This post was long due. Something for the brave people that come to China by themselves without speaking the language. Something for the solo travelers that are looking to see more than the Terracotta army and the pagoda around Xi’an. I say solo, because when we are two we are invincible, fearless, intrepid. Laughing when neither of us gets what the Chinese are saying, having someone to share things when the world outside is ready to eat you alive.
Anyway, dear solo travelers, here is a list of nice places to see around Xi’an (please don’t just go to the Terracotta army!) ranked by the level of Chinese you would need:
Cui hua shan, 翠华山 xiaoyu valley
This is my favourite place to run away from the city on a short time. The walk is beautiful and it’s one of the few paths that follows a river. All along the way you can find farmers’ houses where you can eat and sleep. Spending a night is very cheap (max. 30yuan per person) but be aware that you are in the countryside: bugs, Turkish toilets and dirty sheets. However, it’s a great experience and many people from Xi’an just spend the afternoon there, eating and playing games. So if you see a sign: 农家乐 don’t hesitate to ask for the price of a room and spend a nice time there!
Apart from that, the walk to Cui hua shan is beautiful, with many stops along the way. From the bottom, it’s approximately a 10hr walk so be ready!
How to get there: from Xi’an, take the bus 4-19 and go to the last stop, the mountain is just there, you can’t miss it. Go up and up and when you get to the small waterfall look on your left (cross the river)t find the paper that shows the path.
Da Fo si 大佛寺
More info on that here
This was our first stop during the holidays. The city itself has no particular interest but the surroundings are very nice. Our fist goal was to get to Er Long Shan lake 二 笼 山
The short way is only 2km from the city but the landscape was horrible and the city doesn’t really end. We took the long (long) way to go, which was 15km but so much better. 15km in the mountains (but still on the road, no hiking paths here) going up and down, a good exercise and some nice views. To find that road, turn right when you see the first bridge (coming from…) and straight on for 15km! Once you go under the railway take the path on your left and follow the water. Don’t be scared to go further because there are some beautiful views.
Another nice thing to do here is to walk through the walkway that was once before the guards patrol. The walk goes from hill to hill, always at the top. A lot of steps up and down but a nice walk to do nonetheless.
Jin si xia 金丝峡
Jin si xia is an artificial park that was made at the top of a mountain. Mountains in China are impossible to hike unless there is a road built in it. They are very rocky and steep (my theory is that only goats can make it through). So actually this park is your way to have a view from the top of a mountain into the chain. The entrance is 90 yuan (they have student discount) and the park is around 13km long but as it is the mountains, it actually takes the whole day. We recommend that once you’re in the park you take the steps that climb for at least 6km up to the top, the view is really worth it and there is a pretty temple on the way. On your way back, be careful not to look down and don’t take children with you. Apart from a guardrail, there is nothing between you and the valley down there…
To go to Jing si xia: from Shangluo you can take a bus to Shang nan and another bus to Jing si xia. That last bust will leave you at the bottom of the mountains, 18km away from the park. We walked our way up there but if it’s not your thing, the locals will take you for some yuan (you can negotiate the price, they’ll ask between 30 and 40 yuan ) You don’t really need to talk, they know where you want to go.