This is a very difficult question to answer. China has quite a different kind of tourism from what you might find in Europe. People are less inclined to go off exploring remote regions on their own but instead concentrate on the various prescribed tourist parks and sites. Indeed, many interesting areas might be restricted, confining tourists to official park areas and preventing you from exploring by yourself.
The people’s behaviour in part can be explained by the historic lack or car transport. Until just 5 or 6 years ago, almost everyone was dependant on public transport. This means that you can only tour to locations that are served by public transport or tourist travel groups.
The government behaviour, of confining tourim to official sites, I fully support. If everyone in China was allowed to trample whereever they wanted, they would cause quite a lot of damage. The old adage that tourists destroy the things they most want to see, applies here.
The result is, that wherever you end up going in China, to any place of interest, you end up in a crowd of tourists and can never seem to get out of the crowd.
So I think we shal have to consider the question in a different way. You can never get away for the toursts, but you sure can get away for the foreign tourists.
When foreigners come to China, they tend to concentrate on a few famous cities and major landmarks. There are a great many interesting places that you can go in China where you won’t see any other foreigners, only Chinese faces everywhere.
So if that is what you want, to get away from the foreign tourist traps and see the places that the native Chinese people like to see, here is my shortlist.
Anywhere that is not the capital of a province.
That was a quick shortlist, but actually a very long list if you think about it.
Most foreign tours head to Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an. Some more adventurous foreign tourists might go to other provinces, but they will tend to keep close to the vicinity of the largest city in that province
The reasons for this are many. The provincial capital usually has a large airport, connections by rail, and other facilities that make touring their convenient. These cities are also likely to feature on tourist guide sites that will list dozens of attractions to see. So for the adventuristic tourist, these are actually fairly easy and non-adventurist places to get to.
“But, if I go to small cities, there will be nothing to see and the tourist sites don’t list anything.”
Yes, but there is always something to see
Think, why are you coming to China - to see China. You are not coming to China to see Starbucks and McDonalds. You are coming to see a different culture and lifestyle. Where can you find that culture and lifestyle? Everywhere in China.
When you go to a smaller city in China, you can always find things to do. Every city has some tourist attractions. Often these will only be known to the locals of that province. People from other provinces wouldn’t think of going there. You’ll always find large parks, nature reserves, mountains, beaches and rivers. You will always find nice restaurants selling the local cuisine. You will always find interesting shops selling local goods. I mean, when you are in a new county, even the supermarket is interesting and full of exotic new foods for you to try.
Travelling around China is actually quite easy. Even smaller cities are connected to the rail network. Most provinces have at least two airports - a large one for the capital city and a smaller one for the second biggest city. All cities have frequent and cheap bus systems and taxis are usually inexpensive by western standards too. All cities will have decent hotels too.