Top 20 Photography Destinations in China
The most beautiful destinations to photograph in China are undoubtedly the landscapes including magnificent mountains, vast plateaus, beautiful rivers and gorges, tranquil lakes, spectacular gobi and deserts, extensive grasslands, dense forests, etc. China's traditional style buildings are also the most popular photography materials in the country.
Scatters across the whole country are other picturesque pieces, some are very famous, others are off-the-beaten. Check the list of the 20 best destinations for photography in China to inspire your travel photography during your China tour.
1. Jiuzhaigou National Park
Together with Huanglong National Park, they are declared as a world heritage site. Considered to be China’s premier national park, it is a breathtakingly beautiful national park with crystal blue lakes, roaring waterfalls, lush green forests, and snow-covered mountains.
Enjoying the fame of the ‘fairy tale world’ and the ‘King of Water Scenery’, Jiuzhaigou Park is one of the paradises for photographers, especially in autumn, the scenery is so fascinating and charming, making it the best time for photography. Besides, in different seasons, it has different beautiful landscapes: spring is the time for flower blossom, summer is a time decorated with dense green, autumn is a great time with bright colors, while winter is the best time to enjoy the snow views.
Located about 400KM away from Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, and accessible by flight or by road, travelers usually make their Jiuzhaigou tour for 3-days by air or 4-days by overland to enjoy and photograph the beauty of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong.
2. Zhangjiajie National Park and Fenghuang Ancient Town
Reputed as a ‘shrinking fairyland, expanding bonsai’, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is China’s first national forest park with amazing scenery, it is also a World Natural Heritage Site and the World Geopark. The natural scenery of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is amazing by peaks, quiet by valleys, and beautiful by forests. In the meantime, there are more than 3,000 peculiar peaks in different shapes with vivid images and magnificent aura. Top Zhangjiajie attractions include Yuanjiajie, Tianzi Mountain, Huangshi Village, Golden Whip Stream, etc. Generally speaking, April to June, September to November are the best seasons to shoot the spectacular scenery of Zhangjiajie.
About 250KM away from Zhangjiajie, Fenghuang Ancient Town is located there. Once praised as the most beautiful town in China by the famous New Zealand writer Rewi Alley, it is one of the top ten cultural heritages in Hunan. It is comparable to the ancient city of Lijiang in Yunnan and Pingyao in Shanxi, enjoying the fame of "North Pingyao, South Fenghuang". The bluestone streets in the city, the stilted buildings by the Tuojiang River, numerous ancient buildings, and the strong Miao customs constitute a unique Xiangxi charm here. The quaint and mysterious ancient city at night with bright lights is the most suitable for photography.
Usually, we would recommend travelers to spend at least 3-5 days in Zhangjiajie to admire and photograph its highlights. For those sufficient in time, it is recommended to extend their trip to Fenghuang Ancient Town in another 1-2 days.
3. Guilin Karst Mountains and Li River
Reputed as "the best landscape in the world", Guilin is famous for its spectacular landscape of Li River and bizarre karst landforms with peaks, caves, and lakes. Declared as the World Natural Heritage site, the Li River Scenic Area, especially the part in Yangshuo, is the essence of Guilin scenery. The main ways to experience the fascinating scenery of this poetic and picturesque Lijiang River include boat, bamboo raft, and hiking. Besides, hiking onto the stunning Karst mountains in Guilin such as Elephant Trunk Hill, Yao Mountain is another wonderful experience.
It is suitable for making a photography trip to Guilin Karst mountains and Li River all year round, however, the best time is from April to October when the scenery is in the best shape, especially Autumn with colorful leaves. Besides, it is an unforgettable experience to view the karst mountains peaking through a river of fog on sunrise between April and July. Usually, travelers would spend 3 days in Guilin and Yangshuo or 4 days to cover Longji Rice Terrace. More details, please refer to Guilin & Yangshuo tours.
4. Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park (Zhangye Rainbow Mountain)
As the only Danxia landform and colorful hilly landscape compound area in China, it is located at the northern foot of the Qilian Mountains, 30KM south of Zhangye. It is one of the regions with the largest and best developed Danxia landforms and the most abundant landforms in China, making it a typical representative of China's colorful Danxia with a great value of scientific research and tourism viewing.
