West Lake – Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

The Most Famous Beauty Spot in All China

Described by Marco Polo as “the finest and most beautiful city in the world,” Hangzhou still offers a glimpse of old China, although what hasn’t changed over the centuries or been destroyed by revolution is today obscured by the hordes of Chinese and foreign tourists.

But during off-season or a quiet moment at sunrise, the city’s West Lake is still one of the loveliest sights you will find in China. Its mist-shrouded shores are lined with landscaped gardens, pagodas, teahouses, shaded walkways, and classic pavilions with names like Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake. It may be at its most beautiful (and crowded) in July and August, when it’s covered with a mantle of lotus flowers. The ubiquitous willow creates the perfect Chinese vignette, joined by groves of peach blossoms in spring, orange-scented acacia in autumn, and plum in winter.

By hired boat, float up to the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, the stone pagodas on the Island in the Little Ocean or, opposite this, the Island of the Hill of Solitude, whose excellent 150-year-old Louwailou Restaurant is one of many reasons to come ashore.

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