh seafood while you’re here.
Yinchuan is the capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and the former capital of the Western Xia empire (also known as the Tangut empire). The significant influence of the Muslim (Hui) minority is evident from the city’s architecture, cuisine, Arabic-Chinese road signs, and 500 beautiful mosques. Learn some oft-neglected history at the Western Xia Tombs at the foot of the Helan Mountains, and experience the cold desert climate when you visit the Sand Lake and the China Western Film Studios. Kick back and relax at local watering holes like Lian Yuan Bar or party at Baby Face.
Nanning, capital of Guangxi Province, is China’s Green City with abundant subtropical foliage. The beautiful Qingxiu Mountain Park makes for a beautiful escape from city life and the People’s Park is perfect for people watching. Nanning is paradise for noodle lovers as rice noodle dishes like the hot and sour Laoyou Noodles are immensely popular. Find delicious eats at the night food market along Zhongshan Road and intimate bars along University Road and Mingxiu Road are great for chilling. If you’re looking for a more rambunctious scene check out Minzu Da Dao or the ‘100’ bar area near the city library, ideal for a swanky night out or for live music.
The thriving capital of Yunnan province, Kunming will soon have the fourth largest airport in China. Nicknamed Spring City because of the cool temperate climate year round, expect lush greenery and beautiful blooms. Explore the wonderous Stone Forest and behold the stunning colours of the Jiuxiang Caves. Enjoy the flourishing music scene at Green Lake Park, where you’ll find the large statue of Kunming native, Nie Er, who composed the Chinese National Anthem. Housing 11 universities, nightlife culture is big in Kunming so check out Kundu Night Market for interesting bars and clubs like 昆都 M2 and The Mask.
A sprawling metropolis located in Sichuan Province, Chongqing is popular for Sichuan cuisine, so the food here definitely turns up the heat with tongue-numbing dishes like Chongqing Xiaomian (approx RMB 14). Hotpot is a must and restaurants are aplenty in the Yu Zhong area. Chongqing comes alive at night so head to Chao Tian Men Square to see the city lit up. For some spooky thrills, visit Fengdu Ghost City where you will find shrines, temples and monasteries dedicated to the afterlife up in Ming mountain. Zhongshan Ancient Town is perfect for some much-needed nostalgia after experiencing Chongqing’s rapid urban planning.
The capital of Hebei province, Shijiazhuang is situated east of the Taihang Mountains, making it the ideal destination for outdoor activities like hiking or some scenic cycling. Cangyan Mountains, featured in a scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, boasts stunning panoramic views. History buffs should check out the Hebei Provincial Museum as it showcases nearly 150,000 cultural relics that include jade burial suits from the Han Dynasty.
Xi’an, the capital city of Shaanxi Province, is one of the oldest in China. Home to the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang and his terracotta army, other spectacular architectural sites include the Giant Goose Pagoda that gives a beautiful bird’s eye view of the city and the Drum and Bell Tower, which is beautifully lit at night. Adrenaline junkies can take a day trip to experience the thrilling Huashan Plank Trail. Find delicious eats like the OG Lazhi Rou Jiamo – the Chinese ‘hamburger’ and thick Biangbiang Noodles at the artfully decorated Qin Chuan Chuan eatery.
Formerly a major port for foreign traders, Quanzhou in Fujian Province, played a significant role in the Silk Road. Look forward to a plethora of stunning religious architecture from Franciscan monasteries, Islamic mosques to Hindu and Buddhist temples. Enjoy the outdoors by taking a slow hike up Qingyuan Mountain to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Sit back and relax with a cup of the popular Tieguanyin Oolong tea at the teahouse on the top with spectacular views.
Shenyang is the largest city in Liaoning Province and just an hour away from the North Korea border by high-speed train. Xita, the district known as Korea Town, is dotted with North Korean restaurants, hotels, shops and art galleries. Rub shoulders with the North Korean staff at the Chilbosan Hotel and watch North Korean television! Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Mukden Palace, the former imperial palace of the Qing Dynasty. and the Fuling Mausoleum where the founding Qing emperor Nurhaci is buried.
Top Image of Xi’an Bell Tower. Courtesy of Hi, China Travel
Ready to jet off to one of these 10 cities? Try your luck with the Changi Airport Group’s giveaway here.
This article is sponsored by Changi Airport Group.