5 most scenic spots in Hangzhou
West Lake may be the pinnacle Hangzhou experience, but just outside the city are an assortment of camera- and hike-worthy views.
These local favorites are listed in order of nearest to furthest from the city center.
Tianmu Mountain Scenic Area 天目山景区
The closest thing in China to California’s Sequoia National Forest, Tianmu Mountain (or Tianmushan) is stacked with Japanese cedar trees that tower to dizzying heights.
Hikers here are consistently awed by this mystical, UNESCO-listed biosphere.
Amid Buddhist, Daoist and Confucian temples and graveyards hidden in the woods live hundreds of rare animal species, 39 of them endangered, such as the bizarre hairy-footed muntjac (黑鹿) and clouded leopard (云豹).
Tianmu Mountain Scenic Area, +86 571 6387 7008, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Admission: RMB 140 per ticket (adult), RMB 70 (children and seniors)
Getting there by bus: Buses depart every 15 minutes from Hangzhou West Bus Station (杭州汽车西站) to Lin’an (临安). From there take taxi to Tianmu Mountain (Tianmushan 天目山).
From Shanghai, take high-speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥火车站) to Hangzhou City Railway Station (Cheng Zhan 杭州城站), then take taxi to Hangzhou West Bus Station and follow previous directions.
More on CNNGo: 10 mountains for every kind of climber
Longmen Ancient Town 龙门古镇
Hometown to descendants of Three Kingdoms emperor Sun Quan (90 percent of the population here is reportedly surnamed Sun), Longmen is one of China's few remaining well-preserved feudal-era towns.
As they have for thousands of years, residents still live in Imperial-era homes, daily trodding across stone-cobbled streets. The elaborate dragon, horse and lion dances that take place every year during Lantern Festival and Dragon Boat Festival thrill throngs of onlookers each year.
Longmen Ancient Town, +86 571 6350 6192, 6350 7988, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: RMB 68 (adult), RMB 35 (children and seniors)
Getting there by bus: From Longxiang bus depot (龙翔汽车站) in downtown Hangzhou, take the No. 514 to Fuyang City (富阳市). After arriving, grab a taxi to Fuyang West Bus Station (富阳客运西站). Then take a county bus directly to Longmen Ancient Town (龙门古镇), RMB 4.5 per person.
From Shanghai, take high-speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥火车站) to Hangzhou City Railway Station (Cheng Zhan 杭州城站), then take a taxi to Longxiang Bus Depot and follow previous directions.
More on CNNGo: Zhenyuan: Best bits of China in one town
Tonglu County 桐庐县
One of the most developed, activity-packed, yet pastoral locales within the Hangzhou municipality, this popular getaway is famous for its ubiquitous red lanterns, which lend a mystical, picturesque charm to the entire countryside after dark.
Tonglu County is home to river-rafting and fishing amid exotic, sculptured backdrops. Lush nature trails wander past creeks, waterfalls and reservoirs.
Also in the area is E'shan She-nation Ethnic Township (莪山畲族乡), an authentic She ethnic minority village.
Tourist office: Hangzhou City, Tonglu County, 158 Fuchun Lu, 桐庐县富春路158号, +86 800 8 571 789, +86 571-6460 0687
Admission prices for different areas and attractions vary between RMB 40-100. Visit Tonglu Tour (in Chinese) for details.
Getting there by bus: From Hangzhou South Bus Station (杭州汽车南站, RMB 25) or Hangzhou West Bus Station (杭州汽车西站, RMB 29), multiple direct buses leave throughout the day for Tonglu (桐庐).
From Shanghai, take high-speed train to Hangzhou from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥火车站) and follow previous directions. Or take bus directly to Tonglu from Shanghai North Long-distance Bus Station (长途公司北区客运站), one bus daily at 6 a.m.
More on CNNGo: China's 8 best heritage hotels
Thousand Island Lake 千岛湖
Outdoors activities are the draw in this ginormous recreation and resort area built around a massive reservoir in Hangzhou municipality's southwestern corner.
There are speedboating, water skiing, animal-themed island-hopping, mountain climbing, biking and hiking options galore -- also excellent seafood and everything from budget cabins to five-star hotels.
The vastness of the area almost guarantees privacy and tranquility away from the expected tourist zones.
Thousand Island Lake Scenic Tourism Bureau: Hangzhou City, Xin'an County, Qiandao Village, 32 Pailing Nan Lu, 杭州市淳安县千岛湖镇排岭南路32号, Tourism Hotline: 400-8811-988, Hotline hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Lake admission: RMB 150 for all-inclusive admission. Tickets can also be purchased separately for different scenic areas around the lake.
Getting there by bus: Take bus directly from Hangzhou West Bus Station (杭州汽车西站) to Thousand Island Lake Town (Qiandao Hu Zhen千岛湖镇). Buses depart every 30 minutes from 6 a.m.-6:50 p.m., RMB 60 per ticket. Then take taxi or bus to desired scenic area.
From Shanghai, take bus directly from Shanghai South Bus Station (上海汽车南站), three buses daily at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., and 2:20 p.m., RMB 100 per ticket.
More on CNNGo: 12 overlooked islands worth visiting
New Leaves of Ancient Dwellings 新叶古民居
With its fanciful name, this quiet, little-visited Ming Dynasty countryside nook has been featured on CCTV and in numerous travel and photography magazines.
Of note is the white-washed Jiangnan-style architecture (from south of the Yangtze), which can be found in Xinye Village (新叶村), a remote community consisting of some 230 antiquated residences. The village has been hailed as China’s largest open-air museum of ancient residential buildings.
Nearby is Daci Rock (大慈岩), a Yuan-era temple built on a sheer mountain cliffside.
Xinye Village, +86 571 6416 9668, 6416 9678. Admission: RMB 68 per ticket.
Daci Rock temple, +86 571 6454 9418. Admission: RMB 65 per ticket. Cable car tickets: RMB 40 (ascent), RMB 30 (descent).
Getting there by bus: Take the bus from Hangzhou West Bus Station (杭州汽车西站) directly to Jiande (建德). Buses depart every 30 minutes, RMB 47-55 per ticket. Then take a taxi to Jiande South Bus Station (建德汽车南站) and get on the county bus directly to Xinye Village (新叶村). RMB 5 per person.
From Shanghai, take a high-speed train to Hangzhou from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥火车站), then follow previous directions.
To upload your Hangzhou travel story, visit our iReport assignment page. The deadline for submissions is November 18.