If this is your first visit to China, with 5 days in China, you could consider gateway cities. Gateway cities like the capital Beijing are some of the best places to learn about China.
Or you could consider an extended trip to their nearby cities to make the most effective use of your time, for example, Beijing and Xi'an, or Shanghai and Hangzhou and/or Suzhou.
If you have already been to China and visited first-tier cities, then you may want to explore other distinctive second-tier cities or off-the-beaten-track routes, such as Guilin, Chengdu, Zhangjiajie, Tibet, Yunnan, or the Silk Road.
1. Beijing and Xi'an 5-Day Itinerary
This itinerary is top recommended if you are the first time to China. It combines the two classic must-visit cities that allow you to learn most about Chinese civilization and late-imperial and modern-era history.
You could enjoy many interesting cultural activities, such as learning to write Chinese characters in a Hutong family in Beijing and making clay warriors in Xi 'an. You could also experience China's high-speed train between Beijing and Xi'an.
- Day 1: Beijing (visit the Forbidden City with a hutong walking tour)
- Day 2: Beijing (go to the Great Wall and learn about the sacrificial culture in the Temple of Heaven)
- Day 3: Beijing (visit the famous royal garden — the Summer Palace, and take a bullet train to Xi'an)
- Day 4: Xi'an (the Terracotta Army with a hands-on terracotta-warrior-making experience and a walking/biking experience on the City Wall)
- Day 5: Xi'an (visit a famous pagoda and museum to learn about Chinese history)
You could spend three days in Beijing. In Beijing, discover the imperial past in the Forbidden City, which used to be the home of China's 24 emperors. Hike on the Great Wall to see the watchtowers and majestic natural mountain views.
Stroll around old hutongs, where you could catch a glimpse of the traditional daily lifestyle of Beijing's local people.
For a more in-depth travel experience, you could visit a local family's home and learn some Chinese culture and philosophy of living.
Stay for two days in Xi'an. The famous Terracotta Warriors is the must-visit attraction. The highlight of the visit would be a hands-on experience of making your own clay warriors. You would learn more about the making, preservation, and story behind the Terracotta Warriors.
Walk on the 600-year-old Ancient City Wall and catch a full view of the city. If time permits, the sunset time would be the best for a stunning view. For learning about Chinese history, Shannxi History Museum and Big Wild Goose Pagoda are worth visiting.
All our tours can be adjusted based on your needs. Just contact us.
13 days in China
We booked a 13 day’s tour of China with China Highlights. Our travel advisor, Ms Leah Zhou organised an itinerary that suited what we wanted. She was really helpful and patient will all our needs. Leah helped us organised our 30th Wedding Anniversary Dinner and my 60th Birthday celebration?? in Beijing. For this to be possible, she had to liaise with our guide in Beijing. The flowers and cake were a real surprise. My husband and I, were really touched at the good service provided by China Highlights and Ms Leah Zhou. Thank you China Highlights and Ms Leah Zhou for your constant care of your customers. I will certainly recommend China Highlights to my friends.more
Nov 2023, Eda Adams
Do Beijing like a local
They organised my trip very quickly and efficiently. On the day, Anna was very friendly to me, my mum and my baby. Very accommodating to our needs. The car was immaculately clean and very comfortable. We visited everything we initially wanted and more. Also, Anna took us to the best meal we had in China. It makes a difference to have a local choosing the dishes!more
Nov 2023, Natali A
Beijing 2 day tour
Spent 2 days in Beijing with Ethan as my guide and had a fantastic experience. Ethan is very knowledgeable, easy company and takes excellent photographs. The organisation was excellent as well including the driver for the tour as well the airport pick up.more
Nov 2023, Tam
Excellent Two Weeks Across China
We used Asia Highlights (China Highlights in China) to help plan two weeks across China: Beijing, Xian, Guilin, a Yangtze cruise and Shanghai. Albee helped put it all together and was a huge help. She was very responsive and all the guides in each city were excellent! The hotels were perfect. We would definitely use the company once again for other trips to Asia.more
