With a 3-week trip to China, you could enjoy a wide range of China’s star attractions, including profound history, varied awesome landscapes, great architecture, and rich cultural experiences.
- Where to Spend 3 Weeks in China
- A Classic 3-Week China Itinerary for First-Timers
- A 3-Week China Itinerary including Yunnan
Where to Spend 3 Weeks in China
With a 3-week trip in China, Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, and Shanghai are must-visit cities, especially for first-timers.
Beijing enjoys the most famous attractions like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Xi’an is famous for its Terracotta Warriors and being the best place to learn about China’s ancient civilization.
Guilin is best for appreciating China’s natural scenery and experiencing its countryside lifestyle. Shanghai is where you can see the collision of Republic-era rapid-rise and mega-city modernity.
Besides these top destinations, you can choose other destinations based on your interests:
- Chengdu is a must if seeing pandas is on your bucket list, especially for a family trip. Yunnan is recommended for those who like fascinating minority villages and natural views.
- If Tibet is on your bucket list, you can fit it in a 3-week itinerary. Tibet’s holy Buddhist culture and vibe with its stunning plateau scenery are many a traveler’s dream.
- If you would prefer a relaxing experience and pace or seeking out classical Chinese beauty, we recommend a Yangtze Cruise or visiting Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Huangshan — Shanghai’s surrounding area.
- Or you can tell us your preferred destinations. Our service is personalized.
See more on How Long to Spend in China: Itineraries from 1 Week to 1 Month
If you don't have any clear ideas yet, have a look at our three sample itineraries below for a starting point that you might like.
98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+
Amazing Great Wall tour with Helen
We did the great wall tour from Jiankou to Mutianyu with Helen.The tour was very well organized from the begining until the end.The treckking through the great wall was amazing and challenging. Helen took very good care of us and took as many stops as we needed to rest, drink water,have a snack or take pictures. She also explained us many things about the great wall and helped us with all our questions. After the long walk Helen took us to a local restaurant where the food was delicious! She managed everything perfectly so could have all the food ready when we got to the restaurant. Very recommended experience!more
May 2023, Marta
I had an amazing two trips on the Great Wall and the Forbidden City with the guide Ivy during my stay in China. She was very helpful and answered all of our questions with an enthusiastic approach. I have nothing to say but to highly recommend the trips they offer on the Great Wall hiking/camping and also the in-depth Forbidden City tour! Thank you Ivy and China Highlights.more
May 2023, Serhat Altay
Amazing First Time to Beijing with China Highlights
Tom, my private tour guide was there when I landed and accompanied me all the way through to sending me off at the airport after check-in at the end of my trip. Zhao the driver, who also did all the driving during my trip, was calm, confident and knowledgeable in taking us around. Both Tom and Zhao were punctual too. The Great Wall of China Hike I wanted to do started in a very remote, unrestored part of the wall. This would not had been possible without Tom problem solving many issues we had on the way up and I could not have done this on my own a a foreigner. It was well worth the effort and probably the highlight of my trip.The remainder of the tour around Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Kingdom and The Temple of Heaven was paired with a detailed commentary by Tom of which I learnt a lot.more
May 2023, Munsie
Beijing - city of surprises
A fantastic guide was waiting for us - Jack, who told all the stories with passion and commitment. He also fulfilled those wishes that were not in the plan. I highly recommend visiting Beijing with this guide.more
May 2023, Joanna i Piotr Kuzebscy
Liu Yuan was a superb guide and a lot…
Liu Yuan was a superb guide and a lot of fun to spend time with during my first visit to Beijing. It was a wonderful intensive three days.more
May 2023, Pam S.
Great weather and a good trip out with Lily!
Many thanks to my guide Lily for customising the trip to make it as efficient and enjoyable as possible. She arranged to start an hour earlier to beat the crowd and I got to enjoy the Great Wall before the crowd streamed in and while the weather was cool. I requested to switch the next attraction to visit from Temple of Heaven to Ming Tomb and she not only accommodated the prompt request, but made all the necessary arrangements even before the trip coordinator managed to reply! Kudos! Our driver was jovial and friendly, always on top of traffic conditions and took detours to beat slow moving traffic. Hassle free day and I wouldn’t have been able to cover the two attractions so easily and comfortably without them!more
May 2023, Meibao
This was our first time traveling to Beijing
This was our first time traveling to China, so we really wanted to experience some of the major historical sights of Beijing together with a tour guide. Our itinerary was very carefully planned out according to our interests and tailored to our needs. First, we went camping on the Great Wall and hiked from Jiankou to Mutianyu, and the next day we got an in-depth tour of the Forbidden City as well as a tour of the Temple of Heaven and a taiji experience in the gardens. Our tour guide, Ivy, was truly wonderful in preparing and organizing our personalized itinerary. She is very friendly and knowledgeable, and she was always able and willing to answer all of our questions. Ivy provided us with a truly amazing first visit to China and I would warmly recommend China Highlights for everyone who wishes to travel to China and I would especially recommend Ivy as a tour guide for your trips!more
May 2023, Annalina Wheeler
Tom is the BEST tour guide EVER!
