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17-Day China Itineraries: 4 Unique Options

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Mar. 4, 2024

17 days in China would allow you to have an in-depth travel experience.

You could cover the most popular cultural and natural destinations, including China's top landmarks and some relaxing outdoor activities.

You could also choose to visit some off-the-beaten-track routes for more unique experiences.

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1. The Most-Chosen 17-Day China Itinerary

If it is your first time to visit China and you want a highlight-rich and leisurely travel experience, this itinerary is suitable for you.

This itinerary covers major destinations in Chinese cities such as Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai. Additionally, it doesn't miss out on the best scenic cities like Guilin and Zhangjiajie.

Furthermore, for those interested in delving deeper into Chinese culture and exploring ancient towns, Pingyao Ancient Town is also included.

  • Days 1‒2: Shanghai
  • Day 3: Suzhou
  • Day 4‒6: Guilin
  • Days 7‒10: Zhangjiajie
  • Days 11‒13: Xi'an & Pingyao
  • Days 14‒17: Beijing

You will first experience the collision of modern and traditional China in Shanghai through a visit to the Bund. Next, you will proceed to Suzhou. Suzhou's gardens are classic representatives of Chinese gardens.

At the next stops in Guilin and Zhangjiajie, you will appreciate the beauty of China's landscapes. In Guilin, you could slow your pace and enjoy stunning countryside views while doing some relaxing outdoor activities with your kids or partner, such as taking a bamboo raft and walking between the paddy fields.

In Zhangjiajie, you could see Hallelujah Mountain and other pillars that helped provide the inspiration for Avatar. Its gorgeous steep trails are excellent for hiking.

The highlight of Xi'an is visiting its top attraction — the Terracotta Warriors, which could be complemented with a special hands-on experience of making your own clay warrior. It would allow you to better understand the history and artisan-ship behind the Terracotta Army.

With a trip to Pingyao Ancient Town, you could see many ancient buildings and also find the earliest bank in China.

Finally in Beijing, leave your footprints on the Great Wall and explore China's imperial past in the Forbidden City. For more authentic ways to experience local life, taking a rickshaw to visit the hutongs, visiting a local market, or visiting a local family and chatting with the host are all good ideas. We could arrange them for you.

2. 17 Days in China with a Panda Experience

If you want pandas on your 17-day-in-China to-do list, you could consider this itinerary. This itinerary also includes a short trip to Lhasa.

  • Days 1‒4: Beijing sightseeing with must-see landmarks, a hutong tour, and some cultural experiences
  • Days 5‒6: Xi'an (the Terracotta Warriors, museums, and a food tour)
  • Days 7‒8: Lhasa (monasteries, the Potala Palace, and Barkhor Street where to see Tibetan life)
  • Day 8: Chengdu with a panda trip
  • Days 10‒12: Shanghai (the Bund, Yu Garden, and a water town exploration)
  • Days 13‒15 Yangtze River cruise with shore excursions
  • Days 16‒17: Guilin sightseeing with a relaxing countryside lifestyle experience

With this 17-day itinerary, you could enjoy a leisurely Yangtze River cruise to slow down and appreciate the stunning natural scenery and other attractions along the Yangtze River.

You could also go to Chengdu to see the adorable pandas. If you want to encounter them closely, we could arrange a panda keeper program for you. You may need to add one more day for that where you could make their favorite cakes, watch them being fed, and get a souvenir certificate.

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3. A 17-Day China Itinerary with Tibet

If you want to make your 17-day itinerary more focused on Tibet, you could see this option.

With this 17-day itinerary, you could spend 8 to 10 days exploring Tibet in combination with "the Golden Triangle":

  • Days 1‒4: Beijing with iconic landmarks and cultural experiences
  • Days 5‒6: Xi'an with a visit to the Terracotta Warriors
  • Days 7‒15: Tibet with Lhasa highlights and Everest Base Camp
  • Days 16‒17: Shanghai with a Bund trip and free time activities

In Tibet, go to the iconic Potala Palace, visit famous and less-traveled monasteries, meet locals and see their daily life in Barkhor Street, have a picnic by on a Yamdrok lakeside, and go to Everest Base camp, leaving your footprints on "the roof of the world".

If you are interested in the Tibetan lifestyle, we can arrange for you to visit a local Tibetan family. You could talk to the host (with our guide's interpreting) about the family's life and help them with farming work.

Please note: Tibet Entry Permits are a must for foreign travelers to visit Tibet. They should be applied for at least 2 weeks in advance. We can handle it for you when you book a tour with us.

The tour can be combined with the 8-Day Golden Triangle Tour and the 8-Day Lhasa to Everest Base Camp Private Tour.

4. A 17-Day China Tour of the Silk Road

The Silk Road is a great choice if you prefer an off-the-beaten-path route, especially if you are interested in ancient grottoes, deserts, and Xinjiang with its exotic culture and unique landscapes.

10 to 11 days would be on the Silk Road with 5 to 6 days in Beijing and Xi'an:

  • Days 1‒2: Urumqi sightseeing with a cruise on the Heavenly Lake
  • Days 3‒4: Turpan (ancient ruins and cities, caves, and a visit to a local family)
  • Days 5‒6: Dunhuang (Buddhist grottoes, dreamy desert, and a remote section of the Great Wall)
  • Days 7‒9: Jiayuguan & Zhangye (see the end of the Great Wall and the "rainbow mountains" — a unique Danxia landform)
  • Days 10‒12: Xi'an sightseeing
  • Day 13: Pingyao Ancient Town
  • Days 14‒17: Beijing sightseeing

The highlights of this itinerary are absolutely the scenery and cultural vibe along the Silk Road.

In Zhangye and Dunhuang, you would see marvelous landscapes with unique Danxia landforms and a beautiful oasis. Ride a camel through dunes in the pristine desert. Visit the old Mogao Caves to see fine murals and learn about how Buddhism entered China.

In Xinjiang, enjoy stunning scenery at Heavenly Lake and go to Urumqi's largest bazaar to feel the buzz of exotic life in the city furthest from the sea.

In Turpan, explore the ancient Gaochang Ruins, an important Silk Road city founded in the first century B.C. Discover the charming Tuyoq Village, with its vineyards and ancient mudbrick houses. Don't miss tasting the sweet grapes and melons — regional specialties.

You can find more itinerary ideas on our 17 Days in China: Top 9 Tours and Itineraries

How Much Does 17 Days in China Cost?

For a private tour of China, the average cost per day is about US$220–350 per person, including flights/trains within China, 4- or 5- star hotels, lunches, attractions, guides, and private transport.

Thus, for a couple, a 17-day private tour may cost about US$7,500–12,000 in total. You could also invite your friends and their partners to join the trip. The cost would become more affordable with a larger group.

For a family of four, it may cost about US$14,000–19,000. Kids under 10 usually get 30–50% off. (International airfares are not included.)

The cost of flights from the U.S. or Europe to China varies a lot depending on when you fly and which airline you use, from around US$1,200 to US$3,000 for an economy round trip.

The Peak Season May Increase the Cost

Peak tourist times in China are the first weeks of May and October (China's two golden weeks), summer holidays, and Christmas and New Year holidays.

The biggest price difference between the off and peak seasons is in the price of hotels and airfares. Their prices can go up by 50 to 100%.

Our refund policy minimizes the monetary risk to you when booking: you'll receive a 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights if you cancel up to three weeks before departure. (See more details)

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