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The Top 10 Destinations for a Second Trip to China

Wondering about a return trip to China or where to discover a new and adventurous destination in 2020?

Try Yunnan, Chengdu, Zhangjiajie, the Yellow Mountains, a Yangtze Cruise, Tibet, the Silk Road, Xiamen, Datong, and Luoyang!

Every destination offers incredible landscapes, indigenous cultures, and varied adventures. You don't need an alarm clock when you stay in these extraordinary places, because the unknown adventures and beautiful scenery will make you keen to get up early.

1. Yunnan

yunnan

As the most wonderfully complex of all China's provinces, Yunnan boasts a rich diversity of people and a variety of natural wonders: deep gorges, towering karst formations, splendid snowcapped mountains, and the foothills of the Himalayas.

Yunnan enjoys a pleasant climate that is mild in winter and cool in summer. It is a good year-round vacation destination.

It is also home to more than half of the 55 ethnic minorities that are recognized in China. In many remote places, you can still find minority people who dress daily in their local costumes.

Many still speak their minority languages and you'll come across different religious practices, customs, and beliefs.

It is a great place to escape the typical tourist crowds found in metropolises and find a more off-the-beaten-path side of China.

Most recommended attractions: Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Stone Forest, Shaxi Ancient Town, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Recommended duration: 6–8 days

Unique Experiences

  • Visit a shaman in Baisha village to discover the mysterious Naxi culture
  • Check out the power of the water and the towering mountains at sensational Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Explore the ‘Mirrors of the Gods' — enjoy the sunset and sunrise at Yuanyang Hani Terraced Rice Fields
  • Talk with a lama in Songzanlin Lamasery to seek enlightenment from Tibetan Buddhism

Transportation Convenience: ★★★★☆

Kunming is the gateway to Yunnan Province, providing international flights and bullet trains to many cities in China. Singapore and Malaysia both have direct flights to Kunming.

Kunming also offers a 72-hour visa-free transit policy for travelers from 51 countries. You can take a 3-day trip in Kunming if you have an onward flight ticket to a third country or area.

Tour Inspiration

2. Chengdu

chengdu

As the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu is known as the home of the giant panda, but there is definitely more there than just pandas.

It is China's most laidback city and was designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2010.

Surrounding Chengdu is an area full of surprises with sacred mountains, ancient villages, and cliffs displaying carved giant Buddhas.

To the north, the scenery changes into a picturesque fairyland of alpine valleys with colorful lakes, spectacular waterfalls, and snowcapped mountains.

Western Sichuan offers you another view from the roof of the world. It has epic mountain vistas, lively Buddhist monasteries, and grasslands peppered with yaks and alpine lakes as far as the eye can see.

The area remains largely untouched so get there before the rest of the world finds out about it.

Most recommended attractions: Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center, the Leshan Giant Buddha, Dujiangyan Irrigation System, Mountain Qingcheng, Four Girls Mountain

Recommended duration: 4–7 days

Unique Experiences

Transportation Convenience: ★★★★☆

As the capital of Sichuan Province, Chengdu has the most convenient transportation west of China's coastal cities, with direct flights to some foreign cities, direct flights/trains/buses to large domestic cities, and high-speed trains to several popular tourist cities.

It also has a 72-hour (3-day) visa-free transit policy like Kunming. Read more information about it.

Tour Inspiration

3. Zhangjiajie (Avatar Hallelujah Mountain)

zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie, a city in Northwest China's Hunan Province, is home to the famed Wulingyuan Scenic Area. This protected zone encompasses thousands of jagged quartzite-sandstone columns, many of which rise up over 200 meters in height, as well as caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

Wulingyuan also encompasses forests, rivers, waterfalls, and two large natural land bridges, as well as endangered plant and animal species.

Most recommended attractions: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Tianmen Mountain, Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, Baofeng Lake

Recommended duration: 4–6 days

Unique Experiences

  • Get up close and personal to Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.
  • Enjoy the spectacular scenery in China's first national forest park.
  • Walk on the world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge, which is suspended between two mountains.
  • Take the world's longest cable car ride up to the mountaintop.

Transportation Convenience: ★★★☆☆

Zhangjiajie is a famous tourist destination but only a small Chinese city. As such, it is moderately accessible by air and train from the major tourist cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guilin.

The most convenient way to get there is by air. Local transport includes buses from the city to the national park. Some good news, however, is that a bullet train service will be available to Zhangjiajie in 2020.

Tour Inspiration

4. Huangshan (the Yellow Mountains)

huangshan

Huangshan is the perfect place to explore spectacular mountains, remote villages, and hike along ancient routes through terraced fields of rapeseed and tea.

The main attraction is unquestionably the Yellow Mountains with their rushing mountain streams, towering peaks wreathed in mist, and twisted pines clinging to the sides of cliffs.

Both the Yellow Mountains and the surrounding villages are some of the most popular topics for Chinese ink paintings.

The most famous villages in the region are the UNESCO-listed Xidi and Hongcun. They are both built in the styles of the Ming and Qing dynasties and highlight the unique lifestyle of the province.

