Sakura season: boat trips in a sea of blossoms

Writer: Li Dan  |  Editor: Lin Songtao  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2024-03-25

Every spring between March and April, crowds flock to tourist destinations across China renowned for beautiful blossoms, with cherry blossoms, or sakura, being one of the highlights.

People often gather and sit under the trees, bringing food, drinks, and occasionally music with them. The trips are tangibly pleasant as well as symbolic, a chance to recognize and reflect on the beauty of nature while welcoming the new season.

Instead of beating the crowds for a spot under the trees, there are other options, as some of the top cherry blossom destinations also offer boat trips, where visitors can float on lakes while taking in the beauty of spring flowers on the banks.

East Lake, Wuhan

An aerial view of the East Lake in Wuhan, Hubei Province during the sakura season. Photos by Xinhua

Covering an area of 88 square kilometers, the East Lake scenic area in the capital of Hubei Province consists of 12 lakes and ponds, dotted with 120 islands and surrounded by 34 lakeside hills covered in lush greenery. A 55-meter-tall Ferris wheel called “East Lake Eye” stands picturesquely by the lake.

Together with Wuhan University, the Cherry Garden at East Lake is a must-visit during the sakura season. The 35-hectare garden is home to over 10,000 cherry blossom trees of over 80 species, including Yoshino cherry, Oshima cherry, Fugenzo cherry, and a very rare Gyoiko cherry. Unlike most other cherry flowers that vary in the shades between pink and white, Gyoiko cherry blossoms, with 15 to 20 petals per flower, are in a yellowish-green color, contrasting against their slender pink stamens. Gyoiko has a blooming season lasting from mid-April to the end of the month.

As this year’s cherry blossom festival is in full swing, visitors can take a boat — with fares starting at 40 yuan (US$5.6) per person — to float on the lake, stopping at Mo Hill, Huguang Pavilion, and Chufeng Garden to enjoy the flowers.

The festival also features a flea market selling creative souvenirs and an interactive show at the Sankeshu Theater in the Cherry Garden.

Shouxihu Lake, Yangzhou

Yangzhou in East China’s Jiangsu Province is an ancient city dating back to the 5th century B.C. Shouxihu, or Slender West Lake, is a man-made lake in the city’s southwest, gaining the interesting name from its long and narrow shape. A lakeside garden features elegant traditional Chinese architecture, including the White Pagoda and the iconic Five-Pavilion Bridge. Nearby, Xiaojin Hill offers a breathtaking panorama of the lake from a hilltop kiosk.

With a myriad cherry species in the garden, visitors can enjoy the beautiful flowers from early March to late April. Floating on the lake, people will marvel at the view of elegant pavilions, bridges and rocks poking out of a sea of pink blossoms, feeling as if they were traveling in a Chinese painting. The best venues to enjoy the blossoms are Cherry Blossom Valley and east of Ouxiang Bridge. The boat cruise fare starts at 45 yuan per person.

Yuantouzhu, Wuxi

The Yuantouzhu Isle in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province is turned into a pink wonderland in March and April.

Yuantouzhu, also known as Turtle Head Isle, is a peninsula situated at the northwest of Taihu Lake, the third-largest freshwater lake in China. This tourist destination in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province gets its name for huge rocks protruding into the lake, appearing as if a swimming turtle tosses its head.

Between early March and early April, over 30,000 cherry trees dot the verdant island and turn it into a pink wonderland. Visitors can enjoy leisure cruise time on Taihu Lake just as Fan Li, a politician and business tycoon from the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.), did a thousand years ago, while enjoying the breathtaking views of the blossoms; or they can take a walk along the shore and immerse in the scenery, where blossoms shine like pink clouds against a backdrop of classical Chinese architecture. The boat fare starts at 20 yuan per person.

The best places to appreciate cherry blossoms in the area include Sakura Valley, Lovers’ Valley, and Changchun Bridge, among others.

With the 2024 Taihu International Cherry Blossom Festival ongoing, visitors can try snacks at the caravan food fair and participate in fun experiences such as painting workshops and fish catching. Remember to try their cherry-flavored ice creams.

Yuyuantan, Beijing

Yuyuantan is the go-to place for cherry blossoms in Beijing.

Located in Beijing’s Haidian District, Yuyuantan, also known as Jade Lake Park, is the go-to place for cherry blossoms in the Chinese capital.

In the northwest of the park lies Cherry Garden, home to over 2,000 cherry trees. In the spring of 1973, the first 180 cherry trees were sent as gifts from Japan to be planted in the garden.

A stretch of blooming cherry trees extending 1,000 meters along the lake is a spectacle to take in, and visitors can also view the China Central Radio and TV Tower, a landmark of the city, beyond the sea of pink blossoms.

With the flowery trees and blue sky reflected on the lake’s surface, and fallen petals decorating the lake, a boat trip can be a dreamy experience. The price for a cruise starts at 80 yuan per boat.

West Lake, Hangzhou

The very definition of classical beauty in China, West Lake in the capital city of Zhejiang Province is mesmerizing: Pagoda-topped hills rise over willow-lined waters as boats drift slowly through an idyll of leisurely charm. Walkways, perfectly positioned benches, parks, and gardens around the banks of the lake offer numerous vantage points for visitors to admire the faultless scenery.

Late March is an ideal time to visit, for the blooming cherry trees add a touch of romance to West Lake. Taiziwan, Quyuan Fenghe, Gushan Island, and Liulang Wenying are some of the best spots to view the blossoms. Most trees by the Red Carp Pond are Yoshino cherry, which don a pale red color as they first open and become completely white in full bloom.

Hiring a boat from Su Causeway to Quyuan Fenghe, visitors can be mesmerized by the view of pavilions poking out of a sea of blossoms, all reflected on the clear lake.

The boat fare starts at 70 yuan per person.

Instead of beating the crowds for a spot under the trees, there are other options, as some of the top cherry blossom destinations also offer boat trips, where visitors can float on lakes while taking in the beauty of spring flowers on the banks.