Top 9 Places Not to Be Missed to See Fall Colors in China

Autumn, from September to November, is the best time to visit China, with glorious views taking advantage of beautiful weather- cool, clean and comfortable. But there are so many destinations waiting for exploration in China, which one to choose? Below are some of the best-for-autumn-visit places you can put on your bucket list.

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1. Gansu: Dunhuang

The Mogao Grottoes The Mogao Grottoes

Dunhuang has a remarkable past. As a famous city on the ancient Silk Road, it was the only land passageway from ancient China’s Central Plains to its Western Realm and eventually Europe from the First Century B.C. to the Thirteen Century. Thanks to its thousands of years of history, Dunhuang has various legendary attractions.

The Mogao Grottoes, after being dusted in history for over one thousand years, have been unveiled as “the art museum in the desert” and “the spirit oasis of art and faith” today. Considered the largest collection of Buddhist art in the world, Mogao Grottoes is the reason for most travelers to visit Dunhuang.

In addition, the oasis Crescent Lake is surrounded by Singing Sands Dunes, the weird Yadan “Devil City”, the hidden Western Thousand Buddha Caves, along with the fall’s golden trees and clear blue sky, make this once-glorious desert city still full of charms today.

  • Best months to visit: September, October
  • Transportation: Dunhuang has no convenient public transportation, so arranging a private local driver is the best way to tour its attractions.
  • Get to Mogao Grottoes: from Dunhuang Silk Road Yiyuan Hotel, take a tourist bus or bus no. 12 to Mogao Grottoes. They operate from 8:00 to 18:00.
  • 2-day tour itinerary: Day 1- Mogao Grottoes → Singing Sands Dune → local Shazhou Night Market; Day 2- Dunhuang Ancient Town → Western Thousand Buddha Caves → Jade Gate Pass → Han Dynasty Great Wall Site → Yadan National Geopark

2. Gansu: Zhangye Danxia Landform

Zhangye Danxia Landform Zhangye Danxia Landform

Zhangye, another important city along China’s Silk Road, is famous for its dreamlike Zhangye Danxia Landform. The Rainbow Mountains here are formed from red sandstone influenced by millions of years of weathering and erosion and some mostly unknown geological activity. These colorful rock striations have drawn the eyes of photographers from home and abroad for years.

  • Best time to visit: sunrise and sunset of September
  • Location: Zhangye Danxia National Geopark, Zhangye City, Gansu Province
  • Getting to Zhangye Danxia National Geopark: take a shuttle bus from Zhangye West Bus Station (张掖汽车西站), which runs during 9:00-16:30.
  • Opening hours: usually 6:00-19:00, changing according to seasonal changes.
  • Ticket: RMB 74 for entrance ticket

3. Sichuan: Jiuzhaigou Valley

Jiuzhaigou Valley Jiuzhaigou Valley

Jiuzhaigou Valley (九寨沟), falling in the northern part of Sichuan Province, is famous for its minority ethnic culture and beautiful landscapes of green lakes, layered waterfalls, colored forests, snow-capped mountains, and blue icefall. The views of Jiuzhaigou Valley change depending on the season but autumn stands out for its glorious colors. Especially in October, the valley turns into a world of magical fairytales.

Thanks to the devastating earthquake in 2017, Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve has been in interim post-quake arrangements since then. The place is still amazingly pretty and some attractions have been reopened to the public. But the time until the park is fully reopened remains to be announced.

  • Best months to visit: from September to November, especially the 15th-30th of October.
  • Location: Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, Zhangzha Town, Jiuzhaigou County, Sichuan Province
  • Getting there from Chengdu: from Chengdu Xinnanmen (新南门) Bus Station or Chengdu Chadianzi (茶店子) Bus Station, take a shuttle bus to Jiuzhaigou
  • Another option: from Chengdu to Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, take a tourist bus to Jiuzhaigou Valley.
  • Opening hours: 8:00-17:00
  • Ticket: RMB 110 from April to 15th November and RMB 40 for the rest of the year.
  • Recommended tour time: 3-5 days

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4. Northern Sichuan: Daocheng Yading Scenic Area

Daocheng Yading Scenic Area Daocheng Yading Scenic Area

Yading (亚丁) Scenic Area in Daocheng (稻城) in fall has so many flowery colors that you can see views in and beyond your expectations. When autumn comes, visitors can see the crystal plateau lakes of all sizes reflecting the deep blue sky, dazzling red maples, golden birch forests, snow-capped mountains, wandering herds, and Tibetan villages. It is a place of spectacular, rare-to-see scenery.

