Capturing the best of beauty and nature at an active retreat

Thousand Islands Lake, located in Chun'an County in the southwest part of Hangzhou, is a dream haven for those who love to go fishing, hiking and cycling.

A reconstructed section of Chun'an County, covering 80,000 square meters, is opened as an open-air museum.

Thousand Islands Lake, located in Chun’an County in the southwest part of Hangzhou, is a dream haven for those who love to go fishing, hiking and cycling.

The lake, which is 140 kilometers east of Yellow Mountain in Anhui Province, has 1,078 islands. The Xin’anjiang Dam, which is used to generate electricity, created a reservoir that turned thousands of mountaintops into islands, and formed the present-day Thousand Islands Lake, or Qiandao Lake.

Shanghai Daily has set out a list of things to do for those active sorts interested in outdoor pursuits. 

For hiking and cycling aficionados, the scenic area boasts one of the most picturesque routes in Zhejiang Province. Chunyang Road, which stretches from Jiangbu Bridge to Fenkou Town, takes hikers and bikers along the jaw-dropping shores of the lakes.

Every year, the local government hosts a marathon race, which includes a 42km and 10km distance event, as well as a 4.2km mini-race route for families. It attracts runners from all over the country by virtue of its unique lake scenery and welcoming climate.

In addition to gorgeous lake views, the route winds through several ancient villages and towns, including Qinchuan Village.

The village is split into two parts by a creek and flanked by thriving willows and camphor trees. Most of the village’s buildings have upturned eaves, carved beams and painted rafters in the style of Hui buildings erected in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The Thousand Islands Lake Scenic Area is split into five parts, the central, southeastern, southwestern, northeastern and northwestern lake areas. Sightseeing all of the lake zones in a single day is difficult, so picking one spot to get a panoramic view of the lake is a wise choice.

Visitors can take a speedboat at the wharf from the downtown area. On board, numerous tiny islands zip by and, the combination of the brilliant colors, fresh air and waves provides a rare sensory experience and opportunity to get closer to nature.

Fishing at the Thousand Islands Lake

The best spot to overlook the islands is at Huangshanjian in the southeastern lake zone, which provides a bird’s-eye view of more than 90 islands. Huangshanjian has an altitude of 266 meters, and a cable car is available to take the tourists to the top.

On the sightseeing platform, people can witness the small islands scattered around the bluish-green lake that forms a Chinese character “무.” Overlooking the lake, there is a faraway mountain range, partly hidden in a haze, and yachts shuttling between islands.

For animal lovers, Tianchi Island is the place to visit. It is home to the Chinese red-billed leiothrix. There are an estimated 3,000 birds on the island. The island has been developed into an aviary and bird sanctuary, which includes parrots, swans and cormorants, among other species of birds. The island also produces quality stones. Quarrying around the area has led to the formation of seven ponds all over the island. Today, the ponds are used to view fish.

When the Xin’anjiang Dam was put into operation in the 1960s, some of the ancient towns were immersed at the bottom of the Thousand Islands Lake. But, over the last few years, local authorities have spent billions of yuan reproducing some of them.

Shicheng Town, which was established in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220), was rebuilt on dry land. A reconstructed section of the county, covering 80,000 square meters, was opened as an open-air museum.

Over the decades, the submersion has remained intact underwater. In order to see the original layout and architectural designs, organizers dispatched divers to explore and photograph the long-forgotten submerged county.

In addition, designers looked to former residents and collected historical materials and archives from them. Old photos and hand-drawn maps provided them with a blueprint for the reconstruction.

Tianchi Island produces quality stones and has led to the formation of seven ponds all over the island. Today, the ponds are used to view fish.

Now, traditional black-roofed and white-walled buildings, Hui-style archways, streets, bridges and stores have been restored. Visitors can explore the underwater city using virtual reality technology.

Local delicacies are another highlight at the Thousand Islands Lake. Chilies are a common ingredient added to many dishes, thanks to the influence from the nearby Anhui Province. Flavors tend to be much spicier than most Hangzhou cuisine. Bamboo shoots often appear as accompaniments to many dishes, as the place is covered with lush bamboo forests. Local chefs often cook them in a soup with ham and preserved pork. Another special dish offered here is fern stirred with dried bean curd. Thousand Islands Lake is rich in ferns. Natives pick off the young stems of the ferns as an edible vegetable.

Fish from the lake is another delicious must-eat treat. The signature dish is fish head soup, which is taken from a large carp. Salt is the only seasoning used in cooking the soup. After hours of simmering, the soup turns white and gives off a mellow smell.

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