Away in the northeast of the province, 370km from Fuzhou and close to the Fujian-Jiangxi border, the WUYI SHAN (武夷山风景区, wŭyíshān fēngjĭng qū) area contains some of the most impressive scenery in southern China. It’s about the only inland part of Fujian regularly visited by tourists, and consists of two principal parts: the Jiuqu River (九曲溪, jiŭqŭ xī), which meanders at the feet of the mountains, and the Thirty-Six Peaks (三十六峰, sānshílìufēng), which rise up from the river, mostly to its north. With peaks protruding from low-lying mists, the scenery is classic Chinese scroll-painting material, and the park, dotted with small, attractive villages, can be a tremendous place to relax for a few days, offering clean mountain air and leisurely walks through a landscape of lush green vegetation, deep red sandstone mountains, soaring cliff faces, rock pools, waterfalls and caves. Despite the remoteness, Wuyi is surprisingly full of tourists – especially Taiwanese – in high summer, so a visit off-season might be preferable, when you’ll also see the mountaintops cloaked with snow. Sadly, as Wuyi Shan has developed into a major attraction, tourists have become regarded as fair game for some serious overcharging – in restaurants check the price of everything before you tuck in.
The traditional way to appreciate Wuyi Shan is to take a two-hour bamboo-raft trip along the Jiuqu River. Rafts leave daily between 7.30am and around 4pm all year round, from the small village of Xingcun. On arrival, locals will happily point you towards the river where boatmen wait to pick up tourists. Be prepared to be pushed, tugged, shouted at and generally cajoled into taking the final seat on a raft that is waiting to leave – even if you are travelling in a pair. At busy times the river becomes a noisy bamboo conveyor-belt, but, although it is hardly the tranquil experience it may once have been, from the first crook in the meandering river right up to the ninth, you’ll still have stupendous gorge scenery all the way. Watch out for the odd, boat-shaped coffins in caves above the fourth crook; they are said to be four thousand years old, and appear similar to those in Gongxian and along the Little Three Gorges in Sichuan.