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4-Week Itinerary in China

Written by Mike HoUpdated May. 23, 2023

4 weeks in China is long enough to explore China's rich cultural and historical heritage, ancient sites, iconic landmarks, as well as some of the best natural beauty. You could also take the chance to experience different ethnic minorities' cultures and traditions and try a variety of cuisines.

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Best Places to Visit in a 4-week China Tour

To plan a 4-week tour in China, you could have 5–7 cities on your itinerary to experience the rich breadth of culture and history in this fascinating country. For most first-timers, Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin, and Shanghai are the top destinations in China, which would take you about 2 weeks to cover in reasonable depth.

For a further 2 weeks, you could add other places according to your interests, such as Yunnan for natural beauty, Tibet for roof-of-the-world culture and scenery, or northwest China including Xinjiang for the Silk Road.

  • Beijing and Xi'an were capitals of many of the most significant dynasties, making them rich in historical and cultural relics, including many of China's top attractions — the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, and many more.
  • Shanghai is one of the biggest and most developed cities in China. You can see the collision of Republic-era rapid-rise and China's modernity in Shanghai.
  • Guilin is the celebrated encapsulation of China's natural beauty, where you can also experience South China's countryside lifestyle.

Besides these top four cities, you may want to choose from these popular special interest destinations: Chengdu, Yunnan, Silk Road areas, Tibet, Huangshan, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Chongqing, the Yangtze, and more.

Chengdu, the hometown of pandas, is a must-visit place for panda lovers and is especially loved by families.

Yunnan, a beautiful place to experience Chinese minority life and culture, is where you can see breathtaking mountain-and-village views.

Tibet is the "holiest" place in China. It is also many travelers' dream or a bucket-list destinations, where you can see stunning plateau scenery and experience the striking reverence of Tibetan Buddhist culture.

Huangshan, Hangzhou, and Suzhou are close to Shanghai. You can easily take an hour's bullet train to explore the Yangtze Delta area's best scenery and culture. Below are three sample itineraries that all cover the star destinations in China (Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Guilin, and Chengdu) plus other themed areas:

  • 1. Exploration in Southwest China (Tibet and Yunnan scenery and culture)
  • 2. Relaxation on the Yangtze (a charming cruise and delta-area delights)
  • 3. Discovery West-to-East (enchanting Silk Road to cutting-edge Hong Kong)

For more places and trip ideas, contact our travel consultants who'll tailor-make a China tour for you.

1. A Classic 4-Week China Tour Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

In this itinerary, we combine seven bucket-list destinations: Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin, Tibet, Yunnan, and Shanghai. It is a tour that combines China's beautiful natural scenery with its long history and culture. You will see numerous iconic historical and cultural relics, such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Terracotta Warriors, and Potala Palace, as well as breathtaking landscapes including river-and-karst-hill views, snowy mountains, and plateau scenery. It is a classic itinerary for first-timers and families.

Days 1–4: Beijing

Beijing Forbidden City

Spend 2 days to visit the highlights in downtown Beijing, including the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace. Of the many cultural activities, we recommend a kung fu show or acrobatics show at night.

Spend another day to explore the Great Wall of China. If you would be traveling with kids or seniors, we suggest you visit a less-crowded and easy-walking section: Mutianyu. If hiking is your thing, we can arrange the favorite hikers' route from the Jinshanling section to Simatai section, where you could enjoy a beautiful sunset on a clear day. You can even have a romantic picnic dinner at the Great Wall with our special arrangements.

For an enchanting experience, you could try our Great Wall night tour at the Simatai section to experience romantic moments while the Great Wall is bathed in starlight. Simatai is the only section open at night.

If you are interested in authentic Beijinger life, we can arrange a hutong tour, when you can visit a local family and take a rickshaw ride, and wander around the community with local markets and parks.

Days 5–7: Xi'an

Xi'anOur family clients are making clay warriors.

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Xi'an is well-known for its long history as capital of many dynasties. Visit the famous Terracotta Warriors for a day. To help you get a better understanding of this star attraction, we arrange a hand-crafted clay-warriors activity when you can make your own terracotta warrior and bring it home as a souvenir. Family travelers with teenagers, you're suggested to take a cycling tour along Xi'an City Wall and experience local life at the Muslim Quarter.

Days 8–10: Chengdu

Chengdu panda reserveOur family clients are making cakes for pandas.

In Chengdu, join a one-day Panda Keeper Program to get a closer to these adorable animals and their daily lives in Chengdu Panda Reserve. Rather than just watching them at a distance, you can clean the glass of their enclosures, make their favorite cakes, and see how they are fed in the preservation program.

