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How To Avoid Crowds at China's Iconic Highlights

On a trip to China, many tourists are attracted to see four of China's iconic tourist sights: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, and the Yellow Mountains.

These famous places are notorious for noisy, dense crowding. But we explain methods to avoid the crowds and have a better experience including lesser used routes, favorable times to go, touring techniques, and convenient travel methods will make your trip more enjoyable and help you get away from the crowds.

Travel Tips To Avoid Crowds

crowded train station

The golden rule in avoiding the crowds is avoiding Chinese vacations, and weekends during peak season. In such times not only are attractions packed, but also hotels are more expensive, and transport etc. is very crowded and hard to book. See more on Dates to Avoid.

There are other more general tips, like making the most of the time when the Chinese tourist groups are having their lunches, on 8 Mistakes That Will Put You in a Sea of Chinese Tourists. However, here we give more specific tips for perhaps the most crowded four sights in China...

Avoid Forbidding Crowds in the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is China's top attraction and is visited by 14 million people each year! It is the grandest highlight in Beijing but imagine the crowds! Pushing through the crowds and lines can be daunting. You'll probably face an hour's line at the ticket counter and then still have to push through noisy crowds especially during busy hours.

Here are general tips: Weekends or public holidays are busy, except Sunday morning before 10, when it might still be quiet. Go in the early morning or in the later afternoon. Try to walk off the path beaten by the countless marching tour groups.

Our Private Forbidden City Heritage Tours

Instead, of chancing it alone, would you prefer to enter in with an expert tour guide? Our guide knows the ins and outs of the huge complex well and can take you to less crowded places in the complex to see the places that most interest you.

Our tour guides are specialists in leading our clients to the out of the way places and helping you figure out the areas you'd most like to tour in the grand one kilometer long complex of 9,999½ rooms and hundreds of buildings and towers.

Expedited visit: We bring the tickets to you so as to avoid possibly an hour wait, usher you through the entrance, and help you tour the complex with graphics, maps and pictures to explain to you the layout, history, and the various options about what to see.

See more on our Forbidden City Heritage Walks. 

The Great Wall of China Without "the Great Wall of Chinese"

jiankou hikingHiking on the Great Wall along a non-restored section

Near Beijing, there are actually about 14 Great Wall sections, not only one as many people think. So you have a choice about the level of crowding.

We recommend about 10 Great Wall choices as worth visiting. The best rebuilt sections of the wall are the most crowded. The less renovated the section, the less the crowding. The unrenovated sections may have no crowds at all; but the drawbacks are much more rugged walking, some danger while walking, and a lack of facilities.

Levels of Crowding

Best restored: Badaling is the closest to Beijing and also the busiest receiving about 75% of Great Wall visitors!! Mutianyu is also close to Beijing and also well restored. It gets far less crowds, and it is known for Ming era watch towers.

jinshanling great wallThe Great Wall section at Jinshanling has little crowding.

Semi-restored: Jinshanling and Huanghuacheng are less crowded still, and parts are crumbling away, but you might still hike on them.

Unrestored: Jiankou, Zhuangdaokou, and Gubeikou are basically original, little visited, and might prove dangerous to hike since the walls are crumbling. There are great views. Jiankou has ladders, steep wall climbs, and is covered with brush. You may not be able to gain access to all parts of these due to legal restrictions.

When to Go?

Weekends and holidays are to be avoided as well as the busy times from May to October especially from July 1 to early September due to school vacations. The earlier in the morning you can get there, the better your experience. More on Great Wall Visits

See the Terracotta Army not the Tourist Army

xian the terra-cotta warriors and horsesVault One displays about 2,000 statues and there are at least that many tourists trying to see them at busy times.

The Terracotta Army is one of China's three most famous ancient tourist attractions, along with the other two above. There is a smaller area for the crowds to range since the crowds necessarily must stand around the same three main pits to view the Warriors and the other treasures. But you can avoid some of the crowding by following these touring methods.

Times to go: The best times to arrive are either early before the tour buses come or after they leave for lunch at about 12. The museum stays quieter after lunch as well.

Low tourism season is winter. Xi'an's daytime temperatures stay just a little above freezing usually. So, if you don't mind the cold, Xi'an and most of China is yours for less without the crowds.

Tour route: Most people enter and crowd around the biggest pit, Pit 1, that has the arrayed Warriors. So instead, visit the pits in reverse order. When you enter in, go left towards the Bronze Chariot Exhibition Room and circle around counterclockwise and see the Warriors last. See more Terracotta Warriors Tour Tips>>

Guided tours: We try to help you make your visit to the Terracotta Army museum as enjoyable as possible. We arrange a good time to visit and buy the tickets so as to avoid the lines. See our Xi'an Essence Tour>>

The Mysterious Place: We can provide an up-close visit to ancient treasures, facilitated by an archeological organization, as an exclusive experience for our customers. See more beyond ordinary activities in Xi'an.

The Legendary Yellow Mountains Minus the Legendary Crowds

west seaThe West Sea Grand Canyon is the awesome, less-crowded back way up.

What makes Huangshan Scenic Area seem particularly crowded are the narrow mountain paths that get clogged to frustrated lines at bottlenecks in peak season.

The West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷) route, known as the back route, up the Yellow Mountains is less frequented than the front ways that most tourists crowds go. There is spectacular scenery and less crowded trails to explore. People say that this section of the park is the most beautiful.

Strenuous hiking: However, it is harder to hike than the front way. You will need to have a good level of fitness to reach the top even if you take the monorail part of the way up.

Two suggested routes: 

1. If you wish to hike all the way up from the Service Station, you could either take the path that goes to the monorail station and continue on up past the two loops and reach the Bright Peak summit (1,860 meters) in about 3½ or 4 hours.

Taking the monorail takes you near Baiyun Hotel, and it will cut about an hour or more off your ascent and another hour if you use it for the descent. So the whole circuit might require three hours of hiking if you are very fit. However, you'll face a huge crowd and a long line during the holidays and weekends. 

2. Or you could go the other direction to Buxian Bridge and reach the summit in about 3½ hours. People can hike this circuit in 6 or less hours if they are very fit, otherwise it might take 7 hours or more. Beware the 45 degree angled stairs!

You can read more on these and other routes on Yellow Mountain Hiking.

Touring These Four Famous Places

Forbidden CityWith us you can be the private tour party in the foreground, rather than the group tour crowd in the background.

Our tours are customizable according to your interests and requirements. Tell us the kind of tour you'd like to have.

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