For a more rural getaway, where water buffalo rest in the rice fields and paths are bordered with wildflowers, head 35 kilometers south to the town of Wuyuan.

Fantastic mountain scenery and well-preserved villages make Huangshan the perfect antidote to the brashness of China's larger cities.

Huangshan is easy to navigate and is within striking distance of Shanghai — this is rural China at its accessible best.

Most recommended attractions: the Yellow Mountains, Hongcun Village, Xidi Village

Recommended duration: 3–5 days

Unique Experiences

  • Get closer to nature — hiking along the Xin'an River
  • Capture picture-postcard photos — appreciate the Yellow Mountain sunrise and the sea of clouds
  • Enjoy the tranquility of village life — an in-depth Hongcun exploration
  • Grab the autumn foliage in a photographer's paradise — Tachuan Village

Transportation Convenience: ★★★★☆

As it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China, Huangshan has relatively convenient transportation for a provincial and mountainous area.

There are many direct flights to/from many popular tourist cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Wuhan, Zhengzhou, and Xiamen.

There are also regional and international flights from Taipei and Seoul.

Tour Inspiration

5. A Yangtze River Cruise

Yangtze River Cruise

The Yangtze River has been the lifeline of China for millennia. It is the longest river in China and the third-longest in the world after the Nile and the Amazon.

Taking a Yangtze River cruise offers you the opportunity to slow down and experience the country’s rich history and culture at a more leisurely pace.

All you have to do is sit back and admire the steady flow of history and heritage that survives along the banks of the Yangtze River as you wind your way through impressive gorges and cliffs. Sailing through the magnificent Three Gorges is the highlight: with cliffs rising dramatically from the steadily flowing waters, each bend in the river offers a new breathtaking panorama.

The main Yangtze cruise season is from April to October, although some lines operate outside these months. The weather is the most comfortable in spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October).

Tour duration: 4–5 days

Recommended cruises

Transportation Convenience: ★★★★☆

The cruise ships sail between Chongqing and Yichang.

As a junction of Southwest and Central China, as well as being a large city on the upstream stretch of the Yangtze River, Chongqing has become the hinge of transportation, post, and telecommunications in Southwest China.

The water, land, and air transportation in Chongqing extends in all directions. Chongqing has formed convenient and highly efficient traffic networks with all parts of China as well as with a lot of large and medium cities in the world.

Yichang, on the other hand, is a small city with limited flights in and out of it. A bullet train service is available from Yichang to some big cities, such as Chengdu, Wuhan, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, from where you will be able to connect to international flights.

6. Tibet

tibet

Tibet is, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable places to visit in the world. For centuries, it has captured the imagination of Westerners as being the inspiration for Shangri-La.

It offers fabulous monasteries, breathtaking high-altitude treks, the stunning scenery of the world's highest mountains, and one of the most likable peoples.

You will see many sights and experience customs and culture, which you will not encounter in any other part of the world.

Because Tibetan people are so religious and the environment is so pure, Tibet can be a place to escape modern life and contemplate spiritual life.

Perhaps you will be moved when witnessing the religious devotion of the local people. It is no wonder that many people go to Tibet to cleanse their souls.

Most recommended attractions: Potala Palace, Sera Monastery, Jokhang Temple, Yamdrok Lake, Everest Base Camp

Recommended duration: 5–8 days

Unique Experiences

  • See the pilgrims in the spiritual center of Tibet — Jokhang Temple
  • Discover an offbeat learning method — watch the monks debate with each other at Sera Monastery
  • Set foot on top of the world's tallest mountain — Everest
  • Have an awesome picnic at a holy lakeside — Yamdrok Lake

Transportation Convenience: ★★★☆☆

Due to the increase of transportation networks, it is easier to get to Tibet by rail and air. Beijing, Xi'an, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming, Lijiang, and Shangri-La all have direct flights to/from Tibet.

Many tourists also combine their Tibet tour with a Nepal tour since there are direct flights to Kathmandu from Lhasa.

Tour Inspiration

7. Silk Road

Silk Road

The Silk Road was a famous trading route with a history of over 2,000 years in China. It has everything you need for a rich cultural journey into the heart of China's past.

It starts from the ancient capital of Xi'an, crosses the Yellow River in Lanzhou, and continues to the extreme western end of the Great Wall and its desert forts at Jiayuguan.

It then carries on to the best-preserved example of Chinese Buddhism at the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang. Further west, you experience the ancient ruins of Jiaohe in Turpan and Heavenly Lake nestled in the snowcapped Heavenly Mountains near Urumqi.

The whole journey encompasses extremes from scorching desert austerity to cool, watery mountain beauty and lush green upland pasture.

If you have time, cross the Taklamakan Desert to the frontier outpost of Kashgar, which has a market that is as fragrant and bustling as it was in ancient days.

