Formed by a series of volcanic eruptions, the Wǔdàlián Chí (五大连池) is a nature reserve boasting one of northern China’s most mesmerising landscapes. It’s a genuine Lost World with vast fields of hardened lava, rivers of basalt, volcanic peaks, azure lakes and the odd little reed-lined pond. Although one day is enough for most people, you could spend days exploring.
The last time the volcanoes erupted was in 1720, when the lava flow blocked the nearby North River (Běi Hé), forming the series of five interconnected lakes that give the area its name. Wǔdàlián Chí is about 250km northwest of Harbin and, in addition to the volcanic landscape, is home to mineral springs that draw busloads of Chinese and Russian tourists to slurp the allegedly curative waters. So many Russians roll up that the town’s street signs are in both Chinese and Russian.