Qixi, or the Seventh Night Festival, is the Chinese Valentine's Day. According to Chinese legend, a cowherd fell in love with a weaving maid but they were separated by the Milky Way and can only meet once a year in heaven on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. In honor of Valentine's Day, I've compiled a list of 10 romantic Chinese attractions for couples to visit. These stirring places share one thing in common: a gorgeous backdrop tailor-made for romance.
1. Beijing Hutongs
Sometimes the best spot for a couples' getaway is the least obvious, the one where romance is all the more special. The Hutongs of Beijing are such an unconventional yet surprisingly romantic place. The Hutongs are alleyways lined with quadrangle courtyard houses that have been home to Beijing's families for centuries, and thus offer a glimpse into local people's lives.
Take a rickshaw or pedicab to get around the winding Hutongs and you will know how native people live their lives. Make sure you save time to visit a local family and learn to make Chinese dumplings - your relationship will grow stronger in the process of learning.
2. Yulong River, Yangshuo, Guilin
If the idea is to make your lover feel lighter than air, head to the Yulong River, a tributary of the Li River in Yangshuo Town. The serene river is surrounded by a primitive yet idyllic landscape: green bamboo forests, green rice paddies, rolling karst hills, village women hand washing clothes, smoke curling upward from the chimneys, old men making cormorant fishing, flocks of ducks swimming in the water.
With the picturesque rural scenery as the backdrop, the best thing to do is bike along the river or drift on a traditional bamboo raft to get close to nature.
3. Mt. Huangshan, Anhui
Mt. Huangshan is the most famous mountain in China, and perhaps the most romantic one as well. It is famous for its oddly-shaped rocks, peculiar pine trees, the sea of clouds, hot springs, and winter snowscapes. It is a great experience to spend two or three days on the mountain enjoying sunsets/sunrises, picturesque mountain vistas, refreshing air, and moments of tranquility.
And if you decide to show your love for each other, go add your love lock on the chains and throw the key into the valley, symbolizing, according to legend, that no one will be able to break your bond. Every year, a multitude of lovers come with padlocks engraved with their names and secure them to the chains that run up the mountain trails.
4. The Bund, Shanghai
If a hand-in-hand stroll with city splendor is your thing, the Bund of Shanghai could be the ideal spot for you. Facing the skyscrapers of Pudong across the Huangpu River and lined with colonial-era buildings of different styles, the Bund has been the most romantic corner of Shanghai since a century ago.
The best time to go there is in the evening. First arrange a private, candlelit dinner at one of Shanghai's iconic restaurants overlooking the bund, and stare intently into each others' eyes with some of the best views of the Shanghai skyline out there. Then take a stroll along the 1.5-kilometer-long promenade with views of the massive and gleaming financial towers in Pudong. When your feet get tired, hop on a Huangpu River cruise ship and take in the sights as you slowly drift by. If this cannot be called romantic, then I don't know what romantic is.
5. West Lake, Hangzhou
West Lake is renowned for its scenic beauty that blends well with historical and cultural sites. Gardens, pagoda-topped hills, and elegant bridges rise over willow-lined waters. The lake and its environs have all the elements of a traditional Chinese landscape garden.
To enjoy the scenery, walk around the lake, take a boat trip, or bike around it. As evening comes, walk to the stone-arched bridge at the eastern end of the Bai Causeway to share the gorgeous sunset glow over Leifeng Pagoda. Do not forget to sip a cup of Dragon Well Tea at one of the teahouses overlooking West Lake. A pleasant chat over a cup of tea is sure to make you feel totally relaxed and refreshed.
Many legends of the West Lake will also evoke your romantic mood. The most famous one - Legend of Lady White Snake Legend - goes that: on a rainy day, a white snake fairy encountered the poor scholar Xuxian on the Broken Bridge of the West Lake. They fell in love at first sight and got married and then had a son, but the evil monk called Fahai imprisoned the White Snake in the Leifeng Pagoda.
