There’s only one train station in here and taxies are very cheap (you can get anywhere within the city for less than 25RMB ~4$). Easy access, combined with cheap accommodation (in business hotels) and food, make it perfect destination for backpackers, especially that Lishui still has this mysterious vibe of the place untainted by the tourism industry. Why is that? Well, I’m guessing that’s because up until now, there’s next to none information about Lishui online (at least in English). Even after living here for over 5 years I still find places I never knew existed. A lot of them were shown to me thanks to the kindness of Lishui Tourism Department, which launched a program trying to get more foreign exposure for the county (Lishui is both a name of a city and a county).
I. City proper:
1. Shahe Pagoda (厦河塔)
That’s one of a very few actual historic relics in Lishui. The building dates back to the Ming Dynasty (was built roughly 500 years ago). Personally, I consider it to be the icon of Lishui. It’s located on the Southern bank of the river, at the top of a big rock. You can get there by bus no 11 (get off in the village just behind the pagoda hill). Easier wold be to take a taxi though. The cost shouldn’t be more than 20 yuan. Under the pagoda there’s also an interesting small shrine, which seems to be dug in a rock. There’s no entrance fee.
2. Jinshan Pagoda (巾山塔 - Chinese 'The Pagoda of the Mountain of the Cloth')
– another relic from Ming Dynasty. It’s visible from the river bank. This pagoda is smaller and less preserved.
There’s an outstanding view on the way to the top though. You can get there by bus 201 (get of at 柳后 Liuhou) or, again, taxi (as I mentioned those are really cheap in here. You'd probably pay around 30 yuan). In the village, next to the stop, there are stairs going up the hill. That’s your path. Next to a small temple there is a small, steep path on your right (not the paved one). Hike takes up to 30 min. It’s quite strenuous though (the slope is very steep). The trail is on the southern slope of the Jinshan Mountain.
3. Baiyun Mountain (白云山 - Chinese 'the Mountain of the White Clouds')
– very popular among the locals – read – crowded. It’s quite pleasant if you just want to go for a walk. There are plenty trails to choose, so you can hike anything from 30min to 6h. There’s no entrance fee. From the city centre it’s 10 min bus. Just hop on the bus no 1 going North and get off at the last stop. Can’t miss it.
3. Nanming Mountain (南明山 – 'the Mountain of the Southern Brightness')
– another popular destination (the mountain is very close to the city proper). Getting to the top takes 20-40min. It’s an easy hike. The paths are paved. There are even lanterns along the main trail. Actually, hiking there at night is even better than during the day. Night panorama of the city is absolutely stunning. There’s also an old Buddhist temple (in the middle of the mountain) and ancient stone carvings. The temple was set in song Dynasty (around 1000 years ago). The building itself isn’t that old though. If you want to see it, you’ll have to come during the day. There’s no entrance fee. You can easily get there by bus no 1 going South. Just get off at the last stop.
5. Guanyinyan Rock (观音岩 – Chinese ‘The Rock of the Goddess of Mercy’).
It’s kind of a Buddhist shrine curved into a huge rock. Behind, there are very steep stairs leading up the cliff. On the way you have to walk though Heaven’s Gate (天门). It’s a narrow passage formed by a big boulder stuck between two rocks. There’s no entrance fee. You can get there by bus 2 or 14 (just get off at the stop behind the bridge). From the bus stop go South, down the street and cross the street. There’s a road going between the fields. Just follow it to the end.
Outside town… Somewhere in the county:
1. Dongxiyan (东西岩)
A scenic spot, around 25 km West from Lishui. It’s famous for its rock formations and She minority village (at the foot of the mountain). There are plenty of hiking trails, so you can just walk in a loop for 1,5h or try to explore every peak (4–5h). Regrettably, there’s an entrance fee (45 Yuan). I really like the place though. Usually there are not many people. You can get there by bus 313 (get off at the last stop).
2. Kuocang Ancient Rd. (括苍古道)
Personally, my favourite attraction. It’s an old mountain path that used to connect two counties – Jinyun and Lishui. It’s quite a long hike (5–6h), but not very strenuous. It leads mostly through the mountain tops, small villages and temples. Thanks to that it’s both picturesque and culturally enriching. For example you can see how ginger is grown. There’s no entrance fee. Best way to get there, is to get on a long-distance bus headed for Jinyun (departing from the East Bus Station). You need to tell the driver to let you off at the Fanzhuang Village (樊庄) that is an entrance point to Kuocang Gudao (括苍古道). At the end of the trail, you can board 303 bus that goes back to Lishui. Trail is marked with 25 stations (small blue signs) but it’s quite easy to get lost (since there are so many side roads). When in doubt - ask locals (just show them the Chinese name of the trail and they’ll point you in the right direction).
