3 CUANDIXIA VILLAGE
2 HOURS 30 MINUTES
The charm of Beijing is that, just an hour or two out, you’re in the mountains. Most escapees head north, but there are hidden temples and villages in the western hills.
Rent a car and take route 109 to Cuandixia, a village with 400 years of history. Courtyard homes dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties line the streets, which nestle in a deep valley that is green in summer and brown in winter. Steep cobbled paths weave between well-preserved buildings that feature stone carvings, screen walls and tiling. There are a number of walks up into the surrounding hills, and you get a good view of the village from the top.
For the full rural experience, stay in one of the inns that offer basic accommodation. Among the best is Guchengbao, one of the oldest courtyard buildings, perched at the top-left corner of the village as you arrive, which has traditional fire-heated kang beds shared by up to four people. There’s no need for a reservation – just ask (or mime) for a bed. At their terrace restaurant, you can eat fresh local fare – don’t miss the wild herbs and mushrooms.
On the way back, it’s worth exploring the temples in the hills. Tanzhesi, the most enjoyable, is on route 108, with similar impromptu housing and food options. The temple is around 1,700 years old and is most beautiful in moonlight.