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10 Places to Visit in China for a Trip of a Lifetime

As a vast and fantastic country with very long history, there are many places to visit in China, which would reward you a memorable trip of a lifetime with picturesque landscapes, profound cultural atmosphere, amazing historical heritages, or interesting art achievements, etc. However, what are the best China places to visit within the limited travel time? Here is a list for reference.

10 Places to Visit in China


Beijing: The Capital City of China

The Temple of Heaven
Highlights: the political and cultural center of China, over 3,000 years’ history, rich historical sites and royal remainings
Top Attractions: Forbidden City, Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Hutongs
Best Time to Visit: April-June, September-November

Beijing, the capital of last two ancient dynasties in China, collecting many grand attractions showing the imperial lordliness, such as Forbidden City – the world’s grandest wooden architecture complex, and the Summer Palace – the most beautiful Chinese garden. In addition to the royal grandness, you may also discover some interesting folk customs along the Hutongs and in the courtyards. At the same time, Beijing is the current capital of China full of modern skyscrapers and fashion things. As the old and new elements make a perfect fusion, Beijing becomes one of top China visiting places. Last but not least, standing on the north edge of the Central Plain, many Great Wall sections were built for defense purpose and some are still in good conditions like Badaling and Mutianyu. It can say that a tour to China without Beijing is not complete.

Beijing Tours
 Recommended Tour:  2 Days Mini Group Beijing Tour from $299

Xi’an: Most Ancient City with 3,000 Years’ History

Xi'an City Wall
Highlights: long history, the ancient capital of 13 dynasties, the starting point of Silk Road, numerous historical sites
Top Attractions: Terracotta Army, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, City Wall, Mt. Huashan
Best Time to Visit: March-May, September-October

Xi’an is one of the oldest cities and the best known ancient capital in China. In its about 3,000 years’ history, 13 dynasties have founded their capitals there, including Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC - 771 BC) at the earliest, Qin (221 - 207 BC) the first dynasty of the unified China, the successive Western Han Dynasty (202 BC - 9 AD), and the strong Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD). They have left Xi’an abundant historical relics, which makes Xi’an an old-timey and popular place to go in China. You would see the Terracotta Warriors with the same size with real warriors made 2,200 years ago, China’s most complete City Wall constructed more than 600 years ago, high Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, the old landmark Bell Tower, numerous treasures collected in Shaanxi History Museum, etc. Visiting Xi’an, you will have the feelings traveling back to the glorious days in ancient times.

Xi'an Tours
 Recommended Tour:  3 Days Best Xi'an Private Tour from $349

Shanghai: Megacity with Modernity and Stylishness

Shanghai: Megacity with Modernity and Stylishness
Highlights: a modern metropolis with piercing skyscrapers, colonial background, one of the richest cities in China
Top Attractions: the Bund, Yuyuan Garden, Nanjing Road, Tianzifang, Zhujiajiao Water Town
Best Time to Visit: April, May, September to November

Compared with Beijing and Xi’an, Shanghai is quite young, but it still has some historical sites worth visiting, like the Yu Garden, Jade Buddha Temple and Old City God Temple. Since early years of the 20th century, this China visiting place had been developing quickly due to the colonial background, which earned its the reputation “Oriental Paris”. The various western style buildings on the Bund and in Former French Concession remind visitors of this. Nowadays, Shanghai has been developed into a huge metropolis full of modern and stylish skyscrapers. You could climb up to some of them, like Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower or Jin Mao Tower opposite the Bund to overlook the city. And you can see old Shikumen residences and characteristic street arts in Tianzifang and Xintiandi, go shopping on Nanjing Road with large malls, taste local food outside the Yu Garden, relax at a bar on Hengshan Road, etc.

