Best places to photograph Rice terraces in China
For Chinese, rice takes an essential role in the platter, being breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The rice terrace not only plays a crucial role in providing this indispensable food grain to the dining table but also shapes picturesque scenery that is charming and a visual feast. China is a great location for getting marvelous photos of the stunning rice terrace, which winds along the hillsides and valleys, like a stairway to heaven. This most beautiful curve on the planet is one of the marvelous ways to show the artistic beauty turned by nature with human transformation. There are plenty of noteworthy rice terraces in China, which are mostly located in the south and southeast of China, such as Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, etc. Have your camera ready, explore and photograph the best rice terraces during your China tour!
Yuanyang Rice Terrace in Yunnan
Yuanyang Rice Terrace is located in the southern part of Ailao Mountain in Yuanyang County (Honghe Hani Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province), about 320km/5-hour driving from the provincial capital Kunming. As the core of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage, it is a masterpiece cultivated by the Hani ethnic group for generations, inspiring massed travelers and photographers for the fascinating rice paddies filled up with water. Carved on the undulating mountain, covered by the sea of clouds, each terraced field shows a distinctive color with the awesome reflection of the sunlight and the mottled shadow of the vast forest, which constitutes a magical and magnificent landscape.
How to Get There:
The first thing to be clear is that travelers need to go to the old town of Yuanyang - Xinjie Town for the rice terrace, instead of the new town - Nansha Town. There is still an hour's journey between the two towns. To reach Xinjie Town, the only way is by road, namely by private car or coach. Booking a private car with a local China travel agency is the best way to move between the scenic spots to catch the best shooting time for sunrise and sunset. For backpack travelers, buses are available from Kunming South Bus Station, which takes about 7 hours.
Best Time to Shoot:
The best time for photography in Yuanyang is from December to March when the terraces are filled with water after the harvest. Especially from January to February, the sea of clouds often appears, and the curved terraces are clearly visible with excellent light and shadow effects. April is the best month to witness rice seedlings planting. During this seedling season, this picturesque rice terrace provides spectacular sights of sunrise on water-filled terraces, with Hani people walking and working amid the terraces.
- The essence of Yuanyang Rice Terrace is sunrise and sunset. It is better to spend at least two days there to explore different villages and scenic spots.
- Duoyishu is the best place to shoot the sunrise and rosy dawn. The sun rises around 7 am, and the viewing platform is always crowded in the morning, so you'd better get up around 4 am to grab a nice seat for the splendid scenery. In addition, Duoyishu is also pretty in the afternoon. Around 5 pm, the rice terrace at Duoyishuo turns blue due to the light, while the viewing platform at that time was often empty.
- Bada and Laohuzhui are the best places to shoot the mysterious sea of clouds and the magnificent sunset. However, Laohuzhui is still closed due to the landslide in 2018. The sun goes down from 18:20 to 19:50. Travelers would better get to Bada at 16:00 for a good location to take the great picture with rice terraces, the sea of clouds and sunset.
- The quaint Jingkou village, nestled amid the rice terraces, not far from Bada, is the best place to shoot the particular Hani traditional thatched ‘mushroom’ huts with unique Hani folk customs. At the viewing platform by the roadside, travelers can take nice pictures with blue rice terraces around 5 pm.
Longji Rice Terrace in Guangxi
Enjoying the reputation of "the crown of terraces in the world", Longji Rice Terrace is a must-visit destination for photographers, which is located in Ping’an Village, Longsheng County, about 80km away from the provincial capital Guilin. There are rice terraces everywhere, but such large-scale as Longji Rice Terrace is really rare, where the rice terrace is cultivated wherever there is soil, from river valleys with fast-flowing water to mountain tops with clouds surrounded, from the edge of lush woods to cliffs. Longji Rice Terrace is composed of 3 villages, Dazhai village, Ping’an village, and Longji ancient village, together with Yao and Zhuang ethnic minority villages dotting the rice terraces. A stroll through these villages can be truly healing, and travelers can also experience the hospitality of Yao or Zhuang people when they add a visit to their tour to China.
How to Get There:
Longji Rice Terraces can be reached by private vehicle or bus from Guilin or Yangshuo. Traveling with several partners by a private vehicle is always better for a comfortable and smooth trip, which takes about 2 hours from Guilin downtown or Yangshuo. For solo travelers, buses are available from Guilin Qintan Bus Station to Longsheng County, from Guilin train station to Longji Rice Terrace Dazhai Village, from Yangshuo Biliandong Tourists Parking Lot to Longji Rice Terrace Dazhai Village, which takes about 1-4 hours depending on where you are taking the bus.
