Call of the Wild
Home to majestic rivers, a world-renowned geopark, and exotic tree and bird species, picturesque Wenzhou brings out the nature lover in us all.
While Jiangxin Island may have inspired poets to pen a line or two, Nanxi River was the muse for artists, and has been called the cradle of Chinese landscape painting.
Wenzhou has been somewhat neglected as a leisure destination due to its reputation as a respected business hub, but this does an injustice as it’s a pleasant place to kick back and relax. Nestled between the mountains and sea, it is also the gateway to some of southeast China’s best scenic areas and nature parks.
The city itself is crisscrossed with tree-lined rivers and canals, and there are plenty of parks, creating a more serene feeling than you might expect, considering its éclat as a hotbed of entrepreneurial endeavour. Wenzhou’s prosperity provides plenty of excellent shopping, dining and entertainment options.
With a prime location in the new development area next to the International Convention and Exhibition Centre, the towering presence of Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou commands breathtaking views of the Oujiang River. In fact, the views from the Horizon Lounge are so captivating that you might find it hard to drag yourself away — and it is the peak of perfection for service and comfort in the city, allowing you to explore the great outdoors from the lap of luxury.
Green Reigns Supreme
At the other end of town from the hotel you’ll find Jiangxin Park in the middle of Oujiang River, one of the city’s most interesting sites thanks to its historical associations with Daoism and Buddhism. A stroll around Jiangxin Island follows the footsteps of famous poets, such as Northern Dynasty rhymester Xie Lingyun (385-483) and Tang Dynasty superstars Li Bai (701-762) and Du Fu (712-770), who were all drawn to the island’s spiritual landscape. Easily reached by ferry from the Wangjiang Donglu pier, the pretty gardens, pavilions, pagodas and temples make it a pleasant place to while away a morning or afternoon.
Go With the Flow
While Jiangxin Island may have inspired poets to pen a line or two, Nanxi River was the muse for artists, and has been called the cradle of Chinese landscape painting. Even if you’re not tempted to pick up a brush yourself, the crystal clear waters of the shallow river, majestic waterfalls, ancient villages and verdant forests boasting rare trees, such as Taiwan beech and West Chinese beech, are sure to leave a lasting impression. You can rent a bamboo raft and float on the river. Upon disembarking, you will find camels, horses and dune buggies to explore the surrounding area. Among the ancient villages, the most famous are Yantou Village, Cangpo Village and Furong Village, which can all get quite busy. Head to Nanyazhai, which is about 15 minutes away from Yantou, which is much quieter with an appealing mountain setting with cliffs and a temple.
Yandang Mountain, a UNESCO World Geopark, is a rugged landscape of proud peaks, sinuous ridges and sheer cliffs. Named after the flocks of wild geese that gather in the marshes around the lake at the top of the mountain, it has eight different scenic areas, of which the Spiritual Cliffs are probably the most striking and certainly the most popular. They feature walkways clinging to the cliffs and a suspension bridge that has you walking on air — if you’ve no head for heights, you might want to stay lower down at Lingyan Temple or head over to the Big Dragon Waterfall. There are Chinese and English maps showing how to reach the different scenic areas and plenty of guides available.
For a more at-one-with-nature mountain experience, wander through Wuyanling Nature Reserve in Taishun County, which is one of the best-preserved subtropical evergreen broad-leaf forests in China. It’s considered a “natural gene bank” as it boasts 2,150 different plant species, including protected species such as the golden larch and Fujian cypress. A must-see destination for dedicated birdwatchers, it is home to a number of endangered species, including Cabot’s Tragopan and Elliot’s pheasant. The important bird area is in the southern section of the Donggong Shan ridges, with the main summit, Baiyunjian, rising to 1,611 metres.
For those who prefer beaches to mountains, the coastal town of Aojiang is the gateway to Nanji Island, the main island of a group of islands and islets famed for their beauty. Now a biosphere reserve, it is host to 403 species of shellfish, of which 15 are only found in the Nanji waters. With clean sand and sea it’s the perfect place to soak up some sun, cool down with a swim or search for shells. When you’ve worked up an appetite, there are plenty of beachside restaurants with a mouth-watering selection of seafood that’s fresh as can be – a fitting way to end a day of stunning scenery.