As the heat of the summer looms over most Chinese cities, a challenging task faces many city dwellers: keeping cool. Instead of pumping up the air conditioner and gaining weight from ice cream, why not follow citylife's escape maps?
Chengde: Hide in China's Largest Classic Imperial Garden
Close to Beijing, Chengde has China's largest classical imperial garden, Summer Retreat Hill and a group of eight temples called Waibamiao.
There are over 120 groups of ancient architectural structures hidden between blue mountains and green rivers, complemented bylakes and islands, forming an enchanting landscape.
Another famous scenic spot is the Wulingshan Forest Garden, with its precious plants and animals, as well as amazing natural scenery.
Local specialties include hawthorn, chestnut, nut, Rose Cake (royal snack) and Bazhen Imperial Wine (brewed following a secret recipe from the court).
Beidaihe, Hebei: a Natural Bathing Beach Close to Beijing
Nicknamed an international summer retreat during the Qing dynasty Beidaihe, surrounded by two mountains, has long been the first summer retreat choice of ancient Chinese rulers as well as current top officials.
There is a lot for visitors to do and see, including a lotus flower rock park, Kwan-yin Temple and a graveyard with impressive tombs. There are also many parks dedicated to literary celebrities.
Jiuzhaigou (nine villages valley), Sichuan: A Mystic Valley
As the name suggests, Jiuzhaigou has nine villages, full of Tibetan flavor and beautiful natural scenery. Over half of Jiuzhaigou is covered by virgin forest and the rest by lakes, waterfalls and snow-capped mountains.
Mobile phones are functional in the main scenic spots inside the valley and at the entrance to the valley there are several IC card phones. At Jiuzhaigou, visitors also have access to ATMs.
Shangri-La (meaning moon and sun in Tibetan, referring to an idyllic and beautiful place), Yunan: Dream City
Ever since its mention in British writer James Hilton's Lost Horizon, Shangri-La has been a city of people's dreams.
The shining snow-capped mountain, boundless meadows, changing clouds and glittering smiles on the faces of local people seem to be the same as they were thousands of years ago.
Shangri-La's serenity and tranquility is hard to describe with words. The only way to truly know about it is to experience it in person.
Visitors can also experience local Tibetan celebrations such as horse races, the Gedong Festival and the Xianzi (a local instrument) Festival.
Spring and summer are the best seasons to visit Shangri-La.
Wutaishan (five platform mountain), Shanxi Province: Appreciate Buddhist Culture
Wutaishan is famous for its magnificent temples and history. In ancient china, it was often chosen as the preferred monastic training venue by emperors and aristocrats. In modern times, its doors are open to visitors from around the world.
Each of the five main peaks of Wutaishan boasts a beautiful and unique view and history.
Summer in Wutaishan is always rainy, so visitors better carry umbrellas or rain coats.
If they want to watch the sunrise on top of the Eastern platform, it is a good idea to bring a cotton coat to keep warm.
Qinghaihu (blue sea lake), Qinghai Province: Lake Water and Lama Culture
Qinghaihu has two main attractions: the fishing grounds and Bird Island. Qinghaihu is rich in huangyu, a kind of fish exclusive to Qinghaihu.
Frozen huangyu is available above RMB 40 per piece.
Bird Island is also known as the Kingdom of the Birds because every spring a great number of birds fly from India
and Nepal to the island to breed then fly back with their new families when autumn arrives.
There is also a wealth of Lama temples in the area and visitors can participate in a variety of activities including yachting. All prices are negotiable here, so try your hand at bargaining.
Shennongjia, Hubei: Get to Labyrinth
Shennongjia has a well-preserved primitive forest that hides many modern-day mysteries, such as the Yeren (also known as the Abominable Snowman or Big Foot).
There is a constant stream of Yeren sightings, although none have been confirmed.
Shennongjia boasts another wonder, a unique white animal kingdom, where there are white vultures, white monkeys, white deer and white bears.
Changbaishan (forever white mountain), Jilin: Holy Mountain
Changbaishan is a volcano and boasts many unique, beautiful landscapes. On top of Changbaishan's main peak Baitoushan (white head mountain), there are many white fushi, (magma rocks) and snow throughout the year.
The most famous scenic spot is Tianshan Tianchi, a lake at the mouth of this volcano. The lake water is superbly clear and as blue as sapphire.
Changbaishan is also a natural museum for rare plants and animals, rich in ginseng, mink skin and deer (the three are sometimes referred to as the three treasures of Northeast China).
Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province: a Perfect Model for Painting Chinese Landscapes
Rocks pop out of the ground and thousands of rivers wind through the landscape, making Zhangjiajie a perfect model for painting Chinese landscapes.
Visitors can take a cable car to Huangshizhai where they can appreciate the daunting rock columns. Other famous scenic spots include Mount Tianmen (heaven gate), Jiutian (highest sky) cave, Puguang Temple, Mount Wulei (five thunders), as well as many spots commemorating the Chinese revolution.
There is also a wealth of ethnic minorities in Zhangjiajie, and visitors can see them celebrate their unique cultures in dance and song.
Lushan, Jiangxi: Summer Retreat
Lushan has villas of various styles and famous scenic spots including the Lushan botanical gardens and a fanciful hill town called Nianling. Nianling has Lushan's second largest man-made lake, Xihu.
As a Buddhist holy place, Lushan hosts a number of temples once owned by ancient Chinese emperors and eminent writers. There are also many famous works of calligraphy and steel carvings in various places around the mountain.
Enjoy your summer vacation in China!