Oct 2023, Charles
Great Experience with China Highlights
Over at Beijing, Angela met us at the train station and ensured we were well settled in our hotel. We spent 2 days with her as our Guide. Angela is well informed and also adapted the itinerary to cover areas we wanted to take advantage off, e.g. apple picking at the orchard! The driver we had on both legs were good and friendly.more
Oct 2023, Edwin
China Round Trip in October 2023 Family FT & G Braun from Germany
Here in Beijing we got Jack as a tour guide who is very knowledgeable and supportive as well as flexible when there is a change in the program needed. Communication with him is easy as he is fluent in English. It is difficult to say which attraction is the greatest as all are outstanding being it the Forbidden City, the Great Wall or the Summer Palace as well as the Temple of Heaven. The driver, Mr. Hu needs also to be mentioned very positively as he politely took special care of us and his driving style was safe and patient with all the heavy traffic situations.more
Oct 2023, Franz-Theo Braun
I engaged Roger Li at China Highlights to arrange a One Day Beijing Tour for my clients from Brazil and the UK after our business meetings last week. Not only did the clients have a fantastic time visiting Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Palace and the Great Wall all in one day; but they came back with rave reviews on how well the day was organised and commented on the expertise of the tour guide too. I had 4 very happy clients then meet me in Shanghai for part 2 of meetings - thanks to Roger and Felix! Many thanks again.more
Oct 2023, Bobby Tsang
Jinshanling amazing hiking trip
We took the hiking trip Jinshanling package, we like it because the view was amazing, not much crowd and our tour guide arrange everything perfectly. We like it.However please be aware that this hiking trip will involve challenging stairs step and inclination, but still suitable for someone that exercise regularly.more
Oct 2023, Frans A
Awesome experience touring Beijing with China Highlights. My tour guide, Jennifer, was knowledgeable, professional, friendly, and very accommodating. It was like taking a tour with a friend. My favorite part of the tour was walking the Great Wall of China. Jennifer made sure to take me to a remote area, not just the crowded tourist area near Beijing, so I could get a more authentic experience.more
Oct 2023, Consumer
Awesome personalized tour. Well worth the money.
Lily Liu was our guide. I highly recommend using her. She helped us check out several local places that we absolutely loved and was great at answering all our questions and helping us experience Peking duck, Hawthorne and other things we were curious about.more
Oct 2023, Jessica P
Two great weeks!
We had Olivia as our tour guide in Beijing and Mervyn in Xi'an. They were both fantastic at their job and made us feel so welcome and added to the great experience we were already having. So grateful to their professionalism and wide knowledge as well as their friendliness. We're glad that China Highlights took us to the Mutianyu Wall instead of the crowded Badaling Wall. Less crowded and great views all around!more
Oct 2023, Road36501241284
Beijing 4 day trip
Silvia arranged my itinerary which included buying the high speed train ticket from Shanghai to Beijing and airport transfers. I did not have to think about anything. She added places to the itinerary which I would not have known to visit .more
Oct 2023, Wing Yee Cheung
Amazing 2 weeks because of China Highlights
We had Olivia as our tour guide in Beijing and Mervyn in Xi'an. They were both fantastic at their job and made us feel so welcome and added to the great experience we were already having. So grateful to their professionalism and wide knowledge as well as their friendliness.All in all, we are so glad for China Highlights. Affordable and really value-for-money kinda tour.more
Oct 2023, Elisabeth Zackrina
One Day Beijing Trip (Great Wall, Summer Palace) With Jennifer
My tour guide Jennifer made this quick one day trip to Beijing great! The day started out a bit overcast and rainy when I landed, but Jennifer’s positive attitude and kind communication (along with her being able to keep up/put up with my jokes) made it fine.Despite this, Jennifer and our driver Chen were able to swing an extra photo shoot stop at the Olympic Stadium. I guess it gives me an excuse to come back to visit again, and when I do - I will use China Highlights and this great fantastic team.more
