Where Dragons Roam A SQUIVER landscape PHOTOgraphy TOUR to China

Discover the Far East

China offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, and on this unique tour we will visit three different locations that will blow your mind: Huangshan, Wulingyuan, and Xiapu. This is the only photo tour in the world that offers these three locations on one trip.

Let's start by introducing you to our three main shooting locations.

The Huangshan pine tree is endemic to the mountains of eastern China.

Please click on the link below to watch the tour impression video clip, containing some of the highlights of this trip:


Huangshan means "Yellow Mountain", and has been a well-known destination for scholars, poets and alike, all seeking personal inspiration and enlightenment – during our visit you will easily appreciate why. Situated in the southern portion of the agriculturally rich Anhui Province and bordering Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces, the picturesque Huangshan has long been described as a wonderland and as "Heaven on Earth."

Huangshan, also known as Heaven on Earth.

Mount Huangshan is renowned for its magnificent natural scenery which includes massive granite boulders and ancient pine trees which are often further enhanced by cloud and mist effects. This dramatic landscape includes formations of natural stone pillars, grotesquely-shaped rocks, waterfalls, caves, lakes and hot springs, formed by its complex geological history. The area features numerous imposing peaks, 77 of which exceed an altitude of l,000 m, with the highest, the famous Lianhua Peak (Lotus Flower Peak), reaching up to l,864 m. The formation of the remarkable peaks and breathtakingly sharp precipices has been attributed to the many thousands of years of geological activity on the imposing granite mountains, creating the astounding natural wonder visible today. Huangshan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the sister national park of Yosemite.

The Sea of Clouds, and one of the most spectacular cable cart rides in the world.

The mountaintops often offer views of the clouds from above, known as the "Sea of Clouds" or "Huangshan Sea" because of the cloud's resemblance to an ocean, and many vistas are known by names such as "North Sea" or "South Sea." One writer remarked on the view of the clouds from Huangshan as follows:

"To enjoy the magnificence of a mountain, you have to look upwards in most cases. To enjoy Mount Huangshan, however, you've got to look downward."

It's easy to see why Huangshan has been such a great inspiration to Chinese artists for many centuries. The black and white version of this image was recently awarded in the European Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition.


Wulingyuan is comprised several national parks, the most famous of which is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, a 243 square mile park full of stunning karst pillars of sandstone, covered with sub-tropical rainforest.

Wulingyuan is located in northwest of Hunan Province, the south of central China. In 1950s, this area was national timberland. This breathtaking quartz sandstone was first explored by logging workers. In 1982, Zhangjiajie Forest Park was founded as the first National Forest Park in China. Now it is part of Wulingyuan Scenic Area, called Yellow Stone Village. In 1992, the whole area was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. In total it covers around 398 square kilometers.

Fog is rising from the valleys of Wulingyuan.

There are more than 3,000 narrow quartzite sandstone pillars and peaks, and most of them are over 200 meter high. Between the peaks lie ravines and gorges with streams, pools and caves. This region is also the home to a number of endangered plant and animal species, and it is the most important Chinese giant salamander nature reserve in China.

A surreal collection of giant rock pillars as far as the eye can see.

The elevation of the pillars and peaks is between 700 and 1250 meter above sea level. Between 700 m and 950 m, there is a mix of evergreen and deciduous broadleaved trees, including Chinese plum yew and pines. Above 950 m, there is a mix of deciduous broadleaved trees, bushes and herbs. In some area below 1,000 m, extensive areas are dominated by pine.

Spectacular views from every angle. Note the dwarfed pagoda.

The weather here is humid and it is always cool in the evening on the top of the mountain. On some days, rainfall will create mist that surrounds the huge pillars and peaks, resulting in an even more spectacular landscape. It's easy to see why director James Cameron was inspired by the Wulingyuan pillars when he created his famous movie Avatar.

Pandora, from the movie Avatar.
Welcome to planet Wulingyuan.


Xiapu is a small region along the southeast China coastline in Fujian Province. Xiapu is still unknown to western tourists, so consider it a real privilege to be one of the first western photographers to visit this unique coastal scenery!

