Guizhou is one of China’s poorest regions and remains relatively unvisited by foreign travelers. It is, however, stunningly beautiful. Nicknamed the “Switzerland of China,” its jagged alpine peaks – clothed in pine forests, fruit trees, tea plantations, and intricate agricultural terracing – are lusciously green in summer and decorously snow-capped in winter.
Traveling here isn’t easy: infrastructure is basic and a good phrase book is essential; but the highland landscapes, colorful Miao costumes worn by villagers, and delicious local cuisine give a real sense of unexplored China. Heading east from the provincial capital of Guiyang is particularly rewarding.
In a deep valley below Thunder God Mountain lies Xijiang, an ethnic Miao village known as the Village of One Thousand Homes, where visitors can stay with local families in traditional two-floored wooden lodges built into the hillside. From here, numerous hiking trails lead over the hills and into picturesque adjacent valleys where agricultural communities adhere to time-honored principles and crop-pickers carry large baskets of fresh herbs and vegetables on thick bamboo poles. The hills are also a rich source of precious metals and minerals, and the local female headdresses and jewelry are made from high-grade silver.
Getting There Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province, has an airport with flights to/from all major Chinese cities. From the airport, catch a bus to the town of Kaili (3 hrs), and then to another Xijiang (3–4 hrs), or bargain hard for a taxi to take you all the way to Xijiang (5–6 hrs).
Where to Eat Xijiang’s cafes serve hot Guizhounese mutton noodles and spicy stews made from fresh vegetables, and powerful warmed rice wine.
Where to Stay Xijiang Li Family Inn has no formal address, but ask for the “Li Jia Jiudian” in the village and you will be pointed in the right direction.
When to Go Spring (Apr–May) and autumn (Sep–Oct) offer the best weather.
Budget per Day for Two US$40–60