The Swallow Cave east of Jianshui is famous for the millions of swallows that nest underground. Early every morning in spring and summer, when the swallows leave the cave, they fill the entire sky.
The karst cave consists of a lower part, where the Lu river flows, and a higher – dry – section formed when the water level was much higher.
Visitors enter the cave through the large opening where expert local climber compete in the most dare-devil stunts to affix banners to the stalactites high about the river – a tradition that apparently dates back to imperial times. The first few hundred metres of the cave’s walls are covered in birds’ nest, leaving barely an inch of free space. The walk then leads visitors past the usual kitsch illuminations (complete with explanations in Chinese and English), the karaoke-bar and a restaurant so large it fills the biggest underground cavern. The return journey is by little dragon boats on the underground river.
In late summer, when the swallows have finished breeding and are returning to southeast Asia for the winter, the birds nest – which are considered a delicacy by the Chinese – are harvested in a big festival, celebrated on 8 August.
Transport hourly or so from Jianshui's main bus terminal. The new railway also has a station there, but a scheduled train has yet to stop.
Swallow Nest Festival 08 Aug 2021