Western Hunan province is likely to keep attracting crowds of visitors for years to come. Fenghuang (凤凰), Zhangjiajie Natural Park and its world’s longest glass bridge are the main tourist attraction in the region.
Transportation to this part of Hunan province is now very easy. A high-speed train line connects Huaihua (怀化), the main transportation hub in western Hunan province to the Kaili (凯里) – known for its ethnic villages – and Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou to Changsha, the capital of Hunan. This train line shortens travel time to western Hunan province and makes Fenghuang (凤凰) or other lesser-known travel destinations easier.
Here is a short list of other lesser-known travel destination that are worthy to pay a visit to before or after you visited Fenghuang (凤凰), Hunan most famous ancient town.
Lesser-known destination among foreigners, Dehang is a well-known travel destinations among Chinese visitors as the starting point of hike in the mountains.
Don’t let the tone of my Dehang (德夯) article put you off. I got a lot of people telling me that it is rather an enjoyable place – if you don’t have a problem paying the 100 RMB entrance fee.
Called the ‘Hibiscus Town’, Furong (芙蓉) is another lesser-known village of Hunan province that is quite popular among Chinese tourists. Also called Wang Cun (王村), Furong is an authentic village nestled between lofty hills and a cliff that can be easily reached from Jishou 吉首, a small town near Fenghuang (凤凰).
Like many ancient villages, Furong is getting a lot of attention for its history and Pavel Dvorak, guest author of the article recommends you do not wait too long before going.
A few of centuries ago, western Hunan was a borderland region and a buffer zone between China proper of the civilized Han people and the ‘barbarians’ of different ethnic groups : Miao, Dong, Tujia.
Qianzhou (乾州), much like Fenghuang, was built during the Ming dynasty as a military stronghold and garrison in a troubled region where ethnic groups resisted repeated incursions of Han-Chinese and even united together in bloody uprisings.
With a recent and complete renovation, Qianzhou (乾州) has lost some of its authenticity, but it remains a very rural town of high historical importance. Although its on the path of many Chinese tour groups, it remains unknown to foreign travelers, just a few kilometers south of Jishou (吉首), a small town not far from Fenghuang (凤凰).
Located south of Huaihua 怀化, on the old road to Qianyang 黔阳, the village of Jingping 荆坪 is home to the Pan Clan Ancestral Hall, famous for the meticulous carving of its facade.
Although the village itself is not uninteresting, the facade of the Pan Clan Ancestral Hall is absolutely breathtaking. I had never seen such beautiful carvings and attention paid to one facade in any other rural village of China.
The Pan Clan Ancestral hall was going through renovation as of Spring 2016 – if you get there, please send your updates! – It is located in the village of Jingping 荆坪, south of Huaihua (怀化), a city which acts as a major transportation hub, south Fenghuang (凤凰).
The ancient town of Qianyang (黔阳) is a delightful maze of narrow lanes, slab-stone streets where red lanterns hang in front of centuries-old houses, and ancient temples some of which were transformed into residential housing, renovated or crumbling away while other are still in use.
Still very authentic, Qianyang (黔阳) is a rural Chinese town set in a beautiful decor dating back to the Ming era, almost like stuck in time.
It is located around 60 – 70 kilometers south of Huaihua (怀化), the region main’s transportation hub which is located south Fenghuang (凤凰).
Hongjiang (洪江) is an ancient business town (古商城). Hongjiang is very different than any other old town : it is built on a hill and consists mainly of a maze of countless narrow alleys and staircases.
Parts of the old town have been renovated and are open to tourists, mainly Chinese tour groups who follow their guide from one site to another. Even though it can get crowded from time to time, it’s easy to step away in a lane tucked away from the rest of the world … and Hongjiang (洪江) becomes a delight to get lost into.
Hongjiang (洪江) is located 30 kilometers east of Qianyang. If you want to get there from Fenghuang, you will have to change bus in Huaihua (怀化) and Qianyang.