Welcome to Fènghuáng
Once a frontier town, Fènghuáng (凤凰) marked the boundary between the Han civilisations of the central plains and the Miao (苗), Tujia (土家) and Dong (侗) minorities of the southwest mountains. Protective walls went up in the Ming dynasty, but despite the implications Fènghuáng prospered as a centre of trade and cultural exchange. Its diverse residents built a breathtaking riverside settlement of winding alleys, temples and rickety stilt houses, which these days attract tourists by the bucketload. Do try to stay overnight – the town is bursting with accommodation options, and the sight of an illuminated Fènghuáng at night is quite awesome.