Hangzhou: Off-the-Beaten-Path in China

A Pavilion view at dusk

Travelers looking for China beyond Shanghai and Beijing can turn toward Hangzhou, an ancient city on the bay just south of Shanghai that is blossoming into one of the country’s top destinations for tourists.

Founded in 300 B.C., Hangzhou was once the capital city of a Chinese Kingdom, and is chock-full of ancient temples and the World UNESCO Heritage-listed West Lake. More than 3 million visitors have been to Hangzhou in the past year, and tourism is up 18.5 percent during the 2014 Chinese New Year holiday. Here is a look at what is new in the destination this coming year.

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Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou, is one of the most celebrated monuments around West Lake, and one of the top 10 Buddhist temples in China.

Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou, is one of the most celebrated monuments around West Lake, and one of the top 10 Buddhist temples in China.

Hot Hotels

DoubleTree by Hilton Hangzhou East opened in December with 308 hotel rooms in the business district of Xiasha Economic & Technological Development Zone in Hangzhou. Great for meetings, the hotel has more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space, eight multi-functional rooms, a VIP reception room and a board room.

Also recently opened, Chaptel Hangzhou by Relais & Chateaux is a new hotel built in well-preserved shikumen (stone-gate) houses. The accommodations are at the foot of the hills surrounding West Lake.

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Santai Yunshui, near West Lake.
Santai Yunshui, near West Lake

In the same luxury vein, Fairmont Hangzhou has set an opening date for 2017. The anticipated hotel will have 300 rooms and will sit atop the city’s tallest building, with views from all the rooms, private concierge services and other exclusive amenities.

Though not new, the Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake is still worth a visit. The hotel is set in a lakeside village hidden away among ponds, streams, and lagoons. All of the rooms come fully equipped with L’Occitane and Bvlgari bath amenities, and the hotel offers a 24-hour fitness center, an outdoor pool, and several lounges and restaurants.

The Xihu State Guesthouse has three sides facing the banks of the West Lake for a lake-front property with beautiful gardens, Gold Key service, and a picturesque restaurant on the banks of the lake. For those who want to be active, the hotel has a fitness center, an 18-hole golf course, and tennis courts.

Around Town

The West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can be explored by boat or bike. Around its shores travelers will find an array of statues, pagodas and monuments. On the short list of must-see attractions are the Mausoleum of General Yue Fei, Six Harmonies Pagoda, Two Peaks Embracing the Sky, Temple of Soul’s Retreat, Peak Flown from Afar, and Solitary Hill. Nearby the lake, guests will find the Hangzhou Botanical Gardens, home to more than 1,000 yellow wintersweets.

Everyone has heard of the Great Wall, but equally impressive is the Grand Canal. This man-made waterway stretches 1,200 miles from Hangzhou to Beijing and has stood the test of time for more than 2,000 years. The Grand Canal has sightseeing boats that provide perspectives of life in South China river towns.

Hangzhou and the nearby West Lake are among the top rising tourism destinations in China.
Hangzhou and the nearby West Lake are among the top rising tourism destinations in China.

Starting this month, the tea experts at Seven Cups will escort tea-connoisseurs across Eastern China. For two days, the tour will stop in Hangzhou, the Tea Capital of China. Visitors will walk through the Emperor’s Tea Garden, visit the Hangzhou Tea museum and visit the oldest tea master to learn about the traditional skills involved.

Not far from West Lake is Lingyin Temple, also known as Temple of Soul’s Retreat. This is the most celebrated place around West Lake and is one of the top 10 Buddhist temples in China. The temple gives visitors both a religious and spiritual experience. The oldest statue on the site, the 800-year-old Skanda Buddha, guards the rear entrance, while the front is dominated by an enormous sculpture called “the Laughing Buddha.” Inside the Grand Hall of the Great Sage is the largest wooden Buddhist statue in China.

Xixi National Wetland Park is the only national wetland park in China, located in western Hangzhou. The park is crisscrossed with six main watercourses, among which scatter various ponds, lakes and swamps. The wetland has a historical and cultural heritage of more than 1,800 years and is the original site of Chinese South Opera. It is home to traditional Dragon Boat races, along with silkworm feeding and silk production.

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