Most recommended attractions: Jiayu Pass, the Mogao Caves, Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, the Heavenly Mountains

Recommended duration: 7–12 days

Unique Experiences

  • Echoing Sand Mountain — you'll see the desert meet the oasis in a most spectacular way, along with fun adventures like camel riding.
  • The Overhanging Great Wall — a striking section of the wall, which looks like a magnificent painting hanging over the cliff.
  • The Karez Wells — an ancient irrigation system, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; you will be impressed with the Xinjiang people's wisdom

Transportation Convenience: ★★★☆☆

The main sites of the Silk Road span across three provinces (Shaanxi, Gansu, and Xinjiang). Xi'an, Lanzhou, and Urumqi are considered to be the best gateway cities of each province.

All of the above cities have extensive transportation networks that make it possible for tourists to access almost all major attractions by high-speed train, airplane, or car.

Tour Inspiration

8. Xiamen (Amoy)

xiamen

Xiamen is a graceful ‘sea garden city’ in Southeast China with beautiful beach and island scenery. In 2006, a survey named it China's second most livable city. It has one of China's cleanest and most enjoyable living environments.

Xiamen is composed of two popular islands: Gulangyu and Xiamen Island.

Formerly known as Amoy, Xiamen is a leisurely city and popular for tourism. It has a good ecological environment, fresh air, and is home to thousands of egrets. Xiamen has a unique natural landscape and, because of the large number of egrets inhabiting the area, it is also known as Egret Island.

Xiamen is also a famous hometown for overseas Chinese. The total number of overseas Chinese in Xiamen is 350,080, and the number of returned overseas Chinese and their relatives is 158,100.

There are 468 key overseas associations, and overseas compatriots are distributed in 78 countries and regions. Many overseas Chinese return to Xiamen to see their relatives and ancestral homes each year.

Most recommended attractions: Nanputuo TempleGulangyutulou (earthen buildings)the Wuyi Mountains

Recommended duration: 3–5 days

Unique Experiences

  • See the Hakka Earthen Castles World Heritage Site.
  • Visit beautiful Gulang Island.
  • Hike on the Wuyi Mountains, listed as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site, to learn about the ancient Fujian culture, and see Danxia landforms around the Wuyi Mountains.

Transportation Convenience: ★★★★☆

Xiamen’s transportation includes intercity flights, trains, and coaches. Transportation within Xiamen is also very convenient: we have information on taxis, city buses, ferries, and cycling. It’s very convenient for you to travel to Xiamen and its main attractions (Gulang Island and Yongding’s earthen buildings).

Tour Inspiration

9. Datong

datong

Datong is one of China’s most famous historic and cultural cities. It was an imperial city in the Northern Wei Dynasty and an important city during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Datong is a quiet city but it contains numerous features and attractions.

From the magnificent Yungang Grottoes dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty to Huayan Temple and Honghua Temple from the Liao and Jin dynasties, and from the mysterious Hanging Monastery where Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are combined to the famous Taoist Mount Heng, which is still sacred today, it perfectly combines the multiethnic cultures, creating a greatly harmonious city.

Most recommended attractions: the Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Monastery, Yingxian Wooden Pagoda, the Datong Nine-Dragon Screen Wall, Mount Heng

Recommended duration: 2 days

Unique Experiences

  • Step into the Hanging Temple and enjoy the thrilling but safe experience.
  • See the tallest all-wood pagoda in the world, which was constructed without any nails.
  • Visit one of the biggest Buddhist grotto sites in China — the Yungang Grottoes.

Transportation Convenience: ★★★☆☆

Datong is a medium-sized city in China with a population of 3 million people. It is, therefore, reasonably well connected, especially with Beijing.

Tour Inspiration

10. Luoyang

luoyang

In the west of Henan Province, which is located in central North China, Luoyang is an ancient city with a long history and splendid culture.

It was the capital city for the longest period and during the most dynasties and was the earliest capital compared with China’s main four ancient capitals. During China’s history, 105 emperors of 13 dynasties set their capitals in Luoyang.

The Longmen Grottoes, White Horse Temple, Guanlin Temple, Lijingmen, and the Museum of Imperial Carriages of the Emperor of the Zhou Dynasty, are all records of the rise and fall of Chinese civilization. Luoyang has a well-deserved reputation as a historical and cultural city.

Most recommended attractions: the Longmen Grottoes, White Horse Temple, Luoyang National Peony Garden, Luoyang Old Town District, the Museum of Imperial Carriages of the Emperor of the Zhou Dynasty

Recommended duration: 2 days

Unique Experiences

  • Enjoy ancient grottoes of different sizes and with over 1,000 years of history at Longmen
  • Visit the first Buddhist temple in China.
  • See the stunning peonies during the annual Luoyang Peony Fair in April.

Transportation Convenience: ★★★★☆

Luoyang has convenient transportation. The city is accessible by trains and flights from main cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an.

High-speed rail makes it more convenient to get to and travel around the city. It takes 1½ hours to get from Xi’an to Luoyang by bullet train and 40 minutes from Zhengzhou. Read more about Luoyang transportation.

Tour Inspiration

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