Just had the most AMAZING tour with Tom. He was beyond knowledgeable, so generous with his time and made me feel so at ease which was super important as I am travelling by myself. Thank you Tom for the best day-you have totally made my China trip a fabulous experience, one I will never forget!more
May 2023, SHARRYN HINCHLIFFFE
Superb service and wonderful time in Beijing
Superb service from Jack who were with us for 4 wonderful days in Beijing. Jack was clearly knowledgeable about the history and able to deliver insight information to us about places. He was also kind and accommodating to my mother who has bad knees. Both China Highlights and Jack were flexible about the itinerary to ensure that we enjoy the best of Beijing. We'll definitely use China Highlights' services again for our next trip to China.more
May 2023, Chani
First time booking a trip with China Highlights and was fortunate to have Sunny as my private tour guide. We went to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall, then arrived and walked around Gubei Water Town, and then visited the Simatai portion of the Great Wall at night. Was a very enjoyable trip as we were able to see a night time drone show in the sky, ride a private boat through the canals of the Gubei Water Town, and eat a delicious lunch at a local restaurant along the way. Sunny is super knowledgeable when it comes to the history of the Great Wall and took the time to explain various interesting facts and stories which made the trip very meaningful. The driver we had was also a very nice man who was always on time and eager to help. Was an unforgettable experience and would highly recommend Sunny and China Highlights :)more
May 2023, Allen C
Tour to the great wall from the airport
My guide Tom was ver kind and knowlegable, he explained everything to me about the great wall and even went out of his way to help me the next day at Bejings downtown! amazing service!!! thank you so much Tom!more
May 2023, Fer Villasefior
Great tour, fantastic guide!
This tour was fantastic! I loved hearing about the history of the Forbidden City and admiring the views at the Great Wall. William was a fantastic tour guide. We were a group of families with several young children, and he was very accommodating and flexible with timing and arrangements. I totally recommend this tour and William as a guide!more
May 2023, Ryan Corless
Four excellent sightseeing days in Beijing
We had wonderful four days in Beijing. The entire trip was tailored exactly to our wishes. From experiencing local food, to exploring the major sites of the city up to hiking the great wall of China. Additionally, we had two amazing guides Ina and Fan taking care of all the tickets and coordination required. Also, they could not only tell us everything about the sights we visited and give us an insight to local customs and traditions, but they did so in perfect German. The chauffeur service from Mr Chang was also excellent, getting us from A to B without any hazzle. The past couple of days were one of the most carefree trips we have had so far.more
May 2023, Katha
Great tour from William
Great tour organized by China highlights, our tour guide was William - his knowledge was impressive, his English was great and he was always on time. We did the four day tour including the wall and forbidden city - would definitely recommend to anyone looking for an English tour guide.more
Apr 2023, Lawrence
Beijing 2 day private tour
The tour itself was great, private driver to and from, my guide Ivy was great English speaking guide. She was very knowledgeable and passionate about her country. Was a great time exploring the Great Wall of china and then my second day did a city tour (forbidden city, hutong tour, summer palace). Felt extremely safe, and was confident having an English guide. Thank you china highlights. (Provide them what you want and they’ll make it happen). Prices are reasonable as I looked at a few places but for private tour, my own schedule, and confidence of getting around safely you can’t go wrong.more
Apr 2023, Mark
Everything was to the vest standard, the history all very well explained by the Tour Guide in Beijing, Ivy. Really enjoyed it, and appreciated the time.more
Apr 2023, Jonathan
Amazing Beijing Experience
I had an amazing time in Beijing and glad Tom was my tour guide. He went above and beyond and I’m truly grateful. Tom did all that he could to ensure my stay in Beijing for two days was pleasant and thanks to him, I say that it was. The driver was also nice and courteous, I called him Jon. The company is blessed to have a good tour guide like Tom on their team so if you are planning to come down to Beijing, make sure you ask for Tom. Thank you Christy and Kimmy for replying all my emails with questions that I had.more
Apr 2023, Pedro V
We had a great experience with China Highlights and Roger was highly efficient and helpful planning our itinerary exactly how we needed.more
Apr 2023, Brenda Sarmanho
Excellent service and tour guide!!