Shanghai Tours
 Recommended Tour:  4 Days Private Shanghai Tour with Tongli from $299

Chengdu: Home for Giant Pandas

Chengdu: Home for Giant Pandas
Highlights: cute pandas, hot and spicy Sichuan cuisine, ancient Shu Civilization
Top Attractions: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Jinsha Site Museum, Wuhou Temple, Jinli Street, Dujiangyan Irrigation System
Best Time to Visit: March-June, September-November

Chengdu, in the southwestern China, has been a heavenly land because of the mild climate and abundant resources. In particular, it is the home to giant pandas. You can see quite many of these lovely creatures of all ages at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, especially the baby pandas, which is what you cannot see in any place else. Chengdu is also one of wonderful places to see in China as the birthplace of ancient Shu civilization – the local culture that formed 3,000-5,000 years ago. Sanxingdui Museum, Jinsha Site Museum and Wuhou Temple are the spots for you to learn the local culture and civilization. The even more attractive thing in Chengdu is the numb and spicy Sichuan cuisine. Kung Pao Chicken, Ma Po Tofu, Sliced Pork in Hot Chili Oil, Hot Pot, and other more dishes would whet your desire to eat. Wide and Narrow Alley and Jinli Street are best spots to try the appetizing foods, as well as to taste the leisurely life of the local people. In addition, Mount Qingcheng and Dujiangyan Irrigation System are worth a visit as well, which can be reached by high speed train from Chengdu within about half an hour.

Chengdu Tours
 Recommended Tour:  One Day Chengdu Tour to See Pandas

Zhangjiajie: Wondrous Avatar Mountains

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Highlights: grotesque mountain peaks in various shapes
Top Attractions: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (Wulingyuan Scenic Area), Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, Yuanjiajie, Fenghuang Ancient Town
Best Time to Visit: April-May, September-October

Zhangjiajie is a mountainous China visiting place with unique beauty. There are plenty of rocks and peaks in fantastic shapes, looking like a man’s hand with five figures, or the reviewing troops, or a cock peaking its food, etc. The Hallelujah Mountain in the movie “Avatar” was shot among one of them in Yuanjiajie. Apart from the amazing peaks, the forests, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls will enrich your trip as well. Also, the Glass Bridge hanging over Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon is great to test your braveness and have a bird’s eye view of the charming valley. If time permits, you can get to Fenghuang Ancient Town not far away, where the stilted houses by river and the Miao nationality people would make your eyes light up.

Zhangjiajie Tours
 Recommended Tour:  5 Days Zhangjiajie & Fenghuang Ancient Town Tour from $839

Guilin & Yangshuo: Classical Cruise down the Li River

 Guilin & Yangshuo: Classical Cruise down the Li River
Highlights: China’s No.1 landscapes, Li River cruise
Top Attractions: Li River, Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave, Longji Rice Terraces, Moon Hill
Best Time to Visit: April-October

Guilin has always been one of the most beautiful places to visit in China, with idyllic sceneries along Li River. The cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo along the Li River is always the top thing to do for tourists, on which you could see the villages and lush hills on banks, including Ox Gorge, Half-Side Ferry, Mural Hill, Yellow Cloth Shoal, etc, unveiling in front of you like a pretty scroll picture. Getting to Yangshuo, bamboo drifting is also available on Yulong River – the longest tributary of Li River, to experience the primitive local life of fishermen and even more primitive natural scenery. You may also go hiking along Li River and cycling around Yangshuo. What’s more, the noted Elephant Trunk Hill, the landmark in Guilin downtown, cannot be missed.

Guilin Tours
 Recommended Tour:  4 Days Private Tour of Guilin & Yangshuo from $509

Suzhou: Classical Chinese Garden Art

Suzhou: Classical Chinese Garden Art
Highlights: classical gardens, old water towns, Kunqu Opera
Top Attractions: Humble Administrator’s Garden, Tiger Hill, Lingering Garden, Zhouzhuang Water Town, Shantang Street
Best Time to Visit: all seasons, especially the spring time

Two places in China have been renowned as “Heaven on Earth” since ancient times and Suzhou is one of them. As a best place to visit in China, Suzhou is especially famous for Chinese classical gardens, attracting countless visitors home and aboard. These appealing gardens, including Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lingering Garden, The Master of Nets Garden, are well-designed with traditional houses, pavilions, corridors, ponds and rockeries. Suzhou is also surrounded by several water towns not inferior to Venice. If you would like to visit water towns in China, Suzhou is the best destination. Besides, you may also visit other Suzhou historical sites like Hanshan Temple, taste local snacks on the old Shantang Street, watch a performance of Kunqu Opera or Suzhou Pingtan, and appreciate fine Su embroidery works.

