China’s Guoliang tunnel road
Located in the Taihang Mountains of China, the small village of Guoliang is sitting on a mountaintop and was isolated from the rest of the world. The only way to reach it was to walk through a valley surrounded by steep cliffs, and then climb a series of cut out stone steps. Cut off from the rest of the world, the village was doomed to become a ghost town, unless a road could be constructed trough the cliffs.
This all changed in 1972. When the Chinese government decided it wasn’t worth to invest several millions into a road that would only be used by 300 people, the villagers decided to dig the tunnel road themselves. It was their only hope to get connected to the rest of the world.
Construction of Guoliang tunnel
It took thirteen villagers five years to finish the 1,200-meter long tunnel road (0.8mile). The tunnel is about 5 meters high (15 ft) and 4 meters (12 ft) wide. It is wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Without any training, the construction of the tunnel was very dangerous. Farmers were working with explosives on the steep cliffs. Some of them died in fatal accidents, but the others kept on digging. Finally, on May 1, 1977, the tunnel was opened to traffic.
The tunnel itself has several windows looking out over the valley. These were carved to push the rubble out. The road surface and tunnel walls are very rough due to the primitive tools the workers were using. The rough, narrow and steep road is very dangerous in wet conditions. It can get very slippery, so use extreme caution if you explore this road whe it rains. You don't want to fall off those cliffs.
After all, the construction of the tunnel was a success. First of all, the village was now accessible by car, a huge leap forward. When China opened its borders for tourism around the year 2000, the tunnel became an attraction with thousands of visitors every year. The village even started to build hotels to accommodate all these guests.
Xiyagou and Kunshan tunnel
Not so far away from Guoliang, but located deeper into the Taihang mountains, there are two other villages who connected themselves to the world by means of a tunnel: Xiyagou and Kunshan.
In 1962, a county official visited the village of Xiyagou. The road he had to take to get there was so scary and dangerous that he donated 3,000 yuan to the villagers to construct another, safer road. Twenty years later, after a few unsuccessful attempts, they decided the road would spiral across the surface of a cliff with windows along the way to remove the crushed rocks, just like the villagers in the nearby Guoliang had done it. The tunnel section (about 3km, or 2 miles) was finally completed in 1991.
Another tunnel road was also constructed in the nearby village of Kunshan. Very little is known about it, but just as the other tunnels it was constructed by farmers to create an easy access to their village. The pictures speak for themselves.
How to get there?
It’s rather difficult to find these tunnel roads. They are located in a very remote region deep into China. If you want to get there, you should start your trip in Xinxiang, a city in the Henan province (easy to find on google maps). Leave the city by driving north on Huanyu Avenue (the S229). After 13 miles you’ll enter the town of Huixian. Stay on the S229 for 15 miles more until you reach the junction with the S228. Turn left here and keep following the S229. After 8 miles you reach the village of Nanzhaizen. Turn left again and follow directions to Guoliang, 8 miles further.
As you can see on the map below, the three tunnel roads are located relative close to each other. There is, however, no direct road connection between Kunshan and Xiyagou. You have two options here: you can take the 2 mile (3km) hiking trial between the two villages, or make the 55mile (88km) detour through the Taihang mountains. Both offer stunning scenic views.