The colors here are fantastic, bright, and colorful, making people dizzy and attracting photographers coming here for shooting amazing photos. Usually, afternoon, when oblique sunlight makes Danxia more layered, is the best shooting time. Sunny after rain is the best weather for shooting as it can make Danxia more intense. No. 1 and No. 5 Observation Deck, especially No. 5 Observation Deck, are the spots for shooting the sunset. Stepping onto Observation Deck No. 2, you can have a panoramic shooting, and Observation Deck No. 3 offers the most colorful Danxia scenery.
Most tourists will choose to spend a day there to appreciate the colorful landforms, for those wanting to have more time for good photos, it is recommended to spend 2 days there. As an important town of the ancient Silk Road, it's a must-see site during your China Silk Road tour.
5. Badain Jaran Desert
The Badain Jaran Desert is the third-largest desert located in the northern part of the Alxa Right Banner of Inner Mongolia, where sandy mountains and lakes coexist. The vast Badain Jaran Desert brings infinite reverie. Known as "China's most beautiful desert", it is the world’s highest sandy hills, spectacular echoing sandy areas, dotted lakes and oasis, endless sand and sea god springs, mysterious desert temples, etc. constituting a unique and charming landscape of the desert and making it become an ideal place for desert exploration and photography.
Every June to October is the best season to visit Badain Jaran Desert, among which September and October are the best seasons for hiking desert exploration. The Desert Cultural Tourism Festival ‘will be held in August and September with traditional Mongolian sports competitions such as horse racing, camel racing, and dune climbing, as well as wonderful motorcycle and jeep cross-country races, photography, and strange stone exhibition activities.
To get to the Badain Jaran Desert, most travelers choose to arrive at Zhangye first and then drive to Badain Jaran from there for about 2-3 hours. With limited public transportation, the best way to travel is to charter a car through a local China travel agency and combine a visit to Zhangye and Jiayuguan.
6. Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve
Reputed as ‘the last pure land on our blue planet’ and ‘the last Shangri-la’, Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve is located in the western Sichuan, including snow-capped mountains, steep cliffs, crystal clear lakes, vast pastures, trickling streams, as well as the dense woods, making it one of the best places in China for sightseeing, trekking, and photography. Every year from April to October, it draws thousands of tourists, trekkers, and photographers here to appreciate its breathtaking landscape. Usually, mid-October to early November is the best time to photograph the colorful autumn scenery.
Situated about 800KM southwest of Chengdu, with picturesque scenery all the way, tourists usually take Chengdu as their starting base for their Daocheng Yading exploration. Daocheng Yading is also adjacent to Shangri-la and Lijiang, the popular travel destinations of Yunnan, tourists can continue their Yunnan tour from here. A trip to Daocheng Yading usually takes about 7-8 days to cover other highlights along the way.
7. Zoige (Ruoergai) Grassland
Known as the "oasis on the plateau in northwest Sichuan", Ruoergai grassland, or Zoige Reer Prairie, ranks first among the six most beautiful swamps selected by "Chinese National Geographic". Here is a vast grassland densely covered with lakes, and with cattle and sheep, flower blossoms in summer, clear blue sky, monks with pure beliefs, and warm and hospitable locals. It is also the second-largest grassland in China after the Hulunbuir grassland where the famous Flower Lake and the first bay of the Yellow River Jiuqu, one of the best spots to enjoy the stunning sunset, are located.
In general, July and August of summer are the most beautiful time of the year with wildflowers spanning across the grassland to shoot and sightsee. Apart from summer, the winter (December-April) is another good time to shoot and experience the true ethnic customs, although with severe climate, it has the grandest Tibetan festivals concentrated and the least tourists.
Usually, hiring a private car through a local China travel agency is the best choice to sightsee and photograph there, because the scenic sites are loosely distributed and far apart. As it is close to the famous Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong National Park, travelers usually combine it with Jiuzhaigou travel for about 5-6 days.
8. The Great Wall of China
Built-up in stages over 2000 years and said to be the only man-made structure visible from the moon, the Great Wall is a spectacular sight that should not be missed during your China private tours. The Great Wall that we mostly refer to today is the Great Wall built in the Ming Dynasty, which starts at the Hushan, Liaoning in the east and ends at the Jiayuguan Pass, Gansu in the west, stretching for a distance of over 8800 kilometers with an actual wall of approximate 6,259 kilometers.
Among all the sections of the Great Wall, Beijing owns the best-preserved and most-visited sections. It is a great day excursion or 2-5 days’ deeper exploration for trekking or photography from Beijing. As a rule of thumb, April, May, September, and October are the best months to travel and photograph the wonders of the Great Wall.
