Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

As the third largest country of massive size and varied geography, and one of the oldest civilizations in the world, China offers a plenty of amazing tourist destinations to go. You could spend months, years even, exploring the vast land of the country and still not see it all.

When most people went to China about 20 years ago, they only wanted to see the Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, Terracotta Warriors in Xian, or walked along the Bund in Shanghai. Now as the development of tourism industry in China, more and more featured destinations are brought up to the stage, such as the hometown of Giant Panda - Chengdu, Karst landscapes - Guilin, picturesque Yellow Mountain, etc.

Only a trip is not enough to cover all the highlights in China, but you can plan several trips to China, and visit the most recommended destinations in the first trip. Followings are 10 tourist destinations recommended to visit in China in 2018. You’ll enjoy some memorable experiences that please both the body and mind - leading you into the essence of China and under skin of the Chinese culture.

1. Beijing - No. 1 Tourist Destination and Gateway City in China

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

Beijing is presently the capital city, also the political, cultural and educational center of China. It is a direct-controlled municipality under the national government with one of the largest population - 21,689 million. The city administratively covers 14 districts and 2 counties, and locates adjacent to Hebei Province and Tianjing City. The history of Beijing can be traced back to about three thousand years ago. The most glorious part is the about six hundred years’ being the capital city during Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Beijing is famous for having 7 Word Heritage Sites, including the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian and the Grand Canal.

Beijing is the transportation bub of China. It is mostly chosen as an international flight arrival city. Furthermore, the flights and trains radiate to most other regions of China, including the far western Xinjiang, Tibet, etc.

News: Tourists from 51 countries (US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Australia...) are allowed to stay in Beijing for 72 hours without China visa after checking in customs in Beijing Capital International Airport.

Type: Culture and History

Highlights: Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Hutong, Summer Palace

Recommended Trip Length: 2~4 days

Best Time of Visit: all year around

Recommended to Visit with: Xian, Shanghai

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2. Xian - Greatest Ancient China Capital

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

Xian is the real heart of ancient China. Xian, together with Athens, Rome and Cairo, are regarded as the Four Greatest Ancient Capitals in World History. 13 dynasties had settled capital in Xian from the 11th century BC to the 10th century AD, and that is why the UNESCO listed Xian as the World Historical and Cultural City in 1981.

As the home to world-famed Terracotta Warriors and Horses and as the start point of Silk Road, through which China had conducted the most important economy and culture communication with the western world, Xian draws numerous tourists with its enormous historical sites and cultural landscapes, and gives you a chance to explore the ancient China history and culture.

Xian is recommended to visit after Beijing. There are many high speed bullet trains running between two cities. It takes only about 5 hours to get to Xian from Beijing.

News: Visa-free travel in Xian was made possible now! From June 1, 2014, visitors qualified of 51 countries could travel in Xian for 72 hours without visa. Please go and enjoy our 1-3 days Xian tours.Travel News: Visa-free travel in Xian was made possible now! From June 1, 2014, visitors qualified of 51 countries could travel in Xian for 72 hours without visa. Please go and enjoy our 1-3 days Xian tours.

Type: Culture and History

Highlights: Terracotta Warriors, Ancient Great Wall, Shaanxi History Museum, Mount Hua (30min’s train ride from Xian)

Recommended Trip Length: 2 days

Best Time of Visit: all year around:

Recommended to Visit with: Beijing, Lhasa, Zhangjiajie

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3. Shanghai - Contrast of Western and Eastern Cultures

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

Beijing and Xian are the best places to explore ancient China. While, Shanghai is the best place to see the modern and fashionable face of China. It is reputed as the “Pearl of the Orient” and the “Paris of the East”. Shanghai took only 170 years to turn from a shabby fishing village into the largest metropolis in China.

In Shanghai, you can enjoy a contrast of Western & Eastern culture. After First Opium War in 1842, Shanghai began to be an open port, and then became the settlements of Western countries, including UK, France, US, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, etc. Many Western-style consulates, streets, banks and houses were constructed. Today you can trace the colonial-era culture at the Bund area. The local traditional culture is also kept very well in Shanghai – old alleys, ancient classical garden, city temple, etc. It is a wonderful thing that you can experience both the cultures from Western and China in a single city.

Shanghai is also famous for its beautiful architecture, skyline and Night View. It has some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, situating along the Huangpu River bank. You can stroll along the Bund or taking a cruise on Huangpu River to enjoy the spectacular night views of Shanghai, or get up a top floor on the Shanghai Tower, the second highest building in the world, to enjoy a panoramic view of Shanghai.

After visiting Shanghai, you can easily extend your trip to other popular destinations in a day, such as Suzhou, Hangzhou, Yellow Mountain, etc.