Sep 2023, Alan Landau
Best Great Wall experience
Used China Highlights for a private all-day tour of Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall. One of the best days of my life! Tour guide Alan and a driver met me at my hotel and the ride was very comfortable. Alan was extremely knowledgable and friendly, I really enjoyed talking with him. The scenery was astoundingly beautiful; this is a less touristy portion of the Wall. The hiking was fun, Alan brought plenty of water, and showed me things I would not have noticed by myself. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch that Alan had arranged - delicious! Once in a lifetime experience.more
Sep 2023, LZviajera
Non-standard private China tour
I booked a 4 weeks private China tour with ChinaHighlights covering landscapes and cultural sites between Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Zhangjiajie, Hangzhou and Shanghai. The entire tour was set up accurately, very fast and in the light of all relevant personal preferences by Mrs. Carol Wang, an expert in organizing hand made voyages in China. Due to her knowledge and immediate responses the tour was scheduled comfortably and straightforward, including all transfers and authentic hotel bookings. I highly recommend ChinaHighlights and in particular Carol Wang for organizing any extraordinary, non-mainstream travel to China.more
Sep 2023, Dr. Manfred Leubner
Alisa was very helpful tailoring a trip to China for my wife and I.Alisa was able to put together a great itinerary at a reasonable cost.Alisa is very conscientious and pays attention to detail.Example - We had a midnight flight into Shanghai on one segment of the tour. Alisa followed the flight until an earlier flight became available. Alisa changed the flight, guide and driver. Alisa has great attention to detail. Thank you Alisa. Al and Debbiemore
Sep 2023, AI Cluett
Best way to see Beijing
Our guide Lily Liu was lovely - super patient, warm, knowledgeable about Chinese history, and great English skills. Would definitely recommend this service!more
Sep 2023, Stephanie N
Our guide, Linda, was by far the best person to have for our tours of The Forbidden City, Tianamen Square, and Mutianyu Great Wall. She was an encyclopedia with great knowledge of Chinese History and was able to explain every detail of what we were seeing. She picked us up with a very nice car and driver from our hotel both days, at the time most convenient to us, and dropped us back off wherever we wanted at the end of our tours. Both the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are marvels of human and Chinese achievements and are a must to see in Beijing. Visiting them both with a tour guide that feels more like a friend was certainly helping enjoying it even more.more
Sep 2023, Robin Z
Beijing is AMAZING
Linda Wang our amazing tour guide helped us to have an unforgettable trip to all the best of Beijing. From organizing the driver (also excellent) to drop us/pick us up exactly when we were leaving busy tourist sites, excellent food recommendations, fascinating knowledge relevant to us and our children (13yo and 11yo) making The Forbidden City, Tiannamen Square, Great Wall, Beijing Zoo and The Hutongs thoroughly enjoyable. Handling all the entrance/exit passport and ticket requirements, interpreting, answering any questions we had about local culture, we were so comfortable and happy, never rushed, everything you could want and more.more
Sep 2023, Michelle A
2. Beijing and Shanghai in 5 Days
This itinerary combines China's top 2 gateway cities, Beijing and Shanghai. On the 5-day trip, you would see a multi-faceted China — Beijing's traditions and Shanghai's modernity:
- Days 1–3: Beijing sightseeing (the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, a hutong walking tour…)
- Day 4–5: Shanghai sightseeing (the Bund, a food tour)
In Beijing, you would learn about China's imperial past by visiting its most monumental achievements: the Forbidden City and the Great Wall — the world's largest palace complex and defense project respectively.
Walk into 300-year-old hutongs (old alley districts) to see what more-traditional local people's life is like.
In Shanghai, the highlight is an in-depth walking tour of the Bund to see the magnificent skyline contrasting with the century-old colonial buildings along the other side.
