The season of fall is considered one of the most picture-perfect times to travel in China, with popular destinations in northern and southwestern areas transforming into an enchanting red and golden wonderland.
Located in Nanping county, northern Sichuan, in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture and covering an area of 62 square kilometers, Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley National Park is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in China for its spectacular scenery, rich natural resources and a number of endangered plant and animal species. It boasts 108 lakes, 220 species of birds and features snow mountains, lakes, trees, waterfalls and a traditional Tibetan lifestyle.
The elevation of the national park ranges from almost 2,000 meters at the entrance to over 4,500 meters on the mountain peaks and there are series of forest ecosystems stratified by elevation.
Especially in fall, a stunning array of the brilliant colors seem to stretch further than the eye can see, all at the same time, with crystal waterfalls and azure blue lakes shining among red and yellow forests. Popular spots include Sparkling Lake, Panda Lake, Nuorilang Waterfall, Shuzheng Waterfall and Village.
Jiuzhaigou gets its name from the once nine Tibetan villages that were scattered inside the area. Today, Jiuzhaigou has managed to preserve the strong characteristics of traditional Tibetan and Qiang life, which can be seen in many of the local houses and people's lifestyles.
Getting to Jiuzhaigou is relatively simple: It takes about 10 hours by bus from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. During peak travel seasons there are also direct flights from major Chinese cities.
Ejina, Inner Mongolia
From 1927-1935, Swedish explorer Sven Hedin traveled through northern China and found the area of Ejina full of lakes, birds and rich grasslands. However, 70 years later, only desert and poplar trees remain, with Ejina now popular among photo enthusiast and travelers keen to explore one of only three extensive poplar forests in the world.
Located in Ejina Banner of Alashan League, about 1,000 kilometers from Hohhot and covering an area of 300 square kilometers, the natural poplar forest is a natural protection district and State-level forest park. The movie Hero (2002), directed by Zhang Yimou, was shot here.
The best way to get to Ejina is to drive from Yidaoqiao (First Bridge) to Badaoqiao (Eighth Bridge). Passing through the vast forest, a sea of golden leaves spreads out before your eyes, creating a sharp contrast with the bright blue sky.
Ejina Oasis boasts the biggest and oldest poplar tree in China, measuring 27.5 meters tall and with its widest trunk diameter reaching 6.5 meters. Thought to be hundreds of years old, the tree is known as the Sacred Tree by local people.
Another place worth visiting in the area is Guaishulin (Grotesque Woods), where there are a large number of dead poplar trees with unique shapes, as if they have been sculpted by nature.
During sunset, the desert, dead trees, orange sky and golden rays combine to create a world of pure fantasy. The historic Juyan and Heicheng ruins also add to the intrigue of the area.
Getting to Ejina can be a little difficult, but it is well worth the effort to enjoy the unique natural beauty. One option is to take the train to Jiuquan in Gansu and then bus it to Ejina, which is about five hours away. Another option is to fly to Yinchuan in Ningxia and take a 12-hour bus ride to Ejina.
The journey from Linjiang to Changbai Korean Autonomous County in Jilin Province is regarded as one of the most stunning driving routes in the country. With difficult conditions, the road is seldom traveled, but its abundant autumn colors are a great reward.
Located along the bank of the Yalü River, bordering North Korea, Linjiang is about 500 kilometers from Changchun, the capital of Jilin.
From Linjiang to Changbai are more than 20 valleys, most of which have been named by the local people with simple numbers.
Red-colored leaves make a spectacular backdrop and rather than take highway 303, it is best to drive on the old road through the mountains.
The most picturesque place is the 15th valley, also known as Swan Scenic Area, with brooks, cliffs and trees creating a real-life oil painting view.
Another place worth stopping at is Huashan Mountain (Flower Mountain) and although there are no flowers in fall, the beautiful maple trees are a feast for the eyes.
Similar spots: Daocheng and Yading, Sichuan Province, Jiaohe River Valley, Jilin Province and Hongfeng Lake, Guizhou Province.
Great short trips: From Beijing - Wuling Mountain, Hebei Province.From Shanghai - Qixia Moutain, Jiangsu Province. From Chongqing - Guangwu Mountain, Sichuan Province.