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How Long to Spend in China: Itineraries from 1 Week to 1 Month

How Long to Spend in China: Itineraries from 1 Week to 1 Month

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Jan. 29, 2024

China is an expansive destination with colorful culture, rich history, diverse landscapes, cute giant pandas, and exquisite cuisine… You might be wondering how to arrange an itinerary to suit your needs and make the most of your holiday in China: How many days do I need in China? Etc.

Here are some suggestions for designing your China itinerary based on our extensive trip planning experience.

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How Many Days Do You Need in China?

How Long to Spend in China

A classic China itinerary for first-timers is about 10–14 days, covering Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai with one more city: usually Guilin (for more varied and relaxing activity options), Zhangjiajie (exciting mountain experiences), or Chengdu (for pandas).

If you want to try some off-the-beaten-path routes, you may need 3 or 4 weeks. You could explore remote areas like Tibet (5–8 days), Yunnan (6–9 days), and the Silk Road (5–10 days).

If you have limited time, you could go with an essential itinerary of 7 to 9 days. You would just visit the "golden triangle cities" - Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai.

If you would like our help when planning your China trip, feel free to contact us. Our travel consultant will listen to and answer your inquiries carefully and promptly and make the best tour plan for you.

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1-Week China Itineraries

If you have one week to explore China, you are recommended to consider the golden triangle route: Beijing–Xi'an–Shanghai.

Or you could consider exploring one area in depth, such as Shanghai and its surrounding area (Hangzhou, Suzhou, and/or Huangshan).

Option 1: Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai (The Golden Triangle)

  • Days 1–4: Beijing sightseeing, including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City
  • Days 5–6: Xi'an with the Terracotta Warriors and a hands-on experience, museum visiting, and a food tour
  • Day 7: Shanghai with the Bund and free time to explore
A Sample 1-Week Itinerary: Beijing–Xi'an–Shanghai

The golden triangle route is a time-smart way for first-timers to see the most iconic landmarks and quickly learn about China's culture and history.

Beijing, being the capital city, is usually the starting point for a China trip. There you could see the top attractions of China, including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. You could also have some cultural interactive experiences like visiting a local family in Beijing's hutongs.

In Xi'an, the Terracotta Warriors is a must. The hands-on experience of making your own clay warrior would make the visit more interesting. We can arrange it for you.

The Bund is the most famous attraction in Shanghai, where you can see its past and present. Most Shanghai tour plans leave some free time to explore by yourself.

Option 2: Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou (Visa-Free)

  • Days 1–2: Shanghai exploration with the Bund and Yu Garden
  • Day 3: Hangzhou (West Lake and tea experience)
  • Day 4: Suzhou (classical gardens and water towns)
  • Day 5: Back to Shanghai (free-time exploration)
1 week itinerary in Yangtze River Delta

With this itinerary, you would explore the famous Yangtze River Delta (Shanghai and its surrounding area).

You would see and learn about some of the top Chinese cultural elements like classical Chinese gardens, water towns, and tea culture:

  • Walk around the ancient water towns and visit the most famous classic garden in Suzhou.
  • Enjoy magnificent mountain views and enjoy some quiet moments in a quaint village in Huangshan.
  • Learn about Chinese tea culture in Hangzhou. You can see how farmers pick tea leaves, learn the process for making tea, and talk to the local tea growers.

You can also take advantage of the convenience of the area - its 6-day visa-free policy permits visiting Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou.

If you are interested in Huangshan for its mountain views and quaint villages, you can check out this combination: 2-Day Shanghai Old-and-New Collision + 5-Day Dynamic Huangshan Tour.

10–12-Day China Itineraries

An itinerary ranging from 10 to 12 days allows you to add one city to the golden triangle route (Beijing–Xi'an–Shanghai).

If you like natural beauty, we recommend Guilin (for varied and relaxing countryside activity options) or Zhangjiajie (for exciting mountain experiences). If you or your kids love pandas, Chengdu is recommended.

A Classic 10-Day Itinerary: Beijing–Xi'an–Guilin–Shanghai

  • Days 1–3: Beijing exploration, with must-sees including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City
  • Days 4–5: Xi'an sightseeing, with a visit to the Terracotta Army and clay-warrior-making experience
  • Day 6–8: Guilin, with a Li River cruise and outdoor activities like biking
  • Days 9–10: Shanghai exploration, with a visit to the Bund and some free time
A Sample 10-Day Itinerary: Beijing–Xi'an–Guilin–Shanghai

Our top recommendation for a 10–12-day itinerary covers Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, and Guilin - the most-chosen route for first timers. Guilin features picturesque rural scenery and leisurely countryside activities.

It's a great place for outdoor pursuits with children, like kayaking and biking, as well as for couples to enjoy nature and create romantic memories, such as a walk around the karst-cradled paddy fields and a candlelit dinner by a rustic river.

If you have your own preferred destinations, you can also contact us. We would like to help you arrange a tour plan you'll love based on your interests and needs.

