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Top 10 China Destinations for Photography Lovers

About the author, Vera Zhao
Vera Zhao is the product manager at Odyssey Tours. She has been in the line of Asia travel for 10+ years and stacks up helpful tips for tours to China, Southeast Asia and South Asia.
Write to odyssey@tangdynastytours.com for any questions or read more tips by Vera Zhao >>

Where are the best places to take wonderful photos in China? It is difficult to offer an answer since China is huge, with vast land, diverse terrains and cultures as well as myriad natural and man-made wonders and each place is unique and worth shooting. So here I just narrow them down to 10 photo destinations which you are not to miss on your journey through the Middle Kingdom.

1. Karst peaks and rice terraces in Guilin

A gem in southern China, Guilin is synonymous with the country's most picturesque natural landscape that has inspired painters, poets, and writers for centuries. From the stunning limestone peaks to the serene scenes of rural life in Yangshuo, the rolling rice terraces and rich cultures of minority groups in Longji, etc., this relaxing city is a heaven for photographers.

Best time to go: March-May, September- October

Li River and karst mountains in GuilinScenic Li River and karst mountains in Guilin

2. The Great Wall in Beijing

The No.1 attraction in China is also one of the most popular places to capture great shots. The Great Wall has several locations such as Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai and all of them can be easily reached from Beijing. Badaling is the most visited section with guardrails, gift shops and loads of tourists. It is not ideal if your purpose is to photograph the wall in a natural state. Mutianyu is further but worth the extra miles as it is quieter and has lush scenery and Ming-era guard towers. Simatai is perfect if you want to take more pristine, remote style of photos though it requires steeper climbs.

Tips:

Arrive in the early morning or late afternoon to beat the crowds and get good light for great pictures.

Avoid visiting on weekends or on major Chinese holidays.

Mutianyu Great Wall in BeijingMutianyu Great Wall in fall

Tailor-made China photo trip:

3. Yellow Mountains in Anhui

Located in southern Anhui province in eastern China, Yellow Mountain or Mt. Huangshan is a UNESCO protected site believed to be "the loveliest mountains of China". The mountain is famed for its splendid sunrises & sunsets, oddly shaped pine trees, perpetual mist and peculiar peaks and winter snows that have been frequent subjects of poetry, traditional Chinese paintings, and other artworks. The fantastic views on the mountaintop will definitely make your trek worthwhile. To shoot the spectacular sunrise and sunset, an overnight stay at the hotel of the mountaintop is highly recommended.

Best season to shoot: fall (September – November)

Yellow Mountain in AnhuiYellow Mountain in the mist

Yellow Mountain SunriseAmazing sunrise in the Yellow Mountain

4. The Bund in Shanghai

This is also a must for your China photo trip. The famous riverfront offers a beautiful contrast between the old and new Shanghai. Here you'll have the opportunity to take awesome photos of the city's futuristic skyline such as the Shanghai World Financial Center and Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower, as well as a great number of amazing historical European style buildings. You can simply take a stroll along the Bund or take a river cruise to soak up the views.

Best time to shoot: sunset or nighttime when lights are on

skyscrapers of ShanghaiThe Bund is a fantastic location to photograph the soaring skyline of Shanghai

5. Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an

Another must-shoot sight on your China photo tour. Located in Xi’an, the best-known ancient capital of China, the Army of Terracotta Warriors is one of the most important discoveries of the world. The site contains an estimated 6,000 warriors and horses, with 2000 of the imposing warriors being on display, each possessing unique expression, hairstyle and amour, offering you excellent chances to get great photos.

Tip: Do not use flash photography or tripods to take photos as neither of them is allowed.

The Army of Terracotta WarriorsThese warriors are intricately detailed and no two of them are alike

6.Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan

A nature reserve located in Sichuan province, Jiuzhaigou is an enchanting UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its crystal blue lakes and rushing multi-level waterfalls and deep woodland are excellent for photography and are the whys and wherefores over two million people come to visit each year.

Jiuzhaigou in SichuanA crystal blue lake in the Jiuzhaigou National Park

7. Lijiang Old Town in Yunnan

A trip to the charming town of Lijiang is a step back in time. The ambiance is exceptionally mesmerizing, with cobbled streets, rickety wooden houses, gushing canals, the hospitable minority ethnic people and their rich culture. Outside the town, you can explore further to capture the splendid sights such as Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Black Dragon Pool.

A bird's eye view of the Lijiang Old TownA bird's eye view of the Lijiang Old Town

8. Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu

This reserve is the most popular spot to see and photograph at a close range China's most prized animals –giant pandas which are also adored by people all over the world. Prepare to see them "falling in love" if you visit them between March and May, or say hi to their newborns in fall or winter.

Tip: Visit them in the early morning when they are most active.

Gian pandas in ChengduFour adorable giant pandas enjoying their favorite food-bamboo

9. West Lake in Hangzhou

This is a lovely lake in China's "Paradise on Earth"- Hangzhou, a historic city close to Shanghai but more laid-back and cultural. It's a large lake with many hills, temples, pavilions, gardens around. Spring Dawn at Su Causeway, Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard, Autumn Moon over Calm Lake are its three of the top ten scenes. The West Lake was also listed by CNN as one of the "12 superb sunset spots around the world". Broken Bridge, Su Causeway, and Yanggong Causeway are the best places to shoot the sunset.

Best time to go: spring (March-May)

West Lake in HangzhouThe West Lake covered by lush lotus leaves

10. The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan

If you've ever seen James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar", you would probably know this UNESCO-protected park located in Zhangjiajie city of Hunan province. The soaring quartz sandstone pillars are said to have inspired floating peaks on the planet Pandora in the film. The park houses over 3000 pillars, with the tallest one being 400 meters high, one of which has been renamed the 'Avatar Hallelujah Mountain' in honor of the film. Visit the park in the early morning, you'll be rewarded with otherworldly views when the mountain mist rolls around these giant columns.

Best time to go: March-May & September - November

Limestone peaks in ZhangjiajieTowering peaks in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

A flexible personalized China trip is an excellent way to capture the wonderful photos of these fantastic destinations. Tell us what you want from your next photography tour and let us tailor-make a journey that best suits your tastes and interests.

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