Xihu (West Lake)
Xihu (West Lake) is a vast freshwater lake close to downtown Hangzhou. It is divided into five sections by three causeways and is populated with various gardens, pagodas and temples. This is where Hangzhou locals come to find peace and visitors to the city come to capture the perfect souvenir photograph.
Visit some of the “10 Scenes of the West Lake” which are well-known scenic spots. Broken Bridge is one of the busiest and most photographed of these. Arrive early to have the pedestrian walkway all to yourself. Head out to the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. These are three pagodas arranged in a triangle shape in the water. Check the lunar calendar for a full moon, when thousands of candles are lit inside the pagodas.
Make your way around the pagodas, temples and churches overlooking the West Lake. Visit the Mid-Lake Pavilion, the oldest in Hangzhou. This tranquil spot is said to have inspired the famous poem Chong Er, or Endless Love.
Marvel at Lingyin Temple, an ornate complex that has been functioning for centuries. Walk to the base of Baochu Pagoda for vistas of the West Lake and beyond. Take in one of the best Hangzhou skyline views from the Leifeng Pagoda.
Relax in one of the many parks and gardens around the lake. In the spring, watch tea pickers in the fields at Longjing. This is also the best time to visit Prince Bay Park to admire the tulips. Sip fresh tea overlooking the water at Guo's Villa or explore the diverse blooms at Hangzhou Botanical Gardens.
It is impossible to do everything the West Lake has to offer in one day, but you can take in the main attractions, a garden and a teahouse. Choose a few of the highlights and plan your day accordingly. Visit over several days to make the most of the area.
Tourist boats and private gondolas dock at many locations around the lake. Boats advertise which part of the West Lake they're bound for and how much they charge. Consider circling the West Lake on foot, which takes approximately five hours. If you get lost, locals will happily tell you how to get to the next stop on your itinerary.