China's ancient culture and lip-smacking cuisine are a magnet for visitors, but the country's dramatic terrain also makes it ideal for adventure travel. Check out Lonely Planet's guide to the very best adventures in China, and for a rural escapade, our friends at BBC Travel have all the insight.
The Middle Kingdom is a study in contrasting landscapes - deserts, rivers, mountains, rainforests, lakes and grasslands. As one would (rightly) imagine, this breadth of terrain gives China the edge for a wide variety of adrenaline-drenched sports and activities. As a bonus, the transport system is excellent for a country this size: trains run to every province, and buses go where train tracks stop. In short, China makes for a surprisingly unconventional, yet totally original adventure-sporting destination.
'Li River, Yangshuo, China' by epidemiks. Creative Commons Attribution licence
Rock climbing in Guangxi
This region is famous for its karst peaks: soaring limestone cliffs, many set along rivers. While some tourists are content to gape at the mountains from the safety of a bamboo raft, others have started climbing them. Since the 1990s, the sport of rock climbing has exploded in the province. Yangshuo is undeniably the most popular destination with over 200 climbs. The town itself has plenty of outfits with English-speaking guides. Other memorable climbs include the mountain featured on the back of the 20 Yuan banknote in Xingping and remote Leye, which plays hosts to annual international competitions.
Trekking the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan
Located in the southwestern province of Yunnan, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world. It measures 16km long and is a giddy 3900m from the waters of the Jinshan River to the snow-capped mountains of Haba Mountain to the west and Yulong Xueshan to the east, and, despite the odd danger, it's gorgeous almost every single step of the way. The two trails are tough going and the older, higher trail takes two days to complete and brings you past mountain shepherds (and their herds of goats), cliffside trails, rapids and gardens.
'Hiking the Tiger Leap Gorge' by Jo Schmaltz. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence
There are caves aplenty in China and the Hong Meigui caving group (www.hongmeigui.net) has been active in China since 2001. Their website boasts some truly impressive stats and serious cavers will want to hook up with this lot. Visit the website for more details.
Bungee jumping in Macau
Why walk/bike/run/swim when you can strap yourself to a giant rubber band before leaping off the top of a tall structure? For the best bragging rights, try the AJ Hackett rig on the Macau Tower (macau.ajhackett.com). The world's highest commercial bungee jump stands at 233m off the ground...meaning you'll have plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of life on the way down.
'Mongolia' by Kyle Taylor. Creative Commons Attribution licence
Still not tired?
These activities are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Here are some other activities worth checking out:
- The X-Games, Shanghai: hardcore adventure-sports athletes can train hard for a place in the annual Shanghai edition of the X-Games (www.kiaxgamesasia.com). BMX freestyle, skateboarding, in-line skating and motocross racing are the events of choice here.
- Parkour in Beijing: join local Beijingers in running, jumping and scaling various structures in this sprawling city. The Fareti Parkour Group (blog.sina.com.cn/fareti) and the China Parkour Club (write to email@example.com) will help you get the lowdown on the scene.
- Aviation sports in Beijing: the Beijing Flying Man Club (www.flying-man.com) offers paragliding, windsurfing, kiteboarding and microlighting lessons and sessions.
- Ziplining: if you visit the Anhui province, you can trek to the top of the Mukeng Zhuhai (bamboo forest), strap yourself onto a flying fox and zoom down above the forest canopy, over 50m off the ground. In Yunnan, locals bring their own simple rope harness and pulley to get across the raging Nujiang River via zipline. Someone local will help the 'crazy' tourist if you ask nicely.
- Horse riding in Inner Mongolia: learn to unleash your inner Mongol. Operators take visitors on a multi-day adventure through the grasslands of Inner Mongolia...on horseback. Thunder through some scenic terrain in Hohhot, Ulanhot or Hailar before breaking for some hiking and camping in an authentic yurt (ger).
Is your pulse racing for more thrills and spills across China's incredible terrain? Sprint over to BBC Travel for rural adventures in China's backcountry.