(CNN) — West Lake may be the pinnacle Hangzhou experience, but just outside the city are an assortment of camera-and hike-worthy views.
These five local favorites are listed in order of nearest to furthest from the city center:
1, Tianmu Mountain Scenic Area 天目山景区
The closest thing in China to California's Sequoia National Forest, Tianmu Mountain (or Tianmushan) is stacked with Japanese cedar trees that tower to dizzying heights.
Hikers here are consistently awed by this mystical, UNESCO-listed biosphere.
Amid Buddhist, Daoist and Confucian temples and graveyards hidden in the woods live hundreds of rare animal species, 39 of them endangered, such as the bizarre hairy-footed muntjac (黑鹿) and clouded leopard (云豹).
Getting there by bus: Buses depart every 15 minutes from Hangzhou West Bus Station (杭州汽车西站) to Lin'an (临安). From there take a taxi to Tianmu Mountain (Tianmushan 天目山).
From Shanghai, take the high-speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥火车站) to Hangzhou City Railway Station (Cheng Zhan 杭州城站), then take a taxi to Hangzhou West Bus Station and follow the previous directions.
2. Longmen Ancient Town 龙门古镇
The old buildings of Longmen Ancient Town.
Hometown to descendants of Three Kingdoms emperor Sun Quan (90% of the population here is reportedly surnamed Sun), Longmen is one of China's few remaining well-preserved feudal-era towns.
As they have for thousands of years, residents still live in Imperial-era homes, daily trodding across stone-cobbled streets. The elaborate dragon, horse and lion dances that take place every year during Lantern Festival and Dragon Boat Festival thrill throngs of onlookers each year.
Getting there by bus: From Longxiang bus depot (龙翔汽车站) in downtown Hangzhou, take the No. 514 to Fuyang City (富阳市). After arriving, grab a taxi to Fuyang West Bus Station (富阳客运西站). Then take a county bus directly to Longmen Ancient Town (龙门古镇), $0.60 (RMB 4.5) per person.
From Shanghai, take the high-speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥火车站) to Hangzhou City Railway Station (Cheng Zhan 杭州城站), then take a taxi to Longxiang Bus Depot and follow previous directions.
3. Tonglu County 桐庐县
If water's your thing then Tonglu County is for you.
One of the most developed, activity-packed, yet pastoral locales within the Hangzhou municipality, this popular getaway is famous for its ubiquitous red lanterns, which lend a mystical, picturesque charm to the entire countryside after dark.
Tonglu County is home to river-rafting and fishing amid exotic, sculptured backdrops. Lush nature trails wander past creeks, waterfalls and reservoirs.
Also in the area is E'shan She-nation Ethnic Township (莪山畲族乡), an authentic She ethnic minority village.
Getting there by bus: From Hangzhou South Bus Station (杭州汽车南站, RMB 25) or Hangzhou West Bus Station (杭州汽车西站, RMB 29), multiple direct buses leave throughout the day for Tonglu (桐庐).
From Shanghai, take the high-speed train to Hangzhou from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥火车站) and follow the previous directions. Or take the bus directly to Tonglu from Shanghai North Long-distance Bus Station (长途公司北区客运站), one bus daily at 6 a.m.
4. Thousand Island Lake 千岛湖
Hangzhou is known for its lakes.
Outdoors activities are the draw in this big recreation and resort area, which is built around a massive reservoir in Hangzhou municipality's southwestern corner.
There are speedboating, water skiing, animal-themed island-hopping, mountain climbing, biking and hiking options galore -- also excellent seafood and everything from budget cabins to five-star hotels.
The vastness of the area almost guarantees privacy and tranquility away from the expected tourist zones.
Getting there by bus: Take the bus directly from Hangzhou West Bus Station (杭州汽车西站) to Thousand Island Lake Town (Qiandao Hu Zhen千岛湖镇). Buses depart every 30 minutes from 6 a.m.-6:50 p.m. Then take the taxi or bus to the desired scenic area.
From Shanghai, take the bus directly from Shanghai South Bus Station (上海汽车南站).
5. New Leaves of Ancient Dwellings 新叶古民居
With its fanciful name, this quiet, little-visited Ming Dynasty countryside nook has been featured in numerous travel and photography magazines.
Of note is the white-washed Jiangnan-style architecture (from south of the Yangtze), which can be found in Xinye Village (新叶村), a remote community consisting of some 230 antiquated residences. The village has been hailed as China's largest open-air museum of ancient residential buildings.
Nearby is Daci Rock (大慈岩), a Yuan-era temple built on a sheer mountain cliffside.
Getting there by bus: Take the bus from Hangzhou West Bus Station (杭州汽车西站) directly to Jiande (建德). Then take a taxi to Jiande South Bus Station (建德汽车南站) and get on the county bus directly to Xinye Village (新叶村).
From Shanghai, take a high-speed train to Hangzhou from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (上海虹桥火车站), then follow previous directions.