The home of seaweed and nori in China, Xiapu’s coast area size is twice the size of the inland area. Its history dates back to the Jin dynasty (282 AD), when it was a regional center. The coastline is 480 km, and there are more than 200 islands and 138 ports. The total tidal flat is 69,300 hectares.

Xiapu’s tidal mudflats and local fishermen’s daily work offer great photographic opportunities. Here we can capture fabulous graphic photographs of local fishermen and their marine culture. We will visit many different viewpoints at both sunrise and sunset to get a good variety of angles and compositions.

This image was recently awarded in the Travel Photographer Of The Year competition.

A typical image includes thousands of bamboo poles draped with seaweed, egrets, and local people working on the mudflats. This is the theme of many a Chinese ink painting.

Day to day program

Note: we are currently working on making this itinerary even more efficient. The order of things may change.

Day 1: Hangzhou

After we arrive at Hangzhou Airport, we will drive to our Hangzhou hotel. We'll have a Meet & Greet, dinner, and a briefing for the next day.

Day 2: Hangzhou to Huangshan

This morning, we drive 4 hours to Huangshan where we will stay a night at the bottom of the mountain. Here we'll visit and photograph the Tangyue Archway. This complex has the best preserved arches in the Anhui province. If time permits, we will visit a bonsai garden as well.

Tangyue Archway, surrounded by yellow canola.

Day 3: Hongcun and Huangshan

In the morning we'll drive to Luzhou to photograph Hui style architecture in large fields with yellow canola flowers. After a brief stop here, we will visit Hongcun, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most photogenic villages in China. The town is built along the banks of Nan Lake - a great place to take photographs of traditional South Anhui architecture and culture.

Chinese culture by iPhone, photographed in picturesque Hongcun.

After lunch, we'll drive to reach the foothill of Huangshan. We will ascend the eastern side of Huangshan, taking a spectacular cable car ride up the mountain. Once we reach the top, we'll walk slowly downhill to our hotel, with lots of photography along the way.

Day 4-6: Huangshan, on top of the mountains

We spend another three full days photographing in Huangshan, high up in the mountains. And in order to explore the best sections of the park, we will stay at two different hotels on the top of the mountains.

One of the many platforms and viewpoints in Huangshan.

The terrain is steep and the peaks are high. You will feel dwarfed by the size of the landscape you're in. There are many walkways and paths that connect all the viewpoints and peaks. And each platform will give you a new perspective on the magnificent mountains and gorges.

Pine trees by iPhone.

Day 7: Huangshan to Wulingyuan

After our last morning photography session on top of the mountains in Huangshan, we will descend after breakfast and take the cable cart down.

We have quite a long drive ahead of us to Shanghai, where we will catch a plane to Wulingyuan (which we have renamed "pillar country"). We check in to our very comfortable hotel in Zhangjaijie to catch some good nights rest, so we are ready for our next big adventure.

Day 8-9: Wullingyuan, on top of the mountains

Today we visit two different shooting locations. We start with a visit to Zhangjaijie forest park (Yellow Stone village), where we will take the earliest cable cart up, to get a taste of the sandstone pillars.

Even with an iPhone you can take great pictures at Wulingyuan.

After lunch, we check out from our hotel and take the 335-meter elevator up to Yuanjiajie to photograph the "Avatar rock" and a 2 km gorge.

Our local vans will meet us at the top of the elevator and drive us to our guesthouse, close to Tianzi mountain, where we will stay the two coming nights.

For these two nights up on the mountain we have selected a number of spectacular viewpoints for you, from where you can photograph the peculiar pillar-like landscape. We will be driving around in vans (4 people per van) to catch the best light in Tianzi mountain and Yuanjiajie.

A giant natural rock arch, off the beaten tracks.

Day 10: Wulingyuan

After our morning photo session, we will descend the mountain again by elevator and visit Zhangjiajie forest park (Yellow Stone village) another time, to see it with afternoon light.

Day 11: Wulingyuan to Xiapu

This is the only real "travel day" we have in the program. In the morning we drive to Changsha, where we will catch a flight to Fuzhou. From there we drive to Xiapu.

