I've always dreamed of hiking in China. Any suggestions?
Have you looked in your backyard? According to the German tourists I always run into around here, Canada is full of topography you can scale to report on the good views. Of course, not all our trails include bits of the Great Wall or run alongside canyons called Tiger Leaping Gorge. So, back to your question.
"One of the great things about the greater region is that even the big cities have fantastic access to the outdoors," says Nellie Connolly, director of marketing for adventure and cultural operator WildChina (wildchina.com). "In Beijing, you can slip outside the city and head to a remote section of the Great Wall, like Jinshanling. In Shanghai, locals and foreign residents alike head to Moganshan. There are some great new boutique hotels opening up in this region, like Naked Retreats. Even in Hong Kong, there are opportunities to escape the urban city centre and head to the outer islands for hiking."
So where to go?
Connolly's favourite hike with WildChina – a company that has earned accolades from Condé Nast Traveler, among others – is "Abujee: Tibetan Trekking in Yunnan."
The name of this mountainous region in northern Yunnan translates as "delight" and "wonder," says Connolly, who has lived in Beijing for four years. And here, away from China's crowds, you will find snow-capped mountains, lush forests and deep, clear lakes. But don't expect the Canadian backwoods.
On the eight-day trek, travellers pass sacred temples and little-explored nomadic settlements, Connolly says.
And don't worry that temporal pleasures are sacrificed in this spiritual region.
"Throughout the hike, WildChina provides a cook who is able to whip up Chinese stirfry to birthday cake to some seriously delicious bolognese at 4,000 metres." (Oh, and yak burgers, too.)
The 13-day itinerary, ideally visited between late spring and mid-fall, starts in Shangri-la, a short flight from the Yunnan capital city of Kunming. Imagine wandering under the Tibetan prayer flags at the Ringha Temple, trekking across mountain passes and overnighting at a yak herders' camp – with nary a moose in sight.