Take some time to taste delicious Sichuan cuisine (hot pot) and enjoy some leisurely free time in a traditional teahouse. If you are interested in Chinese cooking, we can arrange a food tour or cooking class in Chengdu to help you learn some basic skills.

Days 11–15: Tibet (Lhasa, Shigatse)

Potala palace

In Lhasa, pay a visit to the world-famous Potala Palace, a holy place for Tibetan Buddhists. With the assistance of our private guide, you can explore the Potala in the best way, taking photos from all the nicest angles. Spend some time to visit Barkhor Street and see pilgrims doing their prostrating obeisances and Buddhists making a kora (sacred circuit) by turning the prayer wheels.

If you want to experience authentic rural life in Tibet and live as a Tibetan nomad for a day, we can arrange a village-in-the-hills visit. Experience local life and activities, such as horse-riding, milking yaks, printing prayer flags, and so on.

In Shigatse, spend a day to visit some beautiful monasteries scattered amongst stunning mountain views. If you are interested in hiking at Mount Everest, we can arrange a short hiking trip near Everest Base Camp.

It's important to remember that visiting Tibet requires a travel permit, which can only be applied for by a travel agency. Some areas may be restricted for foreign travelers. If you book a tour with us, we would handle all the procedures and maximize your time.

Days 16–20: Yunnan (Kunming, Lijiang, Dali, Shangri-la)

Yunnan tour

Known for its breathtaking natural scenery, rich cultural heritage, and ethnic diversity, Yunnan deserves several of your days for a visit.

In Kunming, spend a day to visit the top attractions, including the Stone Forest, a geological wonder with towering limestone formations that resemble trees, animals, and other shapes.

Lijiang and Dali are renowned for their UNESCO World Heritage sites and breathtaking landscapes. You will see many ancient buildings, canals, old streets, and beautiful mountain ranges, and stunning natural views that are great for taking in with a biking or hiking tour.

In Shangri-La, we can arrange a village tour, visiting a local family to experience Tibetan culture and daily life. Try on traditional Tibetan dress and enjoy a starry night with a bonfire on the grassland.

Days 21–25: Guilin

Guilin landscape

Guilin is the best place to see southern China's painting-perfect natural beauty and countryside charm. Spend a day to explore Guilin's city attractions, including the lake-lined city center and Elephant Trunk Hill. Then take a cruise boat from Guilin to Yangshuo to see a gallery of "living river-and-mountain paintings".

For travelers with teenagers, we recommend you take a cycling tour between the paddy fields in the idyllic countryside or visit a village to experience local farmers' life. We can also arrange other activities, including a cooking class, rock-climbing, hiking, and cave-exploring according to your interests.

If you are interested in Chinese ethnic culture, spend a day tour or more at the Longji Terraced Fields, where you can see awesome vistas of terraced paddy fields and experience the life of Zhuang and Yao minority groups.

Days 26–28: Shanghai

Shanghai the Bund

In Shanghai, the Bund offers incredible views of the city skyline and is a must-visit for any first-time traveler. On our in-depth culture discovery tour, our private guide would take you walking around the old buildings of the Bund to help you get a better understanding of Shanghai's impressive modernity and flourishing history.

Besides the city sightseeing, Shanghai has no shortage of leisurely activities, such as tasting local cuisine, going shopping, visiting museums, drinking coffee at the tops of the skyscrapers, or just having a rest in a top Chinese spa treatment hall.

2. A 4-Week China Tour Itinerary with a Yangtze Cruise: Best for Retired Couples

If you are a retired couple, or anyone looking for a more-relaxed and romantic trip, then this itinerary would be good for you. We select from the best star-rated Yangtze cruise ships as well as lining up some delightful destinations in this trip to help you create romantic memories in China.

  • Days 1–5: Beijing (see above for details)
  • Days 6–9: Xi'an (as above)
  • Days 10–12: Chengdu (as above)
  • Days 12–17: Chongqing and a Yangtze Cruise
  • Days 18–20: Shanghai(as above)
  • Days 21–22: Hangzhou
  • Days 23–24: Suzhou
  • Days 25–28: Huangshan

In Chongqing, spend a day exploring the 'mountain city' and taste its spicy hot pot. Then take a Yangtze Cruise ship from Chongqing to Yichang, to appreciate the gorgeous gorges, lush green river valleys, and the breathtaking engineering of the Three Gorges Dam. You'll visit some cultural attractions along the river too, such as 2,000-year-old Fengdu Ghost City and White Emperor City, as land excursions.