Day 12-14: Xiapu

In Xiapu we have planned three full days of photography. We will be photographing from various shooting spots, giving you lots of opportunities to play with the graphic scenes you will see enfolding before your eyes.

Day 15: Xiapu to Shanghai

After our morning photography session, we take the high-speed train to Shanghai. Here we will have a farewell dinner in a restaurant with view over the river, where we can reminisce about the wonderful landscapes we had the privilege of visiting.

Don't worry if you can't read Chinese - many signs and menus are translated into perfect Engrish.

Day 16: Depart for home

Today everyone will take a flight home. Unless you booked the Guilin extension! In that case, your China adventure will continue for another 4 days! Please find details about the extension further down.

Fitness level

Huangshan The Huangshan mountains are very steep. There are no roads, buses or taxis when we are up high. We will use a cable car to reach the top of the mountainous area, but once there, walking is the name of the game.

The walkways in Huangshan mountain area are properly engineered 2m wide paved paths with handrails. To get from one viewpoint to another, you'll have to climb steps. There are said to be a total of 60,000 steps on the paths. You definitely don't have to be a trained athlete to get around, but we recommend you visit your local gym before the trip - just to get your body used to walking a lot of steps. That's what we plan to do!

If you're OK with walking up and down the steps, but your camera bag is too heavy for you to carry, then you can hire a porter to carry your bag for you. Daniella for instance has bad knees, and she is going to hire a porter to carry her bag. Just so you know. No need to feel guilty about it: you won't be the only one with a porter. So hire one if this idea appeals to you! Porter stations are dotted around the mountain. However the paths are well enough made for most people to walk.

The trick is to walk slowly, at your own pace, and take plenty of breaks. You will see a lot of 70 and 80 year old Chinese women walking up and down the steps, so it can be done!

Wulingyuan The trails here are also paved and consist of many steps, but the trails are a lot shorter and have fewer steps than Huangshan. By the time we get to Wulingyuan, you will already have had a few days of exercise in Huangshan, so Wulingyuan should be a lot easier. Here it is not possible to hire porters.

Xiapu Compared to Huangshan and Wulingyuan, Xiapu is super easy. If you can lift your camera, you're good to go!

Accommodation & food

All locations we go to on this tour are not used to catering for western tourists. This means that the restaurants will serve Chinese food. Not western Chinese, but Chinese Chinese. You will experience the traditional cuisine, and it won't resemble anything from your local take-away. No need to worry though, because we will make sure there will be no Golden Retriever stir fry or Rodent Chow Mein. Some of the hotels we will stay at in the bigger cities will have an international menu.

Don't worry - just kidding.

As for hotels, as usual, we have selected the best possible accommodation for each location. However, foremost, we will always try to stay at a place that's close to our shooting locations. Sometimes it will be a five star luxury hotel, and sometimes it will be a very basic guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. We ask you to be flexible, because you will experience both extremes on this tour.

The weather

Our trip will coincide with the start of the monsoon season. This is not a coincidence. We want the occasional rain, because rain causes clouds and mist in the valleys of Huangshan and Wulingyuan. Mist is what adds the magic to your images, so that's why we have chosen this particular time of year. This means that you will have to bring a rain coat, rain pants, and rain covers for your camera bag and equipment. But the weather being the weather, it's hard to predict what is going to happen exactly. We may not get any rain and nothing but sunny blue skies, or we may get so many clouds that we can't see the landscape anymore. It's all in the game.


2019 - tour 1: 9 March - 24 March (16 days)

Tour leaders: Marsel van Oosten, Daniella Sibbing and local guides

Fee 7,600 USD (single supplement 950 USD) from Hangzhou, China.

Deposit: 1,500 USD

Group size: min. 8 participants, max. 12

Photography level: all experience levels (non-photographing partners will also enjoy this tour)

Genre: landscape

Fitness level: moderate

What's included

  • 2 domestic flights, including airport tax
  • English speaking local guide
  • all local transport
  • all accommodation
  • all meals
  • drinking water and soft drinks
  • all tips & gratuities
  • daily briefings
  • photographic instructions
  • in the field tips & tricks
  • image reviews
  • loads of fun

And what's not

  • porter in Huangshan (approx. 90 USD per day)
  • international airfares
  • expenses of personal nature
  • insurances
  • visa

But wait, that's not all! We have also set up a 4-day extension to Guilin.

