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Underrated and Beautiful Northeast China

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A beautiful region of natural wonders and historic and culturally diverse cities, with noticeable shades of foreign (Russian, Korean and Japanese mostly) influence, the area once regarded as Manchuria is one of China’s most underrated tourist destinations.

Long icy winters tend to deter foreign visitors, but those that do venture beyond the Great Wall to the regions of northeast of Beijing, known collectively as Dongbei, will find plenty to whet their appetite.

Most of the area’s biggest-hitting sights can be encompassed easily on a week-long itinerary from the Chinese capital. The first stop is usually Dalian, a major port located on a peninsula that is fringed by several first-class beaches. Thirsty after a long day’s lazing? Dalian also plays host to one of China’s most famous annual beer festivals for over a week in late July/early August.

MANCHURIA BY HIGH SPEED TRAIN (7 DAYS / 6 NIGHTS)

Discover the diversity of Manchuria in a compact, one-week train trip. Leave the skyscrapers of Beijing behind and venture out to the majestic Red Sea. Delve into ancient history in Shenyeng, be captivated by Harbin’s blend of cultures and explore coastal towns while looping through Manchuria by train.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Harbin. The city of Harbin is an architectural fascination. Famous for its Russian designed domes and spires, which are complimented by the fairytale-castle-like former Danish Embassy, and Islamic influences of the city’s mosque. The city developed through its proximity to Europe and links to the Trans-Siberian Railway. Zhongyang Street, one of Harbin’s main commercial centers, is now a veritable gallery of European architectural styles.

  • Lushun (Port Arthur). Lushun, also known as Port Arthur, has had a fascinating history given its importance during the Russo-Japanese War. The architectural basis of the city are the elegant squares, artistic sculptures, lush lawns and western-style fountains resembling those of Paris. Not returning to Chinese control until 1949, the city’s historical name changes come from the multiple occupations by Russian, Japanese, and Chinese forces.

  • Shenyang. The biggest city in China’s northeast by population, the former capital of Shenyang has a rich and diverse collection of sights. Holding a number of UNESCO World Heritage listed attractions, the city offers a fascinating glance into China’s history. From the former Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty to the Fuling Tomb and Zhaoling Tomb there is no shortage of places to see.

  • Red Beach. The Red Beach is located at the estuary of Liaohe River, 155 kilometers southwest of Shenyang. Famous for its special wildlife, many rare species of birds can be found among the reeds lining the shore. A special type of red seaweed imbues the area with a deep red hue. Immerse yourself in the areas tranquility as you explore Crescent Bay Wetland Park.

From Dalian, the next stop is usually the city of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province. The most northerly major settlement in China, Harbin betrays a noticeable Russian sway in much of its architecture and its distinctive cuisine.

Structures such as St. Sophia Church, now the Harbin Museum of Architecture, the largest Orthodox Church in the Far East, and the Byzantine buildings of the city’s old quarter are particularly indicative of this foreign influence. Harbin’s main claim to fame is its annual ice festival when major sites around the city host small and large-scale ice and snow lanterns and structures.

HARBIN ICE FESTIVAL (4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS)

Visit the Harbin Ice Festival – one for the bucket list! Spend a full day at this one-of-a-kind festival, wandering among the incredible ice sculptures that display an incredible technical mastery. Take time to explore the other wonders of Harbin, the cultural crossroads of Russia and China.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Spend a day at the famous Harbin Ice Festival. Marvel at the incredible carvings produced from ice and snow in the day time and then illuminated at night.

  • Discover Harbin’s rich diverse culture. Spend a day walking through Harbin, discovering its various houses of worship and its arts scene, from past to present.

  • See the contrast of historic and modern Harbin. Learn about the city’s intriguing yet tragic past, then dine in a modern restaurant staffed almost entirely by robots.

If guests are already in the Dongbei region, there are day trips like the one below to recommend to them.

FULL DAY TOUR: HARBIN HERITAGE WALK

Explore Harbin, one of China’s most diverse cities. Spend a day walking through the streets of Harbin, seeing a mix of architectural sites that reflect the city’s heritage. From Russian Orthodox churches to the Turkish mosque, the buildings of Harbin tell a story begging to be heard.

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