From wherever you look at it, be it from a boat or from a cable car running above the islets, Qiandao Lake, known among tourists as China’s Thousand-Island Lake, is a feast of nature and never fails to amaze and bedazzle its visitors. A fantastic day trip from Shanghai, there are so many things to do in Qiandao Lake beyond taking pictures. Adventure lovers can go on a scenic bike ride, an adrenaline-filled rafting boat tour or even only a relaxing walk in nature and trying the traditional cuisine.
A bit of history
Thousand island lake (Qiandao Lake) is a human-made lake with 1078 islets. It is located in Chun’an area in the west of Zhejiang Province in China. Underneath the lake, there are two cities, Shi Cheng (Lion City) which was built in 621 AD and He Cheng, also called Chun’an which was built in AD 208.
In order to supply the electrical needs of the growing city of Hangzhou, in 1959 the Chinese government built the Xin’an River Hydroelectric Station. A dam was constructed and these two ancient cities were drowned in the resulting artificial lake. In addition to these two ancient cities, 27 towns, more than 1,000 villages, about 45,000 acres of farming lands, and many houses left at the bottom of the lake. 290,000 people were relocated for this project. The ancient cities underwater have attracted diving tourists arranged by Chinese diving clubs.
Things to do on Qiandao Lake
You can walk along the lake to enjoy some quietness and clean fresh air away from polluted cities such as Shanghai. You can find good restaurants around the lake and have delicious fish foods with your family. It is a 4-hour well worth trip from Shanghai.
Biking around the lake and cruising boats are other activities on the One Thousand Island.
The road is in good condition and can take up to two days to complete the tour all the way around the lake. The cruise boats take different routes for their tours and based on the routes and the type of the boat the prices vary. I recommend you rent a small boat for half a day.
At Meifeng Island (梅峰) you can either climb or take the cable car (round-trip is 60 Yuan for adults, 30 for kids) for a 360-degree view of the lake and its islands. If you like to walk, make your way to the West Viewing Deck for some unforgettable scenery.
For some sightseeing, visit Longshan Island (龙山岛) to find historical and religious relics such as Hai Rui Memorial Temple and Ninggu Bell Tower while observing the local wildlife and beautiful flowers.
Best time to visit Qiandao Lake
It’s an outdoor activity so open all year long, but to be able to actually enjoy nature, the best time to go is Spring when the winter freeze is over and the summer heat is still not there. If you are thinking about rafting, boat tours and water activities, summer is probably the best season for you to visit Qiandao Lake. For sure, try to avoid rainy days as it can really spoil the experience.
Autumn is also a recommended season as the sky is usually clear and visibility at its best. Winter is cold and humid, but if you want to have a quiet trip far from the crowds, this is definitely your season. You can try to aim at a clear winter day for better visibility, but get properly dressed because it’s going to be freezing.
How to reach Thousand Island Lake from Shanghai and Hangzhou
Take the direct bus from the South Long Distance bus station (next to the south railway station). It’s almost a 4-hour ride from Shanghai.
Take the bus at Hangzhou West Long Distance Bus Station (杭州汽车西站). They start at 6:00 AM and depart every 40 minutes until 6:00 PM. It is a 2-hour ride from Hangzhou.
Hangzhou wouldn’t disappoint you either if you like Shanghai. There is a mountainous area (Jiuqu) with many tea farms, it’s a place where you can embrace real nature.
Prices to enter the natural park of Thousand-Island Lake vary depending on the season.
The high season runs from March to the end of November and the entrance fee is CNY 150 per person, while the low season, the winter months between December and the end of February is CNY 120 per person.