Miyun Reservoir in suburban Beijing. With a sound ecological system, the county now features a flourishing ecotourism industry. Photos Provided to China Daily
Simatai, a section of the Great Wall, was listed by Reuters as one of the world's 25 must-see places.
Yunmeng Mountain, a major scenic site in Miyun, is well known for its natural beauty.
Changyu Chateau AFIP Global and large vineyards nearby in the county
Fish caught from out of Miyun Reservoir
Beijing suburb's wealth of natural beauty provides elegant escape
Increasing numbers of people are flocking to Beijing suburb Miyun county in search of a break from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Official statistics show that the county, which has a population of about 470,000, drew 8.14 million visitors in 2011, up 9.2 percent from 2010.
Lying at the foothill of the Yanshan Mountains, Miyun is less than a two-hour drive northeast from downtown Beijing, which makes it ideal for those weary of long-distance travel by car.
The largest of districts and counties in the capital city, it covers 2,229 square kilometers, more than 72 percent of which is made up of forests. As a result, the negative oxygen ion content of its air is 40 times higher than that of urban Beijing.
Miyun is renowned for its mountain landscapes, with some of the best offered at Wuling, the peak of the Yanshan Mountains.
Standing at 2,218 meters above sea level, Wuling is a place to get closer to unspoiled nature. It is the habitat of more than 1,800 species of plants and nearly 200 species of wild animals.
All these elements of nature coupled with an average summer temperature of 17 degrees Celsius make it an ideal place to spend the times when Beijing's heat is at its worst.
A major rival of Wuling is the Yunmeng Mountain, which never fails to impress visitors with all its rocks, plants, caverns, waterfalls, and ponds, a combination rarely seen in northern China.
Miyun is also home to the Simatai Great Wall. Perching precariously on the Yanshan Mountains, the 5.4 km section is separated by a valley into two parts.
The western part appears gentle, with 20 well-preserved watchtowers dotting the wall, whereas the eastern part is much steeper, following a more rugged terrain that includes cliff edges and kilometer-high peaks.
"The Great Wall is the best of the Chinese buildings, and Simatai is the best of the Great Wall," said Luo Zhewen, a renowned specialist on ancient Chinese architecture.
Simatai also sits atop a list of 25 must-see places in the world released by Reuters in 2011.
Miyun has more to offer than those well-known names, such as the Sea of Flowers, said a local tourism official.
The Sea of Flowers is a huge garden nestled among hills, with a creek winding around it. Covering 120 hectares, the garden mainly consists of lavender. In all directions as far as the eye can see, there is nothing but romantic purple scattered with couples wandering along the lanes that pass through it.
There are also some 20 species of other flowering plants so that there are blossoms through most of the year.
A visitor said it is "by no means" inferior to Provence, a region in southwest France renowned for its extensive fields of lavender.
What lends Miyun a more European air is a 1,500 mu compound of Gothic buildings. Sitting at the center is the Chateau AFIP, a castle built by Chinese wine giant Changyu and its partners. Here, visitors can tour the vineyard, enjoy a large assortment of wines and learn how to become a wine taster.
They can also visit the church or drop into the cigar bar as they roam around.
Miyun is also known for its water reservoir. Built in 1960, it has a 188 sq km surface and is the largest artificial lake in northern China.
Thanks to this large body of water, Miyun is a famed place to taste freshwater fish prepared in the rural style.
There are a dozen varieties of fish living in the reservoir and all taste fresh and tender, especially the indigenous Chaobai carp.
This is partially thanks to a long fishing moratorium that stretches from late April to late September and a large deposit of iron ores lying at the bottom of the water, local fishermen say.
Liu Zhenxiang, manager of a local fish restaurant, said he prepared fish for more than 130 tables of visitors on the busiest day during the National Day Holiday.
Local villagers are also innovating the way fish is prepared through such new dishes as fish noodles. Probably unique nationwide, they have instantly won praise from many visitors, especially those from northern China, where noodles are eaten more often than in the other parts of the country, said its inventor Chen Shuling, an agricultural tourism hostess.
It has also been listed among eight local specialties in Miyun since its invention in 2007.
(China Daily 11/05/2012 page4)