Thinking about a holiday with your parents? China has so much to offer. Away from the main cities you’ll find plenty of smaller towns that are ideal for family bonding, and for getting close to China's diverse nature and culture. Here's where to go.
Visit boating lakes, mountains and more in Guiyang
Guiyang is the capital of Guizhou province in Southwest China. There are many comfortable hotels in the city for families to set up base, from which they can travel out to explore the surrounding countryside and ethnic villages.
Out and about: From lakeside picnics to fruit-thieving monkeys
• Hongfeng (Red Maple) Lake: This park makes for a scenic and relaxing day trip at any time of year. Admire the maple trees around the lake and snap some photos of the diaojiaolou (a traditional Miao house on stilts).
• Qianling Park: Named after the most famous mountain in the province, the park is home to rich greenery, clear waters and beautiful temples. The majestic mountains and foliage act as the perfect backdrop for a family photo, so be sure to dress everyone in bright colours! A short hike will lead you to the 'holy fountain' where you can sip water so pristine that the locals believe it came from the heavens. As you enjoy your time in the park, do keep a look out for the resident macaques as they may be up to some mischief!
Cultural picks: Ming dynasty musts and sweet treats
• Hongfu Temple: Located within the Qianling Park, this is the largest Zen Buddhist temple in Guizhou province and one of Guiyang’s top attractions. A visit offers you and the family glorious 17th-century halls, galleries, springs and pools.
• Guizhou Provincial Museum: Soak in the rich history of China in this free-entry museum. Their exhibition boasts a comprehensive feature of historical artefacts from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Don’t miss the highlight exhibit of the province’s minority culture.
• Qingyan Ancient Town and its rose tea and candy: This charming military town was built by the first Ming Dynasty Emperor more than 600 years ago. Today, much of the original town layout, stone architecture and gates remain intact. Take a leisurely stroll and explore the monasteries, courtyards and palaces adorned with intricate carvings. After that, head to one of the traditional tea houses and chat over the town’s famous specialty – rose tea and candy. Remember to bring some back as souvenirs for the rest of the family!
China Southern flies to Guiyang via Guangzhou several times a day.
Explore Inner Mongolia from Hohhot
The capital of Inner Mongolia, Hohhot, is home to 36 different ethnic groups. With such diversity, immerse yourself in an array of Mongolian activities from folk dances and wrestling to ethnic delicacies that mum will want the recipes for.
Out and about: From roasted sheep to yellow flowers in the grasslands
There are three main grasslands which boast amazing scenery and plenty of cultural fun to inspire the whole family.
• Xilamuren Grassland: Meaning ‘yellow river’ in Mongolian, this was Inner Mongolia’s first grassland to be developed as a tourist attraction. Visit Puhui Temple and see where the Six Living Buddhas at Xilituzhao Palace spent their summers in meditation.
• Gegentala Grassland: Sheep, wildflowers and vast stretches of green await you here. Watch traditional Mongolian dances and ask for the recipe when you taste kumis (a fermented dairy drink), roasted whole sheep and shoubarou (boiled mutton often eaten with the hands).
• Huitengxile Grassland: With an altitude of 1,800 metres and a name meaning ‘cold plateau’, you might want to take your jacket. The abundant lakes, caves and yellow flowers are perfect for photos. Try horseback and camel riding, or watch the local wrestling and archery.
Cultural picks: Beautiful temples and mosques
• Dazhao Temple: The first temple dedicated to Lamaism, the Dazhao Temple is in Hohhot, built in 1580, and well known for its ancient relics. The most notable is the ‘Three Marvellous Treasures’ – a rare 2.5m-tall silver Buddha figure of Sakyamuni, carved dragons on golden pillars and elaborate wall paints from the Ming Dynasty.
• Inner Mongolia Museum: Get your parents out of the hot sun for a bit as you check out the historical relics from the ancient northern minorities – the Huns, the Xianbei and the Qidan. There are Neolithic stone paintings, Mongol weaponry and even dinosaurs.
• The Great Mosque: The biggest mosque in the city of Hohhot was established during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty. The beautiful mix of Chinese pagoda design and Arabic elements give the architecture a unique character. While you are here, head to the nearby local market for some snacks from the chestnut and sultana vendors.
Air China flies to Hohhot via Beijing several times a day.
Shop till you drop and picnic on an island in Changsha
Changsha is the capital of Hunan province, and one of China's great inland metropolises. Tourism is relatively new in the area, so it’s quieter than other big cities, not to mention cheaper!
Out and about: Take a hike through history and visit a 1,000-year-old university
• Yuelu Hill Park: Your family will bond over the magical scenery and get some exercise walking around the ancient forest of Mount Yuelu. The pretty, hour-long walk up the mountain offers incredible views across the downtown area from one of Changsha's most historic places. For those less inclined to walk, there's also a cable car and a tour bus.
• Yuelu Academy: Located in Yuelu Hill Park, this 1,000-year-old architectural triumph was one of the first four ancient academies in China. Catch a glimpse into Chinese history and education among the ancient books and manuscripts.
• Orange Isle: Pack a picnic and explore this island in the Xiangjiang River. It boasts thousands of fruit trees and pathways that make for interesting walks in nature, and you can see the city skyline.
Cultural picks: From street entertainment to some real bargains
• Huangxing Road 'Walking Street': Huangxing Road, resplendent with ancient pavilions and Chinese decoration, is the best place for shopping in Changsha. With a plethora of shops, little restaurants, snack stands and vibrant street acrobatic shows, the whole family will be thoroughly entertained while shopping here.
• Jiefang West Road 'Bar Street': Experience the city’s vibrant nightlife - choose from romantic bars to traditional tea houses or you can even catch a performance at one of the many theatres along the street.
Huangxing Road, resplendent with ancient pavilions and Chinese decoration, is the best place for shopping in Changsha
SilkAir flies to Changsha four times a week.
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