Excellent service and communication from the travel agent Roger Li and amazing tour and experience of Great Wall of China from our tour guide Amber. Highly recommended!more
Apr 2023, Evangelos Athanasopoulos
Maggie was such a tremendous help for…
Maggie was such a tremendous help for our recent Beijing trip. Very prompt and helpful in helping us plan and adjust/amend to our requests.more
Apr 2023, Hi
1. A Classic 3-Week China Itinerary for First-Timers
- Beijing – Xi'an – Chengdu – Guilin – Hangzhou – Suzhou – The Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) – Shanghai
This itinerary includes China’s top tourist cities and top Chinese elements like the pandas, the Great Wall, and classical Chinese gardens and water towns.
It is a classic itinerary blend of culture and nature, with some hands-on local-culture experiences.
Days 1–4: Beijing
With 4 days in Beijing, you can spend one day on the Great Wall. We recommend the Mutianyu Great Wall section, which is the most family-friendly one and a less-crowded section. If you like hiking, we can also arrange some Great Wall hiking for you.
A sunset visit to the Great Wall would allow you to see and snap postcard-perfect dusky Wall views. There would also be fewer people around at this time. This is especially recommended if you want to have a romantic moment with your partner.
Two days would be for Beijing’s city-sightseeing highlights, including the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, etc.
If you want to experience the bustling (or leisurely retired) life of Beijingers, you could spend a day exploring local culture, perhaps visiting a Beijinger family in the hutongs or walking around a local community with markets and parks.
Days 5–6: Xi’an
Xi’an’s main attraction is the Terracotta Warriors. Besides a regular visit, we would arrange a hand-made clay-warrior experience with local artisans. You would better understand the process of making the Terracotta Warriors and could take your creation home as a souvenir. It's recommended for both couples and families.
Days 7–8: Chengdu
Chengdu’s trip would focus on the giant pandas. We recommend a one-day panda volunteer program more than just watching them in a distance, especially for families and couples. This could be a meaningful time to improve communication with your children or re-connect with your partner while enjoying the delightful pandas.
Chengdu is also famous for its food, like the (super spicy) hot pot. If you are interested in Sichuan food, we can arrange a foodie tour or a cooking class for you.
Days 9–11: Guilin
Guilin is a city where you can see pastoral landscapes and enjoy the relaxing pace of countryside life.
You would spend one day on a leisurely Li River Cruise to take in some of the best of Guilin’s celebrated karst landscape.
The other two days are given to Yangshuo, a much-loved town near Guilin. It's a place where you can cycle around the paddy fields and pointy hills with your children, walk the field paths with your partner, and talk with friendly local people.
If your kids like adventure, we can arrange exploring a less-traveled cave and many more exciting activities.
Days 12–13: Hangzhou
West Lake and a famous tea experience are the highlights of Hangzhou. A boat ride on West Lake is one of the best ways to enjoy its views. We can also arrange a bike ride around the lake if you prefer.
Meijiawu Tea Plantation is the place of origin of the best ‘Dragon Well’ tea in China. There you can see how farmers pick tea leaves, learn the process for making tea, and taste a cup of China’s most-adored tea.
If you want to learn still more about Chinese culture, we can arrange many more experiences for you, such as taking you to visit a century-old Chinese medicine shop to learn about Chinese herbs, painting your own oiled-paper umbrella, or enjoying a Southern Song Dynasty Snacks Banquet in a pavilion.
- 2-Day Hangzhou Highlights & Grand Canal Heritage Tour
- 4-Day Shanghai & Hangzhou with a Watertown Tour
Days 14–16: Suzhou
Suzhou is famous for classical Chinese gardens. Humble Administrator's Garden is a masterpiece among Chinese gardens. It is a must.
A night tour of the Nets Master Garden is also recommended. You would see a different panorama from a daytime visit and find amazing live traditional Chinese cultural performances staged in the pavilions.
If you want to see authentic Suzhou local life, we can arrange a rickshaw ride through its small alleys to see food markets, ancient wells, and stone pagodas along the way.
Tongli Water Town near Suzhou is also a recommendation if you want to see ancient architecture and the traditional culture of South China.
- 2-Day Essential Suzhou and Tongli Water Town, from Shanghai
- 5-Day Yangtze River Delta Bullet Train Tour
Days 17–19: The Yellow Mountains (Huangshan)
The Yellow Mountains is one of the most famous mountain areas in China. Spring is best for rape flower vistas. Pine trees and seas of clouds are best seen in summer, and red leaves feature in autumn. Winter can display magical scenes of frost flowers and rime.
