Where is Qingyuan? What kind of city is it? When we think about China, particularly its richest parts, in our minds appear Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and of course Hong Kong (for some it is not part of China, but officially, and geographically is). And we consider their surrounding provinces as the richest and most developed. Guangdong with its Guangzhou, Shenzhen and the other neighboring cities Dongguan, Foshan, Zhuhai and Zhongshan is one of these rich provinces, like California for USA, with its Los Angeles and San Francisco- full of skyscrapers and other modern buildings, rich districts, highly developed industry and transport, millions of tourists and a lot of money.
But it is only the central area of Guangdong in South China, around the Pearl river delta. If you go north, you will see a different Guangdong– mountains, hills, villages, bamboo and other subtropical forests, banana trees, rice fields, small towns and mystic relief formations. This area- north Guangdong, called Yuebei (粤北), is presented by the cities districts of Qingyuan (清远) and Shaoguan (韶关).
And Qingyuan city itself is the “gate” to the “wild” Guangdong in the north.
Location of Qingyuan
Qingyuan (清远) is situated on the two banks of Beijiang river (“Northern river”, 北江). It has three parts with three own city centers, and divided by parks with water bodies:
– Southern part, called “Little city”- 小市, situated south of Beijiang river
– Middle part, called “City zone”- 城区, situated north of Beijiang river and south of Feilai lake
– Northern part, called Qingxin- 清新, situated north of Feilai lake
Although Qingyuan area has a long history, the city itself is very young- it became a prefecture level city at 1988. Before that Qingyuan city has been just a small town with many villages around it. Later its population grew fast mainly due to the migration of people from the neighboring north Guangdong city Yingde (英德).
Actually, when we talk about Qingyuan, the whole prefecture includes a large part of the northern Guangdong province, with the cities of Yingde, Fogang, Yangshan, Lianzhou, Lianshan and Liannan. But now I write about the urban part of Qingyuan city and its surroundings.
Qingyuan city is much more calm and quiet, compared to the central Guangdong mega cities. The city zone itself doesn’t have to offer too many tourist attractions- actually its main tourist points of interests are the city parks, Beijiang river and Feilai lake.
But the most attractive places are outside of the city zone, mainly north of it- both natural and historic sites. And especially- the different (than the central Guangdong) “wild” land of the Yuebei.
How to reach Qingyuan
Qingyuan city is very easy accessible, if you are already in Guangzhou, Shenzhen or other big city of the Pearl river delta. You can reach Qingyuan by bus and speed train (and soon by light railway too).
There are many buses from many bus stations from these cities, they are very regular- usually from every 15 mins from Guangzhou, to every 2 hours from some more distant district of the Pearl river. Most of the buses arrive to the New bus station in Qingyuan (新站), and the buses from Shenzhen arrive to Zhongguan bus station (中冠站), both in the southern Small city of Qingyuan.
By speed train
You can go to Qingyuan by speed train from the cities of the Pearl river delta, or from the north. There is a Qingyuan speed railway station east of the city. There is also a normal, slow train, from Guangzhou to Qingyuan, but its Qingyuan railway station, located in Yuantan town, is too far from the city, and when you arrive there, you have to take a long, slow and crowded public bus.
By light railway (expect soon!)
Now there is a light railway from Guangzhou to Qingyuan under construction, it is planned to be opened in the end of 2019, and its last railway station will be south of the Small city.
Qingyuan doesn’t have its own airport, but it uses the nearby Guangzhou Baiyun International airport, situated only about 38 km south of Qingyuan. Then there is a regular shuttle bus from the airport to Qingyuan- it stops to Holyton hotel in Qingyuan, on the southern side of Beijiang river and the Central bridge.
Points of interest in Qingyuan city- in the urban area
South (Small city) Qingyuan
Jiangbin park (江滨公园)
It is an excellent place for walking along the whole south coast of Beijiang river within the city. Its total length is about 6 km. There is one main biking alley along the whole its length, as well as many other small alleys. There are few squares, often used by dancing groups at evening (as in every other Chinese city) and performances, especially during some festivals. And there are few stations with WC.