Travel News: From Jan. 30, 2016, qualified travelers from 51 countries could travel among Shanghai, Jiangsu Province (Suzhou included) and Zhejiang Province (Hangzhou included) for 144 hours (6 days) without visa.

Type: Culture, Fashion

Highlights: Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Hutong, Summer Palace

Recommended Trip Length: 2 days

Best Time of Visit: all year around:

Recommended to Visit with: Beijing, Yangtze River, Huangshan

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4. Guilin - Most Beautiful Karst Landscape and Countryside in China

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

“Guilin’s landscape is the best under heaven” - this is a famous declaration in the Chinese textbook of primary school. If you have been to Guilin, you will definitely agree it. Guilin is located in Guangxi Province in southern China, and has the most beautiful and typical karst landforms: thousands of green karst mountains standing on the vast plains, the Li River winding through the mountains and villages… Besides the beautiful scenery, Guilin is also the home to a dozen of ethnic minorities, including Zhuang, Yao, Miao and Dong, who live far from the city in the villages surrounded by tier-upon-tier terrace fields.

The most visited place in Guilin is Yangshuo, a place you want to stay for months just to enjoy the relaxing and peaceful living.

Travel News: 72 hours visa-free travel in Guilin was made possible from July 28th, 2014 for 51 countries, including US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Australia…

Type: Nature, Ethnic Group, Countryside

Highlights: Li River Cruise, Yangshuo Countryside, West Street, Longji Terrace

Recommended Trip Length: 2~4 days

Best Time of Visit: May to November

Recommended to Visit with: Hong Kong, Zhangjiajie, Chengdu

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5. Zhangjiajie - Surreal Avatar World

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

About 10 years, there were not many people knew Zhangjiajie. But today, Zhangjiajie has become one of the most famous travel destinations in China, even the world. Thanks to the movie Avatar which brought the landscape of Zhangjiajie to the global world. The stone hill (Nan Tian Yi Zhu) is the prototype of the Pandora’s Hallelujah Mountain in the movie.

Zhangjiajie is a perfect combination of the idyllic beauty of Guilin, the grotesqueness of Yellow Mountain, the peril of Mount Hua and the magnificence of Mount Tai. It is no exaggeration to say Zhangjiajie is “an enlarged potted painting”, “a miniature of fairyland”, and “a maze of nature” with the characteristics of quietness, wildness, mystery, beauty and elegance. In 1992, Zhangjiajie was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are three major attractions in Zhangjiajie: Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan National Park, Tianmen Mountain and Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. The National Park, consisting of Golden Whip Stream, Huangshi Village, Yuanjiajie, Yangjiajie, Tianzi Mountain, is the place to enjoy Avatar views. While, Tianzi Mountain and Grand Canyon are famous for adventurous experiences, such as glasses bridge, glasses sky road, etc.

Type: National Park, Landscape

Highlights: Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan National Forest Park, Tianmen Mountain, Zhangjiajie Grad Canyon Glasses Bridge

Recommended Trip Length: 2~3 days

Best Time of Visit: April to November

Recommended to Visit with: Xian, Shanghai, Guilin

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6. Tibet - Holy Land of Snow and Buddhism

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

The holy land Tibet is the most sacred and mysterious destination in China. It seems Tibet has a magic power to pull one’s soul towards Tibet. Many people also believe a Tibet trip can heal the pain the heart and even purify our minds. That’s why Tibet is always the Once in a Lifetime trip for travelers.

Tibet welcomes you with diverse experience. The awe-inspiring plateau landscape, the overwhelming devoted religion of Tibetan Buddhism, the welcoming and friendly Tibetan people, the long-standing customs and tradition. Once stepping onto the land of Tibet, you will enter the most isolated places in the world.

Tibet is a vast land. You will need about a week or more to cover the best highlights in Tibet. Spend 2~3 days in Lhasa, the capital city, exploring local culture as well as acclimatizing yourself to the high altitude, then you can spend one day to see the most beautiful lake in Tibet – Namtso Lake. Leaving Lhasa, you can extend your trip to Gyantse and Shigatse to see rural villages, featured monasteries and wild landscape. From Shigatse, it takes only a day to get to Mount Everest. If time allows, you can travel westward to Mount Kailash for a pilgrimage.

To travel to Tibet, you will have to obtain Tibet Entry Permit and several other travel documents. We will take care of these travel documents.

Currently, you can take a flight to Tibet from Kathmandu or other major cities in China, such as Beijing, Chengdu, Xian, Kunming, Shanghai, etc. You can also take a train to Tibet from Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing, Lanzhou, Xining, Xian, etc.

