These days everyone is talking about Moganshan, a mountain retreat that lies 60 kilometers from Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, and is filled with rolling hills of evergreen trees, bamboo forests and soothing streams that resound through the woods.
Moganshan is touted for its tranquil scenery and soothing atmosphere, especially among city slickers in need of a break from Shanghai's noise, overcrowding and often hazy air. The mountain is about 200 km away from Shanghai
Foreigners began seeking refuge in these hills back in the 1900s to escape the stifling summer heat in Shanghai. These immigrants built country homes and villas, swimming pools and churches to provide themselves with a home away from home.
Now they are returning in droves to savor the fresh mountain air and green landscape, just as Shanghai is returning to the prestige it enjoyed back in the 1920s.
The relaxing atmosphere may make it hard to venture far, maybe while lost in a book, but Moganshan does offer many interesting, cultural and scenic attractions. Be sure to take some comfortable walking shoes, however.
If the bamboo forests and sea of green aren't enough to marvel at, try a hike to the villas formerly occupied by some of China's most renowned leaders. The villa of Chiang Kai-shek is worth the trek, while those up for a longer hike can go all the way to his home village of Wulin. Others may opt to check out the Mao Museum, built at a site where Chairman Mao Zedong once allegedly took a nap.
There are several more natural sights worth seeing nearby. Sword Pond lies many stairs below the town center and ranks as one of the area's more famous attractions. Meanwhile, there is a collection of curiously shaped rocks at Weird Stone Corner, at the top of the peak, which also serves as one of the prime spots for viewing the surrounding hills and Mogan Lake.
Just down from the rocks is Qingcaotang Tea Plantation, which may not resemble your preconceived idea of what a tea plantation should look like, but is still worth visiting. Don't be dissuaded by the plastic stools outside. Lunch here is a must, especially considering its locally and organically grown food. The farm-fresh vegetables, chicken and pork will hit the spot after a day spent exploring the surrounding landscape.
The options for Western food are limited, but The Lodge, a coffee shop and restaurant run by a former Shanghai resident, instantly makes visitors feel right at home. It serves up some terrific homely meals - ones like your mom used to cook - and the ever-smiling staff are always ready to provide tips on where to stay and what to do.
Hotels are plentiful, but the restored villas that have been converted into guesthouses rank as one of the mountain's most notable charms. Of these, Naked Retreats is often mentioned as one of the best for those seeking a secluded getaway, but others closer to town also have a lot to offer besides convenience.
House 23 is a restored villa that sits high on the peak about a 15-minute walk from the central area. It exudes a country cabin feel with a mix of retro charm and is close to a number of the area's hiking trails. Daily room rates range from 900 yuan to 1,500 yuan.
After spending a few days eating fresh farm food, a few evenings admiring the stars and as many nights luxuriating in a cozy villa, you'll feel as if you have found your own private heaven to escape to.