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4 Days Suzhou & Hangzhou Photography Tour

Water Towns & Exquisite Gardens - Poetic Jiangnan


"In heaven there is paradise, on earth, Suzhou and Hangzhou". Suzhou and Hangzhou is the backyard of the metropolis Shanghai. It is well worth exploring classical gardens of Suzhou, elegant water towns, and West Lake in the Jiangnan golden triangle cities.

It is all about culture and discovery in this photography tour. It needs you to open your eyes and open your heart to catch the finest scene with your camera. And at last, you’ll capture the vivid and authentic China.

This Suzhou & Hangzhou photography tour can be customized depending on what photos you want to take, and on the weather condition when you go. Feel free to tell your interests and ideas to your personal travel consultants!

Basic Photography Info

Travel Route: Shanghai / Suzhou / Hangzhou

Travel Length: 4 Days

Tour Code: CD-PTSHT-04

Tour Type: Customizable Private Tour

Departure: You Choose (you may plan it according to the best season and time.)

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Itinerary Details Day by Day

Day 1 Suzhou

In the early morning of today, you will be picked up from the train station or your hotel lobby by your private tour guide and driver, then set out for today’s exciting things to do.

Start with an interesting visit to Humble Administrator’s Garden, one of the Four Greatest Gardens in China as well as the largest and most grandiose one among all Suzhou Gardens. The Classical Gardens of Suzhou was listed as the World Heritage Site in 1997 because “the gardens of Suzhou” represent the development of Chinese landscape garden design over more than two thousand years", and they are the "most refined form" of garden art”, according to UNESCO. Among all the Suzhou Gardens, Humble Administrators’ Garden is the largest one in Suzhou and is considered by some to be the finest garden in all of southern China. It is an artistic combination of buildings, ponds, bridges, paths and trees arranged in a specific manner. Scenic, peaceful and eloquent, everything in the garden tells a story of the past time. After visiting the classic garden, move on to next site - Shantang Ancient Street, a wonderful place for a relaxing walking or leisure cruise on canals. It used to be an important trade and culture center during Ming and Qing Dynasties, and now is famous as “the miniature of old Suzhou and the window of Wu culture”. Enjoy the ornate water-town style architectures, marvel at the bustling streets and savor at local snacks.

In the afternoon, you will go to explore the most historical site in Suzhou - Tiger Hill. The famous Chinese poet in Song Dynasty (960-1279), Su Shi, once said, “It is a lifelong pity if having visited Suzhou you did not visit Tiger Hill.” He was definitely right. The hill is only 36 meters in height, but covers about 3.5 acres areas with a number of historical sites some of which have history over 2,500 years. The most famous sites include the Yunyan Pagoda which is an over-1000-year-old pagoda with seven stories in height and famously leans much the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Sword Pool where the King of Wu, He Lu, tested and buried his treasured swords about 2500 years ago. Apart from the history, the Tiger Hill is also an amazing place to go for a walk, enjoy natural scenery and experience local custom.

Elegant Jiangnan Sceneries in Humble Administrator's Garden Suzhou Tiger Hill Shantang Street
Day 2 Suzhou - Zhouzhuang - Suzhou & High Speed Train to Hangzhou (B, L)

Today after breakfast, you guide and driver will pick you at your hotel to visit the most outstanding museum in Suzhou – Suzhou Museum which is the masterpiece of the world-famous architect I. M. Pei who has built Louvre's pyramids in Paris, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Miho Museum in Japan and many extraordinary buildings all over the world. While he was designing the Suzhou Museum, he combined the features of classical Suzhou Gardens with modern and fashionable characteristics. The museum has collected more than 40,000 decent items of ancient Chinese art, ancient Chinese paintings, calligraphy, porcelains, jade wares, handmade crafts, etc., from bronze ages to Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Next, take about a half-tour driving to the beautiful water town of Zhouzhuang. Reputed as the No. 1 Water Town in China, Zhouzhuang is one of the “ten most beautiful towns in the globe” and “world charming water town” with a long history of over 1000 years, appealing sightseeing and authentic flavor of regions south of Yangtze River in China. Visiting Zhouzhuang Ancient Town, you can see 14 ancient particular stone bridges built in Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, multiple courtyards linking together on the winding water, more than 800 residents living by the river, etc. which is exactly the look of serene historic water town in east China. Besides the scenery, the special folk culture in Zhouzhuang will tell you about the real gem of culture in Wu area and the sole of this charming place. Famous attractions include the Double Bridge, Old Drama Stage, Cultural Street, Zhang’s Residence and Shen's Residence, etc. 

Optional Activities: 1) take a boat to go through the canals to appreciate the fascinating scenery of water, bridge and local residences and listen to the old songs of the local sculler. 2) watch an authentic Kun Opera Performance.

After the tour, your guide and driver will escort you back to Suzhou City and take high speed train to Hangzhou.

