What are the top ten things to do in China?
China is the second-largest country in Asia, and is home to well over a billion people, making it the most populous land on earth. It is this great size that gives China its immense diversity. After all, where else can you find a country that has both great lakes and a desert, the most cutting edge technology and architecture, and towns where life has gone unchanged for centuries and one of the earliest civilizations?
It would take many lifetimes to see and experience everything, so to help you plan, we have put together this short list of the top ten things to do in China.
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1Take in the Sights and Sounds of Beijing
Beijing, China’s capital, is indisputably one of the great cities of the modern world. It is a place where the past, present, and future collide. Nowhere else can you explore traditional Siheyuans (a form of traditional dwelling) and Hutongs (a narrow street in old, traditional areas of the city), grand imperial palaces (consider the beautiful Summer Palace), and the most cutting edge of modern skyscrapers, all within the same city.
Despite its reputation for busyness, the city is very welcoming. One of the most popular places in the city, the austere Forbidden City – the home of the Chinese Emperors – was completely closed off to all but a select few for centuries. Today, it is fully open to visitors as is the beautiful Summer Palace with its gardens and lakes.
2Walk Atop the World-famous Great Wall of China
There are few landmarks in the world as well known and celebrated as the Great Wall. It is the longest man-made structure in the world, measuring a spectacular 13,000 miles (or 21,000 km). This is made more impressive when you consider that some of the sections are well over 2000 years old! Given this immense size and age, it’s not surprising that some areas of the wall are in ruins or entirely lost to time. Yet in some areas, the Great Wall looks like it could have been built yesterday.
There are, of course, no shortage of places to view the Wall. However, we recommend seeing it in Jinshanling in Hebei province, which is not as crowded as the other parts.
If you are close to Beijing, however, we recommend seeing the Wall at Mutianyu, which is located in the city’s outer limits. It is one of the best-preserved sections of the Wall in China. But wherever you see it, visiting the Great Wall can be one of the most powerful experiences to take home from China.
3Explore Historic Xi’an
Xi’an is one of the most historically significant cities in China. The first emperor of China, the infamous Qin Shi Huang, ordered the creation of the grand Terracotta Army to be constructed near the city. And they still stand there today, ever vigilant.
Interestingly, although they look identical from a distance, each of the 8000 figures has their own unique design and characteristics, which has led some historians to believe each one is based on a real person who lived and died many centuries ago. The figures were built to protect the first emperor in the afterlife. In fact, his yet-to-be excavated tomb rests in a hill near the terracotta figures. For a lover of history, visiting Xi’an is one of the top things to do in China, as it is easily one of the most culturally significant sites in the country.
4Enjoy the Vibrant City of Shanghai
Shanghai is one of the most populated cities in the world, with over 24 million people calling it home. This gives the city an energy unlike anywhere else. It is a city constantly on the move, constantly growing, constantly innovating. Viewed from Puxi, the city’s skyline resembles something straight out of a science fiction movie. It is dominated by futuristic towers, and the towering Oriental Pearl Tower building, known for its pink colored spheres.
Despite the ultra-modern facade, Shanghai hasn’t lost its connection to its ancient history. A number of beautiful temples, traditional neighborhoods, and historical districts such as the curiously European Bund and French Concession, stand testimony to the city’s heritage.
5Take a Tour Through the Miraculous Guangxi Province
Few regions in the world are as beautiful as the Guangxi Province in China. It is a land of narrow hills of limestone, gently flowing rivers, and raised rows of traditional rice terraces. Enjoy a gentle cruise down the Li River, passing lush green forests, karst limestone peaks and rustic villages in the Yangshuo area of Guangxi.
Walk through the cobbled streets of peaceful, ancient towns like Fuli, the artistic center of the region, or Huang Yao, a town that seems untouched by time. A far cry from the bustle of big cities such as Shanghai or Beijing, on a tour of Guangxi, you will experience a glimpse of Chinese tradition and history in a way that is truly authentic.