Cormorant fisherman, Guilin

Extension: Guilin

Date 2019 (after tour 1): 24 - 27 March 2019 (4 days)

Tour Leader: English speaking local guide (the same one as on the first part of the tour)

Fee: 1,850 USD (single supplement 325 USD) from Shanghai, China.

Group size: min. 2 participants

Guilin is famous for its karst mountains and traditional cormorant fishermen.

Guilin is a city in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China, situated on the west bank of the Li river, and bordering Hunan to the north. Its name means, "Forest of Sweet Osmanthus," owing to the large number of fragrant Sweet Osmanthus trees located in the city. The city has long been renowned for its scenery of karst topography and is one of China's most popular tourist destinations.

If you have the time to add this extension to your trip, then we recommend that you do, to experience life on and around the Li river and the rich local culture.

Day 16: Shanghai to Guilin

Today, you will fly from Shanghai to Guilin and check into our hotel in Yangshuo, where you will stay for the next 3 nights. The city of Yangshuo feels very different from the rest of China; it is more hippie-like, with a laid back atmosphere. And for that reason very popular with westerners. The hotel we have chosen for the extension is located at walking distance from the famous, busiest and oldest street in Yangshuo: West Street, with a lot of little shops and restaurants. A fun place to go for a walk!

In the afternoon you will drive along Yulong River near Yangshuo to photograph some of the landscapes.

Day 17: Yangshuo

Today the day starts early. And with that we mean REALLY early! In the small hours of the night you will be driven to a small harbor, where a private boat will take you down the Li River. This river is considered by many as one of the most beautiful rivers in China. Cruising along the Li River, you may feel as though you are idling along a corridor of landscape paintings of limestone pinnacles set against terraced rice fields and picturesque villages.

Before dawn you will arrive at the selected location to shoot beautiful sunrise pictures of a local cormorant fisherman.

Cormorant fisherman, Guilin.

After the sunrise shoot, the boat takes you to Xingping, an ancient town near Yangshuo. As you sit on the deck of the boat, it will seem as if you are viewing one scroll painting after another. This landscape has inspired Chinese artists of all sorts for thousands of years. You'll have breakfast at a little restaurant in town and take a walk around Xingping. Over thousands of years Xingping has retained its Ming (1368-1644 AD) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) style old architecture and the original town layout. At the dock, you can get a picture of the "immortal" scenery that can be seen on the back of the RMB 20 notes.

From Xingping you will be taken back to Yangshuo by car, stopping on the way at a fishing town for a photogenic local market. On this route you will see all kinds of orchards and fields: sugarcane, rice, mandarin orange, grapefruit, orange, mango, etc. And of course there is the possibility to take photographs en route.

In the afternoon, you will be taken to a location to photograph the sunset at Putao mountain for panoramic pictures of the famous karst mountains.

View from one of the many karst mountains.

Day 18: Yangshuo

This morning, we take a climb and photograph sunrise on top of the Xianggong mountain. After that, we go on to photograph Putao mountain with side morning light.

In the afternoon, we will have another session with the traditional fishermen and cormorants. This time at sunset in the town of Xingping.

Day 19: Depart for home

After a morning photo session on top of Five Finger mountain our trip has come to an end. We have breakfast at our hotel and everyone will be taken to the airport, for their individual flights home.

What's included

  • domestic flight and airport tax
  • English speaking local guide
  • all local transport
  • all accommodation
  • all meals
  • water and soft drinks
  • fishermen models
  • daily briefings
  • loads of fun

And what's not

  • international airfares
  • expenses of personal nature
  • insurances and visa

Come and join us!

We hope that you have enjoyed reading through this digital brochure and that you'll join us in China! If you want to book the Guilin extension as well, please add this to the comment field in the booking form.

Please note: Itinerary may be subject to change. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by our local guide.

All photographs ©Marsel van Oosten, Michael Deng
Created By
Marsel van Oosten


All photographs ©Marsel van Oosten, Michael Deng

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