Běijīng's breadbasket, Héběi (河北) is a slow-moving panorama of grazing sheep, brown earth and fields of corn and wheat. Cosmopolitan Tiānjīn (天津) may put on a dazzling show, but the true charms of this region are its time-worn, earthy textures and its deep-rooted historical narrative.
Héběi offers the ideal chance to disengage from Běijīng’s modernity and frantic urban tempo and experience a more timeless China without having to travel too far. Wander through ancient settlements and walled towns, skirt the wild edges of the former Manchuria and journey to the majestic 18th-century summer retreat of the Qing emperors in Chéngdé.
There are temples to explore, rarely visited stretches of the Great Wall and remote towns and villages whose rural seclusion make them the perfect retreats for those prepared to venture slightly off the beaten track.