In its western part there is a swimming complex. There are many sport playgrounds too, mainly in its eastern part. But maybe the most attractive place is the small Jiangxin Island (江心岛), connected to the coast by a walking bridge. There are some nice constructions for rest in this island.
There is also a wharf in its east end, just beside Lilac hotel (丁香酒店). At evening you can go there and enjoy a river cruise, watching the night skyline of the two coasts of Beijiang river. The ships depart when they are full (which is usually quicker in the holidays) and the cruise is about 1 hour long.
You can also ride a bicycle along the whole length of the park and beyond it- there are few good bike shops, offering bikes for rent. The best one is TREK, on Beijiang 2 road, in front of the statue with mother and baby (it is a prominent statue in the park, in its eastern part), and a little left (east) of it.
Qingyuan museum (清远博物馆）
Its a small museum, located in a business building, in its 3rd and 4th floors. It presents some collections of ancient artifacts from Qingyuan area, and it has an interactive presentation about Qingyuan and the neighboring points of interest. Its free for visiting.
Middle (City zone) Qingyuan
The north center- City plaza (城市广场) and the North-South gate streets (北门街， 南门街)
This is the old center of Qingyuan. Actually it is not “old”, but it is just the core of the city, from where it grew. Its main shopping place is the City plaza. And there are a lot of shops and cafes around it. It is nice for walking on the North and South gate streets as well as the side narrow alleys.
Zhongshan park (中山公园)
It is the central city park. There is a small lake inside it, where you can relax and row boats. The park is small, but again it is a nice place for walking. On the other side of its neighboring Xianfeng road there is a new part of Zhongshan park, which is still under construction, but almost ready for opening. It features a bigger lake with alleys around it.
Beijiang North coast (北江北岸) and the Symbol of Qingyuan
There is no park like Jiangbin park in the south there, but a nice alley along the whole north coast within the city. On the east it leads to the Symbol of Qingyuan square- a beautiful monument with a red sculpture.
Feilai lake (飞来湖)
It is a new big park between North Qingyuan and Qingxin. Feilai lake is an artificial lake, one of the biggest in Asia- its not a dam, but a closed lake. And there are many relax points around it, as well as playgrounds, buildings in old traditional style and restaurants.
Qingxin (In the north of Qingyuan)
There are no interesting places in Qingxin itself, but there are a lot just north of it, where the steep slopes of Bijia mountains begin.
Shopping and food in Qingyuan
There are many shopping areas in Qingyuan. The main shopping area in the Middle city (City zone) is City plaza and the neighboring North and South Gate streets. City plaza itself is a big mall, and there are few smaller malls near it.
Another shopping place in the Middle part of Qingyuan is Wanda plaza (万达广场), located at the west side of Feilai lake.
In the South part of the city, there is Winner town (赢之城), located near the south center of Qingyuan, as well as the City garden (城市花园）a new modern shopping area just beside the Winner town. And now the newest and really good mall is Shunying Plaza (顺盈广场).
There are some malls in Qingxin too, but those in the other main parts of Qingyuan are more convenient.
About the food, Qingyuan is famous in Guangdong (and beyond) with its Qingyuan chicken (清远鸡)– a cooked chicken with vegetables and ginger. You can find it in many Qingyuan restaurants, located not only around the shopping areas, but also near every housing complex and quarters.
Accommodation in Qingyuan
There are a lot of hotels in Qingyuan. Not every hotel accepts foreigners (as it is everywhere in China), but you still can find some good places to sleep- both luxury and budget). Anyway, before booking, check hotel’s information whether it accepts foreigners!Find your accommodation in Qingyuan here!
