Who can resist the appeal of the exotic and unique names found in the provinces, like Stone Forest in Kunming, the Longji rice terraces, the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Black Dragon Pool and Dali Butterfly Spring? China's western provinces are an obvious choice for the more adventurous tourist. Activities include discovering the caves, waterfalls and rice fields, visiting sites such as the Three Pagodas in Dali or the fortifications of Xi'an, admiring the rare but magnificent wildlife, and taking a gastronomic journey through the various provinces.
The Silk Road made an important cultural impact on the world. Used by Buddhist pilgrims, it was via this road that the Western world was introduced to the Chinese discoveries that changed the world (the compass, gunpowder, paper money, printing). Vice versa, it is also the road by which various foreign religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Manichaeism and Islam) spread to China.
Alexander the Great also left his mark on the Silk Road; Greek remains were rediscovered during the second half of the 19th century. During the Middle Ages, the region became a synthesis of Indian, Persian, Western and Chinese influences. Unfortunately, the archaeological wonders were almost all pillaged by Western explorers and scholars between 1860 and 1925.
With its international culture, the Silk Road contributed to the meeting and the alliance of diverse peoples, such as the Turks, the Persians, the Byzantins and the Chinese. It resembles a process that can be compared to globalisation. Therefore, it is an interesting subject for all those interested in the phenomenon of political and cultural integration via international trade.
China's western provinces are home to natural wonders that are endowed with extravagant names and hold impressive records. For example, you can walk behind the curtain of water that falls from the largest waterfall in Asia or sail on China's largest lake. What an escape from the daily routine!
Traces of China's long history and its dynasties are very visible in Western China. Travellers will not be disappointed upon discovering the numerous pagodas, the ancient fortified towns and the Great Wall of China which suddenly ends at the top of a mountain not far from Jiayuguan Pass.
China is home to some magnificent animal species but unfortunately many of them are endangered, notably due to the urbanisation of the country. To observe the Bengal tiger, head for the rainforest in the Yunnan Province, and for the chance to catch a glimpse of a panda, take a trip to the Shaanxi Province.