Think Guangzhou and arresting natural sites are never the first things that come to mind. Instead, the skyscraping lattices that form the Canton Tower and the futuristic planes of its glass-walled opera house are often the landmarks associated with the fast-paced metropolis. While Guangzhou will always be beloved for its slew of architectural marvels that stand tall as symbols of its modernity, China’s third-largest city is also home to the richness of the nation’s natural wonders.
The famed Pearl River runs through the centre of Guangzhou, while the mystical, forested range of the Baiyun Mountains lie just outside the city’s boundaries, counting themselves amongst many gorgeous natural features Guangzhou has both within and around its city. If you’re a serious nature junkie who loves to immerse yourself in vast landscapes or just want a break from the urban jungle within Guangzhou itself, make a pit stop at any of these destinations.
One look at Baiyun Mountain is all it takes to understand why the range has earned the name, “White Cloud Mountain”. Shrouded by an ethereal mist, with some of its peaks ensconced in clouds, it is as majestic of a sight from afar as it is a site to explore up close. The 28-square kilometre mountain range in north-east Guangzhou offers a plethora of natural activities, be it hikes at any of its 30 peaks or scenic strolls through its charming gardens and parks such as the popular Yuntai Garden. For avid hikers craving a challenge, try embarking on a hike up the Moxing Summit, the highest mountain peak in the range at 382 metres above sea level. For those less athletically-inclined, opt for a cable car ride to the top of the Baiyun Mountain so you don’t shortchange yourself of the view.
Directions: If you drive, Baiyun Mountain is conveniently situated just 17 minutes away from the city centre. On public transport, you can take the metro line 2 to Baiyun Park Station and take bus 424 or 624 to the West Gate, or access the mountain (South Gate) through cable car from the Yuntai Garden.
Address: Baiyun District, Gunagzhou
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 8:00am - 5:00pm
Admission fee: 5 yuan
(Image credit: iStock)
The Pearl River is the thread that weaves through the centre of Guangzhou, offering tourists an opportunity to get connected with one of China’s most iconic rivers without having to depart the city. During the day, walk the 23 kilometre-long Scenic Corridor to appreciate the best sights framed by the Pearl River, and make pit stops at some of the city’s cultural landmarks by its bay, such as the Huangpu Military Academy, the first of its kind in China, as well as the Shamian Historic Site, home to a collection of buildings that flaunt a diverse array of architectural styles. By night, embark on any of the river cruises available for booking at the wharfs along the Pearl River to experience Guangzhou’s brightly-lit cityscape from a different perspective.
Directions: The Pearl River stretches through the Guangzhou city centre. Take metro line 2 or line 6, alight at Haizhu Square Station and exit at Exit A.
Address: Tianhe District, Guangzhou
Seven Star Crags
(Image credit: China Tours)
According to Chinese legend, the limestone crags that compose the Seven Star Crags sprouted when some stars that form the Big Dipper constellation fell from the sky. Debatable origin story aside, the Seven Star Crags are arranged in the same formation as the Big Dipper, and each of the crags offers you plenty of hiking or climbing options, as well as the opportunity to explore the Star Lake nestled in its middle. A walk around the circumference of Star Lake is not just scenic, but lets you encounter a myriad of historical statues and carvings that date back centuries.
Directions: It is an hour and a half drive from the Guangzhou City Centre via the G80 highway. Alternatively, take a three-hour coach bus ride to Zhaoqing City, and walk 20 minutes from the bus terminal to the Seven Star Crags.
Address: Duanzhou District, Guangzhou
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 8:00am - 6:00pm
Admission fee: 65 yuan
SHAOGUAN DANXIA MOUNTAIN GEOPARK
(Image credit: Imagine China)
A geological wonder of the world lies three hours outside of Guangzhou city in the form of the Danxia Mountain Geopark. Better known as the Rainbow Mountain, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is formed by mineral-rich sand and siltstones that give the formation its colourful, almost kaleidoscopic look. Many who visit Guangzhou choose to make a day trip out of their journey to the Danxia Mountains, as the 292-square kilometre geopark has a plethora of scenic areas, lake trails and viewing peaks to venture to.
Directions: The mountains is a 3.5-hour drive from the Guangzhou city centre via the S1 highway. Alternatively, you can take a train to Shaoguan, and then take a shuttle bus from Shaoguan to the Danxia mountains.
Address: Renhua County, Shaoguan
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 8:00am - 6:00pm
Admission fee: 100 yuan
Nansha Wetland Park
(Image credit: Dennis Ng)
Locals believe that Nansha Wetland Park is a paradise in the middle of Guangzhou city. It might be a man-made park, but this mangrove has such a thriving ecosystem of flora and fauna that it feels like you’re thick in the wilderness when you walk or cycle around its 200 square-metre expanse. Be sure to book a boat tour at the entrance when you purchase your entry ticket, as the meandering trip along the water lets you birdwatch in ease — the Nansha Wetland Park is home to 140 of China’s 271 native wetland bird species, which is especially a treat for avid bird spotters.
Directions: Take the metro to the Xinken station and transfer to bus 11 to go directly to the Nansha Wetland Park.
Address: 1 Xingang Avenue, Wanqingsha Town, Nansha District, Guangdong
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9:00am - 5:00pm
Admission fee: 380 yuan