Enshi is located in a rural, alpine area that is full of natural beauty. // © 2014 Gary Bowerman
Feature image (above): Enshi, home of the Tenglong Caves, is a refreshing area for beating the summertime heat. // © 2014 Gary Bowerman
Summer temperatures soar in China, so visiting destinations that are outside its sweltering urban centers is a good strategy. Fortunately, improvements in tourism infrastructure make experiencing nature a viable option during the heat of a Chinese summer.
The terraced mountain slopes and snow-capped peaks of southwestern Yunnan province draw visitors year-round. But Xishuangbanna, located near the border with Laos and Myanmar, is slightly different. Despite being situated amid warm tropical rainforests, tea plantations and rice paddy fields, the area is free from pollution and still more refreshing than the city. The region is also home to the colorfully attired Dai ethnic people who live in hillside villages. Nearby attractions include the fabulous Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens.
The wildlife, too, differs from the rest of Yunnan’s alpine lands. Wild elephants can be spotted in the jungle, and clients can observe these amazing animals from a wooden viewing deck in the trees as the elephants tramp through the Mengyang Nature Reserve.
Where to Stay: Nestled on a curve of the Luosuo River, the Anantara Xishuangbanna Resort overlooks verdant tropical gardens and rainforest-clad mountains.
The city of Enshi in central Hubei province is largely unknown to travelers. This is partly because of its remoteness — air passengers must connect via Chengdu — but it serves as a base to explore some truly spectacular landscapes. Located near the Qing River and Wulin mountain range, adventurous clients can hike or cycle among the limestone karsts of Enshi Grand Canyon or go rafting down 48 river rapids.
Other options include exploring the mysterious Tenglong Caves and the nearby Tujia ethnic villages. Also, the Tusi Temple combines the traditional architectural styles of the Tujia, Miao and Dong nationalities.
Where to Stay: In 2013, Movenpick Hotels & Resorts opened Enshi’s first internationally branded luxury hotel, Movenpick Hotel Enshi.
China’s most picturesque coastal city, Qingdao is famous for its summertime beach culture and its tree-lined avenues. Located southeast of Beijing, it is known as China’s Sailing City and hosted the 2008 Olympics sailing regatta. The seafront yacht marina is an ideal spot to pass a balmy summer evening.
Qingdao is the birthplace of China’s most famous beer, Tsing Tao (using the city’s original English spelling), and the Zhan Qiao pier is depicted on the brand logo. The summer highlight is the Qingdao Beer Festival, from Aug. 9-24, which attracts visitors from across Asia. East of the city, Mount Lao (Lao Shan) is revered as one of the cradles of Taoism, and is a popular destination for hiking and picnics.
Where to Stay: In March, the 208-room Himalayas Qingdao Hotel opened as part of the Chinese-owned Himalayas Hotels & Communities brand.
Positioned at the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta, Chongming Island is a bucolic weekend escape from the summer heat. Linked to the mainland by a tunnel and a bridge, it is the largest alluvial river island in the world and just a 90-minute drive from Shanghai. Largely undeveloped, Chongming is dotted with organic farms, rural villages and national parks.
The premier attraction is Dongtan Wetlands Park, which features a migratory bird reserve. Around 300 different bird species visit year-round — and the best time to visit is between June and September.
Where to Stay: Overlooking the ocean on the island’s east coast is Hyatt Regency Chongming, which opened in April.
At the turn of the last millennium, the eruption of Changbaishan volcano dispersed burning ash across a 30-mile radius, creating Heaven Lake, China’s largest crater lake. Today, the soaring Changbaishan mountain range in Jilin Province, near the border with North Korea, is China’s premier winter sports destination. Its summits, pine forests and waterfalls also make it a picturesque summer getaway.
Changbaishan Nature Reserve is China’s largest protected area, and it is also the last remaining habitat of the Siberian tiger. Most visitors make the trek to Heaven Lake, which affords beautiful panoramas of the scenery and Changbai Waterfall, one of the world’s highest volcanic waterfalls. Also in the area is the Manchu Imperial Palace, which was the official residence of Pu Yi, the subject of the movie “The Last Emperor.”
Where to Stay: Changbaishan International Resort features a new Park Hyatt Changbaishan.