9. Yangshuo Countryside Life
While in Yangshuo, travelers can not only appreciate the beautiful Li River and Yulong River but also enjoy the mesmerizing idyllic countryside scenery. There are many ways to appreciate the beautiful countryside: riding a bicycle or an electric scooter along the rural roads, taking a bamboo raft on Yulong River, hiking from Yangdi to Xingping, etc. Travelers will have a chance to get close to nature and witness the authentic lifestyle of peasant farmers living in South China's countryside. The farmers here farm as their ancestors did centuries ago, and plow the farmland by water buffalo.
For photographers, Xianggong Hill (Husband Hill) is the best photography location overlooking the Li River at sunrise. Cuiping Mountain (Five Finger Mountain) is a great place in Yangshuo to photograph the sunset. The Moon Hill located at Ten Miles Gallery is another nice place for photography featured by a huge piece of rock with a moon-shaped hole in its center, where you can shoot the moon in different shapes from different angles. To shoot the countryside life, April and May are considered to be the best months, and the best times are 2 hours before the sunset and half-an-hour after the sunset.
10. Xiapu Seascape / Mudflat
The biggest charm of Xiapu photography is the tidal flat/Mudflat, which is submerged in the water at high tide and exposed at low tide. Fujian Province alone has nearly 200,000 hectares of mudflat, in the long history, after countless ebbs and flows, the tidal flats/mudflats have formed their own unique landscape. The sky and the shadows of the clouds, the treacherous and mysterious shadows of poles in the sea, the dreamlike homes on the sea, the golden beaches and brown reefs swept by gulls and birds, the sunset in the sea and the sky...this is dreamlike Fujian Xiapu and a paradise for photographers.
April to December is the best time to travel to Xiapu. From a photographic point of view, April to June is the season for kelp harvest and fishing, there are many work scenes, which are more suitable for shooting and framing, besides, April is also the time when Taimu Mountain azaleas bloom. July to September is the frequent season of typhoons when the sea is clear and suitable for shooting the sea and the sky, but travelers should pay attention to the weather changes and typhoon days. October to December is the season for the harvest of laver, and November is also when the maple leaves of Yangjiaxi and Taimushan are red, which is a good time for photography.
11. Mount Huangshan and nearby Ancient Villages
Huangshan has been one of the most famous mountains in China since ancient times. The trees cling to breathtaking rocky precipices amongst seas of cloud and clear natural springs and lakes. In addition, rime, snow scenes, and sunrise are also sights that tourists will not miss. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its natural beauty and wildlife, it is one of the best places in China for photography, especially at sunrise or sunset.
In addition to Mount Huangshan, when you are there, it is highly recommended to visit the nearby Hui-style architecture villages, particularly Hongcun and Xidi Ancient Villages, which are listed as World Cultural Heritage sites. They are reputed as the "village in Chinese painting" and "the most beautiful village in the world" respectively. Without dispute, they are the best places in Anhui to photograph the ancient Hui-style residential villages.
Thanks to the high-speed train, letting it possible to reach Huangshan in only 3 hours from Shanghai, less than 2 hours from Hangzhou, 3 hours from Suzhou, 1 hour from Jingdezhen, half an hour from picturesque Wuyuan, hence, tourists usually connect it with a trip to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Jingdezhen, Wuyuan, etc. Please see our Huangshan private tours to get some inspiration.
12. Yuanyang Rice Terraces and Luoping Rapeseed Flowers
With a history of more than 1200 years and a large scale, Yuanyang Rice Terraces is a masterpiece left by Hani people for generations, which is honored as "China's most beautiful mountain sculpture." Yuanyang Hani Terraces is famous for the magnificent sunrise and sunset of the terraces and the unique customs of the Hani village. The most beautiful scenery time for Yuanyang Rice Terraces from January to February. Before and after the Lantern Festival (normally in January or February), wild cherry, wild kapok, wild peach, and pear blossoms are in full bloom, making the scenery spectacular.
Luoping is the main settlement of the Buyi people. The unique and beautiful stilts, unique ethnic customs, exquisite ethnic costumes, embroidery, batik, bamboo weaving, and other colorful ethnic handicrafts are distributed in the beautiful green forests of Luoping. In February and March, especially around the mid-March, fields of rapeseed blossoms rush to bloom, the farmlands dress in bright golden, which fascinates people's eyes, making it the best season to shoot its amazing scenery of Luoping.