3. 5 Days in Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou
Our Shanghai area itinerary would allow you to discover China's most representative south-of-the-Yangtze cities in a smartly-scheduled 5 days. This itinerary is also a visa-free itinerary.
- Days 1–2: Shanghai sightseeing
- Day 3: Hangzhou with West Lake and a tea experience
- Day 4: Suzhou sightseeing with a classic garden and a water town
- Day 5: Back to Shanghai
Starting from Shanghai, you can easily explore the Yangtze Delta further — Hangzhou and Suzhou are both close to Shanghai and well-connected.
In Hangzhou, you could visit one of China's most famous imperial landscaping attractions, West Lake, and enjoy a relaxing boat ride.
One of the special experiences in our tours is visiting a tea plantation to see how farmers pick tea leaves and discover the process of making tea.
A visit to the classical gardens and water towns is essential for a trip to Suzhou. Another special experience is a night visit to a famous garden, which would let you see a different charm from a daytime visit. There are traditional Chinese cultural performances staged in the pavilions in the evenings.
If you would prefer a mountain escape from busy urban life, Huangshan (the Yellow Mountains, the greatest of China's famous mountains) is also an iconic destination near Shanghai. Check out our 3-Day Escape to Huangshan from Shanghai Tour.
4. 5 Days in Beijing
If you are visiting China for the first time and want an in-depth tour experience for 5 days, then we suggest spending the whole five days in Beijing. You could take advantage of Beijing's 6-day visa-free policy if you use suitable flights.
- Day 1: Visit the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven
- Days 2–3: Go to the Great Wall hiking, then stay a night by the Wall at Gubei Water Town with hands-on experiences like tie-dying and kite-making.
- Day 4: Explore a Beijing neighborhood and try some local food.
- Day 5: Visit the Summer Palace and depart.
With 5 days in Beijing, besides the must-see visits, you can explore further some less mainstream attractions, like spending more days on the Great Wall with a night visit, a hiking tour, or camping on the wall.
You would also have the opportunity to discover the local way of life. Get inside the local communities, hutong courtyards, and markets to see how a Beijing local spends a day.
If you are very interested in a camping tour on the Great Wall, we can also help you arrange that: see our 2-Day Jiankou Wild Great Wall Camping Tour.
We offer a personalized-tour service. We are ready to create a trip based on your needs and interests.
5. Chengdu — A Close Encounter with Pandas
If you love pandas and want to experience a laid-back urban atmosphere that's different from first-tier cities', Chengdu is a good choice. 5 days in Chengdu would offer you a chance to see pandas and let you explore nearby Leshan — famous for the Giant Buddha and Mount Emei:
- Days 1–2: Chengdu sightseeing with a panda tour
- Day 3: Leshan with a tour to see the largest Buddha statue in the world
- Day 4: A relaxing and natural trip to Mount Emei
- Day 5: Back to Chengdu
In this 5-Day Chengdu tour, we would arrange a panda keeper program for you. You would make panda cakes, clean panda enclosures, watch them being fed, and get a volunteer certificate, which would be more interesting and meaningful than just watching pandas in a zoo or breeding center.
Just contact us if you have any needs or problems. Our service is personalized.
6. Zhangjiajie — Avatar's Hallelujah Mountains
If you are a nature lover, and especially if you like adventurous activities, Zhangjiajie would be an ideal choice for your 5 days in China:
- Days 1–2: In Zhangjiajie National Park, you would see "gravity-defying" rocky towers that are said to be the inspiration for Avatar's Hallelujah Mountains.
- Day 3: Challenge yourself by walking on the world's longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge in Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon.
- Day 4: Visit Tianmen Mountain using the world's longest cable car.
- Day 5: Departure
If you want to try some exciting outdoor activities in Zhangjiajie, we could arrange them for you, such as a hiking tour in Zhangjiajie National Park, or biking around the beautiful and non-touristy side of Tianmen Mountain. See 5-Day Zhangjiajie Hiking and Biking Tour for Any Level.
