Caohai (草海, căohăi), the 5km-wide “Grass Lake”, forms the core of a regional nature reserve. Caohai is a twitcher’s paradise: wintering wildfowl shelter here in huge numbers, with over 170 different species spotted annually – including 400 rare black-necked cranes (黑颈鹤, hēijĭng hè).

At the lakeshore you’ll be approached by touts wanting to take you out on a boat trip to find the birds; prices are posted, so don’t pay more. Chinese tourists head first for a meal at the hamlet of Longjia (龙家, lóngjiā) on the far shore, famed for its food. On a sunny day, Caohai’s overall tranquillity is a complete break with daily life in China; wintering cranes often hang out in the shallows near the shore and are not too hard to catch on camera. Be sure to bring your boots as it gets quite muddy.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

China features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The roof of the world: a first-timer's guide to Tibet

The roof of the world: a first-timer's guide to Tibet

The ‘roof of the world’ has exerted a magnetic pull over travellers and adventurers for centuries. This vast, high altitude desert has spawned myths and leg…

10 Nov 2016 • Stuart Butler insert_drive_file Article
Video: 10 Taiwanese street foods you need to try

Video: 10 Taiwanese street foods you need to try

Street food in Taiwan has a charm that restaurants just can't match. There's a distinct pleasure to be found in wandering through the labyrinthine stalls glo…

24 Oct 2016 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Beyond the Jade Dragon mountain: stunning pictures of Yunnan, China

Beyond the Jade Dragon mountain: stunning pictures of Yunnan, China

After a few weeks exploring the region, Rough Guides travel writer and photographer David Abram shares some of his favourite images of Yunnan Province, China. …

18 Oct 2016 • David Abram insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month