A merged trip to Luoping Rapeseed Flowers and Yuanyang Rice Terraces in February is an ideal choice for photographers, as they are located almost the same route from Kunming and connected by highways.
13. Lhasa in Tibet
Known as holy city and sunlight city, Lhasa stands at an altitude of 3700m (12,000ft). As an international tourist city famous for its beautiful scenery, profound history, unique customs, and strong religious colors, it attracts thousands of worldwide tourists coming here to admire its beauty and feel its spiritual faith.
Lhasa's main attractions are historical and cultural relics, which are least affected by the season and can be visited at any time of the year. April to October is the best season to travel there, however, winter is also a good time for sightseeing and photography in Lhasa for cost-effectiveness, the most important thing is that the bright sunshine in winter is hard to find anywhere else.
A warm reminder is that independent travel is not allowed for international travelers, they are required to either make a private Tibet tour or join a Tibet group tour (to include guide, private vehicle with driver, and Tibet permit) through a local Tibet travel agency. Generally, travelers would spend 4-6 days in Lhasa to shoot the most iconic architecture of Tibet - Potala Palace, follow the steps of the Tibetans to walk around the Kora, visit the important monasteries like Jokhang Temple, Drepung or Sera Monasteries to experience the Buddhism-rooted life of locals, and have an extra 1-2 days’ excursion to its nearby countryside and beautiful lakes.
14. Hongyuan Grassland
Known as the "Golden and Silver Beach" of the plateau, Hongyuan Grassland is one of the most beautiful wetland prairies in the world, the hometown of yak, the world of grasses, and a sea of flowers, with a unique style and diverse atmosphere. Summer and autumn are the best seasons to photograph there. Normally, we would recommend travelers to make at least 4-5 days tour to Hongyuan Grassland from Chengdu, if sufficient in time, you can extend your trip to Zoige Grassland and Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong National Park.
The Moon Bay, Emetang Sea of Flowers, as well as Waqie Pagoda Forest, are the must-see attractions here. The Moon Bay was rated as "100 most beautiful shooting spots" by "Chinese National Geographic" in 2014 with its unique Tibetan customs and charming grassland scenery, particularly when sunset. With wildflowers of various colors blooming everywhere in the scenic area from June to October, it was called "the most beautiful prairie flower sea" by tourists. Besides, rows of white pagodas and contiguous prayer flags in Waqie Pagoda Forest are very good themes and are one of the attractions not to be missed in Hongyuan Grassland.
15. Dongchuan Red Land
Praised as ‘God's palette’, Dongchuan Red Land is located about 260KM northeast of Kunming city at elevations between 1,800 meters and 2,600 meters above sea level. It is regarded as the most imposing red land in the world except the red land in Brazil, but with more magnificent scenery.
With Huashitou Village as the center, within a radius of tens of kilometers, the most beautiful scenery of the red land is concentrated in Qicaipo, Jinxiu Garden, Luoxiagou, Hongdi Daguan, Thousand-year-old Dragon Tree, Shuipingzi, Damakan, Screw Bay, Yuepuao, Waliang House, etc. Among them, the best spot for watching the sunrise is Damakan, and the best spot for watching the sunset is Yuepuao and Waliang House, the most beautiful scenery should be at Luoxiagou, all of which are colorful and breathtaking.
The most suitable seasons for photography in red land are May-June and September-December. The most ideal shooting time is within one or two days after the rain when the red land is the most beautiful. The land soaked by rain has a richer color in the sun. At this time, the air is fresh, the land is brightly colored, and the pictures taken are also very good. If you are lucky, you will have the chance to see the rainbow and the red earth connected together.
16. Kanas Nature Reserve
In Mongolian, Kansas means "beautiful, rich and mysterious" and the name "Kanas" for this land cannot be more appropriate. It is famous for the beautiful scenery of Kanas Lake and the surrounding snow-capped mountains, grasslands, and birch forests, and is known as "Oriental Switzerland, photographers’ paradise". Kanas, the last settlement of Mongolian Tuva people in China, is a comprehensive scenic spot integrating glaciers, lakes, forests, grasslands, pastures, rivers, ethnic customs, and rare animals and plants.
The best time to visit and photograph Kanas Nature Reserve is undoubtedly the flower sea in June and the golden autumn in September. Nestled in the deep forests and mountains of the north of Burqin County (Altay Region, Xinjiang), the edge of the northwestern corner of China, it is about 800 kilometers away from Urumqi and can be easily reachable by flight or by land. Usually, it is recommended to spend 10 days by land from Urumqi to appreciate the fascinating natural scenery.
