Treaty of Nanking

Saddle up to see the sights

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am


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Nanjing's geography makes it not only one of China's great ancient capitals, but also helps accommodate a modern-day local green movement.

The city was never large in terms of area, due in part to the defining City Wall, but it does have natural features: mountains to the east; the Xuanwu Lake in the centre; and the Yangtze River to the west.

The city is still in the early stages of its green development, so much of the eco-tourism options available require initiative and effort to see.

Home-style hotels, temple grounds and parks along the foot of Stone Mountain or south of the city centre along the banks of the Yangtze River are accessible by bicycle via small country roads and pathways. No tourist company yet offers such tours of the old capital's green and historic sites, but that shouldn't stop any determined traveller from exploring.

The best place to start is on top of the City Wall, which encloses the city centre and skirts the edge of Xuanwu Lake. Nanjing's city walls are ironically the first stop for the green-minded visitor.

A bike ride along, or on top of, the walls will lead you through the Confucius Temple District, past the lake to Zhonghua Gate, facing east towards the Purple Mountains.

The mountains curl around the eastern half of the city like a 'hidden dragon'.

You can cycle to the foot of the mountains, where a wooden plank road leads up into the hills and onwards to the Purple Mountain Observatory, past the Nanjing Music Pavilion and down into Linggu Park.

Hiking the Purple Mountains takes the better part of a day, but when you make it down to the eastern side you can take Metro Line 2 back to the city, or stay at one of the nearby resort hotels such as the Sofitel Zhongshan or the Purple Palace.

Alternatively, you can go on to the Tangshan Hot Springs, 20 kilometres east of the Purple Mountains. Forested hills surround the springs and a number of small lakes and man-made reservoirs.

The springs have been an eco-resort for centuries - you can cycle to the springs from the city centre and stay in one of the nearby spa resorts or in home-style accommodation in one of the picturesque villages.

One great trek is southeast from the city centre along Dingzhou Road to Zhouyang Road, past the Jingming Temple Memorial Forest and Jiangjun Mountain to the Niushou Mountain scenic area.

Stay a night at the foot of the mountain in a country hotel and then head back via Hongjue Temple, County Road 002 and Admiral Zheng He's tomb.