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While Jilin (吉林, Jílín) may not make typical China itineraries, there is cause for inspiration beyond the province's well-known rustbelt. For nature lovers, Jilin is an increasingly popular ski destination and boasts China’s largest nature reserve at Changbai Shan – the journey to Baihe from Yanji is one of Dongbei's most bucolic. Inside the reserve, Heaven Lake, a stunning, deep-blue volcanic crater lake, is one of China’s most mesmerizing natural wonders.

Culture buffs also have grounds for inspiration. From the Japanese architecture of Changchun, once the capital of Manchukuo and the headquarters of the puppet emperor Puyi, travelers can move east to the ruins of an ancient Korean kingdom known as Koguryo. In fact, much of the far-eastern region comprises the little-known Korean Autonomous Prefecture, home to more than one million ethnic Koreans. Kimchi and cold noodles dominate the menu here and there’s an easy acceptance of visitors.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Jilin.