Top choice in Anhui

Typical of the elegant Huizhou style, Xidi’s 124 surviving buildings reflect the wealth and prestige of the prosperous merchants who settled here. Its Unesco World Heritage Site status means Xidi enjoys a lucrative tourist economy, yet it remains a picturesque tableau of slender lanes, cream-coloured walls topped with horse-head gables, roofs capped with dark tiles, and doorways ornately decorated with carved lintels. From here you can head out further into the countryside, to explore less-visited villages such Nanping, Guanlu and Bishan.

Dating to AD 1047, the village has for centuries been a stronghold of the Hu (胡) clan, descended from the eldest son of the last Tang emperor who fled here in the twilight years of the Tang dynasty. The magnificent three-tiered Ming dynasty decorative arch, the Húwénguāng Páifāng (胡文光牌坊), at the entrance to the village, is an ostentatious symbol of Xidi’s former standing.

Numerous other notable structures are open for inspection, including Díjí Hall (迪吉堂; Díjí Táng) and Zhuimu Hall (追慕堂; Zhuīmù Táng), both on Dalu Jie (大路街). Jing’ai Hall (敬爱堂; Jìng’ài Táng) is the town’s largest building, a multipurpose hall where wedding ceremonies and clan meetings were held and punishments meted out. Back in the day, women weren’t allowed inside. Xiyuan (西园) is a small house known for its exquisite stone carvings on the windows. Unlike regular carvings, these are carved on both sides.

Paths lead out from the village to nearby hills where there are suitable spots for picture-postcard panoramas of the village (though a mobile-phone tower blights the landscape). If you want to avoid the crowds, you’ll have to start early or hang out late: tour groups start roaming around at 7am and only trickle out at 5pm or so.

Tourist bus 1 runs to Xidi (¥14, one hour) from Tunxi’s Huangshan Tourist Distribution Center, leaving hourly from 8am to 4pm. From Xidi buses leave hourly for Hongcun (¥6, 30 minutes), stopping at Pingshan (¥6, 15 minutes). From the bus hub next to Huangshan North Station, buses run to Xidi (¥23, one per hour, 8.30am to 6pm). For Tangkou you'll need to first get a bus to Hongcun.

For all other onward travel, you'll need to first get to Yixian (¥3, 20 minutes, every 30 minutes, 7.30am to 3.30pm), the nearest transit hub. From Yixian, it’s possible to travel on to Jiuhua Shan (¥50, 3½ hours, two daily, 6.50am and 1.15pm), Hangzhou (¥91, two daily, 8.15am and 1.35pm) and Shanghai (¥151, two daily, 7.20am and 2.20pm). There are also frequent buses between Yixian and Tunxi’s long-distance bus station (¥14, one hour).

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