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The Top 10 China Travel Destinations

The Top 10 China Travel Destinations

Written by CindyUpdated Apr. 14, 2023

Where in China should you go next year? Here we recommend 10 of the most popular tourist destinations to help you seek ideas and spark planning for your 2023/2024 tour.

The top 10 destinations are 1) Beijing, 2)  Xi'an, 3) Chengdu, 4) Guilin, 5) Zhangjiajie, 6) Tibet, 7) Shanghai, with Suzhou and Hangzhou 8) Huangshan, 9) Dunhuang, 10) Yunnan, .

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1. Beijing — Visit the Great Wall


Beijing, capital of China, is the most popular tourist destination in China every year. You can get the maximum experience of Chinese culture and history for one destination. The Forbidden City and the Great Wall draw millions of visitors every year.

Top Things to Do in Beijing

  • Visit the Forbidden City to see the spectacular ancient architectural complex.
  • Hike on the Great Wall to be a "real man" (according to Chairman Mao).
  • Take a bike ride in the hutongs (narrow alleys) to experience Beijing's traditional culture.

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2. Xi'an — See the Terracotta Army


One of the most popular China destinations among foreign travelers, Xi'an particularly attracts tourists on their first trip to China.

The Terracotta Army in Xi'an is considered one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world. More than 6,000 life-size terracotta warriors and horses have been unearthed, all with different expressions and poses. Many remain interred.

Top Things to Do in Xi'an

  • Visit the amazing Terracotta Army and make your own warriors at a cave dwelling.
  • Bike on the Ancient City Wall.
  • Hang out and snack in the Muslim Streets.

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3. Chengdu — the City of Cute Giant Pandas


Giant pandas are so cute, and many travelers want to see hese lovely animals. Although there are giant pandas in zoos in various places around China, the best place to see pandas is in Chengdu. You can also take part in volunteer programs to take care of giant pandas.

Top Things to Do in Chengdu

  • Watch giant pandas and join a panda keeper program
  • Shake up your taste buds with the real Sichuan food
  • Visit the Leshan Giant Buddha
  • Discover the mysterious Sanxingdui Civilization in Sanxingdui Museum
  • Walk into a colorful fairyland in Daocheng and Yading

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4. Guilin — The Place to Go for Classic Chinese Countryside


"East to west, Guilin is best."

Guilin's idyllic scenery draws millions of tourists from near and far every year. Its marvelous limestone scenery is renowned as "the most beautiful on earth". The fresh air and countryside scenery make it an ideal place to escape industrial pollution.

The Li River is the top highlight of Guilin, and the Longji Terraced Fields attract many photographers in spring and fall.

Top Things to Do in Guilin

  • Take a cruise to see the picturesque Li River.
  • Photograph the Longji Terraced Fields and experience minority culture in Longsheng.
  • Have an adventurous ATV driving experience along paths and between rice fields in Yangshuo.
  • Try a 2-hour via ferrata (cable-protected cliff climb) in Yulong River Ecological Park.
  • Go kayaking to enjoy the cool water and appreciate the karst scenery along the Li River. 
  • Experience what it's like to be a local villager working in the fields.

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5. Zhangjiajie — Pandora on Earth!


Zhangjiajie is famous for its precarious peaks, limpid streams, dense forests, large karst caves, and biodiversity. It is one of the must-see scenic areas in China.

It was thrust into foreign travelers' eyes via the movie Avatar. The Hallelujah Mountains were inspired (in part) by peaks like Heavenly Pillar in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

Top Things to Do in Zhangjiajie

  • Hike among the amazing pillars and peaks of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
  • Escape the crowds entirely and enjoy the scenery on an off-the-beaten track route.
  • Bike around the beautiful and non-touristy side of Tianmen Mountain.
  • Experience via ferrata (cable-safe cliff challenges) at Hongyanling (Red Rock Ridge).
  • Try bungee jumping on the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge
  • See How to Plan a Zhangjiajie Tour for top guidance and tips.

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6. Tibet — Nothing but Pure Beauty


Tibet is a sacred place for Buddhists as well as a dream destination for many travellers. It is overflowing with rich Tibetan culture, characteristic Tibetan architectural structures, vast grasslands, herds of cattle and sheep, blue skies, clear water, and fresh air. It's a place for slowing down and soaking up the natural charm that's all around you.

Top Things to Do in Tibet

  • Explore the Potala Palace, which is an iconic landmark in Tibet.
  • Camp with a nomadic family on their pasture and work together with them.
  • Gaze at the beauty of Yamdrok Lake and Namtso — Tibet's pristine landscapes.
  • Travel to Everest Base camp and stand in front of the "Apex" of the Roof of the World 
  • Pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash — "Center of the World".

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7. Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou — 1 Hour by Bullet Train

Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou

High-speed rail gives you some new comfortable and convenient China tour options. Suzhou and Hangzhou are now only an hour's travel by bullet train from Shanghai! Download China Train Booking to book train tickets.