Bishan Village is the best choice if you want to enjoy some quiet moments in the Huangshan countryside with your partner. Stay in a typical Hui-style inn, feel the freshness of the air on an early morning walk, and drink a coffee while enjoying nature in its unspoiled beauty.
Days 20–21: Shanghai
Shanghai is a city where you would feel a strong sense of urban vitality and also see its remarkable past by visiting many old buildings.
The Bund is a must, where you can experience in a turn of the head the contrast between Shanghai’s past and present, seeing the old buildings and skyscrapers from the riverside.
There will be some free time before your departure flight for you to explore aspects of the city that you are interested in (by yourself).
2. 3 Weeks in China including Tibet
- Days 1–4: Beijing (The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven)
- Days 5–6: Xi’an (the Terracotta Warriors with a related hands-on experience, a food tour, the city wall)
- Days 7–11: Tibet (the Potala Palace, monasteries, and local-life experience)
- Days 12–13: Chengdu with a panda volunteer program
- Days 14–17: Guilin with nearby towns (a cruise, biking, bamboo rafting)
- Days 18–19: Hong Kong city sightseeing (or you can also choose to go to Shanghai)
If you are dreaming of a Tibet tour as part of your China trip, you could consider this itinerary.
A classic Tibet tour (Lhasa + Lake Yamdrok) takes about 4 to 5 days. If you want to go to Everest Base Camp, you would need another 4 days.
In Tibet, the Potala Palace is a must. Our guide would take you to the four best angles to see the palace.
Barkhor Street is the best place to see devout Buddhists praying and catch a glimpse of the buzz of local Tibetan life.
For a deeper understanding of local rural life, you could be a Tibetan Nomad for a day. We would take you to a village in the hills to experience horse riding, milking yaks, printing prayer flags, and other things that the nomads do.
Hong Kong is the last stop on the itinerary. But if you have been to Hong Kong, we can arrange Shanghai or other cities you prefer. All our tours are customizable and can be adjusted based on your needs. Just contact us.
There are more options including a Tibet tour:
3. A 3-Week China Itinerary including Yunnan
- Days 1–3: Shanghai sightseeing
- Days 4–12: Yunnan (Erhai Lake, mountains, old towns, ethic culture experiences, lamaseries, a local Tibetan family visit)
- Days 13–14: Chengdu with a panda encounter
- Days 15–16: Xi’an sightseeing
- Days 17–21: Beijing sightseeing
Besides the classic golden-triangle-panda-city combination of Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, and Shanghai, in this itinerary Yunnan is added in.
Yunnan is a southwestern province with picturesque scenery and diverse local ethnic culture. Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La are its top cities to visit, each taking about 2 to 3 days.
Kunming is known for its stone forest. Dali and Lijiang are famous for a romantic atmosphere and natural views like Erhai Lake, Cangshan Mountain, and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
These places are also best for having a leisurely outdoor family time, whether biking, hiking, or making delicious local cakes at a flower farm.
Shangri-La is best for experiencing Tibetan culture and plateau scenery. There, you could a visit a Tibetan family on a pasture, try on traditional Tibetan dress, and enjoy a starry night with a bonfire on the grassland.
Just contact us if you are interested in the itinerary.
Costs for a 3-Week Tour in China
For a private tour in 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, a 3-week tour for two people would cost about US$9,500–15,000. A tour for a family of four may cost US$16,000–20,000 (kids under 10 get 30–50% off). These prices do not include international flights.
The peak season times in China are the first week of May (Labor Day holiday), the summer vacation (July to August), and the first week of October (National Day holiday). During these holidays, airfares and hotel prices can double or triple.
If you are planning a trip to China, please book it at least 3 to 6 months in advance for the best deals and availability. We offer a free cancellation policy: 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.)
How to Travel around China
Air travel and high-speed rail are the main convenient ways to travel long distances in China.
For most travel between cities, air travel is the most recommended option, such as Beijing to Shanghai, Chengdu to Lhasa, etc.
But for some relatively close cities, such as Beijing to Xi’an, high-speed trains are more recommended. Moreover, China's high-speed rail itself is part of the Chinese travel experience.
When booking with us, let us know your travel preferences, and we will arrange the best travel options for you, seamlessly booking the flight/train tickets you need.
Tour China with Us
All our tours can be customized based on your interests and needs. You can use our Create My Trip service to tell us your requirements. Our travel consultant will listen to and answer your inquiries carefully and promptly and prepare the best tour plan for you.