Trekking China: Fall Break Beyond Nanjing

Trekking China: Fall Break Beyond Nanjing

Fall Break is a great opportunity to travel China and explore a wide range of cities, mountains, and rural towns. Following a strenuous midterm period filled with assignments, papers, and exams, students quickly dispersed across the country in groups or solo travel, even crossing paths at various points. Below are a few of the trips HNC students took over the week-long break.

Tibet 西藏

    The Tibet Autonomous Region is rich with culture, history, and an experience that few get the opportunity to see. This is due to the requirements for international travelers to visit, which include securing a standard entry permit for China and obtaining a Tibet visitor's permit through a Chinese travel agency. Visiting the region was on the bucket list of several students, including Brock Mullen, who organized a group of 7 students to visit the region. 

    After touching down in the capital city of Lhasa, the group had a 4-day adventure of Tibet, visiting several Buddhist monasteries and palaces and meeting locals, all which left a deep impression on the group. “What immediately struck us was the remarkable warmth of the Tibetan people. They were elated to welcome visitors back after years of pandemic lockdowns and we could tell that a sense of kindness is in the blood of their culture,” said Sam Trizza. Some of the important sites of Tibetan Buddhism the group visited included the Potala Palace, filled with endless rooms of sculptures of Buddha, art, tombs of several former Dalai Lamas, and the Dalai Lama’s meeting rooms and thrones. One of the trip’s highlights was the trek to Yamdrok Lake, which required going over Kampala Pass, which is at 5,000 meters (over 16,000 feet). 

    Several monasteries they visited were fascinating because they still teach monks in the centuries old traditions and scriptures. The students also took note of the importance of yak butter at these sites. Yak butter was not only seen but the scent was strong in candles, food, tea, and even sculptures. Additionally, the group took the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a 21-hour train journey from Lhasa to Xining. The train is an engineering feat due to the altitude of the Tibetan plateau and permafrost. In Xining, they further explored Buddhist areas, but in a mix with Muslim and Han Chinese cultures. This trip left the group with memories that are to last far beyond their time in China. 

Yunan 遇难

Students in Yunnan

    South China’s Yunan province is home to many beautiful sights and unique landscapes. It was these distinct features which caught the eye of student Kylie Aronson, who had the goal of finding the most beautiful places in China, visiting rural areas that allowed her to explore minority cultures and food, and great land for hiking. After learning about what the province had to offer, she planned a visit very early on in her first semester at the HNC. Recruiting her roommate, Su Panpan, and friend, Li Xin, the three students spent a week navigating three cities: Lijiang, Shangri-La, and Dali. In piecing the trip together, Kylie said, “The C-Trip app was nice and easy to use. They give good discounts. “Little Red Book” 小红书 is great as well not just for China, but for travel throughout Asia.”

    The trip was split into several parts. First, the group went to Lijiang, where they hiked the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and visited the Blue Moon Lagoon. Afterwards, using a rental car, they drove to Shangri-La, a northwestern city in the province. There, they saw the Tiger-leaping gorge, which has a unique ancient story behind it that describes a tiger creating the gorge while traveling from one mountain to another. After Shangri-La, they went back to Lijiang to return their rental, and then took a bus to Dali in southwest Yunan, which was warmer and had older locals that the group conversed with. There, they also took note of some of the local government efforts to stem migration to the region. Overall, the trio enjoyed the adventure traveling away from big cities, learning from minority ethnic groups, and seeing some unique aspects of Yunan including the Tibetan culture imbedded there.

Sichuan 四川

    China’s Sichuan Province and its surrounding region are famous for its food, landmarks, and its place as the home of pandas. In addition, it is nearby to many surrounding areas and cities that are easy to reach by train or bus. Over a dozen HNC students, including myself, made various trips to the region, whether to explore the Western portion of the province on road trips or to visit the capital city of Chengdu. 

    As a UNESCO city of gastronomy, Chengdu boasts one of the world’s spiciest cuisines, thanks in large part to its emphasis on spices and its signature numbing sensation. Most notable of all is it’s classic Chengdu Hot Pot, an essential meal for Sichuan province with centuries of history. Chengdu also has many famous attractions such as the Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding, which gives visitors a chance to see several of the nation’s most beloved animal in nature and enjoy a walk throughout the base’s large land area.


    Chongqing, another fall break favorite, was historically a part of Sichuan Province, but due to its large size became its own municipality in 1997. Although the city doesn’t have the traditional tourist destinations as other historic cities in China, it has gained its popularity even on Western social media as one of the biggest travel destinations in the country because of its unique geographical and urban features. The city feels as if it was built on a mountain and can be challenging to navigate. Some entrances to buildings feel like they’re at ground level but are on the top floor, and one of the most popular sites that tourists flock around is a metro rail that goes through and stations inside of an apartment complex. The city offers one of the most exciting city-walks in China and can even substitute for a hike of its own. 

Written by Eric Omorogieva, Cert+MAIR '25. Edited by Sam Trizza, Cert+MAIR '25.