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Modern China / Trip Ideas

Explore China’s top 10 borderlands

By Minjun Xu

September 22

Borderlands: not just for cowboys and road warriors.

Borderlands: not just for cowboys and road warriors.

While often remote and far away from the big cities, these spots on China’s border attract everyone from pilgrims to hikers to dinosaur-lovers. From freezing villages in the Arctic to hot, humid southwestern forests and the vast Gobi Desert, a border tour would make an unforgettable itinerary.

1. Dandong, Liaoning 辽宁丹东

Yalu River in Dandong [Image Credit: Wenbin]
Yalu River in Dandong [Image Credit: Wenbin]
In southeastern Liaoning Province, Dandong is the largest border city in China. With Sinuiju, North Korea on the other side of the Yalu River, you can see people working the fields when you look across. Owing to its relatively high latitude and proximity to the Yellow Sea, Dandong has pleasant weather in summer and autumn.

2. Mohe, Heilongjiang 黑龙江漠河

Mohe [Image Credit: Guoxing]
In the far northwest of Heilongjiang Province, Mohe is the only county in China where people can set foot on the Arctic Circle. A small village known as the Arctic Village straddles the border with Russia’s Amur Oblast. Every year during the summer solstice, Mohe welcomes its polar day, attracting visitors all over the world with its magnificent aurora borealis.

3. Tacheng, Xinjiang 新疆塔城

Tacheng [Image]
Tacheng [Image]
On the border with Kazakhstan, Tacheng is home to over 29 ethnic groups, including people of Han, Mongol, and Uyghur descent. It also boasts abundant natural resources and numerous attractions ranging from grasslands to hot spring spas.

4. Ruili, Yunnan 云南瑞丽

Ruili [Image Credit: Wenchun]
Ruili [Image Credit: Wenchun]
Ruili was once an important passage on the southern part of the ancient Silk Road, used for collecting and distributing goods going between China and Myanmar. Visitors can experience the authentic folk customs of Yunnan and see the 500-year-old banyans that dot this beautiful borderland.

5. Zhangmu, Tibet 西藏樟木

Zhangmu [Image]
Zhangmu [Image]
120 kilometers from Kathmandu in Nepal and at the foothills of the Himalayas, Zhangmu is the largest port of entry in the Tibet Autonomous Region. With arelatively low latitude of 2300m compared to the rest of the Tibetan Plateau, Zhangmu has a mild climate throughout the year. Hundreds of waterfalls, dense forests, and ancient wood houses make Zhangmu a cozy place to escape the bustle of the big city.

6. Erenhot, Inner Mongolia 内蒙古二连浩特

Erenhot [Image Credit: VCG]
Erenhot [Image Credit: VCG]
Erenhot, which means “oasis mirage” in Mongolian, is the largest road and railway port on the Sino-Mongolian border. As the place where dinosaur eggs were firstly discovered in China, Erenhot has countless massive dinosaur statues so you can never forget its claim to fame.

7. Heihe, Heilongjiang 黑龙江黑河

Heihe [Image Credit: Jianshun]
Heihe [Image Credit: Jianshun]
On the south bank of the Amur River in Russia, Heihe neighbors the Russian city Blagoveshchensk. Heihe is home to the famous Wudalianchi (五大连池) National Geographical Park, which has 14 volcanoes and a set of interconnected lakes formed after a volcanic eruption in the 1720s.

8. Yili, Xinjiang 新疆伊犁

Yili [Image Credit:]
Yili [Image Credit:]
With a 2000km-long international border, the Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture in the northernmost part of Xinjiang plays a very significant role for China’s overland commerce. Thanks to its location in the fertile Yili River valley, Yili sees relatively abundant rainfall and high vegetation coverage. Every year in mid-June, miles of lavender blossoms make the grasslands look like they’re underneath that purple rain.

9. Burang, Tibet 西藏普兰

Burang [Image Credit:]
Burang [Image Credit:]
Burang, in southwest Tibet, borders Nepal’s Karnali Zone and India’s Uttarakhand State. It is famous as the site of the scared Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, revered by both the Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus. Every year, Burang welcomes tens of thousands of pilgrims from India, Nepal, and Bhutan, as well as tourists from all over the world.

10. Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia 内蒙古满洲里

Manzhouli [Image Credit: Jiajun]
Manzhouli [Image Credit: Jiajun]
Manzhouli, whose original Mongolian means “a rushing spring”, lies in the heart of Hulunbuir Grassland in Inner Mongolia. Bordering Russia in the north and Mongolia to the west, Manzhouli features a unique mixture of different customs and architectures.

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