3. Guanling Ancient Rd. (官岭古道)
Another old path through the mountains. It connects two villages Guanling (官岭村) and Lishan (利山). Both of those villages could be considered a tourist attraction on its own. In Guanling there are very old houses made of clay, with people still living there. Lishan is a She minority village. In summer (June – August) you can see spectacular lotus fields in there. The trail itself is quite easy (it takes around 1h to walk from one village to the other). Problem is the access though. If you don’t have a car (or don’t come by taxi – which would cost nearly 300 yuan one way) you’d have to come by bus 601 or 602 (get off at the stop called 官岭路). Unfortunately, there are only a few buses a day. (From Lishui at: 6.15, 7.00, 8.30, 9.50, 12.40, 14.00 and 15.30. From the Village: 7.00, 8.50, 10.00, 12.40, 14.30, 15.30 and 16.10). To reach Guanling Village, you’ll have to walk from the bus stop, 3km down the hill. In Lishan there’s a bus 203-1, but again, it’s quite rare. It departs at 7.30, 8.30, 9.30, 11.50, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00. It doesn’t go to Lishui either. Just get to the main road and change to any bus that goes in the Lishui direction. Other option is to walk to the main road (it’s 4km). If you’re not sure you can walk there or, if you’re a more adventurous type, you can ask one of the villagers if they could drive you on tricycle to the main road. Me and my friend did just that and it was a lot of fun.
4. Tianshilou Peak (天师楼)
– one of the best view points in Lishui. If you come in the morning on a cool day, you can witness the sea of clouds. It’s absolutely gorgeous place, but hard to access if you don’t have a car. You have to take a 302 bus. Get off at the last stop. In the village ask how to get to 天师楼 (just show this name). They will point you in the right direction. Than just follow the main road, up to the village at the top (around 1,5h). There, ask them to point you to a small path to the peak (takes another 10min).
5. Xixi village (西溪村)
– a very interesting old village. They say it was set 1000 years ago. Well… wether it’s true, I don’t know. Houses are definitely not that old. Nevertheless, strolling down the narrow streets, makes you feel like you’re a part of an old historical drama. There’s no entrance fee. It’s still normal village, where people go about their everyday life. To reach the place, first you need to take bus 301 to the last stop. Than change to 301-2 (departs at 7.50, 10.40, 13.30 and 15.30. On the way back it’s: 8.25, 11.15, 14.05 and 16.05).
6. Lixinxiang, Guanan Village (丽新乡,)
It’s another She minority village. It’s newly build (or at least renovated) but has interested painted houses. If you go across the river, you can have quite scenic hike in a tea hills. Access by bus 310 (just get off when you see painted houses).
1. Lishan Adventure Park (利山亲子拓展基地)
– this attraction is interesting mostly to local expats. If you’re in Lishan area (Guanling Ancient Rd. ends there), you might as well try it. The obstacles are suspended over a creek, so it’s quite scenic route. It’s open 8.30-10.50 and 13.30-16.00. Costs 88 yuan. The difficulty increases the further you go. Access by bus 203-1 (7.00, 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, 11.20, 14.30, 15.30, 16.30, 17.30).
If you’re a more spontaneous person, apart from officially established tourist attractions or scenic spots, you can simply hop on a bus that goes to the outskirts of the city and start hiking wherever you feel fancy. You’ll see plenty of old villages, people farming and scenic views. Easiest access is behind the railway station. Just get on the bus that goes to the station. Then go East, along the railway, until you reach a tunnel. Go on the other side of the railway and… welcome to Wonderland Alice!
Lost Village teaser
– somewhere in Lishui Mountains. There’s no road leading there. It doesn’t exist on the maps either. Well this year it doesn’t exist any more at all (it looks like most of the old houses were torn down recently). The trail itself is very scenic though, and probably could be considered another ‘ancient road’ (if anyone found out about it). There’s only one narrow path crossing the stream multiple times. Each time I go there, I feel like Indiana Johns that discovers new lands. Where is it you ask? Well, that one information I’ll keep a secret. Lishui mountains have a lot of those forgotten villages though that just wait to be discovered. Are you up for a challenge?
p.s. more info about Lishui on Wikivoyage. Most information there were provided by my friends and me.