Best Time to Shoot:
Longji Rice Terrace is suitable for photographing all year round with varied sceneries offered. Early April is the best time to shoot the blooming canola flower over the rice terrace at Dazhai village. Late April to late June is the best time to shoot the irrigated terrace which is set against the sky, like overlapping silver belts. The second half of June is the best time to capture the scene of planting rice seedlings. July to mid-September is the best time to shoot green seedlings in the terraces waving with the softy wind. Late September to early October is the best time to shoot the harvest scene with golden yellow terraces. Late December to early February is the best time to shoot the terrace and cottages which are embedded in the fairy tale world of snow. For those professional photographers who love documentary photography or portrait photography, they shouldn't miss the Red Clothes Festival which occurred on the 6th day of June in the Chinese lunar calendar.
- There are three best viewpoints at Dazhai village for shooting, namely West Hill Music, Large-scale Thousand-layers Terraces and Golden Buddha Summit. West Hill Music, atop the Dazhai village, is the best viewpoint to photograph a sunrise. Large-scale Thousand-layers Terraces, close to the village where the local people live, is a good site for shooting a sunset, but not as good as the Golden Buddha Summit. From Golden Buddha Summit, you'll get a panoramic view of the rice terraces and the sun setting behind the sea of clouds in the west.
- There are two best viewpoints at Ping’an village for shooting, namely Nine Dragons and Five Tigers as well as Seven Stars Around the Moon. Both viewpoints are perfect for a panoramic view of the rice terraces, but Seven Stars Around the Moon provides more distinctive and rounded edges of the rice terraces.
- Compared with Dazhai village, Ping’an village attaches a richer color to its rice terraces with abundant vegetation surrounded. However, the reflection of rice terraces at Dazhai village is more magnificent and bright, during the irrigation season.
Jiabang Rice Terrace in Guizhou
Jiabang Rice Terrace, located in the hinterland of Moon Hill (Jiabang Village, Congjiang County, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province), is one of the most beautiful rice terraces in China. This masterpiece has been created by the Miao tribe since generations, who make the best use of every inch of ground where they stand, to plant crops and rice in the field formed the terrace which cascaded down the towering hillsides, with different shape and size to adapt to the mountain topography. Every morning, the misty hills in the backdrop add to its fascination making it a photographer’s paradise. The unique Miao-style wooden houses (Diaojiaolou) are scattered in the rice terrace like the planets dotted in the Milky Way. When the rice terrace is filled with water, it provides spectacular sights for highlighted curves of rice paddies with peaceful Diaojiaolou, resembling a beautiful Chinese landscape painting.
How to Get There:
There are very limited buses to reach Jiabang Rice Terrace. For backpackers, they can take a bus from Congjiang Bus Station to Jiache Village, or from Rongjiang Bus Station to Dangniu Road and change to the local minibus to Jiache Village. Considering inconvenient transportation, and to avoid the inconvenience, it is highly recommended to book a private car with a local China travel agency to get to Jiabang Rice Terrace.
Best Time to Shoot:
The best time to shoot at Jiabang Rice Terrace is from April to June, and from September to October. April and May is the best time to shoot the mirror-like terrace with water-filled. In June, the vital surroundings and hilly backdrop set a wonderful picture for these lush green terraces. September to October is the best time to photograph the golden yellow rice terrace. Due to the altitude difference of the rice terrace, the yellow color varies from light to dark, just like a colorful oil painting.
- Jiabang Rice Terrace is mainly distributed in Dangniu Village, Jiache Village, and Jiaye Village. Many viewpoints are set along the mountain road, all of them provide spectacular panoramic views of the rice terrace.
- The Dongpeng Rice Terrace in Dangniu Village is claimed to be the testimonial of all rice terraces in Jiabang. Many tourism promotional photos of Jiabang Terraces were taken here, including the back cover photo of the old version “Lonely Planet: Guizhou”. The best angle for Dongpeng Rice Terrace is on the rooftop of a local house (Mr. Wang’s family), and it costs CN¥ 5 per person to get into the rooftop.
