Top 10 Most Beautiful Ancient Towns to Explore in China | iVisits

Top 10 Most Beautiful Ancient Towns to Explore in China

China is the cradle of culture. One of the oldest civilizations has evolved here, resulting in a glorious history and diverse culture. A lot of ancient towns pop-up to people’s new travel plans, and have been great destinations to enjoy a quiet and peaceful journey.  Are you excited to explore unique Naxi and Dongba cultures in Yunnan Province or wander in Chinese water towns in Jiangsu Province? Here we choose the best ancient towns in China to help you to experience your own unforgettable journeys.

10. Daxu

20 kilometers from Guilin lies a hidden ancient gem – Daxu Town. It counts over 2000 years of history. The town thrived in the Middle Ages due to the trade via the Li River. The well preserved architecture is the main attraction: discover the ancient stone streets, temples and historic markets.

Why to go there?

Go to Longevity Bridge, where stunning views to the Li River, Millstone Hill and Snail Hill open.


9. Ping Yao

Back in the 14th century Ping Yao served as a financial center in China. Even to this day it is a walled city. The ancient wall is the signature feature of the ancient town and is listed as the World Heritage Site. Narrow Medieval streets provide a romantic stroll and allow to explore the town.

Why to go there?

The historic architecture and the buildings are very well preserved. Visit many of the shops and markets and get something authentic from the local manufacturers.


8. Zhujiajiao on the outskirts of Shanghai

Zhujiajiao, which means “Zhu Family Settlement”, is an ancient town located in the Qingpu District of Shanghai, and it is characteristic of the many water towns in the upper reach of the Yangtze River. Zhujiajiao is an ancient (formed about 1,700 years old) water township that some call the “Venice of Shanghai”. 36 unique wood and stone bridges and numerous rivers line Zhujiajiao, and thousands of ancient buildings still line the riverbanks today. Many centuries-old stone buildings are home to residents today, as they were for many dynasties in the past.

Why to go there?

Amazing architecture attracts crowds, who indulge in food, visit a fair in the City God Temple, which is being held in spring and fall.Holding an oiled paper umbrella in the rain, you walk in the long and narrow lanes paved with green flags. That kind of happiness with slightly sadness is what you only experience in person.


7. Phoenix Ancient Town

Embedded in Hunan Province and surrounded by the glorious Tianmen mountains, Fenghuang (also known as Phoenix Ancient Town) is a gorgeous gem in China. The very well preserved buildings from the Ming and Qing era are protected by UNESCO. No wonder the town is often to be the most beautiful one in China.

Why to go there?

Visit this precious town, which regardless of its location is accessible due to the big tourist interest. Take a boat tour on which the town will unravel its rare beauty.


6.Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen Water Town, one of the most famous ancient water towns in China, has a history of more than 1,000 years. Embraced by the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal, canals crisscross the two town areas. Ancient residential houses, workshops and stores stand on the banks of the East Area canals, and attractions include folk performances. The West Area has been restored for antique-style accommodation, but authentic ancient elements are also easily found.

Why to go there?

Though some complain about its commercial atmosphere, restored buildings, and the crowds; Wuzhen’s charm and elegance are undeniable.


5. Xidi

Xidi Ancient Village is located right at the south foot of Mt. Huangshan, so you can take a short visit to the place after your Mt. Huangshan tour. The village is well known for their regional culture. The overall layout, landscape, architectural form, decoration, and construction techniques all retain the original features of Anhui villages between the 14th and 20th centuries. It is home to over 300 simple, yet graceful residences built in Ming and Qing dynasty, of which 124 are well preserved. The streets and lanes in the village with their original style remain as what they look for centuries, and the village has been praised by foreign architects as containing some of the best preserved old-time houses and as being one of the most beautiful villages in the world.

Why to go there?

Visitors strolling through this ancient village will discover traditional Hui-style houses, ancestral temples, academies of classical learning, stone archways, white walls and grey tiles, beautifully paned windows, projecting horse-head walls, and stone slab bridge. These features are all centuries old and the residents live as they always have making Xidi Village an open-air museum.


4. Yongding

Yongding, a county in Fujian Province, is the home of many Hakka families and is known for its unusual architecture called Tulou (Hakka Earthen Fortresses). These large, circular edifices were built by the Hakka, one ethnic group in China. The architectural art of Tulou enjoys great admiration among architects worldwide. The older examples of this style of construction consist of interior buildings enclosed by huge peripheral ones holding hundreds of rooms and dwellers. With all the halls, storehouses, wells and bedrooms inside, the huge towerlike building functions almost as a small fortified city.

Why to go there?

Most earthen castles are not tourist traps. People really live and work here, and invariably, when you show up on their doorstep they will grin and say, “You’ve come! Have some tea!”


3. Hongcun

Hongcun Village is located near the southwestern slope of Huangshan Mountain. It is listed as one of China’s top 10 charming villages and together with Xidi Village it was added to UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List in 2000. Morning mists, gray tiles, white walls, stone bridges, water lily ponds, and hills at the background, are all elements of traditional Chinese landscape paintings. Hongcun Village has all of these features, and has been named “a village in the Chinese painting”. It is an inspiration for artists and film directors. Hongcun Village was the location for one of the fighting scenes in the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, directed by Ang Lee. The film won Oscars for the Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography categories.

Why to go there?

What makes Hongcun Village so unique is that the village was designed by a fengshui master to resemble a cow. Visitors to Hongcun Village’s tour guides will interpret which part of the village is the anatomical equivalent to the cow. Hongcun has a elaborate web of gravel lanes and a complex watering system through which water from the outside pool can be directed to every family.


2. Tongli

Originally named Fushi, Tongli is an age-old but very well preserved water township with a history of more than 1,000 years. Located on the eastern shore of Taihu Lake, just 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Suzhou City.Crisscrossed by rivers and canals. Tongli enjoys fame across China for its beautiful rivers, historic bridges and opulent court yard homes. Tongli has 49 stone bridges and many gardens, temples.

Why to go there?

Because of the landscape, almost all of the buildings are constructed along the waterfront. The water also creates reflections of the town’s arched roofs, lofty gables and stone bridges while green willows also line the banks can. This creates a truly poetic atmosphere.



Dali Ancient City, or the ancient town of Dali, was set up in 1383 in the Ming Dynasty. It has a history of more than 600 years. This ancient city was once a vital communications hub where the population was dense. Many trade caravans gathered here and the markets were prosperous. On both sides of the street, there were numerous shops, inns, tea houses and restaurants, very bustling and exciting. Now, Dali is the economic and cultural center of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture and one of the most beautiful and relaxing places in China. The area is surrounded by mountains. Here you will find 25 ethnic minorities, which have created a unique cultural heritage amidst the area’s picturesque surroundings. The local government has given high priority to its preservation. So Dali Ancient City still remains its original looks. Now, the shops here mainly sell some locally-made handicraft articles: marble products, straw weaving wares, embroideries, wax printing clothes and other ornaments. Small retailers also sell some antiques, ancient paintings, old coins and silver wares.

Why to go there?

Although these establishments (shops, restaurants, bars, etc.) are quite similar to other old towns in China, Dali is unique in that it has a very lovely backdrop scenery of scenic mountains and the big Erhai Lake that next to the town. The old town city wall that surrounds parts of the city is very nice to walk along and to view beautiful surrounding.


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