One of China’s wealthiest cities and a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Shēnzhèn (深圳) draws a mix of business people, investors and migrant workers to its golden gates. It’s also a useful transport hub to other parts of China. You can buy a five-day Shēnzhèn-only visa (¥160 for most nationalities, ¥469 for Brits; cash only) at the Luóhú border, Huángǎng and Shékǒu.
Zhūhǎi (珠海) is close enough to Macau for a day trip. It’s laid-back, and the driving isn't too maniacal. Gǒngběi in the south is the main tourist district. Ferries connecting to Hong Kong, Shēnzhèn and Guǎngdōng stop at Jídàin in the northeast. Visas (¥168 for most nationalities, ¥469 for Brits) valid for three days are available at the border (8.30am to 12.15pm, 1pm to 6.
Kāipíng (开平), 140km southwest of Guǎngzhōu, is home to one of the most arresting human-constructed attractions in Guǎngdōng – the Unesco-crowned diāolóu (碉楼), eccentric watchtowers featuring a fusion of Eastern and Western architectural styles. Out of the approximately 3000 original diāolóu, only 1833 remain.
Nánlǐng National Forest Park
Lying 285km north of Guǎngzhōu, the Nánlǐng (Southern Mountains) ranges stretch from Guǎngxī to Jiāngxī provinces, separating the Pearl River from the Yangzi River. The range in Guǎngdōng, home to the only ancient forests in the province, is a reserve for old-growth blue pines, a species unique to this part of Guǎngdōng.
Yángjiāng (阳江) is a city on the southwestern coast of Guǎngdōng. While downtown Yángjiāng is unexciting, picturesque Hǎilíng Island (海陵岛; Hǎilíng Dǎo), located 50km or an hour’s drive away, is home to the Maritime Silk Road Museum and some of the finest beaches in the province.
Dàpéng Fortress, a fortified town to the east of Shēnzhèn, was a key battle site in the Opium Wars of the 19th century. Today it’s a lively home to locals and migrants. From Shēnzhèn, board bus 360 at Yínhú bus terminal (银湖汽车总站). After about 90 minutes, alight at Dàpéng bus station (大鹏总站) and change to minibus 966. A taxi from Luóhú costs ¥170.
The industrial town of Qīngyuǎn (清远) is where to set off for a scenic jaunt down the Běijiāng River (北江). The secluded temple in Fēilái and the monastery in Fēixiá are the main attractions. Four-hour cruises (¥380 to ¥600 for the whole boat, depending on size) leave from Qīngyuǎn’s Wǔyī dock (五一码头; Wǔyī Mǎtóu).
White Cloud Hills, in the northern suburbs of Guǎngzhōu, are an adjunct of Dàyú Range (大庾岭; Dàyú Lǐng). There are more than 30 peaks that were once dotted with temples and monasteries. It’s a good hike up to the top. Star Touching Peak (摩星岭; Móxīng Lǐng), at 382m, is the highest point in the hills.