SIPPING cocktails on a luxurious yacht, getting lost in a natural bush maze, riding a speedy jet ski or fishing in a quiet bay — Qiandao Lake offers all this and more.
The lake covers 978 square kilometers and boasts 1,078 large islands in Zhejiang Province and is about a four-hour drive from Shanghai.
The area was once a mountainous region with remote villages, but in the 1950s the villagers were relocated to make way for a reservoir. The islands that now dot the lake were once mountain peaks. The result is a paradise for those who love vacations by the water. Everything from surfing and sailing to boating and swimming is available.
Weekends at Qiandao Lake are especially popular as outside of water activities, visitors are keen to try local delicacies, go island sightseeing or cycle around the lake. There are seven five-star hotels in the area including Hilton, Sheraton and Narada.
Now is a wonderful time to visit since it’s still warm enough for water sports but not crazy hot like most summers in the area. Here’s a quick rundown of what to do at Qiandao Lake.
Get wet and wild
There are around 15 locations offering a variety of water sports and a further eight places that offer boating, surfing and sailing.
For those seeking an adrenalin rush, rent a jet ski. After learning how to operate a jet ski, skim across the lake’s surface at up to 50kph. Jet skis certainly pack a thrill.
For something slightly more sedate, there is sailing and surfing. Beginners can get lessons from coaches before going it alone. There’s also paddle boats and kayaks.
Leisurely boating and rafting tours are also available. These trips slow things down to about 5kph, making it great for gazing at the scenery and taking photographs. If you have children, don’t be surprised if they want to try the “water roller,” an inflated cylinder floating on water. It’s big enough for families to walk inside as it rolls across the lake.
The price for boating and kayaking is from 100 yuan (US$16) to 200 yuan per person per hour. Going jet skiing, surfing or sailing costs from 180 yuan to 300 yuan per person with the coaches setting the route in advance.
For well-heeled travelers, there is an option to hire a luxurious yacht. Greentown Yacht Club has four yachts for hire at 10,800 yuan per hour. The yachts cater to groups of up to 12 people. The club will stop at one island featuring a natural labyrinth. Hidden among bushes and trees, the maze has numerous crisscrossing paths that even makes it difficult for locals to find their way out.
Green Yacht Club manager, Ye Haichao, says they receive a lot of corporate clients.
“Companies like organizing water sports for employees as a team building activity and some big companies even give yacht tours to employees as incentives.”
As of now, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving is not allowed in the lake. However, the resorts all have swimming pools and water amusement parks also have numerous facilities for everyone to splash about for hours on end.
Cycling on Greenway
For years cycling along the 140-kilometer Greenway has been one of the most popular activities at Qiandao Lake because the views are gorgeous. It’s not that crowded and automobiles are banned.
Get a map at your hotel and plan your route. Bikes can be rented for about 20 yuan per hour or 100 yuan a day (tandem bikes are more) at hotels or bike-rental spots along the lake.
The Greenway circles the main body of the lake and features some good climbs and fun downhill sections. The annual Tour de Qiandao Lake Cycling Race is held on the Greenway.
Some parts of the route haven’t been connected yet, meaning one needs to cycle on the main road for short time. The entire circular route will be completed by next year with the option to rent and return bikes at any spot along the route.
Sample local delicacies
The area is famous for its fish head pot and Chinese tourists are usually licking their lips in anticipation of tasting this salty and spicy dish. The fish head is cooked with pepper and soy sauce, creating a delightful smell.
Those new to the dish may feel a bit squeamish, but don’t worry, there’s no need to eat the brain. Most diners eat only the neck and cheek meat. But some do enjoy cracking the fish skull open and devouring the brain.
Other local dishes include fish, shrimp and water snails. The local favorite is baihua fish and it’s on the menu of every restaurant in the area. This large fish is usually steamed with some pepper, has tender flesh and not many bones.
All fish and shrimp are fresh from the lake.
Travelers also have the option to buy dried fish products to take home for cooking. Mix the small ones into soups or fry them with vegetables, and steam the big ones to serve separately.
Peaceful night cruise
Every evening a three-story, antique-looking boat departs at Fisher Dock at 6:30pm and returns two hours later after dinner is served.
The boat is nicely decorated with hand-painted wallpaper, wooden furniture and warm lighting.
The chefs are locals and make really tasty and authentic Qiandao Lake dishes with fresh fish and shrimp.
There’s also the option to skip the meal and just have tea on the third floor, which includes a deck that is great for shutterbugs.
The cruise also includes dancing, singing and sometimes acrobatic performances after the meal.
Call 0571-6506-7070 for more details.
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