Suzhou Museum Zhouzhuang Zhouzhuang Water Town Locals
Day 3 Hangzhou (B, L)

On this day, try to get up early to catch the elegant sunrise of West Lake. Just as the famous traveler Marco Polo praised: “Hangzhou is the most beautiful city in the world”, you’ll take photos around West Lake with your camera to witness its exquisiteness and beauty. The highlights for your photography cover Broken Bridge (shoot “Lingering Snow over the Broken Bridge in Winter”), Bai Causeway (shoot sakura and peach flowers fully blooming and willows weeping in the wind in spring), lotus in bloom in North Inside Lake and Yue Lake (shoot the famous scene – “Lotus Swaying in the Breeze”), Su Causeway (shoot “Dawn at Su Causeway in Spring”)…enjoy your time for creations.

In this afternoon, go to appreciate Chinese silk by visiting China National Silk Museum to have full knowledge about 5000 years Chinese silk history and the Silk Road, as well as take photos of Chinese and Western fashion and clothing changing over the centuries.

Later, you’ll take a 45-minute leisure cruise to enjoy the tranquil lake view, shoot “Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon” and take excursion to the largest island on West Lake - “Xiao Ling Zhou”. When the gorgeous sunglows shining upon the glittering water, press your shutter to shoot “Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset” at Shuangtou Bridge.

Please note:

  • 1. The above photography sites and scenes are listed for reference. It may do some adjustment based on different season and weather to best shoot “West Lake Ten Scenes” and other scenery.
Splendid Sightseeing of Hangzhou Sunset West Lake Summer Scenery West Lake Sunset at Changqiao Park
Day 4 Hangzhou & Hangzhou Departure (B, L)

On this day, you'll first visit Lingyin Temple. With a history of nearly 1700 year, Lingyin Temple is hidden in the luxurious forest, and offers charming and peaceful landscape and impressive Buddhist culture. Next, extend your visit to the adjacent Feilai Peak, also known as Peak Flying from Afar, which flew to China to spread Buddhism from India according to the legend. It features in uncountable Buddhist carvings lining the riverbanks and hillsides and tucked away inside grottoes (highlights for photography: shoot the grand halls in axis, devoted prayers and ancient stone carvings).

Later, drive about 7km to Meijia Dock Dragon Well Tea Village, a picturesque wonderland surrounded by mountains with large area of tea plantations. You can go for a walk among the tea plantations, stand on high to shoot the panoramic view of the whole tea plantations, marvel at the beautiful surrounding sceneries, also sit down to enjoy a cup of the best Dragon Well Tea.

After that, transfer to the nearby site - “Bamboo-lined Path at Yunqi” to feel the bright sunshine glimmering on the verdurous bamboo leaves and take some amazing photos.

After the tour, you will be escorted to the airport or railway station for your flight / train to next destination.

Please note:

  • 1. It is not allowed to take photos in Buddhist halls. To shoot the figures of Buddha, photographers should ask for permission of the temple.
  • 2. In spring during late March to May, it is the tea-picking season at Meijiawu that photographers can catch the chance to shoot numerous locals picking tea in their tea plantations.
Lingyin Temple Meijiawu Longjing Tea Plantation in Spring Yunqi Zhujing

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Water Towns Photography Guide

Zhouzhuang Water Town Photography Wuzhen Water Town Photography Wuzhen Water Town Photography

In Jiangnan area, many small rivers flow through this region. There are top 6 famous and well preserved water towns remaining in Zhejiang and Jiangsu province. The water towns are rich in culture. Zhouzhuang, reputed as No.1 water town in China, and Wuzhen, known as the profound cultural background, are very famous for photographers to catch the soul of water towns. They could shoot the traditional Chinese architectures dated more than 1000 years ago, bridges within bridges on rivers and small boats going through them, and the local people unique life style...

Best Sites for Photography

Zhouzhuang Water Town

Zhouzhuang, called “Venice of the East”, is the No.1 water town in China, noted for its profound cultural background, the well preserved ancient residential houses and the elegant watery views. Over 60 percent of the residential houses were built the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Photographers could shoot the symbol of Zhouzhuang - Double Bridges (Shuang Qiao), Fuan Bridge, Shen House, Zhang House, Milou Tower, Chengxu Temple and many other waterscape like boat pass through canals, ancient buildings along canal, etc.

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen, with a history of 1300 years, is one the top 6 water towns in Jiangnan Area. The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal runs across the town, making it the only ancient water town adjacent to the canal. Enter into Wuzhen, you’ll see the ancient stone bridges floating on mild water, stone pathways between the mottled walls, delicate wood carvings...giving you a unique experience through its profound cultural background. It is divided into two scenic areas: Wuzhen East Scenic Area (Dong Zha) and Wuzhen West Scenic Zone (Xi Zha).