6. Dali Ancient Town, Yunnan
The ancient, walled town of Dali has a laid-back ambiance that is enhanced by its spectacular surroundings - snow-capped Cangshan Mountain on one side and the vast, clean Erhai Lake on the other. An authentic feel and fewer tourist hordes make it an alluring alternative to the usual tourist hot spot Lijiang Old Town. Thus, it is a magnet for couples seeking solitude and romance amid wild, unspoiled beauty.
This small town is home to the Bai ethnic minority, a Tibetan-Burmese folk who established the Nanzhao Kindom in the 8th century. It retains the old-world charm - narrow cobbled streets, typical Bai houses with stone walls and dark blue tile roofs, local women in traditional dress selling Bai ethnic tie-dying textiles, preserved fruits, and tobacco.
To get your lover in the mood, take a boat trip on the Erhai Lake, bike out to some of the smaller villages of the local Bai minority group, roam around Foreigner Street brimming with antique shops and charming cafes, and check out the colorful markets and sit in a tea house enjoying the traditional Three Cups of Tea service, all these moments will be beautiful memories to remember.
7. Water Towns of Suzhou
If you are seeking a secluded, serene setting to escape the urban hustle and enjoy some leisure time, my suggestion is the water towns of Suzhou, such as Zhouzhuang and Tongli (the latter is less touristy though). These ancient water towns are the few places in China that retain dreamy, rustic charm. All the streets of the towns are built along the rivers and canals, and the bridges link to the streets. A stroll down the flagstone-paved streets through old mansions, traditional workshops, and stores will make your companion naturally put hands in yours. A boat ride through the lantern-lined canals enables you two to savor the tranquility and see more of the local lives.
The towns' location near Shanghai and Suzhou makes them easily accessible for short visits.
8. North Mt. Everest Base Camp, Tibet
If you and your sweetie are the adventurous types, few romantic escapades can beat a trekking trip to the North Face Base Camp of Mount Everest in Tibet. Going on a trek together may not sound romantic in the traditional sense. But trekking to the world's highest mountain is a different thing. You will take in some of the most magnificent mountain vistas on Earth and encounter sacred Buddhist monasteries, and friendly Sherpa villages.
The best time to do the trekking is in May, September, and October. Avoid trekking in July and August because the road may be blocked by floods or landslides.
*From Feb 2019, tourists will no longer have access to Mount Everest's base camp (5200 meters above sea level) and the area just beyond it in Tibet due to environmental concerns. However, a new camp will be set up around the Rongbuk Monastery at 5150 meters above sea level and tourists can still enjoy the view of the magnificent Mt. Everest.
9. Tiger Leaping Gorge, near Lijiang, Yunnan
Another way to turn your trip into an epic adventure story is trekking along the Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest in the world. Franked by Haba Snow Mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the scenic gorge is cut by the Jinsha River (the upper reach of the Yangtze River) and runs roughly southwest to northeast. A trek along the gorge takes you through some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes China has to offer.
At present, there are two paths: the high trail and the low trail. The low trail can be hiked in one day. High Trail is more popular among hiking lovers because it affords better views, though, requires two days of trekking.
The best time to hike the gorge is in the months of October, November, and May. The most dangerous period to hike is during the rainy season from June to September. Wear some sturdy footwear - you're definitely going to need it.
10. Shangri-La (formerly known as Zhongdian County), Yunnan
It's difficult to find a more fairytale setting than Shangri-La, a remote Tibetan county located in Southwest China's Yunnan Province.
In James Hilton's bestselling novel Lost Horizon, he describes "Shangri-La" as an earthly paradise, a permanently happy land isolated from the outside world. But only one place - Zhongdian – has been officially gone by the name of Shangri-La. And it truly lives up to the name. This stunning land covers a region of mountains snowcapped peaks, dense forests, alpine lakes (such as the famous Napa Lake and Shudu Lake), grasslands, gorges, and monasteries (the most famous one being Songzanlin Monastery). Every spring, fields of flowers blanket this region, including azaleas, primroses, and lilies.
It is hard not to feel romantic in a land where the clouds are whiter, the sky is cleaner, and the scenery is wilder.
Which ones are your favorite romantic spots and why? Let me know at if have any opinions or questions.