Your first day in Qingyuan
The first day in Qingyuan is good to explore the city itself. As you can see, there are not so many tourist attractions inside the city, so one day in it is enough. Actually the points of interest in Qingyuan itself are not so different than many other cities’ points of this kind- same parks, same malls, same quarters and streets.
And when the evening come, there are some clubs and bars in the city, where you can enjoy, if you like the night life. There are not too many foreigners, living in Qingyuan, currently I know only about 60 people. And they like to go to clubs like “No.9” in the City zone. There are also many Western restaurants in all parts of Qingyuan.
So, when the first day pass, if you stay in Qingyuan, or if you have lived in China longer time and are not so interesting of the Qingyuan points of view, it is time to go outside of the city and enjoy the much more interesting Qingyuan area of Yuebei…
The near attractions around Qingyuan
Right north of Qingyuan is the Bijiashan (笔架山) massif. It is a mountain range, consisted of many mountains, one of which- Bijiashan, usually is used by locals to name the whole massif.
From west to east, there are many attractions on the south slopes of this mountain range.
Taihedong (太和洞 or 太和古洞)
It is a valley right northwest of Qingxin, now turned into a park. It features a nice mountain valley with very clean water river, as well as a monastery complex. There is a swimming complex in its low part, just behind the entrance. A nice walking alley starts from there, following the river.
There are few pavilions offering a good relax with a beautiful views to the mountain. There are few small waterfalls, one of which falls just beside the alley. When you ascend further inside, you will arrive to a terraced square with a pool with turtles. From here a path proceeds climbing up to the Taihe monastery- an old taoist complex, built during Qing dynasty time, in the middle of 19th century.
You can go there by city bus No. 118, 220 and 311, whose last bus stop is the gate of Taihedong. The entrance fee is 15 yuan.
Hundred steps terrace(百步梯)
It starts directly behind the last housing complexes in Qingxin, about 800 m east of Taihedong gate. There is a ornamented square, north of a T-shaped crossroad. A wide stairs start ascending from it, to a small terrace. Then two narrow steep stairs proceed up to a small peak with a nice panoramic view to Qingyuan. Here the Hundred steps terrace ends, but a wild mountain path, beyond the park section proceeds further up.
Further east, and directly north of Qingxin is the next attraction- Xuanzhen. It is a valley, whose mountain river is used for stream floating. And there is a folklore performance stage in the foot of the mountain, at the gate of Xuanzhen. There you can watch Yao minority folk programs. See more about Yao here.
It is a peak over Qingxin, with a TV tower on it, and it is a favorite place for bikers and hikers. There is a narrow paved road, as well as a steep mountain path, which ascends to the top. From there you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view to Qingyuan. Then if you are there by bike, you can descend to the city. Or if you are hiking, you can proceed further on the wild narrow paths (however, be aware of snakes and insects!)
East of Bapian, a mountain road enters deeper in the mountains, following Bijia river valley. First the road gradually ascends and after few km arrive to Bijiashan resort. It is a villa complex in the forest and stream floating on a nearby stream, in a nice park. This area has an entrance fee 68 yuan (currently). But it is only a small section of Bijiashan, outside of it is free.
If you proceed further on the paved road, it becomes more narrow, passes through few small villages, and after more few km arrives to Kengkou village (坑口村)- a traditional biker’s stop & rest point. From here the road divides into two- both roads leading to further mountain villages. There are many restaurants with swimming pools and small hotels complexes near Kengkou village, called “shanzhuang” (山庄)- mountain villas.
From April to October many people go to Bijia river and its tributaries to swim and play in the cool waters. And for those who are looking for wilder adventures and hiking- they can go further, after the paved roads finish and only some dirt roads and small paths proceed.
There is no public transport to Bijiashan. You can go there only by car (or taxi, which may be more expensive). Or a better option- rent a bike (for example from TREK bike shop, mentioned above), and go there by bike. For about 2-3 hours you can reach the last village at the end of the paved roads. Or you if you take the left road from Kengkou, it can leads you to its last village Genzhuyuan （根竹园）, and from there on dirt road you can cross into the north side of the mountain range.