Dong Zha: It keeps the traditional cultures and original ancient features. Photographers could wander in the six districts and shoot traditional workshops, local-styled dwelling houses, traditional shops and stores, the Former residence of Mao Dun and more cultural sights. It is recommended to shoot in the early morning and in the afternoon.

Xi Zha: It is quieter than Dong Zha. It consists of 12 small islands, connected each other by more than 70 bridges. Photographers need to take boat to explore Xi Zha. The charming architectural features like colonnades, bridge within a bridge, balconies, piers, wooden windows and doors, and gray stone walls and paving should come into your pictures. It is good to shoot Xi Zha at night which will give you different feeling.

Best Season for Photography

Spring and Autumn are the best seasons to photograph in Jiangnan Water towns. In spring, the flowers are blossom and the trees turn green that add more charm into your pictures. In Autumn, the water towns present another scene which looks more ancient, taking you back to the time of ancient China. The best time to shoot in water towns are in the early morning and in the late afternoon. In the morning, the canals are sometimes foggy and misty like a dreamland. In the late afternoon, when the visitors leave, the ancient Wuzhen presents in front of you.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Photographic equipment

Bring wide angle lens, medium telephoto lens, tripod.

2. Get up early

The water towns is crowded every day. To get the quiet side of the water towns, try to get up early in the morning and you’ll catch the best moment to shoot the peaceful towns and local’s everyday life.

3. Evening shot

Both Zhouzhuang and Wuzhen are suitable for evening shot. When the light turn on and reflect on the water, everything looks different from the daytime view. In Wuzhen, it is good to shoot Xi Zha (Wuzhen West Scenic Area).

4. Transportation Info

Zhouzhuang is located in Suzhou, 60 km from Shanghai. Wuzhen is located in Jiaxing, about 130km from Shanghai.

For more photography advice in Jiangnan water towns, you can feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!

Exquisite Gardens Photography Guide

Suzhou Garden Photography Suzhou Garden Photography Suzhou Garden Photography

Suzhou is famous for the exquisite gardens. The top 9 classic gardens, including Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lingering Garden, are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Best Sites for Photography

Humble Administrator’s Garden

The Humble Administrator’s Garden is not only the Suzhou’s largest garden, but also one of the top four gardens in China. Originally built in 1509 by a retired magistrate Wang Xianchen, now it ranks the best representative of Chinese classical gardens with Ming Dynasty style.

Photographers could shoot in the eastern, middle and western parts. In the middle part (essence of the garden), you could shoot the Hall of Drifting Fragrance, Listening to the Sound of Rain Pavilion, Prunus Mume Pavilion, Magnolia Hall, etc. In the western part, shoot Floating Green Tower, the Stay-and-Listen Pavilion, the Pagoda Reflection Pavilion, the Good-For-Both-Families Pavilion, etc. In the eastern part, shoot the Hanqing Pavilion, Celestial Spring Pavilion, Far Away Looking Pavilion and All blue Pavilion and more winding streams, flowers and trees.

Lingering Garden

With a history of more than 400 years, Lingering Garden is one of the top four gardens in China. Built in typical Qing Style, it is well-known for its exquisite beauty of magnificent halls, peaceful lakes and unusually-shaped stones. In 1997, Lingering Garden, along with other classical gardens in Suzhou, was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

In Lingering Garden, photographers shoot in the middle, eastern, northern and western parts. In the western part, you could shot the earthen hills studded with yellowstones and covered with maple trees, a winding brook lined with peach trees and weeping willows. In the middle part, shoot the attractive buildings such as iu’s Hanbi Villa, the Pellucid Tower, the Green Shade Pavilion, the Zigzag Stream Tower and more sites. In the northern part, shoot the bonsai in the bonsai garden. Shoot garden courts and many other sites in east part.

Best Season for Photography

It is good to visit from late March to early November. In different season, the Suzhou gardens change their colors and show us different feeling. Most photographers head to shoot Suzhou gardens in spring. During this time, flowers are in full bloom and the gardens is like a beautiful young lady present her elegant figure.

Tips from Our Experts

1. Understand garden design

Suzhou gardens are designed to create ensembles of great beauty and peaceful harmony. Appreciate the underlying philosophy, literature, art and craftsmanship shown in the architecture, gardens as well as the handcrafts.

2. Photographic equipment

Bring Ultra wide angle zoom lens, telephoto lens. Use back light and Rembrandt light to shoot in the morning and in the late afternoon.

3. Visit early

Know the opening hours and visit the gardens when they are less crowded. Humble Administrator’s Garden/Lingering Garden open hour is around 07:30-17:30 in peak season and 07:30-17:00 in low season.

4. Shoot Details

Shoot the pavilions, towers, temples, bonsai, ancient trees, exquisitely carved door frames, windows, hangings, etc.

For more photography advice in Suzhou gardens, you can feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!

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