11. Yourantai: exotic guest house
Languid, lush and perpetually summer even during China's most bitter winters, Jinghong is home to one of China's most beautiful guest houses.
Located in the Xishuangbanna region of Yunnan, close to the Myanmar border, Yourantai's villas are built in traditional Dai style, scattered through a large garden rich in tropical fruits and flowers overlooking the Mekong River.
The Swiss owner has thought of every small luxury to make for a relaxing stay.
Yourantai, Galan Bei Lu, Jinghong, Yunnan Province, a hot destination for affordable China travel packages; nightly rate from RMB 850 (US$136)
12. Shanxi Museum: huge, underrated
The Shanxi Museum in Taiyuan houses a world-class collection of artifacts spanning the last 5,000 years of human habitation in China, including an exquisitely decorated 3,000-year-old bronze phoenix.
This 50,000-square-meter complex is possibly China's most underrated museum and entry is free.
Shanxi Museum, No. 13, Binhe Xi Lu, Taiyuan, Shanxi Province; +86 351 878 9555; open Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; free
13. First Bend of the Yangtze
The vast and mighty Yangtze River where you can have Yangtze River cruise might never have been Chinese at all, were it not for its sudden and unexpected about-turn, heading away from Myanmar and firmly back into China at the sleepy hamlet of Shigu in Yunnan.
First Bend of the Yangtze River (长江第一湾), Shigu, Yunnan Province
14. Black Sesame Kitchen in Beijing
The Black Sesame Kitchen in Beijing provides the chance to learn how to make Shanxi noodles, Beijing dumplings or Chinese imperial dishes during three-hour, hands-on classes in an old hutong dwelling.
The cooking school was founded by chef Jen Lin-Liu, who authored the renowned Chinese food memoir, "Serve the People." Courses are given in English.
Black Sesame Kitchen, 3 Black Sesame Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing; +86 136 9147 4408; classes from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; RMB 300 (US$48) per person per class
15. Shilin Stone Forest: spectacular rocks
A naturally occurring oddity rising from the surrounding landscape, the stone forest of Shilin is a 400-square-kilometer wonderland of rocks eroded by wind and water into towering sheets and improbable shapes, such as elephants and turtles.
The site is roughly 78 kilometers east of Kunming, provincial capital of Yunnan Province.
Shilin Stone Forest, Shilin Yi Autonomous County, Yunnan Province; open daily 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; adults RMB 175 (US$28), children RMB 100 (US$16)
16. Miao festivals
The area around Kaili in Guizhou where you can color your best tours of China is crowded with beautiful villages peopled by the Miao ethnic minority.
Each year, two vibrant festivals take place -- the Sisters Meal Festival in March or April and the Lusheng Festival in November. These are the only two occasions in a year when the local authority organizes English-speaking trips.
The lusheng is a melodic bamboo pipe played by men while the women dance in vibrant ethnic dress.
Personalized English language tours are available through Gateway to Guizhou and Country Holidays. Festival dates are based on the lunar calendar and vary from year to year.
17. Xiaoqikong Nature Reserve: stunning scenery
The 100,000-square-kilometer Xiaoqikong Nature Reserve is situated amid towering mountains in rural Guizhou.
Naturally peacock blue waters from the UNESCO-protected Zhang River tumble over stunning waterfalls and weave past karst mountains and deep forest in this hidden corner of the country. The reserve is easily accessible from the nearby town of Libo.
Xiaoqikong Scenic Area, Libo, Guizhou; open daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; adults RMB 110 (US$17.60), free for children under 1.4 meters (four and a half feet)
China has marathons spaced throughout the year: Xiamen Marathon (January), Great Wall Marathons (both in May -- one near Beijing and one at Huangyuguan in Tianjin), The Grassland Extreme Marathon in Inner Mongolia (June) and the Shanghai Marathon (December).
19. Lugu Lake: Kingdom of Women
Clear, deep blue and surrounded by mountains, Lugu Lake is situated high on the border between Sichuan and Yunnan and also attracts so many tourists for their popular China tour package.
The Sichuan side of the lake is quieter and ideal for cycling, swimming or exploring one of the lake's small islands in a traditional dugout canoe, paddled by the local Naxi or Mosuo people.
Lugu Lake is also known as the "The Kingdom of Women" in China, where Mosuo female rule supreme over men.
Lugu Hu Nature Inn, Dazui Village, Lugu Lake, Sichuan Province; +86 834 630 2198; nightly rate from RMB 168 (US$27) for rooms with private bathroom directly overlooking the lake. Dugout canoe trips start at RMB 30 (US$5) per person.
20. Qinghai Lake: scenic race
The 14-day Tour of Qinghai Lake bicycle race takes place every June and July in Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia Provinces at around 2,680 meters above sea level.
The race covers some of the most stunning landscapes in China and attracts cycling teams from all over the world.
You can get more about these places via China travel agents.
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