Yantai is an inspired choice for those who want sandy beaches and unusual and beautiful attractions. This small city on the Shandong coast is known for its wineries, its scenery, and its ancient and modern architecture.
Stroll along Binhai Road in the day and enjoy the seaside scenery on one side and the modern architecture on the other. Visit at night and it's transformed into the 'Binhai Strip', a dazzling neon-lit expanse of bars and clubs with the Huanghai Sea Casino at its center.
The Karst Wine Resort on the Penglai road belongs to the universally acclaimed Changyu Wine Company. Or, visit the Changyu Wine Museum in the city for a look at the region's wine trade from the 18th century to the present day.
Plan a day trip to the Penglai Pavilion, one of the Four Great Towers of China. The 1,000-year-old tower is said to be the departure point of the Eight Immortals and its occasional mirages are legendary.
Said to be the birthplace of Taoism in the region, Mount Kunyu is the highest peak in the eastern Shandong Peninsula. Highlights include the Yan Xia cave with its statues of the Eight Immortals.
Overlooking the city from the north, Yantai Hill's colonial-era architecture recalls the days of British settlers. The park is home to several notable attractions including the Dragon Temple, Stone Ship, and Beacon Tower.
The charming port city of Yāntái has one of the fastest-growing economies in China, not surprising given its high tech industry and a colorful history of international trade and foreign settlement. Acclaimed by the United Nations as one of the world's most habitable places, Yāntái was home to consulates of 17 nations at one time. Many of those architectural gems can still be seen among the stone paths and ocean views of beautiful Yāntái Hill Park. The old American Consulate features an exhibition on Yāntái's bustling treaty port days, while the former British consulate overlooking the bay is surrounded by English gardens. There's also the remnants of a 'smoke tower' used to warn inhabitants of pirate raids. The austere Japanese consulate from the 1930s, with its interrogation/torture room, stands in stark contrast to the elegant colonial charm of the former Danish consulate.
Since its construction in 1061 the Penglai Pavilion has been known as a 'fairyland' where emperors sought magical elixirs, where the Eight Immortals of Chinese mythology were said to have landed, and where mirages at sea are still seen. Located 45 minutes from Yāntái at the northernmost tip of the Shandong peninsula, the structure is one of the Four Great Towers of China. There is a climb to the pavilion's cliffside perch, passing a number of temples and an ancient naval base, but its gorgeous sunrises and the strange mirages seen after heavy rains are worth the effort.
Home to China's largest and oldest winery, the Changyu Wine Culture Museum in Yāntái celebrates the grapes, wines, brandy and specially-produced 'health liquors' made here since 1892, after French diplomats were overheard discussing the region's wine-making suitability. With more than 500 wine barrels, the museum provides visitors tastings of choice reds and superb brandy.
While there are numerous beaches in Yāntái, picturesque Zhifu Island combines lush vegetation and forests with isolated sandy beaches, excellent clam fishing, and rocky crags and cliffs that overhang the Bohai Sea. Old coastline defensive fortifications only hint at Zhifu's history. China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, (259 BC - 210 BC), left inscriptions here when he visited the island in search of immortality, and archaeological excavations have uncovered evidence of a Neolithic period settlement.
Originally built as a guild for merchants and shippers, the Yāntái Museum traces the region's history and development from the Neolithic period through a succession of dynasties to the present day. Accented with stone columns, gardens, glazed ceramics and exquisite, brightly decorated carvings depicting various legends, the museum's most impressive building is the temple for the Goddess of the Sea, who offered safe haven for imperiled sailors.
The best time to visit Yantai is between April and October when the weather is pleasant and ideal for exploring.
International travelers can take a connecting flight to Yantai Penglai International Airport from major cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. The airport is 27 miles from the city and shuttle buses and taxis can be found outside the terminal.
There are daily trains to Yantai from Jinan and Qingdao and regular high-speed services from Shanghai, Xi'an, and Beijing via Tianjin. The railway station is north of the city center and served by bus lines 10 and 17.
You need a Chinese license to drive in China. If you are planning to drive, Yantai is easily reached by superhighway from Qingdao, Jinan, and Weihai.
It takes just three hours to reach Yantai by bus from Qingdao and just 15 minutes on the regular local service from Weihai.
If you want to be near one of the city's two main beaches, try the Crowne Plaza Yantai Seaview or the Sheraton Yantai Golden Beach Resort. Those wishing to be close to the city center might choose the Ramada Plaza Yantai or the Phoenix Garden Hotel.
Yantai Hill - an affluent neighborhood to the north of the city that's known for its colonial architecture and landmarks like the Dragon Temple.
Golden Beach - one of the city's two beaches and a great place to soak up the sun by day and party by night.
Yangma Island - once called Horse-breeder's Island, this pretty island is great for beachcombing and is home to some good seafood restaurants.
There are 30 bus lines in Yantai. No. 10 and No. 17 buses are the most useful to tourists - the 10 goes from the railway station to the coast passing Nandajie and the 17 goes to Laishan District via the coast.
Taxis are a relatively inexpensive option in Yantai. Most have a starting price of ¥8 and a half hour trip will cost ¥30.
Rent a car with a Chinese driver for ¥200-300 and visit Penglai or explore the wide open spaces at Changdao National Forest Park and Changdao National Nature Reserve over the cross-Bohai Sea flyway.
Pick up almost anything you can imagine from the thousands of vendors who gather at Sān Zhàn (Three Stations) Marketplace. Best buys include Chinese silk paintings and calligraphy, Laizhou jade carvings, and over 100 varieties of locally grown Yantai apples. Be sure to grab a few bottles of wine or brandy from Changyu Winery.
You'll find Chinese supermarkets in every neighborhood or you can buy food and basics at international chains like Walmart or Darunfa. You'll pay ¥17 for 12 large eggs and ¥11 for a quart of fresh milk.
The Happiness Restaurant serves delicious Chinese dishes made with local ingredients. A simple lunch is ¥26 while dinner for two with appetizers, dessert, and wine costs from ¥195 in a good restaurant.