While national parks aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip to China, it absolutely should be on your list of things to see. The country’s vast land features an array of beautiful natural landscapes that include nature reserves, geologic parks and rare plant and wildlife. While there are 225 to choose from, here is a list of some of the best national parks in China.

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Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
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Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (Nearby Hotels)

Becoming the first National Forest Park in China in 1982, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is also a UNESCO Global Geopark. Located in Hunan Province in central China, it is famed for its 3,000 sandstone pillars that dot its landscape. It’s here that you can explore gorges, ravines, waterfalls and streams, and admire the scenic beauty that inspired the scenery of the movie “Avatar”. The most famous park in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, its lush foliage and pillar-like formations are the result of years of natural erosion and can be enjoyed on a day of hiking, mountain climbing or on a photography tour.

Jiuzhai Valley National Park Arrow Bamboo Lake in Jiuzhai Valley National Park
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Arrow Bamboo Lake in Jiuzhai Valley National Park

Jiuzhai Valley National Park (Nearby Hotels)

Known for its colorful lakes and high-altitude valleys, Jiuzhai Valley National Park boasts picturesque waterfalls, snowy peaks, forested slopes and Tibetan villages. Said to be the most beautiful landscape in Sichuan Province, this UNESCO World Heritage Site also features a number of endangered plant and animal species. Make sure to see the Nuorilang Waterfalls, which are the widest highland waterfalls in China, and marvel at the ever-changing landscapes in the dense forests that come in alive in autumn with trees painted in green, yellow and red.

Huangshan National Park Clouds above the peaks of Huangshan National Park
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Clouds above the peaks of Huangshan National Park

Huangshan National Park (Nearby Hotels)

Huangshan National Park is surrounded by myths of ancient immortals and is home to the beautiful Yellow Mountains that feature unique geomorphology. Mount Huangshan has been an important cultural site since the Tang Dynasty, with a legend that says the elixir of immortality could be found at its summit. A trip to this stunning park means you can discover peaks to climb, gorges to hike and swirling clouds above the mountains that are great for photography. Wildlife watchers can observe spotted eagle while trekking the mountain paths is best explored before dawn so you can catch the sunrise.

Guilin and Lijiang River National Park Misty weather on Lijiang River
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Misty weather on Lijiang River

Guilin and Lijiang River National Park (Nearby Hotels)

Recognized for its natural beauty since the Song Dynasty of the 10th century, the Lijiang River Scenic Zone in Guangxi Province in southern China is a hotspot for nature enthusiasts. Stretching from Guilin along the Lijiang River to Yangshuo, it boasts huge pinnacles along the banks of the river in addition to rock columns, karst caves and forests. Take a cruise along the course of Lijiang, explore the mysteries of the Reed Flute Cave and stop to see Elephant Trunk Hill, Peak Forest, Xingping Town, Mural and Green Lotus Peak.

Shilin National Park (Stone Forest) Shilin National Park (Stone Forest)
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Shilin National Park (Stone Forest)

Shilin National Park (Stone Forest) (Nearby Hotels)

Known as the “First Wonder of the World” Shilin National Park in Kunming is home to various shapes of stones towering together to create a stone forest. You’ll be mesmerized by its unique beauty, where you can marvel at the natural stone masterpieces on a walk through the park. Dotted with stone projections, caves and lakes, it is a great place to admire history that has been formed by over 270 million years of erosion.

Changbaishan National Park Volcanic rocky mountains and lake Tianchi
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Volcanic rocky mountains and lake Tianchi

Changbaishan National Park (Nearby Hotels)

The largest nature reserve in China, Changbaishan National Park offers a tranquil escape from the everyday hustle and bustle of the big cities. The park is flanked by the Eternally White Mountain, a dormant volcano, while Tianchi Lake features an alluring landscape surrounded by craggy peaks and trees. The name translates to “Heavenly Lake”, and is considered a cultural haven for Chinese. Wildlife watchers are in for a treat, as you can take guided tours to spot some of China’s rare animal species, such as the Siberian tiger.

Emeishan National Park Scenic view of Emeishan National Park
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Scenic view of Emeishan National Park

Emeishan National Park (Nearby Hotels)

Emeishan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is nestled in one of China’s most beloved parks, home to a Golden Summit that offers inspiring views of the area. A popular destination for Buddhist pilgrims, the park is a great place to hike on scenic trails to explore ancient temples and meet curious monkey residents along the way. The Baoguo Temple sits at the mountain’s summit, where you can marvel at the ancient structure, see the eight Buddha hall in its interior and capture a majestic bird’s-eye view with a sea of clouds as far as the eye can see.

Huanglong National Park Calcite deposits in Huanglong National Park
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Calcite deposits in Huanglong National Park

Huanglong National Park (Nearby Hotels)

There are many sights to see in Huanglong National Park, from its calcite-formed pools that burst with color to its cascading waterfalls tucked beneath snow-capped peaks. Located in the Minshan mountain range northwest of Chengdu, the park features picturesque valleys, peaceful forests and tranquil lakes. Make sure to see the Welcome Pool with its stacked ponds, the Flying Waterfall with various layers and the Rhododendron Forest filled with blooming flowers. The Huanglong Back Temple dates back 600 years and offers the perfect backdrop to a postcard-perfect snap of this scenic area.

Mount Sanqingshan National Park Bird's-eye view from Mount Sanqingshan National Park
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Bird's-eye view from Mount Sanqingshan National Park

Mount Sanqingshan National Park (Nearby Hotels)

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Sanqingshan National Park sits in the west of the Huaiyu mountain range in the northeast of Jiangxi Province. It’s noted for its exceptional scenic quality, where beautifully shaped pillars and peaks resemble human and animal silhouettes. Mount Huaiyu is further enhanced by its unique contrast of granite features with the lush foliage and ever-changing landscapes. A visit to this park offers the chance to explore forests, waterfalls, lakes and springs, and you might even spot some of the local wildlife such as otters, black muntjac deer and ferret-badgers.

Potatso National Park Wild yaks at Pudacuo National Park
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Wild yaks at Pudacuo National Park

Potatso National Park (Nearby Hotels)

Only a 40-minute drive from downtown Shangri-la, Potatso National Park is renowned for its well-preserved primitive landscape that is home to lakes, wetlands, forests and meadows. It was the first national park in mainland China, and some of its biggest highlights include the Bitahai Lake, Shuduhu Lake and Militang Pasture. During summer you can see blooming fields of orchids, while its wildlife residents include wild boar, leopard, musk deer and pheasants. Its walkable plank makes it easy to explore the park, which offers you a chance to completely immerse yourself in the natural environment.