ancient cities

3 Ancient Towns in China Not to Miss

China is known as a country that is rich in history and steeped in a mysterious and intriguing culture. If you are planning a visit to China, it wouldn’t be complete without exploring some of the places that still cling to this wonderful history. Take a moment to travel back in time and experience China’s rich and tumultuous past through the ancient towns.

Here are our top picks for ancient towns in China that you need to see:


Built on the banks of the Tuo Jiang River in the Hunan Province, this beautiful town captures an air of mystery and wonder. Its name means Phoenix, like the mythical bird reborn from the flames. The legend is that two of these fantastic birds flew over the town and, on seeing its beauty, did not want to leave.  Surely you will feel the same way!

The houses that rise out of the water are built on stilts and portray elegant simplicity.  Here you will step back to a time before modernization, and see what China was like in the ancient world.

Houses on stilts

One must-see of this beautiful riverside town is the Miao village, an ethnic minority who are mostly settled here in Fenghuang.

[Create Your Own China Tour]

In their local shops you will find handmade items, such as jewelry and hand-dyed cloths. The people are friendly and love interacting with visitors, showing off traditional activities and food.


With a history of 1300 years, this town is rich in culture with old gardens, bridges, pagodas and more historical sites dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. You will remember the visit to Fenghuang for the rest of your life.


This town has a history of at least 800 years, dating back as far as the Song Dynasty. In the old town of Lijiang, you can walk along the canals and see beautiful classic architecture. There are many places to eat, drink, and shop.  Explore the villages in the hills of the peoples who have lived in this area since ancient times, and get to know their culture and traditions.


Some of the things you can do in Lijiang:

  • Mu Palace. From this palace, the Mu Clan of the Naxi people ruled for over 400 years. Give yourself enough time to explore this expansive complex, wander through the courtyards, and enjoy the traditional architecture.
  • Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. This snow-capped mountain range that rises in the backdrop of Lijiang is a stunning sight to see. At the Black Dragon Pool, with the mountains looming in the background, you will see one of China’s finest views. Explore the park and see the Blue Moon Valley, with beautiful lakes of pure blue water and stone terraces. At the Dong Ba Valley culture center and get a peek into local culture and traditional life.
  • Impression Lijiang. A cultural show demonstrating the traditions of the Naxi, Yi, and Bai ethnic groups of the area. Located inside the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Park, this outdoor theater uses the mountain range as a natural backdrop.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain


This is one of six ancient water towns to the south of the Yangtze River, and it displays its history through ancient stone bridges, pathways and delicate wood carvings.

On the eastern side of the town, you will find souvenir shops, restaurants, and museums featuring exhibitions that detail the old way of life in this lovely water town. Take a skiff up or down one of the many canals and enjoy the view from the water. A highlight of this town are the many folk performances. Such as the traditional art form of shadow plays accompanied by Chinese musical instruments, the martial arts performances on boats, or bamboo pole climbing.


The western side of Wuzhen is much quieter and more spacious. Here you will see a town that has been rebuilt in the original architectural style, with charming homes built along the waterways. At night it is beautifully lit up, and you will find the streets lined with guest houses, restaurants, and many interesting shops.

With just three of the many ancient towns in China, you already have plenty to see. In these places you can enjoy the simplicity of ancient tradition. See what life was like in China before modernization; and perhaps what life should still be like.

Learn How To Book The Cheapest Flights To China

Download FREE eBook

Follow Cez

Cez Krol

Travel blogger at eTramping
Cez lives in China like a local for the past 4 years. Apart from speaking the language, he loves to discover more about this unique country of extreme contrasts. He shares his China experiences here at Sublime China and on his blog eTramping, so go and check out what's out there for you in China.
Follow Cez