Suzhou Tours
 Recommended Tour:  Suzhou Highlights Day Tour with Classical Gardens from $121

Hangzhou: West Lake & South China Water Towns

Hangzhou West Lake
Highlights: legendary West Lake, water towns, Longjing Tea, Zhejiang cuisine
Top Attractions: West Lake, Lingyin Temple, Thousand Islets Lake, Wuzhen Water Town
Best Time to Visit: spring from Mar. to May, autumn from Sept. to Nov.

Hangzhou is the other reputed “Heaven on Earth”, hence a highly recommended place to visit in China. Its best known attraction is the West Lake. It is not only a large natural lake, but also surrounded by many historical heritages. There are many marvelous views in different seasons, which is to say, you could enjoy the wonderful sceneries all year round. Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring, Winery Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer, Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn, Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge in Winter, etc. have been the popular sights to see at West Lake. Leifeng Pagoda, Tomb of General Yue Fei, and other historical sites around the lake are frequently visited, too. The Meijiawu Tea Plantation, Xixi National Wetland Park, Qinghefang Ancient Street, and light flavored Zhejiang cuisine, are all attracting for tourists as well. In the surroundings of Hangzhou downtown, there are many water towns. Wuzhen is the typical one where the traditional houses line along the rivers.

Hangzhou Tours
 Recommended Tour:  2 Days Hangzhou City Tour with West Lake from $239

Luoyang: Origin of Chinese Kungfu

Luoyang: Origin of Chinese Kungfu
Highlights: Shaolin Kung Fu, Chinese Buddhism culture, peonies
Top Attractions: Longmen Grottoes, Shaolin Temple, White Horse Temple, China National Flower Garden, Luoyang Museum
Best Time to Visit: April, September and October

Luoyang, an old city in right central China, houses the fantastic landscapes. However, it is not what make the city one of the China visiting places. For oversea tourists, the most attractive part of Luoyang is the Shaolin Kung Fu, as its origin, Shaolin Temple is located there. There, you can watch the monks practicing Kung Fu and even learn a few moves from them. Luoyang is also the original place of Chinese Buddhism, as the first Buddhist temple in China – White Horse Temple was established there. And Longmen Grottoes with a large number of Buddhist statues is unmissable in Luoyang, as it is a treasure house of best Chinese stone carvings. Moreover, the national flower of China – peonies are in full bloom all over the city in April.

Luoyang Tours
 Recommended Tour:  Luoyang Essences Day Tour to Shaolin Temple & Longmen Grottoes from $148

Tibet: Mysterious Inland up the Himalayas

Tibet: Mysterious Inland up the Himalayas
Features: the roof the world – highest place on the earth, Tibetan culture
Top Attractions: Potala Palace, Norbulingka, Sera Monastery, Mount Everest, Namtso Lake
Best Time to Visit: June-September for Lhasa, Apr.-Oct. for Shigatse

Getting your Tibet Travel Permit, you can travel to Tibet on an organized group tour, to explore the land on Himalaya Ranges. It is a special place in China to visit, not only because of the high altitude and special landscape, but also because of the Tibet nationality and their colorful culture, which make the place mysterious and more absorbing. You could visit the landmark Potala Palace, the majestic palace with the highest elevation around the world; Norbulingka, the Tibetan royal garden; Namsto Lake, the highest salt lake as well as a holy pilgrimage site for Tibetan; etc. Whatever, this plateau will offer you an unforgettable tour with the unique attractions you have never seen in other places.

Tibet Tours
 Further Reading:

9 Historical Places in China You Should Never Miss

Top 10 China Tourist Places for Culture Lovers

Top 10 China Main Cities for Nature Lovers

- Last updated on Jul. 20, 2023 by Catherine He -
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