Butterfly valley (蝴蝶谷）
It is a nice valley northeast from Qingxin. There is a mountain river with many natural pools, where you can go by bike- there is a dirt road following the river. And there you can choose a pool to swim and play in the water.
Huangteng canyon (黄腾峡)
Further east is another local tourist attraction- Huangteng canyon. There is a walking valley and lift to one of the nearest peaks over the plain. And beside it, there is again a mountain valley, whose river is used for stream floating. A paved road is following the river, ascending higher and higher, beyond the stream floating zone, until arrive to a small dam. After the dam, the road arrives to few small villages and nice shanzhuang (mountain villas), until it ends at the last villa few km further. Again- no public transport to there, but by car or bike.
Cowfish Mouth mountain (牛鱼嘴)
It is one of the favorite places for the locals for walk. Cowfish mouth mountain is a sharp mountain, again part of the Bijiashan (North Qingyuan) mountain range. Its north slope is developed as a tourist attraction- there are many play constructions built there, such are climbing ropes, water playgrounds, rowing in the small lake on the mountain foot, and the most attractive- a glass bridge over a canyon inside. There are paved paths which lead to the high parts of the mountain (but not to the peak).
The park has entrance fee, currently 60 yuan. And there are two buses to there- No. 201 and 206
On the east of Qingyuan:
Jinji Yan (金鸡岩)
Getting on the road to Cowfish Mouth mountain, in the middle of the road and after crossing a small hill, on your right side, you will a large traditional Chinese gate. This is the gate to Jinji Yan- a beautiful cave, related with a legend from Tang Dynasty period. In English “Jinji” means “Golden Chicken”, and there is really a golden rooster, placed there as its landmark.
There is a temple at the entrance of the cave, and the cave itself is a really amazing place. The Sun can shine inside the cave from its entrance, which is like a hole from which you descend in the cave’s interior. Jinji Yan features also a small museum, a glass bridge with a glass terrace and swings, as well as a performance stage. Entrance fee: the basic is 20 CNY, then there are additional fees for some of the other attractions inside.
Lunzhou island (伦洲岛)
It is a river island inside Beijiang river, about 6 km east of Small city. It is a nice place for walking and biking. There are few villages, and there are beaches on its east side. The best way to go there is again by bike. Or you can go there by taxi or bus. There is a small ferry port on the south coast of Beijiang river (only 2 yuan for crossing in both directions). When you arrive to the port, you just load your bike on it, and cross to the island for just few mins.
South and North Feixia mountain and Beijiang Feixia canyon (南北飞霞山，北江飞霞谷)
When you look east of Qingyuan on a clear day, you will see another mountain, which is separated from the main Bijiashan mountain range. It is Feixia mountain (飞霞山), located about 10-15 km east from the city. And if you go nearer to this mountain (near Lunzhou island), you will see that it is cut in the middle, and there is a valley passing through it. It is the valley of Beijiang river (the same big river which passes through Qingyuan)- it is Feixia canyon, a beautiful canyon, quite reminding of the famous Three canyons of Yangtze river. And the two parts of Feixia mountain around it are North and South Feixia mountain.
North Feixia is higher, more than 600 m altitute. There is a narrow paved road which ascents to the peak. And there is a good path, connecting Baimiao village, which is located in the gate of Feixia canyon, on the north coast of Beijiang, with the peak of the mountain. There is a mobile tower on the peak.
South Feixia is lower and longer. There is a small path, starting from the south coast of Beijiang river, at a wharf called May 1st (五一码头), located in front of Baimiao. This path is following the mountain’s summit until its northeast end- about 4 hours walking.
The speed railway is passing just through this place. Qingyuan Railway station is located on the west foot of South Feixia, then the railway proceeds by May 1st wharf, crossing Beijiang, over Baimiao and further north.
