If you consider breathtaking views and unbelievable photographies as indispensable attributes of your travel experience, then China is definitely the place for you. A country of amazing diversity and impressive cultural heritage, China is the beholder of some of the world’s best kept secrets in terms on natural wonders. This is why today, as part of our ‘Amazing Earth’ series, I decided to present you two of China’s most beautiful national parks: Mount Sanqingshan in Jiangxi Province and Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan.
When I first saw a picture of the 1.800 and something peaks of Mount Sanqing emerging from a river of dense fog, the first image that came to my mind was that of the Floating Mountains of Pandora from Jams Cameron’s Avatar. And the similitudes can go on: the extraordinary beauty and serenity surrounding this mountain has determined taoist monks to build a temple here (it is simply known as San Qing Temple) which was the first one to attract visitors in the proximity of the mountain. These were people looking for peace and relaxation, and several centuries later, Mount Sanqing is still one of those places where you can feel the cosmic powers working.
Despite it being quite visitor-friendly (there are several hiking trails surrounding the three major peaks, a gondola system and a glass sky deck), Mount Sanquing is relatively unknown to foreigners – it was only listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. In addition to being esthetically pleasing, Sanqing is quite appreciated for its unique geological features, that allow geologist to trace its history back to one billion years ago.
Its low accessibility has transformed the Jiuzhaigou Valley into a superb reservation, where the human impact is reduced to a minimum. Although some Tibetan villages existed in the area prior to the valley’s official discovery by the Chinese government, with the exception of tourists and hotel staff, the valley is scarcely inhabited. For those who have an interest in landscape photography and eco-tourism, Jiuzhaigou will be a true revelation. The valley consists in a system of fresh water lakes that are, in many cases, interconnected and situated at different elevations, thus causing the formation of spectacular waterfalls. The water in the lakes is among the purest waters on Earth, and reflects brilliant nuances of turquoise and light blue.
The main interest zones in Jiuzhaigou National Park are Zechawa, Rize and Shuzheng valleys (all accessible by bus – the park has a shuttle system). Actually, the whole park encompasses around 720 square kilometers of forests, lakes and waterfalls. The park’s temperate climate is mainly responsible for some of the most surprising landscapes ever shown to man: with each season, the vegetation of the valley switches to a whole new color palette (spring and autumn might be the best times to visit from this perspective, and also because the chances of rain are pretty low in these seasons). Other attractions include wildlife, eco-tourism and Buddhist monasteries.