During the cruise, you'll have the chance to learn about Chinese customs and traditions, as ships provide onboard activities, such as tea ceremonies, calligraphy lessons, and a Chinese medicine workshop.

From Shanghai, you can easily take a bullet train to visit nearby cities like Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Huangshan.

Both Hangzhou and Suzhou offer a variety of relaxing activities: boating on ancient canals, perusing imperial-era gardens, biking around West Lake, visiting historical monuments, exploring museums, enjoying local food, and shopping at traditional markets.

At your final station, Huangshan, you would be treated to abundant breathtaking views of imaginatively-named rocks and trees accessed by the Yellow Mountains' ancient stone paths as well as elegant pavilions and charming local villages. To help you experience local life there, we recommend you stay in a village hotel, where you can take part in many activities, such as farming, cooking the regional cuisine, and learning more about local culture.

A 4-Week China Itinerary with a Silk Road Adventure

This itinerary is full of adventure, as you'll have the chance to visit a wide variety of historical and cultural sites and witness a range of stunning Gobi Desert landscapes. Experience camel riding in the desert, trek to remote mountain villages, see towering snow-capped mountains, and visit the awe-inspiring Jiayuguan fortifications at the western end of the Great Wall.

You'll be able to witness traditional music and dance performances, as well as visit bustling bazaars and markets. You'll also have the opportunity to try a variety of Chinese cuisine along the Silk Road, as well as the unique cuisine of the region, such as Uighur and Kazakh dishes. Here are some brief itinerary details for a suggested 4-week China tour with the Silk Road:

  • Days 1–5: Beijing (see itinerary 1 above)
  • Days 6–8: Xi'an (as above)
  • Days 9–10: Zhangye
  • Days 11–12: Dunhuang
  • Days 13–18: Xinjiang (Turpan, Urumqi, Kashgar)
  • Days 19–21: Chengdu (as above)
  • Days 21–25: Guilin (as above)
  • Days 26–28: Hong Kong

In Zhangye, you would visit the 'Color Palette Overturned by God' — Zhangye's National Geological Park, which is home to the Rainbow Mountains. Then take a camel ride along the ancient trade route that connected China to the West to experience ancient Silk Road trade life.

In the city of Dunhuang, you would see a stunning array of ancient Buddhist art, including murals, statues, and colorful frescoes at the famous Mogao Caves. If you would like to see some special caves, our guide could lead you to visit some that are not open to the general public. See how Buddhism came to China on the Ancient Silk Road and a pristine desert oasis in Dunhuang.

In Turpan, a city with rich history and diverse culture, which is known for its grapes, melons, and other delicious fruits. It is also home to stunning natural attractions like the Flaming Mountains and the Grape Valley.

Spend some days in the capital city of Xinjiang, Urumqi, and the ancient city, Kashgar to learn more about Uygur culture by visiting Xinjiang Regional Museum, Grand Bazaar, and Kashgar Bazaar, where you can buy handwoven carpets, spices, jewelry, and other unique souvenirs to bring home.

Hong Kong is a more-scenic alternative to Shanghai as a departure city. Its skyscraper-lined mountains and beautiful bays complement this adventure-themed itinerary of contrasts. HK could be included on any of the above 4-week tours and/or Shanghai. Don't forget to contact us for a customized version of any of the above itineraries.

Cost for 4-Week Tour of China

The cost for a China tour varies greatly between peak time and off season. Prices can go up by 50 to 100% in the peak seasons! For example, the flight price from the U.S. or Europe to China varies a lot depending on the travel time and airline you use, which is usually from around US$1,200 to US$3,000 for an economy round trip.

The peak travel times in China are on the first weeks of May and October (China's two golden weeks), summer holidays, and Christmas and New year holidays. For most visitors who book a private tour with us 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 28-day tour for two people would cost about US$12,320–19,600. A tour for a family of four may cost US$17,300–27,400 (kids under 10 get 30–50% off). Your international flights are not included in this price.

How to Travel around China

It is convenient to travel around the whole of China by flights or high-speed trains. All the larger tourist cities are connected by high-speed rail and airports. If you book a tour with us, we will arrange the most suitable routes and travel options according to your preferences, seamlessly booking the flight/train tickets you need.

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Whether you're interested in history, culture, or natural beauty, there's something for everyone in China. Let's create your dream trip! All our tours can be customized. Just contact us.

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