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5 Days in China: 10 Perfect Itinerary Options 2024/2025

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Aug. 28, 2023

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.

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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.

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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.

You could also connect a trip to Zhangjiajie with Beijing or Shanghai. See our 8-Day Zhangjiajie Tour from Beijing and 6-Day Zhangjiajie Tour from Shanghai.

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

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