- Jiache Village, located in the rice paddies on the halfway up the mountain, is reputed as the “pearl inserted on the rice terrace”. The rice terrace in Jiache Village is the largest and most beautiful piece of Jiabang Rice Terrace. The best site to get a panoramic picture of the rice terrace and the sunrise is 10 meters below the viewpoint at Lianghua Homestay. If you want to shoot the magnificent Luosi Rice Terrace, in the shape of a closed circle, Wanlongzhuang Guesthouse is the best spot to go.
- The Sickle Rice Terrace in Jiaye Village is a small-scale rice terrace, which is famous for a sickle-shaped terrace. Surrounded by high mountains, the rice terrace offers extremely scenic lookouts along with a cluster of Miao wooden houses.
Ziquejie Rice Terrace in Hunan
Cultivated by Miao, Yao, Dong, and Han groups over the past 2,000 years since the Qin Dynasty (221BC - 207BC), Ziquejie Rice Terrace (Shuiche Town, Xinhua County, Loudi City, Hunan Province) is the oldest rice terrace in China. Not yet overrun by tourists, this remote rice terrace is incredibly beautiful. Reputed as “the Terrace Kingdoms”, it combines the splendor of Yuanyang Rice Terrace in Yunnan, the magnificence of Longji Rice Terrace in Guangxi, the ruggedness of Banaue Rice Terrace in the Philippines, and the grace of Sa Pa Terrace in Vietnam. The most particular point of Ziquejie Rice Terrace is its constant natural water resource from the cracks and forests instead of manmade ponds or reservoirs. The breathtaking natural irrigation system is a marvel of World Irrigation Project Heritage.
How to Get There:
Ziquejie Rice Terrace is about 256km away from Changsha, the provincial city of Hunan province. It takes about 3.5 hours' drive from Changsha by a private car. For travelers who prefer trains or buses, they need to get to Xinhua county first, then change the coach to Ziquejie from Xinhua West Bus Station, which can be very complicated. Buses are available between Changsha South Bus Station/Changsha West Bus station/Changsha High-Speed Bus Station, or Loudi Bus Station and Xinhua County. And the high-speed trains are available between Guiyang/Changshan/Loudi and Xinhua.
Best Time to Shoot:
Late March to early May is the best time to shoot the water-filled terrace of Ziquejie Rice Terrace, which resembles fragmented mirror pieces linked by elegant curves. Late May to early August is the best time to get a beautiful green rice field. October is the best time to shoot the golden rice terraces. When the warm autumn sunlight spills on the rice paddies, the rice seedlings turn golden and farmers get busy for the harvest, which simply adds a lively atmosphere to each picture taken here.
- The large-scale Ziquejie Rice terrace is widely scattered in many villages. Among the villages, Longpu village, Shifeng village and Jinzhu village provide 7 best viewpoints to take stunning pictures of terrace landscape, namely Baguachong, Laomadang, Gongmiling, Jiulongpo, Yaorenchong, Yueyashan, and Yajizhai.
- Baguachong is the best site to shoot the most beautiful rice terraces in Ziquejie with the glorious early morning sunray.
- Laomadang provides a view of cliffy and steep rice terraces with two large mountains standing side by side. The old slab houses are perfectly integrated with the terraced landscape. Unfortunately, there are one or two newly built houses that slightly damage the landscape, but professional photographers can choose a different angle to avoid it.
- The rice terrace at Gongmiling is inserted in gullies and hills, it’s better to zoom in your camera lens to focus on the central terraces for unique beauty and exquisiteness.
- Jiulongpo provides a large rice terrace that can be photographed from multiple angles. When the rice terrace is filled with water in spring, it is suitable for shooting here in the late afternoon. However, there are a lot of wires and cables staggered over the field, which might be a flaw for a perfect picture.
- The rice terrace at Yaorenchong is cut by two ridges, forming an indentation. The rice terrace cascades from the western slope with more than 200 layers, while the rice terrace on the east side is relatively small, but forms a special heart shape. The site is good for shooting all day.
- Yueyashan offers a view of the rice terrace with large gradient, streamlined curves and clear layers. It’s better to shoot from here in the afternoon or late afternoon because there will be some backlighting in the morning.
- Yajizhai, the farthest viewpoint from most guest houses or inns and the highest viewpoint in Ziquejie Rice Terrace, is the best spot to take a panoramic picture of the rice terrace. It might be a pain for some travelers to walk a long way (about 3km from Jiulongpo) and climb to the top, but the spectacular overlooking they get will be rewarded.
