An ancient city of beauty just waiting to be explored

Earlier this month, Lin’an was announced as the 10th district of Hangzhou and that a Metro line has been planned to connect it. But for many it is still a little-known haven.

Earlier this month, Lin’an was announced as the 10th district of Hangzhou and that a Metro line has been planned to connect it with downtown Hangzhou. But for many it is still a lesser-known destination.

Formerly a county-level city, Lin’an was the birth and burial place of Qian Liu, the founding king of the Wuyue Kingdom (AD 907-978), which covers the area of present-day Shanghai, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces and a part of Jiangsu Province. As the capital, Hangzhou prospered greatly under the reign of the Qian family.

Besides historical reasons, Lin’an is worth a visit merely for its natural beauty. It is home to Tianmu Mountain, a listed UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and Taihuyuan, which means the source of Taihu Lake. The vast forest embraces a variety of landscapes, including waterfalls, canyons, caves and hot springs. Dried bamboo shoots, pecans and tea are popular local specialties considered to be the “three treasuries of Lin’an.” For lovers of wilderness and outdoor activities, Lin’an is a good choice to hide from the noise and hustle of city life.

Shanghai Daily recommends three trekking trails (from beginner to advanced) for you to enjoy the glamor of Lin’an within a day or two.

Zhinan Village

Linchuan Ancient Trail

The route firstly gains its fame among shutterbugs, mainly because of the autumn scenery in Zhinan Village. Located in the Taihuyuan Scenic Area, the village is over 1,000 years old. And it still keeps several traditional Chinese resident houses from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). But what has mesmerized people over the years are its ginko trees, maple trees and torreya trees surrounding the village. Every year in mid-November, the Hui-style buildings are nestled in the red and golden colors of the trees, making a perfect view of an idyllic refuge.

And similar to Hongcun village, at the foot of Yellow Mountain, Zhinan Village is also laid out under the guidelines of Chinese fengshui theory. Nantiao Stream runs through the village and a pond, which turns into a superb palette of nature in autumn, separates the resident area.

To fully appreciate the view in this part of Lin’an, you could start hiking from Hengdu village. It takes less than an hour to reach Zhinan Village. Plunge into endless photography before you can take a rest and have a village lunch.

If you have time you must go uphill to yet another village called Tangding, which is smaller in size but just as appealing. Or you could hike on to Zhaling Village, toward the end of the trail. Both take less than an hour.

Zhexi Heaven Lake is one of the highest and largest lakes in southern China.

Wuyue Ancient Trail

The “Ancient Wuyue Trail” used to be the main road connecting the Wuyue Kingdom and the Southern Tang Kingdom during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (AD 907-979). It starts from the present-day Ningguo, Anhui Province and ends in Lin’an, Zhejiang Province. Now it is an entrance-level trail for outdoor hikers. The trail of the stone-paved steps is hidden in the valleys of the Tianmu Mountain range. Waterfalls, creeks and animal-shaped granite are dotted along the way.

If you start from the Anhui part of the trail, it takes about two to three hours before you get to Qianqing Pass, which is believed to be part of an ancient fortification of the Wuyue Kingdom.

After that, you could either climb up further to the highest point of the journey — Leli Peak, or go down to Zhexi Heaven Lake. At an altitude of 1,100 meters and covering an area of 567,000 square meters, it is one of the highest and largest lakes in southern China.

The area is also natural habitat of Sika deer, an endangered and protected species of China. Spend a night there, camping in your own tent, if you don’t want to live in one of those wooden houses or villas. If the weather is good enough, chances are you will observe a sky full of stars, which would be a rare and memorable experience for city dwellers.

Jianmen with two cliffs less than 10 meters apart is a popular spot. 

Huihang Caravan Trail

This is the most difficult trekking trail among the three, covering a total length of 25 kilometers. But it’s also the most famed. The Huihang ancient trail, connecting the ancient Huizhou and Hangzhou, is considered to be the third antiquated trail after the Silk Road and the archaic tea-horse road in terms of the economic and cultural influence it once had.

You could start the trail from Yuchuan Village of Jixi County in Anhui Province, or you could do it in reverse and start at Maxiao, a town of Lin’an in Zhejiang Province, which is easier than the first route. It usually takes two days to finish the trail.

The Maxiao Town is located within the Cool Peak Nature Reserve in Lin’an. The place is known for the “great wall of rocks” which is comprised of 10 gorges each created by two smooth granite cliffs.

Among all, Jianmen (sword gate) is the one that is most worth a visit, with the two cliffs less than 10 meters apart, which also makes it a premium spot for rock climbing. It has been the location for several Chinese wuxia (martial heroes’ adventure) dramas. Longmen (dragon gate) is another scenic spot, with 18 waterfalls cascading over rocks in a forest spanning 20 million square meters.

Whatever route you choose, you’re sure to have an amazing experience.

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