With its bumper crop of antique buildings dating from the Ming and Qing eras, this gem of a walled town makes an ideal stopover if you’re travelling overland between Beijing and Xi'an. Strolling through its paved streets, whose thousands of old houses, courtyard mansions and shopfronts remain gloriously free of garish modern signboards and motorized traffic, feels like stepping into a scene from a Chinese epic.

Most impressive of all are the immaculately preserved, late 14th century walls, which retain their barbican gates and original watchtowers, from where the views over Pingyao’s time-warp roofscape of red-tiled, upswept eaves are wonderful. Spend a couple of nights here and you can also make an enjoyable day trip into the surrounding countryside to visit ancient temples and fortified village clan houses.


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