Jiangling Rice Terrace in Jiangxi
Jiangling Rice Terrace, located in the northeast of Wuyuan County (Shangrao City, Jiangxi Province), the most beautiful countryside of China, is a photogenic gem with a spectacular landscape of terraced canola flowers. A slow and winding hike up the hilltop is worth it to achieve a vivid commanding view. Layers upon layers of canola flowers are attached to the amazing appeal, with a few quaint white Hui-style folk houses dotted. This idyllic paradise is definitely a feast for your eyes, as well as a surprise for photographers’ lenses. The Jiangling Rice Terrace perfectly demonstrates extraordinary harmony between local people and their environment, with a reasonable layout of ancient trees, rivers, terraces, farmhouses, and crops.
How to Get There:
Travelers usually first get to Jingdezhen City where the airport/train station is available to connect with other cities in China and then go on to Wuyuan County to reach Jiangling Rice Terrace. Buses are available from Jingdezhen West Bus Station to Wuyuan High-Speed Bus Station which offers sightseeing buses to Jiangling. Due to the convenient transportation, the better way to move between the remote villages is by booking a private car with a local China travel agency.
Best Time to Shoot:
When the soft breezes set the stage for springtime and the terrace fields tend to be in full blooming canola flowers, it offers the best photography opportunities. The best time lasts about 20 days. For photographers who want to capture the beautiful terrace carpeted in gold as far as the eye can see, come in the middle of March to early April, but avoid coming in every weekend when it is crowded with domestic travelers.
- Jiangling Rice Terrace provides four breathtaking pavilions for photographers to take amazing pictures of the terrace from different perspectives.
- No. 1 viewpoint, atop the hill, is the best site for the expansive terraced canola flowers. The best time to shoot from here is early morning to appreciate the dawn and sunrise, as well as late afternoon when the light is very gentle and the color is pretty distinctive.
- No. 2 viewpoint offers a lovely trail allowing travelers and photographers to capture from different angles for the stunning view of the white ancient Huizhou villages surrounded by the yellow canola flowers sea, with remote mountains fading in the fog.
- The tremendous terraced canola flowers in chaotic bloom around No.3 viewpoint and No.4 viewpoint also provides adequate pleasure for any and all who visit.
Yunhe Rice Terrace in Zhejiang
Yunhe (Chongtou Town, Yunhe County, Lishui City, Zhejiang Province), meaning peaceful clouds in Chinese, has the largest rice terrace in eastern China, which is regarded as the most beautiful rice terrace in China. With over 1,000 years’ history since the early Tang Dynasty, Yunhe Rice Terrace is the home of the She ethnic group, a minority with a small population in China. The chain-like rice terrace is carved along the hillside, layer upon layer, like a ladder stretching skyward. With smooth, chic and zigzag ridges, these terraced paddy cultivation looks awesome. Due to its spanned elevation of 200m - 1,400m, the steam from the river valley floats over the rice terrace, then turns clouds and mist, thus giving rise to the fascinating scene of “a world of floating clouds and mist” and simply adding to the amazing appeal.
How to Get There:
Yunhe Rice Terrace is about 88km/2 hours’ drive from Lishui City. Buses are available from Lishui East Bus Station or Lishui High-Speed Bus Station to Yunhe County, then travelers need to change to the public bus from Yunhe Bus Station to reach Yunhe Rice Terrace. For travelers on the China private tours through a local agency, they usually come from Hangzhou, which takes about 3 hours’ drive.
Best Time to Shoot:
May to late June is the best time to shoot the irrigated terraces and rice seedlings transplanting scene. Around the Dragon Boat Festival which occurs on the 5th day of May in the Chinese calendar, it is the best time to shoot the local customs with many ritual ceremonies. October is the best time to photograph the golden terraces with harvest scenes.
- Yunhe Rice Terrace is composed of two sightseeing areas: Silver Valley and Beautiful Curves & Surrounding Clouds.
- For photographers planning to shoot the sunrise and the sea of clouds, either the Seven-Star Viewing Platform in Silver Valley or the Sunrise & the Sea of Clouds Platform in Beautiful Curves & Surrounding Clouds is the best site to get an incredible sight of sunrise and the sea of clouds over the spectacular rice terrace, with a lovely village nestled against the mountains.
- For photographers who also prefer to explore local life and folk customs, Silver Valley will be better with a nice hiking trail from the Seven-Star Viewing Platform down to Kenggen village, with placed bamboo forests and incredible waterfalls. A stroll in Kenggen village allows photographers to get a glimpse of the old China with gray walls, ancient cottages, zigzag lanes, and stone covered roads.