Top 3 Budget Places You Can’t Afford to Miss in China

Guest post by Agness Walewinder

China is an enormous country which offers endless travel possibilities for both budget travellers and holiday makers. Although Beijing and Shanghai are absolutely worth visiting, there are also other places off the beaten track — often missed out and underrated by visitors.

These three hidden Chinese gems I am about to introduce to you provide the authentic China experience and they are definitely much cheaper to explore and more fun. Thanks to visiting them, you will have a chance to pick up some local language, interact with locals, try some authentic Chinese food and admire the scenery you will never have a chance to see in other parts of the country. If you are planning on visiting the Land of Dragons, make sure you add the following spots to your travel itinerary.

Fenghuang Town

"Scene from one of the oldest towns in China, Fenghuang in Hunan province."

Fenghuang, Hunan, China

Fenghuang is a small town located in Hunan province. It is certainly one of the oldest and most visited by Chinese places in this region where you feel like the time stops and you get stuck in some surreal and mystical world.

"Authentic and unchanged buildings along the river in Fenghuang, Hunan, China"

Authentic and unchanged buildings along the river in Fenghuang

Fenghuang is often called the Phoenix Ancient Town because it is an authentic and unchanged Chinese town where locals live here like they used to live hundreds of years ago. Every single element of this town – from local shops to bridges – seem to be untouched by humans and modern technology which gives you a view of a traditional Chinese spot, totally different from modern cities and large conurbations.

"Bridge and buildings of Fenghuang at night"

Fenghuang at night

Fenghuang looks spectacular at night. If you take a walk across the town, you can admire its truly breathtaking scenery of local houses decorated with flashy lanterns and colourful lights, sparkling bridges and waterfalls as well as wooden boats at the bank of local river. Believe me or not, but the whole place looks like a fairy tale.

The main means of transport in Fenghuang are rowboats. Locals as well as visitors can explore the place by boat going from one side of the town to another. It is a fantastic experience on the cheap you can’t miss when you are here.

"On a rowboat in Fenghuang, Hunan, China"

On a rowboat in Fenghuang, Hunan, China

I would recommend this place to everyone who feels like hiding from busy cities and overcrowded tourist spots. The life here is calm, peaceful and harmonious. Locals don’t get distracted much by visitors and you can have some decent rest for a day, two or even longer.

What makes Fenghuang a perfect travel destination are its affordable prices of accommodation, food and sightseeing. Did you know you can easily spend a day in Fenghuang for less than $25?


Guilin, after Fenghuang, is another Chinese hidden spot often underrated by backpackers and worldwide travellers. Reason? Not many have heard of it, which is a real pity as Guilin is one of the most beautiful and charming towns in China, located in Guangxi Province.

"Lighted buildings at night in Guilan, China"

Guilan at night

Believe me or not, but nowadays Guilin is the most desirable travel destination in China, according to Chinese travellers. The reason being, it simply surprises its visitors with stunning scenery of mountains, caves, lakes, rice terraces and world famous Li River, commonly known by locals as Yangshuo River.

Top places to discover in Guilin

Yangshuo River (Li River) – it offers breathtakingly beautiful scenery and can be toured by cruise boat or a bamboo raft.

"Boat on Yangshuo River, Guilin, China"

Boat on Yangshuo River, Guilin

Reed Flute Cave – a natural limestone cave with multicoloured lighting.

Longsheng Rice Terraces – amazing place to lay down and think about anything that has been crossing your mind on this last times. Both the view and the structures created by the rice terraces is a must see for every tourist around Longsheng.

"Woman walking in the Longi terraced fields in Guilin, China"

Woman walking in the Longi terraced fields

Avatar Mountains in Zhangjiajie

When you make it to China, you have to make sure you visit Zhangjiajie, another small town located in Hunan province. The reason being, you will be taken to another world, a world of Pandora from the movie Avatar. Yes, Pandora is a real place and yes, you can visit it in China.

"Along the river in Zhangjiajie, China"

Zhangjiajie, China

Without a doubt, Zhangjiajie and its Hallelujah Floating Mountains are hidden gems of Chinese nature, well-known to locals and Chinese, but still undiscovered by foreigners. Therefore, you should not be surprised if I tell you that Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has been listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1992. Moreover, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

"Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China"

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Do these mountains really float? They do not, but when it gets foggy, they really look like they were floating in the air and moving from the left to the right. It is something incredible and yet indescribable so make sure you add this place when visiting China. You can do a proper hike here and take photos that will leave you speechless for a long time.

As you can see, China is more than just Beijing or Shanghai. It actually has a lot of different and yet undiscovered by many places which will take your breath away. Therefore, do not forget to add Fenghuang, Guilin and Zhangjiajie to your itinerary list when planning your next journey across the Land of Dragons.

Photos courtesy of Agness Walewinder

About the author:

"Profile photo of travel blogger Agness Walewinder"Agness is a photography passionate, food lover and adventure hunter. She stands behind eTramping – a travel website where you can find plenty of budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out her “Work, Live and Travel in China” e-book which sums up her two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

28 thoughts on “Top 3 Budget Places You Can’t Afford to Miss in China

  1. Marcia

    I don’t think I’ve heard of any of these places but they do look amazingly beautiful and represent the image of China I’ve always had in mind. Thanks for sharing these, Agness/Cathy!

  2. quynh@outforadventure

    Hi , China is beautiful country offering many things to do and worth 1 year to travel around, in my opinion, Yunnan is also great region to visit beside your great list ! Once you are in Yunnan , dont’ forget to visit Lijiang, Kunmin, Dali and Shangrila

  3. Lisa Goodmurphy

    I don’t think I had heard of any of these before either. I need to plan a trip to China soon because my 10 year-old has been asking to go since she was 3 years old – I will definitely keep these in mind!

  4. Aggy

    Wow that is incredible! The view looks calming and something I would love. Someday I’m gonna get myself to China and follow these recommendations – thanks Agness

  5. Lucy

    Really interesting to read about some of the more unusual places to visit in China, other than the usual big cities. The landscapes look beautiful – will keep them in mind when I finally make it out there!

  6. Monica Suma

    Spectacular! I went to China three years ago, and spent time in Shanghai, Beijng and Hangzhou. Would definitely want to come back and see more of places like these. Would love to see Zhangjiajie National Forest Park!

  7. Leigh

    Although China is not high on my list of places to visit, Agness has really done a good job appealing to the more adventurous side of me and making me think of parts of the country that aren’t mainstream. I”d happily go to all three places.

  8. Suzanne Fluhr

    Thanks Agness and Catherine for sharing this information and the photos. I admit that for some reason, I haven’t been that eager to visit (China) the PRC, but I think you may have won me over. Now all I have to do is to convince Mr. Excitement.

  9. Huangdi

    Once again I realise I had missed great scenery in the southern provinces. When I was in Zhongguo I did a nice trip in central China starting from Xian and going to Luoyang, Shaolin, to as far as Huangshan. But I guess the next time should go to Zhangjiajie and the rest of the South.

  10. Pola (Jetting Around)

    China is still uncharted territory for me… I’m just starting to explore Asia and I’m most likely to do Thailand, Vietnam, or Japan before China, but… these pictures are fantastic. I might have to rearrange the order… Fenghuang Town, hmm…

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