Despite receiving the highest rainfall of any region in China, Guizhou is the country’s poorest province, due mainly to the paucity of cultivable land – around 80% of its surface area is covered by steep-sided limestone outcrops, which makes for tough farming terrain, but dramatic landscapes of mountains, forests, spectacular waterfalls and caves.
As well as being physically distant from the Han Chinese heartland, Guizhou is also culturally distinct. Just under half the population is made up of ethnic minorities – the largest concentration in China – and in rural areas many women still to sport elaborate wigs, fancy silver headgear and even, in the case of the ‘Lorn-Horn Miao’, wooden buffalo horns.
This traditional garb, along with the festivals, cuisine and wooden architecture of Guizhou’s many minority groups provides the principal incentive to travel in the region, but wildlife enthusiasts will find plenty of inspiration here too, particularly in the forests near the border with Yunnan, where elusive Golden monkeys may still be sighted, along with flocks of rare black-necked crane in remote lake reserves, against beautiful backdrops of snow-capped mountains.
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