Bīngyù Valley

Park in Liaoning

If you can’t travel south to Guìlín, Bīngyù Valley offers a taste of what you’re missing. About 250km northeast of Dàlián, the valley has tree-covered limestone cliffs set alongside a river. From the entrance, a boat takes you along a brief stretch of the river, where rock formations rise steeply along the banks, before depositing you at a dock. From there, hire a little boat or bamboo raft and paddle around the shallow waters, or follow short trails along the river and up to lookouts.

The park is increasingly popular with tour groups, who come for the zip lines, tame amusement-park rides, and even jet-skiing. Given the rather small area that you can explore, it can be tough to find any tranquillity in this otherwise-lovely environment.

In summer, day tours run from the train-station area in Dàlián, leaving at 7.30am and returning around 8pm. Buy your ticket (¥238 including transport, lunch and admission fees) the day before from the tourism vans across from the light-rail depot in the back train-station area. Your hotel should be able to get you discounted rates. Note that tours sometimes do reverse itineraries (with the boat ride coming last) and you'll find precious little time alone. There are also (optional) add-ons such as cable-car rides and electric-car transport. These aren't terrible but can easily double your tour costs.

It’s not really worth coming out here on your own, but you can do so by taking the bus to Zhuānghé from Dàlián and transferring to a bus headed to Bīngyù Gōu. Accommodation is available within the park, but is overpriced for what you get.