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2-Week China Itineraries

If you want a richer experience for your China tour, including culture, nature, pandas, and some outdoor activities, 2 weeks is an ideal duration.

A Popular 2-Week Itinerary: Golden Triangle, Chengdu, Yangtze Cruise

  • Days 1–4: Beijing arrival and exploration, with must-sees including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City
  • Days 5–6: Xi'an sightseeing, with a visit to the Terracotta Army and a clay-warrior-making experience
  • Days 7–8: Chengdu panda tour with a keeper program - make panda cakes, see pandas being fed at close quarters, and clean their enclosures.
  • Days 9–11: Yangtze River cruise with excursions
  • Days 12–14: Shanghai exploration, with a visit to the Bund and some free time
2-Week China Itinerary route map

With a 2-week trip in China, we recommend Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Chengdu, and a Yangtze cruise.

Few people would say no to cute pandas, especially kids. We can arrange a panda keeper program for you to observe and learn about pandas up close.

A leisurely cruise would allow you to enjoy magnificent views of the Three Gorges and really relax, which is especially welcomed for multi-generation family trips and senior couple trips.

For more options for a 2-week itinerary in China, see:

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3-Week China Itineraries

With a 3-week trip in China, you would have the chance to go to some off-the-beaten-path destinations like Tibet or Yunnan besides the top tourist cities.

Tibet is a destination on many people's bucket lists. Its mysterious Tibetan culture, pure plateau scenery, and unique festival experiences are all incredibly enticing.

Yunnan is a colorful land with many things to do, whether you're with your kids or your partner. There are beautifully-scenic mountains and lakes, old towns, diverse ethnic cultures, and adventure activities like hiking in one of the world's deepest canyons.

Or, if you prefer a laid-back option, you could consider exploring deeper into a certain area like Shanghai's environs (the Yangtze Delta), Chengdu's vicinity (Western Sichuan), etc.

Option 1: A 3-Week Itinerary including Tibet

  • Days 1–4: Beijing (The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven)
  • Days 5–6: Xi'an (the Terracotta Warriors with a related hands-on experience, food tour, City Wall)
  • Days 7–11: Tibet (the Potala Palace, monasteries, local-life experience)
  • Days 12–13: Chengdu, with a panda volunteer program
  • Days 14–17: Guilin, with nearby towns (river cruise, biking, bamboo rafting)
  • Days 18–19: Shanghai sightseeing
A 3-Week Itinerary with Tibet

On a 3-week six-city trip, the number of days spent in Tibet would be about four or five. You would be able to go to Lhasa to see the iconic Potala Palace, watch devout Buddhists praying in Barkhor Street, and enjoy a picnic on the shore of a holy lake. Contact us if you are interested in this itinerary.

If you want to explore Tibet further, for example including Everest Base Camp, you would need more than 3 weeks or fewer cities.

If you are interested in visiting Yunnan during a 3-week trip, you can find an itinerary suggestion on our How to Plan a 3-Week Itinerary in China (Best 3 Options & Costs).

Option 2: A 3-Week In-Depth Shanghai Area Exploration

  • Days 1–4: Beijing exploration (the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, hutongs, Peking duck)
  • Days 5–6: Xi'an sightseeing, with the Terracotta Warriors
  • Days 7–8: Chengdu panda tour with a keeper program
  • Days 9–11: Guilin, with nearby towns (river cruise, biking, bamboo rafting)
  • Days 12–13: Hangzhou (West Lake and tea experience)
  • Days 14–16: Suzhou (classical gardens and water towns)
  • Days 17–19: Huangshan (the Yellow Mountains and villages)
  • Days 20–21: Shanghai (the Bund and free time)
A 3-Week Itinerary

With this 3-week itinerary, you would visit Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Huangshan together with Shanghai and plus Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, and Guilin. This option has a greater focus on South China, particularly the Yangtze Delta.

1-Month+ China Itineraries

Zhangye Danxia landformDanxia landform in Zhangye on the Silk Road

With 1 month or a longer holiday to spend in China, you could explore further still into some off-the-beaten-track destinations.

For example, in Tibet, besides the usual visit to its capital Lhasa, you could explore more remote destinations like Everest Base Camp, Mt. Kailash, and Shigatse. Get inspired with our 8-Day Lhasa to Everest Base Camp Private Tour or 14-Day Tibet Tour with Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar

You could also visit Yunnan and Tibet in one trip, which would enable you to know more about the minority cultures of China and see a variety of natural landscapes.

The Silk Road is also a good choice for a longer trip, where you could see vast deserts, ancient grottoes, Uygur culture, and much more. See our 12-Day Tour from Xi'an to Kashgar.

You can contact us for a more detailed and personalized itinerary arrangement if you are planning a one-month or longer China trip.

Tour China with Us!

We offer a personalized tour service. We would create a unique itinerary according to your flight times, interests, and any other requirements you have.

Just contact us, and we'll create your ideal China trip. Our consultants will listen to and answer your inquiries carefully and promptly and prepare the best tour plan for you.

Here are some popular options that you could base your trip on:

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