Daocheng is also honored as a sacred place by hiking enthusiasts because of its Three Holy Peaks and “the-last-Shangri La” wonderland, with mature and challenging hiking routes. Both rookie and professional hikers can have a wonderful experience of “body in hell but eyes in heaven”- an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Daocheng Yading needs a long-time for trekking but what you see makes everything worth it.

  • Best months to visit: September, October
  • Location: Yading Village, Daocheng County, Sichuan Province
  • Getting there from Chengdu:
  • 1) Fly from Chengdu Shangliu International Airport to Daocheng Yading Airport.
    2) Take the airport shuttle bus to Daocheng
    3) Take a minibus from Daocheng to Yading, or take the direct bus from Chengdu Xinnanmen Coach Station to Yading- which takes 2 days.
  • Opening hours: 7:00-17:30
  • Ticket: RMB 150 for entrance ticket (valid for 2 days)
  • Recommended tour time: 4-5 days
  • Tips: be aware of altitude sickness and be respectful of the local Tibetan culture.

5. Beijing: Simatai Great Wall and Gubei Water Town

Simatai Great Wall and Gubei Water Town Simatai Great Wall and Gubei Water Town

There are 9 sections of the Great Wall in Beijing, which are usually divided into two types: the well-preserved, or restored sections, and the rugged wild sections. Simatai is the latter one. It has undergone very little conservation and is considered the most precipitous section, with deep valleys and slopes and uneven steps. The Times of the United Kingdom once rated Simatai as one of the “top of the 25 landscapes that should not be missed globally”.

On a fall day and hike up to Simatai Great Wall, you will get a stunning view of the whole fortification winding along the colorful mountains from the east to west. This hiking journey starts from Gubei Water Town (AKA Beijing WTown), a lovely ancient town at the foot of the wall itself.

  • Best months to visit: September and October, when the trees along the wall turn red or yellow.
  • Location: Gubeikou Town, Miyun District, Beijing City
  • Getting to Gubei Water Town from Beijing: take the direct tourist bus from north of Beijing Dongzhimen Hinge 东直门交通枢纽站 (at the junction of Dongzhimen Outer Byway and Xiangheyuan S St) to Gubei Water Town. It leaves at 9:00, 12:00, and 15:30.
  • Opening hours: 9:00-21:00 (Simatai opens from 8:00 to 22:00.)
  • Recommended tour time: 2 days if you want a night tour on the lit-up Simatai Great Wall.
  • One-stop tour with us: Night Tour on Unrestored Wild Great Wall

6. Xinjiang: Kanas Lake

Xinjiang Kanas Scenic Area Xinjiang Kanas Scenic Area

Kanas Lake is a mysterious glacial lake hidden in the deep forests of Altai, near the very north point of Xinjiang. It is praised as China’s most beautiful lake, “the paradise on earth” and “the garden of the gods” for its incredible untouched nature of natural lake and mountains.

Autumn’s beauty is at its finest here, and every vista is breathtaking. As soon as September comes, varieties of trees with golden, red, green, and other colors appear on the lakeside, along with snow-capped mountains. All of it is mirrored on the emerald Kanas Lake, making the land a colorful fairyland.

  • Best months to visit: June, September
  • Location: Kanas Scenic Area, Burqin County, Altay District, Xinjiang
  • Transportation: fly from Urumqi to Kanas Airport and then get to Kanas Scenic Area by shuttle bus. There are tourist minibusses to Kanas Lake or other attractions within the scenic area.
  • Opening hours: 8:30-19:30
  • Price: The entrance ticket to Kanas Scenic Area costs RMB 160 from May to 15th October and RMB 80 for the rest of the year. The ticket is valid for 2 days.
  • 5-day tour itinerary: Burqin Rainbow Beach → Kanas → Hemu Village → World Ghost Town of Karamay

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7. Guilin: Longji Rice Terraces

Guide Map of Longji Terraced Fields

Longji (literally Dragon’s Backbone) Rice Terraces, AKA Longji Terraced Fields, are large-scale terraced fields in Guilin. The area consists of three minority ethnic villages- Jinkeng Red Yao Village, Ping’an Zhuang Village, and Longji Ancient Zhuang Village, all of which have their own distinct views and culture.