Baimiao village (白庙村)
It is a picturesque fishing village, situated exactly on the gate of Feixia canyon of Beijiang. Here you can see the village fishers’ local traditional life. There are many dried fish stands, where you can buy local fish. Its houses are beautifully arranged on the slope of the mountain, over the river.
You can reach Baimiao by bus No. 207. Or you can go there by bike, following the north coast of Beijiang, or its South coast to May 1st port, then cross by ferry to Baimiao for 2 yuan. Or if you come by speed train, you can just walk 500 m from Qingyuan railway station to May 1st port and cross to Baimiao.
Then from Baimiao you can hike on North Feixia mountain to its peak. Or you can walk on the beautiful alley on the north coast of Beijiang to Feilai monastery.
Feilai monastery (飞来寺)
It is an ancient monastery, built for the first time around 6th century. It has been long time a remote Buddhist center, and many legends are related with it. But in 1997 it was destroyed by a landslide, caused by a severe rainstorm. However, its new version was rebuilt again in 2004.
There is a nice walking alley on the north coast of Beijiang, coming from Baimiao- around 1 hour and half walking. You can enjoy the splendid canyon landscape, passing through the mountain forest, small pavilions and bridges. Then you can back to May 1st wharf by a cruise ship.
Feixia monastery complex (飞霞)
Further northeast on the Feixia canyon is another monastery complex- Feixia. It is larger than Feilai monastery, with few more prominent temples and points, such as Feixia cave (飞霞洞）, Zangxia cave （藏霞洞）, Kongsheng temple （孔圣庙） and Jinxia temple （锦霞禅院）， and many other smaller buildings, scattered in the forest on the North Feixia mountain slope.
Feixia is more remote than Feilai monastery. There is a travel bus from Qingyuan, which arrives to the southeast bank of Beijiang, then by a ferry cross the river to Feixia. You can find some cruise ships too, but they are mostly private or rent by a group. There is a small path from Feilai monastery to Feixia, following the river coast, but its wild and relatively difficult to walk, even dangerous in some sections. The entrance fee for Feixia- 60 yuan.
On the south:
South of Qingyuan is relatively plain. There are some lower mountains on the southeast, between Qingyuan and Guangzhou, but they are actually closer to Guangzhou and belong to Guangzhou district.
Shijiao Beijiang river embankment (石角北江大堤)
Shijiao is a small town on the left bank of Beijiang, about 18 km southwest of Qingyuan. Here Beijiang river offers a beautiful landscape, with nice meadows and sand beaches on its coast. And there is a good embankment alley with a wide panoramic view, where biking on it is really a pleasure.
Again- you can rent a bike from Qingyuan, ride to Shijiao for about an hour and a half, then proceed riding on the embankment alley. You can stop and relax on the sand beach (if it is not too hot)- by the way it is a favorite place for offroad jeeps contests. Or you can go there by bus No. 218 and just walk on foot on the river bank.
Lion lake (狮子湖)
The place, called Lion lake. is a luxury resort about 6 km from Qingyuan, on the road to Shijiao. It is an international complex, with a 5 star hotel, golf playground, sport center, yacht club, cultural expo center, spa complex, health and relax complex and high class villas. It is also a good place for walking around the lake inside. You can go there by bus No. 211 or 228. Or by bike again.
Horse head hills (马头山)
Horse head hills
East of Shijiao, south of Dayan river (a smaller branch of Beijiang), you can see a large plain field. But inside the field suddenly some rocky steep hills appear between the villages. The most prominent of them is called Horse head hills range- a group of red rocky hills. They are not high- less than 50-70 m above the surrounding plain. But they are steep, yet easy to climb. Its a nice place for relax and enjoy these strange formations. They are situated about 28 km from Qingyuan.
