The southern and southeastern portion of China is the nation’s most wild and exciting area. The south is home to much of the country’s diversity, as there are hundreds of ethnic minority groups, many of which live in villages as they have done for hundreds of years. Then there’s the mysterious (and variegated) natural splendor of the land-triple thick jungle sliced by the Mekong River, soul-searching glimpses of the sun over rice terraces, and the rising shoulders of the Himalayan frontier as you edge toward Tibet. The south is also home to the nation’s highest number of species of fauna and flora, including 2500 varieties of wildflowers and plants. Because of the wild diversity of the land and its people, the south is compared more often to Southeast Asia than it is to northern and eastern China.
Once a place of banishment for disgraced officials (who must have arrived and chuckled at their inadvertent luck), Yunnan-China’s sixth-largest province-has become the second-most cited ‘dream destination’ for Chinese travelers. Since being opened for tourism, foreign travelers have been raving as well. Just consider the superlatives. More than half of China’s ethnic minority groups reside here, providing an extraordinary glimpse into China’s mixed salad of humanity. In one week, you can sweat in the tropics and freeze in the Himalaya, and in between check out towns, that time forgot.
Undeniably stunning scenery is what lures most travelers to lush, green, subtropical Guangxi (known by its cities of Guilin and Yanghsuo). But this beautiful province is way more than merely a photographer’s dream. True, the landscape will leave you astounded, but it’s the opportunities to get out there and enjoy it that makes Guangxi so unique. Guangxi is a melting pot of minority groups, and hiking from village to village around the Zhuang, Dong, and Yao of the northeast makes trips to the Soaring Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces and the sublime Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge even more rewarding. It also opens up the opportunity of staying with locals in traditional wooden homes. Both highly recommended.
What may keep you in Guizhou longer than you’d planned is Guizhou’s extraordinary human mosaic. Almost 35% of the province’s population is made up of over 18 ethnic minorities, including the Miao and the Dong. In fact the province enjoys more folk festivals than any other in China.