The world-class cuisine, vibrant culture and iconic skyline of Shanghai is enough to make you never want to leave the city, but look beyond the bright lights and you’ll find soaring mountain peaks, rushing rivers and bamboo-covered forests begging to be explored. From paragliding over the lush green hills of Hangzhou to hiking through breathtaking scenery, diving in crystal-clear waters to biking down dirt tracks, Shanghai and its surrounding areas offer plenty of activities to get your adrenalin pumping. Here’s our pick of the best places to try adventure sports in Shanghai.
With its proximity to the Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, the city makes an ideal base for exploring the rural landscapes and mountains of eastern China, and there’s no better way to enjoy its hills than by plummeting down them on two wheels.
Prodigy Cycling Club offers mountain bike trips out to various regions including Moganshan, a vast area located around three and a half hours from the city, where towering bamboo forests, remote farms, and steep gradients greet keen adventurers. For a weekend trip, try China Cycle Tours, who also operate tours to Qionglong – the highest mountain in the area – and Anji, a remote region characterised by rolling hills and fragrant tea farms.
If you’d rather stick a little closer to Shanghai, head to Sheshan National Forest Park (accessible by metro), and hire a bike from one of the rental agencies there to explore its rivers, mountains and peaceful nature trails at your own pace.
Imagine flying tandem over the hilly landscapes of the Zhejiang province, with nothing around but the distant hum of birds. Paragliding Shanghai organises trips out towards Deqing, located north of Hangzhou and around a two-hour drive from the city. The flight lasts up to 50 minutes, and they also offer courses for those wanting to learn how to go it alone. Wanna-Travel has other paragliding trips available – you’ll ascend 300m up a mountain and enjoy a barbecue at the very top.
Discover vibrant colours and coral-lined floors with Big Blue Diving School, which organises trips out to diving sites from its Shanghai outpost. You can take PADI courses with experienced, accredited instructors and embark on adventure tours to the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia, as well as sites within China. They also offer try dives in their on-site swimming pool.
Hiking The Yellow Mountains
Famed for their iconic, rugged rocks jutting out into the sky, the Yellow Mountains are an extraordinary sight to behold, and the view is all the better on foot. Located around a five-hour drive from Shanghai, Huangshan makes a good base for exploring the region, and several tour companies offer multi-day trips out from the city. Try China Highlights’ Yellow Mountains Hiking Tour to discover the area’s steaming hot springs and mesmerising landscapes in an adventurous, active way.
Feel the wind in your hair as you gallop on horseback through the open countryside. YEJO Circle offers tours from Shanghai to Jiangsu in the Suzhou district, and there are several equestrian clubs in the area. Qingqing Horse Riding Club is the closest to the city and provides lessons and guided trips for a variety of levels, as well as accommodation for those wishing to stay overnight. Songseng Equestrian Club, in Fengzxian, is also well regarded and offers several tracks alongside an international-standard hurdle arena and various training courses.
Lakes and rivers abound in Shanghai’s surrounding areas, so why not embark on a kayaking or white water rafting trip? Shanghai Outing Club offers a joint hiking and kayaking tour to Nanbei Lake, near Jiaxing (around a 1.5-hour drive from the city centre). After climbing up to Eagle Nest Peak for stunning views overlooking the distant ocean, you’ll kayak along the water, admiring vibrant splashes of green and sweeping mountain vistas.
Tour operators in Shanghai offer white water rafting trips out to various neighbouring regions, such as Xinan Jiang (near Huangshan) and Da Xia Xia (near Tonglu), where you can ride extreme rapids while taking in the natural, wild beauty of China’s diverse countryside.
For other water sports in Shanghai, head to the DianShan Lake, located around an hour west of the city. The large body of fresh water is a popular destination for windsurfing, canoeing and sailing, alongside various other activities such as dragon boat racing.
If the thought of jumping 55 metres off of a ledge – the equivalent of a 33-storey building – sends you flocking rather than fleeing, embark on Wanna-Travel’s trip to the nearby bungee. You’ll go to a local amusement park and tumble through the sky at speeds of up to 64 km/h, before continuing the adrenaline adventure with the park’s other attractions. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but there is a barbecue involved, just in case that helps eschew any doubts.
Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights to Shanghai, bringing adventure sports within easy reach.
Have you tried any of these adventure sports in Shanghai? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.