When we think about travelling to China, our thoughts usually turn to The Great Wall, or The Forbidden City, or possibly the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an.
China however is so much more than the three main tourist attractions it’s known for, and for the traveller wanting to immerse themselves into a destination, there are hundreds of exciting things to see and do.
In case you haven’t considered the basics of travelling to China, let’s take a look at the most popular attractions on a first-time itinerary to China.
The Great Wall of China
Over 2,300 years old and spanning over 21,000 kilometers, the Great Wall is an amazing day tour and is still inspiring no matter how many times you see it. If you’re a repeat visitor to Beijing, there are several different sections of the Wall you can visit, rather than going back to the same place and seeing the same thing over.
The three most popular sections of The Great Wall to visit are Mutianyu, which is the most fully restored section and is set amongst some magnificent vistas. Jinshanling is probably the most popular walking or hiking route and features the most beautiful original architecture. Jianjou is steep and perilous and walking it isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is the section most seen on postcards and is amongst the most beautiful.
Visiting the Great Wall of China is a simple day-trip or add-on to your itinerary from Beijing and everyone should visit it at least once in your life.
The Forbidden City
Originally open to just the Emperors, and their families and attendants - the Forbidden City is now amongst the most popular attractions in China. With over 980 buildings and 8700 rooms, the architecture, art and design is a beautiful opportunity to trace the history of China and Imperial reign in one location.
The Forbidden City is the largest Imperial Palace in the world and is best seen in the morning while you are visiting Beijing. The easiest way to visit the palace grounds, are entering through the Gate of Heavenly Peace at Tian'anmen Square.
The Terracotta Warriors
Built to defend the first Emperor as his guard in the afterlife, the Terracotta Army features hundreds of soldiers, horses and chariots perfectly formed and life-size, in battle formation.
You need at least half a day spare in Xi’an to properly see the warriors and museum, but it’s definitely a must-see when you visit China.
One of the most amazing animals in the world, the Chinese Giant Panda is best seen in Chengdu, in Sichuan Province. If you don’t have time to visit Chengdu this trip, the Panda enclosure at Beijing Zoo is well worth a visit.
With the basics of China sightseeing covered, where else should you visit? China is so much more than these 4 attractions and a country that should be explored and treasured, so here are some ideas of places you should see.
The Li River
Take a day cruise from Guilin down the Li River to Yangshuo to see some of the most beautiful scenery in China.
The best time to visit Guilin and cruise the Li River is in April and May
The Stone Forest
In Yunnan Province there is the amazing “Shilin” stone forest. Covering over 300 square kilometres, these naturally formed giant stalagmite-like pillars create huge arrays of labyrinths that are easy to become lost in.
The most exciting time to visit the Shilin Forest is for the June 24th Torch Festival held by the local Sani people.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
China’s first National Park, created in 1982 is better known for being the landscape of the James Cameron Film “Avatar.”
Zhangjiajie features over 3000 vertical pillars, each hundreds of metres tall and covered with lush green forests and trees. In 2015, construction completed on a the longest glass bridge in the world, running for 40 kilometres and is 300 meters above the ground.
These are just a few other things you can add on to your China trip, from the basics in Beijing to exploring more of this incredible country. There are thousands of different attractions and itineraries to make your visit to China even more incredible, and while the Great Wall is a spectacular “must-do” it’s only the first of many things you should see.
There is an ancient Chinese proverb that translates as “"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Step one: Start planning your trip to China today!