Dubbed the "Venice of the Orient", Zhenyuan is a surprisingly unspoiled ancient water town located in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture, southeastern Guizhou. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains and rivers, the town is best-known for its picturesque landscape, historic sites and mysterious ethnic cultures. The ribbon-like Wuyang River, which runs about 94 kilometers from west to the east across Zhenyuan, cuts the town into the northern "Old Fu (Government) Town" and the southern "Old Wei (Fortification) Town".
With a history of nearly 2,300 years, Zhenyuan has been a hub of land and water transportation; a center of politics, trade and culture; as well as a strategically important spot in eastern Guizhou. The area's local cultures blend together with Western elements, making it a place of unique glamour. Black Dragon Cave, an ancient temple complex on Zhonghe Mountain in the eastern part of town, features pavilions, temples, shrines and palaces embodying Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist cultural elements.
A stroll along the narrow lanes leads one to the still non-commercialized beauty of the town, which includes well-preserved high walls, residential compounds, ancient wells and docks. Visitors can also make their way to the top of Shiping Mountain, north of the Wuyang River, to enjoy the ruins of the 3-kilometer Great Wall that was constructed during the late Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The site offers a spectacular bird’s view of the tranquil town. A boat cruise along a 35-kilometer stretch of the Wuyang River provides visitors with breathtaking sights of marvelous gorges, peaks and waterfalls.
Best time to go: March to October
Admission: 50 yuan ($8.17)/person for Black Dragon Cave, 120 yuan/person for the Wuyang River boat cruise
How to get there: Take a train from Guiyang to Zhenyuan, or take a bus at the Long-Haul Bus Station near Guiyang Railway Station to Kaili, and transfer onto the bus to Zhenyuan.