You can go there by bus No.218 to Zhuyuan village (竹园村), then walk on an embankment alley about 2 km to the gate of Horse head hills. Now there is an entrance fee 80 yuan since few months ago, but it is only for the developed part of the hills (supplied with some mountaineering play constructions, etc.). You can enjoy the more nature part of the hills just by walking around them, to the other side.
Mayland Lake (美林湖)
Its another high class housing complex, south of Horse head hills. There is a park style lake inside the complex too. But the most attractive part is the Ferris wheel and the surrounding area. The Ferris wheel is Vienna type wheel, which is slowly rotating, revealing the nice panoramic view around. There are many restaurants and shops nearby, which makes it another nice place for relax. There is no public transport to there, so you can go there only by car/taxi and by bike (around 2 hours biking).
Yinzhan hot springs （银盏温泉）
East of Mayland Lake and the highway between Qingyuan and Guangzhou the plain fields (with small hills) gradually turns into a low mountain. There, in that place, the Yinzhan hot springs are situated. As many other hot springs in China and particularly in this area, there is a resort and housing complex built in Yinzhan. And of course there are swimming pools with various swimming complex constructions.
More distant destinations of Qingyuan
Gulong valley （古龙峡）
If you go northwest of Qingyuan, on the old road to Lianzhou, only about 10 km, on the right side of the road is Gulong valley (Ancient dragon valley)- on the west side of Bijiashan mountain range. It is another stream floating site in the beautiful mountain landscape. And now there are many new adrenaline attractions built there. One of them is said to be the largest glass bridge in the world! You can go there by buses No. 309 or 312, then walk on the road about 2 km.
Tianzi mountain （天子山）
It is located in the northeast side of Bijiashan mountain range, about 25 km from Qingyuan. It is famous with its beautiful landscapes and especially with its waterfall. The main waterfall is called Tianhou (天后瀑). There is also a 270° glass panoramic terrace, a beautiful bamboo forest, swimming pool and many other small attractions. You can go there by bus No.201, by car or by bike. Entrance fee- 68 yuan.
Daluo mountain （大罗山）
This is the highest mountain in Bijiashan mountain range, situated in its northeastern side, behind Tianzi mountain. Its highest peak is 974 m altitude and its good place for those who like mountain hiking. It is more remote and difficult to reach, since no public transport goes there. So the best option is by car or shared taxi.
The main path to the peak is on its northeastern side, where a park construction is currently building, seems preparing it to be a park with entrance fee. For more extreme adventurers- you can go to its southern side and climb it on some very small and steep paths (which I have done before)- for about 5-6 hours. The panoramic view from the top is worth seeing.
Sankeng hot springs (三坑温泉)
Its another hot spring site, just 35 km west of Qingyuan, near Sankeng town. Again, there are arranged many resort attractions like swimming pools, hotels, villas, sport centers, flower fields, horse riding, carting, etc. You can go to Sankeng town by buses No. 215, 216 and 217, then by taxi or motorcycle to the hot springs.
Tiexi waterfall (铁溪瀑布)
It is another waterfall nature place, on the old road to Yingde, about 45 km northeast from Qingyuan. You can take the bus to Yingde (not the direct bus), from New Qingyuan bus station, and stop in Lixi town. Then by hired motorcycle, taxi, or just walking (about 1 hour) you will arrive to Tiexi village- a nice village, now offering small hotels and villas. Next to the village, only 15 mins walk is the waterfall- you can walk there on a paved path to its top.
And these travel sites are only the beginning of what Qingyuan can offer. You can go further and further north, deep into Yuebei area, and you can see more and more amazing places, such as Yingxi Karst hills area in Yangshan and Yingde, which is like a Chinese fairy tale. Or you can visit the villages of the local minorities Yao and Zhuang in Liannan, Lianshan and Lianzhou. And all the time you can enjoy the landscapes of South China- endless maze of hills, mountains, rivers, forests, caves，villages and fields.
Check out some guides and maps about Qingyuan and Guangdong province!
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