All our tours can be customized based on your needs and interests. Just contact us.
7. Guilin — Leisurely Countryside Views
If you want to get away from the daily grind and the fast-paced life for a while, you could consider Guilin with its nearby towns of Longsheng and Yangshuo.
In our 5-day Guilin tour, you can enjoy a relaxing pace of travel and immerse yourself in some of the most beautiful rural scenery in China:
- Day 1: Visit Longsheng and return to Guilin for the night
- Days 2–4: Explore Yangshuo
- Day 5: Back to Guilin and departure
Start your Guilin trip in Longsheng, where you would explore the minority villages and enjoy magnificent Longji Terraced Fields views. At night, after returning to the city, savor Guilin's colorful and click-worthy night views with appetizing local delicacies during a city discovery walk.
In Yangshuo, if you like adventuring, explore a wild limestone cave or discover a beautiful valley that is still mostly unknown, even to locals. You could also enjoy some time relaxing on a bamboo raft ride, bicycle, and/or sidecar tour to explore the countryside.
8. Tibet — Holy Culture and High-Altitude Scenery
If you want to know more about China's far-west region and have an interest in Tibet's culture, its religious vibe, and plateau scenery, Tibet is a destination that can be visited in 5 days.
Our 5-day tour in Tibet covers the highlights in the capital city Lhasa along with a trip to serene Lake Yamdrok:
- Day 1–2: Visit Tibet's most famous monasteries to feel the strong religious atmosphere. But first, take a stroll in an oxygenating park and some recommended rest time to adjust to the high altitude.
- Day 3: Visit the iconic Potala Palace and experience Tibetan daily life on Barkhor Street.
- Day 4: Visit Holy Lake Yamdrok with a picnic time by the lakeside.
- Day 5: Departure
If you want to go to Everest Base Camp or explore more remote places in Tibet, you would need more days. For an example, see 8-Day Lhasa to Everest Base Camp Private Tour.
Insider tips: Tibet Entry Permits, which are a must for foreign travelers, are best applied for at least 2 weeks in advance. We can handle them for you if you book a tour with us.
9. The Silk Road — Deserts, Grottoes, Rainbow Mountains
If you like adventure and would prefer an off-the-beaten-path route with exotic culture and magnificent natural landscapes like the Gobi Desert, the Silk Road could be your ideal choice.
With our 5-day Silk Road tour, you would visit two important cities with rocky landscapes, desert wonders, and cultural relics — Dunhuang and Zhangye:
- Days 1–2: View the splendid rainbow mountains and rock formations in Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park and Binggou Danxia Area.
- Day 3: Visit Dunhuang's Mogao Caves and ride a camel in the desert.
- Day 4: Visit Dunhuang Museum and "Devil City" — Yadan National Geological Park, featuring wind-carved rocks of various shapes
- Day 5: Departure
There are many other places worth visiting on the Silk Road, such as those in Xinjiang. If you are very interested in a Silk Road tour, we recommend a 12-Day Tour from Xi'an to Kashgar. All our tours can be adjusted based on your needs. Just contact us.
10. Yunnan — Old Towns, Ethnic Villages, Snow Mountains
If you love natural beauty, a laid-back travel atmosphere, and ethnic culture with some outdoor adventure, Yunnan is recommended.
With this itinerary, you would visit the most famous attractions in Yunnan to explore its colorful scenery and culture with some hands-on experiences:
- Day 1: Kunming sightseeing (Explore the Stone Forest and discover the folk customs of the ethnic residents there)
- Day 2: Dali sightseeing (Visit its old towns and villages, and try local crafts like tie-dyeing. Enjoy a relaxing time by the famous Erhai Lake.)
- Days 3–4: Lijiang exploration (Visit its old town. Take a tour of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and visit a mysterious village at its foot.)
- Day 5: Departure
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.