6Visit the Fascinatingly Diverse Yunnan Province
Situated on the border of Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, Yunnan Province is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse areas in all of China. Dozens of different ethnic minorities such as Tibetans, Naxi and Bai all call Yunnan home, which gives the region a cultural vibrancy quite unlike anywhere else in China. Apart from its diversity, Yunnan is also extremely beautiful. Here you will find the rugged Tiger Leaping Gorge over the Yangtze River, and the impossibly blue waters around Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which is best viewed from a cable car.
Yunnan Province is also famous for its ancient rice terraces built by the Hani people centuries ago. These rice terraces extend for a vast 103 square miles (or 166km), reflecting the sun in vivid colors as it rises and sets. It is one of the most beautiful sights in all of China and a photographer’s delight!
7Taste the Best of Chinese Cuisine at Chengdu
Chinese food is popular the world over thanks to its taste and great diversity of flavors. Each region of China has its share of great places to eat but, if you want to enjoy the very best of Chinese cooking, then we recommend visiting Chengdu in the Sichuan province. The city, and the Sichuan region at large, are famous for the bold use of herbs and spices, which brings a real intensity and strength to the food.
We suggest trying Shuang Jiao Tu (fried rabbit with peppers) or Hong You Chao Shou (spiced dumplings in chili oil) for a taste of real Sichuan cooking. Book a food tour in Sichuan and enjoy the very best of regional food in specially selected restaurants.
8Explore the Gardens of Suzhou
The Humble Administrator’s Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is among the most beautiful gardens in China. Stroll through its beautiful lawns that are dotted with bridges, pools and charming pavilions. Depending on when you visit, you could even witness spectacular flower shows.
Suzhou has been dubbed the ‘Venice of China’ owing to its many ancient and scenic waterways. Embark on a boat tour through the canals and soak in the charming ambiance.
9Embark on a Yangtze River Cruise
The mighty Yangtze is the longest river in Asia, and a cruise is the best way to enjoy its historical, cultural and scenic appeal. The most popular stretch runs between Chongqing and Yichang. Enjoy the comforts of your cruise liner as you admire the Three Gorges – Xiling, Wu and Qutang – with their beautiful peaks, canyons and limestone karsts.
Other popular attractions along the way include the Shibaozhai Pagoda and the modern-day marvel, the Three Gorges Dam.
10Visit Another World in Zhangjiajie
To any lover of cinema, the region of Zhangjiajie may seem strikingly familiar. This is because its spectacular scenery was the inspiration for the planet of Pandora in James Cameron’s film Avatar. There is nowhere on earth quite like Zhangjiajie. Here you will see over 3000 giant, naturally occurring stone pillars dominating the landscape, each one thick with green foliage that clings to the pillars at impossible angles. It is a truly unbelievable sight.
Zhangjiajie is also home to the world’s longest glass bridge, which offers visitors the chance to view the wonders of Zhangjiajie from a great height (so long as you’re not afraid of heights!). Visiting Zhangjiajie is something you are unlikely to forget; it is truly one of the most memorable things to do in China.
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The energetic megacity of Beijing is a rich tapestry of the old and new, where imperial palaces, museums and buzzing ancient alleyways rub shoulders with cutting edge architecture, new shopping…
Chengde's stunning beauty leaves you in no doubt as to why it was chosen as a summer retreat during the imperial Qing dynasty.
The capital of the Sichuan province, Chengdu, in the foothills of the Himalayas, is renowned for its giant pandas, flavorful cuisine, and a laid back vibe.
Chongqing, also known as Mountain City, lies at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers in southwest China.
Dali is located in China’s south western Yunnan province on the shores of Erhai Lake, between the Cang mountains to the west and Mount Jizu to the east.
Home to several indigenous communities like the local Tujia and the Miao people, Fenghuang has been a vibrant center of trade and culture for centuries.
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