17. Wuyuan Villages in Jiangxi
Wuyuan, located in the north of Jiangxi Province, is known as "China's Most Beautiful Village". The rape fields in spring and well-preserved Huizhou buildings are the signs of Wuyuan. The Hui-style architecture with white walls and black tiles adds an antique texture to Wuyuan. Wuyuan's eastern route is the most popular route including Likeng, Xiaoqi, Jiangling, and other scenic spots suitable for viewing flowers, while the northern route has the best natural scenery, including Rainbow Bridge, Sixiyan Village, and other well-known scenic spots.
The sea of rapeseed blooming in the hills and plains of Wuyuan every spring is undoubtedly the most attractive and popular among tourists. Whenever the flowering season comes, Huangling in Wuyuan, known as one of the "Four Big Flower Seas in China", will welcome a large number of travelers and photographers. In addition to rape blossoms in Spring, Wuyuan in autumn is also the best place to watch red leaves. The red leaves against the backdrop of the quaint buildings bring Wuyuan a different kind of vitality before winter.
18. Narat Grassland in Xinjiang
The Narat grassland is one of the four largest alpine valley grasslands in the world, integrating blue sky and white clouds, glaciers and snow peaks, forests and grasslands, canyons, and rivers. Once rated as "the most populous grassland in Kazakh" and "the grassland with the most Kazakh yurts" by the Shanghai Guinness World Headquarters, it is the grassland with the most concentrated population of Kazakhs in the world, making it the best showcase to get close to the traditional living habits of the Kazakhs. Currently, photography, folk home visits, family travel, starry sky camping, trekking adventures, and horseback riding are the most popular activities at Narat Grassland.
April to June is the best time to appreciate the beautiful flower view of Narat Grassland. From the wild lilies blooming on the top of the ice in early April to the golden lotus and sage in late June, all kinds of mountain flowers are competing for beauty. July to September is a lovely season with pleasant weather and green grassland dotted with sheep flocks, making it a good place to escape the heat. The Narat grassland from October to November is colorful and the sky is high and the clouds are light in Panlong Valley, making it an excellent time for photography. From December to March, the Narat grassland is covered in white snow and the red willows are enchanting and spectacular.
19. Nyingchi in Tibet
It is the lowest altitude area in Tibet located to the east of Lhasa. Nyingchi’s scenic spots are dominated by natural scenery. Because of the low altitude, lush vegetation, high forest coverage, and high oxygen content in the air, we would strongly recommend our clients to go to the lowest altitude Nyingchi area first, which is very helpful to alleviate altitude sickness, hence, it becomes many travelers’ first stop of their Tibet travel. With beautiful pastoral scenery, it was also selected as one of the 50 must-see attractions in life by National Geographic Magazine, particularly in Spring when peach blossoms. The peach grove stretches for dozens of kilometers makes the tourists feel like being in a fairyland.
With a pleasant and humid climate, Nyingchi is suitable for visiting all year round, but the most beautiful is of course in spring and autumn. In the spring from April to May, the Nyingchi area is full of green grass, wildflowers, rhododendrons blooming on the mountains, clear green lakes, and snow-capped mountains. Whereas the Nyingchi area in autumn from October to November is full of dizzying colors for sightseeing and photography. If travelers only focus on the Nyingchi area, it's possible to spend 3-4 days to cover the highlights including Basum Lake, Lulang Forest, Midui Glacier, Rawok Lake, etc.
20. China Snow Town in Heilongjiang
Snow town (Xuexiang) is the region with the largest snowfall in China with beautiful scenery and unique folk customs, located in Shuangfeng Forest Farm, and covering an area of 500 hectares. The snow here has good quality and high viscosity, forming a unique "snow curtain" and tree hanging. Whether it is day or night, the scenery is endless and extremely charming, making it a winter resort.
The most fascinating thing here is the thick snow and the silvery snow scenery. The white snow accumulates into various shapes and forms of mushroom snow piles, which complement each other with typical northeastern houses, making it a good place for travelers and photographers to view the snow in the northeast in winter. Visiting the characteristic Xueyun Street and watching the sunrise and sunset of Yang Cao Mountain are the most enjoyable things for tourists. The subsequent completion of the ski resort and dog sledding and other entertainment have also enriched the holiday needs of tourists.