Most travelers come here for hiking or photography. Many photo fanatics even come for sunrise. Additionally, visitors can join in local activities, taste homemade dishes, and experience living heritage- like weaving and farming. You can see how humans live in harmony with nature here.

  • The best month to visit:  September and October when the rice grows up vigorously and turns golden. (Harvest time begins in the middle of October.)
  • Location: Longji Rice Terraces, Longji Town, Longsheng County, Guilin
  • Getting there from Guilin: there are direct buses leaving for the area from all of the three railway stations in Guilin.
  • Opening hours: 24/7
  • Recommended tour time: 1 or 2 days

8. Tibet - Lhasa, Shigatse

Mt. Everest Mt. Everest

Autumn is the dry season in Tibet from October till next May, features less rain and more sunny days.

The best places to visit in Tibet in Autumn are Shigatse, Mt. Everest, and Namtso Lake.

Shigatse has been called the back garden of Tibet, travel in Autumn you can see the grandeur and beauty of the Tibetan Grassland in a golden color.

Mt. Everest is suited 380km away from Shigatse, rising 29,031.69 ft. (8,848.86 m) above sea level recognized as the highest mountain on earth, visit this mysterious mountain on the foot of base camp for its top-notch nature beauty.

Small Group: 8 Days Lhasa to Everest Base Camp Tour

  • Day 1 Arrive in Lhasa: Airport/train station to hotel transfer
  • Day 2 Lhasa: Potala Palace--Johkang Temple--Barkor Street
  • Day 3 Lhasa: Drepung Monastery--Sera Monastery
  • Day 4 Lhasa to Gyantse to Shigatse:Yamdrotso Lake--Karola Glacier--Simila Pass and Manla Reservoir--Gyantse Kumbum & Pelkor Monastery
  • Day 5 Shigatse to Rongbuk: Far View of Himalaya Mountain Range
  • Day 6 Rongbuk to Shigatse: Everest Base Camp--Rongbuk Monastery
  • Day 7 Shigatse to Lhasa:Tashilunpo Monastery--River View of Brahmaputra
  • Day 8 Lhasa Departure: Hotel to Airport/Train station transfer

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9. Shangri-La - Yunnan

>Pudacuo National Park Pudacuo National Park

Shangri-La in Autumn is the most colorful season with cool and comfortable weather.

Kagebo Peak of Meili Snow Mountain, is the highest peak in Yunnan, with an altitude of 6740 meters. The best time to see golden sunlight transforms the snowy mountains into a range of golden peaks is at the end of October and November. Suggest get up early and find a good place at the viewpoint, entry with the ticket of CNY150 per person.

Pudacuo National Park is about 22km away from Shangri-La, take a moderate hike there to see this tranquility and quite unspoiled nature reserve.

4-Day Yubeng Village Hiking & Meili Snow Mountain

  • Day 1 Shangri-La to Yubeng: Big Bend of the Jinsha River--Dongzhulin Monastery--a panoramic view of the Meili Snow Mountains--Feilai Lamasery
  • Day 2 Yubeng: Hike from Yubeng Village--Xiaonong Base Camp--Ice Lake--Return by the same way to Yubeng
  • Day 3 Yubeng: Hike from upper Yubeng Village to Lower Yubeng--Holy Waterfall
  • Day 4 Yubeng to Shangri-La: hike along the spectacular Ninong Canyon to Ninong Village--transfer to Shangri-la by car.

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Golden Week in October - China’s National Day Holiday is Busy and Crowd

China is a vast country with numerous travel resorts, yet it’s still can’t hard to avoid tons of tourist crowds packing into one attraction. Autumn is a really good season to visit China but the National Day Holiday (1st-7th in October) is a rush period for Chinese travelers, with extremely heavy traffic and crowds of visitors- there will be a great likelihood of getting stuck on the road.

Sometimes, the Mid-Autumn Festival will fall in October, too. Its dates change every year. Check the date before arranging your trip.

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Experience Autumn in China with Us

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