Enjoy ancient culture, gardens, and water towns from modern Shanghai, a top gateway city. The traditional gardens are quiet and inspirational places for escaping from busy city life.

Top Things to Do in These Cities

  • Explore an enchanting old water town.
  • Appreciate traditional, captivatingly-landscaped Chinese gardens
  • Visit the world's biggest Starbucks and see how AR (augmented reality) is used in the store.
  • Explore the Bund in-depth and its historical buildings.

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8. Huangshan — the Magical Yellow Mountains


Legendary natural scenery is the highlight of Huangshan. It has "the most beautiful mountains in China". The Yellow Mountains, with their seas of clouds, oddly-shaped rocks and pines, and hot springs at the mountain foot, attract many many visitors.

Besides the enchanting mountains, you should also see the beautiful surrounding countryside, with its celebrated spring vistas, fall hues, and ancient villages. Canola flowers in spring can be the icing on a cake.

Top Things to Do in Huangshan

  • Ascend the Yellow Mountains and enjoy sunrise, sunset, and seas of clouds.
  • Visit the beautiful village of Hongcun - the "artists' muse".
  • Escape to a rural utopia in Bishan village and see how artists have turned this small area into a rural paradise.
  • See How to Plan a Huangshan Trip for insider tips and guidance.

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9. Dunhuang — Mogao Caves

Dunhuang Mogao CavesDunhuang Mogao Caves

“In the West there is the Louvre; in the East there are the Mogao Caves.”

The Mogao Caves are famous for their exquisite murals and Buddhist statues. The Mogao Caves were included in UNESCO’s world cultural heritage list in 1987. Standing out in the desert, the Mogao Caves are like a glittering pearl that adorns the Silk Road.

Besides the Mogao Caves, in Dunhuang you will also be impressed by the wonders in the Yardang National Geological Park (Ghost City) and the Singing Sand (Mingsha) Mountains. Read more about how to visit the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang.  

Top Things to Do in Dunhuang

  • Admire the exquisite sculptural skills and elegant Buddhist styles of more than 2,000 colored statues in Mogao Caves that were carved 1,500 years ago.  
  • Ride a camal in the Singing Sand Mountains to make your desert dream come true.
  • Enjoy the marvelous sunset view at the Yardang National Geopark and listern the park’s zephyrs screaming awfully through the rocks at the night. 

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10. Yunnan — a Colorful Wonderland


Located in Southwest China, Yunnan is the most diverse and colorful area in China, with features ranging from snowcapped mountains to tropical rain forests, from highland lakes to canyons, and from ancient towns to fascinating minority villages.

Yunnan's diverse cultures, rich history, spectacular landscapes, and pleasant climate make it a good year-round vacation destination.

Top Things to Do in Yunnan

  • Enjoy a lazy time in the Old Town of Lijiang, which is characterized by old Naxi architecture.
  • Bike with the refreshing breezes of Erhai Lake
  • Visit a non-public dormitory of Songzanlin Monastery and walk in a Tibetan family's house in Shangri-La
  • Meet the matriarchal Mosuo in Lugu Lake
  • Capture the unmatched beauty of the Yuanyang Terraced Fields, an area that has been acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site.
  • Hike across Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is one of the deepest gorges on the planet.

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All our tours can be customized. Contact us to create a trip according to your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements.

Look for Some Unusual Destinations?

If you have been to the destinations above or you prefer to the off-the-beaten places, you could take the following destinations into consideration.

Rainbow mountains in ZhangyeRainbow Mountains in Zhangye
  • The Silk Road (Xiahe, Zhangye, Urumqi, Kashgar): see specail landscape — rainbow mountains; splendid Dunhuang Mogao Caves; Uyghur culture; desert activities...
  • Ningxia (Zhongwei): wonderful desert experiences; one of China's best wine producing areas; desert camping, luxury desert hotel experience...
  • Inner Mongolia: vast grassland scenery; splendid golden euphrates poplar forests; Nadam Festival...
  • Qinghai: fantastic lake views — Qinghai Lake and Chaka Salt Lake; experience Buddhist culture on the Ancient Silk Road...
  • Gansu: discover Tibetan culture outside Tibet; stunning plateau scenery...
  • Sanya: sunshine, happy beach time, various water sports...

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All our tours can be customized. Contact us to create a trip according to your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements.

Start Planning Your China Trip

Read our ideas and suggestions on How to Plan Your China Trip.

Recommended Classic China Tour Itineraries

Below are recommended China tours itineraries for you, including the most popular places from the list above. All of our tours can be tailor-made. Tell us your requirements and interests, and we will help you create your own China tour.

For a different combination of China cities, or to tour more of China your way, contact us with your favorite China highlights and we'll tailor-make your dream tour.

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