For a city of over three-million, Guiyang is a pretty down-to-earth place. In the grand scope of China’s huge population, this is the equivalent of a midsize mountain town, filled with content citizens enjoying their easy access to the great outdoors. Indeed, Guiyang’s greatest asset are its surrounds: limestone karst formations, caves, and rivers make it a great landscape for adventure on any level.

In nearby Tianhetan, you can explore by boat, navigating canals and flooded caves with your private guide. China’s “Grand Canyon” is also in this region, formed by the regional karsts and teeming with waterfalls. The city makes the most of its pleasant climate and beautiful surroundings as well, with plenty of civic parks to get a glimpse of local life.

In addition to the natural appeal of the region, the land surrounding Guiyang is inhabited by many minority cultures. Its remote reaches have sheltered villages and vulnerable populations, which now enrich the cultural landscape. In addition to these minorities, the mountains and rivers also protect traditions of the Han Chinese. The Han were the first to press into the southwest portion of the country, using their might to go beyond the Yangtze and the Nan Mountains. As warring dynasties and eventually World Wars and Communism erased many of the Han traditions, pockets of preservation remained nestled in the far reaches of the Southwest. Now Guiyang and the southwest offer visitors the rare opportunities to look deeply into China’s past, not as a cultural show, but as a living preservation of China’s roots.

Your journey to the surrounding areas is also your best chance to purchase unique and authentic regional wares. West of Guiyang you will find the villages where Anshun Batik is produced. Two other ethnic groups, the Miao and Gejia, produce fine silver jewelry in traditional designs. All of these things can be found in exclusive urban boutiques, but Ker & Downey takes you deep into the region to meet the artisans and craftsmen behind the beauty.