Travel News: 72 hours visa-free travel in Guilin was made possible from July 28th, 2014 for 51 countries, including US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Australia…

Type: Culture, Nature, High Plateau, Religion

Highlights: Lhasa (Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Sera Monastery, Namtso Lake); Shigatse (Palcho Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, Mount Everest); Ngari (Mount Kailash, Manasarovar Lake)

Recommended Trip Length: 4~15 days

Best Time of Visit: April to October

Recommended to Visit with: Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Kathmandu

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7. Sichuan - Hometown of Giant Panda and Sichuan Cuisines

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

Sichuan is said to have the richest travel resources in China. History, Giant Pandas, local culture, world heritage sites, national parks, snow mountains, grassland, ancient towns, snow mountains… whatever you are expecting, you will be satisfied here. The spectacularly slow-pace and leisure living style is another highlight to experience. That’s why Sichuan is known as the Land of Abundance.

Sichuan has 5 World Heritage Sites, including the famous Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic Area, Huanglong National Park, Mount Emei with Leshan Giant Buddha, Mount Qingcheng with Dujiangyan Irrigation System and Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries. Well, they are located in different areas of Sichuan. You need at least a week to explore all of them.

A trip in Sichuan can be as short as 2 days, and as long as weeks. For the first-time visitors, you are suggested to visit the Top 5 Most Classic Destinations in Sichuan. Chengdu, the capital city, is the palace to visit Giant Pandas and enjoy local food. Dujiangyan and Qingchengshan are suitable for a day out from Chengdu to explore history and enjoy nature views. Leshan Giant Buddha and Mount Emei are recommended to be visited together. They are very close to each other. Usually only 2 days are needed to visit Leshan and Mount Emei. Jiuzhaigou is the most beautiful place in Sichuan. It has the most fabulous waterscape in China. But there is a strong earthquake hit Jiuzhaigou area in August, 2017. The roads to and in the park were destroyed. Fortunately, most of the landscapes survived. It is not sure whether Jiuzhaigou will be open or not in 2018.

How to plan a Sichuan trip? Firstly, arrive at Chengdu, and spend two days to visit Giant Panda, Jinli Street and other sites in the city, then spend a day to Dujiangyan and Qingcheng Mountain. Then move to Leshan to see the Giant Buddha for a day. Drive 30mins from Leshan, you can get to Mount Emei where you can have a classic day tour or two day’s hiking trip. Lastly, drive back to Chengdu. If JIuzhaigou will be open in 2018, you can take a flight from Chengdu to visit Jizhaigou and Huanglong together in two days, then fly back to Chengdu. A classic Sichuan itinerary ends.

Type: Culture, Nature, Giant Panda, Food

Highlights: Panda Base, Jinli Old Street, Dujiangyan Irrigation System, Qingchengshan Mountain, Leshan Giant Buddha, Mount Emei, Jiuzhaigou Valley, Huanglong National Park

Recommended Trip Length: 2~8 days

Best Time of Visit: all year around

Recommended to Visit with: Yunnan, Tibet

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8. Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) - the Most Beautiful Mountain in China

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

Many people agree that Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain, is the most beautiful mountain in China. Well, if you love to see an unusual mountain which is quite different from the usual type of green and tall mountains, you will definitely fall in love with Huangshan. It is located in the south of Anhui Province, only about 3 hours’ bullet train ride from Shanghai, and 7~8 hours from Beijing by bullet train. There is also an airport near Huangshan, operating flights to Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, etc.

There is a famous old saying in China, “Trips to China's Wuyue Mountains (five greatest mountains) render trips to other mountains unnecessary and a trip to Huangshan renders the trips to Wuyue unnecessary". You can imagine how beautiful Huangshan is. In 1992, Huangshan was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Huangshan is famous for its breathtaking Five Wonders - “Odd-shaped Pines, Spectacular Rocky Peaks, Sea of Clouds, Hot Spring and Winter Snow”. Lotus Peak is the highest peak on the mountain with an elevation of 1864.8 meters. But usually travelers prefer to visit Bright Summit, the second highest peak on the mountain, which is located on the central area, and have a panoramic view of surrounding peaks. For regular tourists who want a leisure way to explore Huangshan, they can take cable car up to the mountain for sightseeing, then take cable car down the mountain. Two days are needed. If you love hiking, you can cut out the cable car transfers.

Hongcun and Xidi, regarded as two of most beautiful ancient villages in China, are recommended to be added into your trip if you can spare out an extra day. There are only about 1 hour’s driving from Huangshan.

Type: Mountains, Culture, Nature, Photography

Highlights: Yellow Mountain, Hongcun Ancient Village, Xidi Ancient Village

Recommended Trip Length: 3~5 days

Best Time of Visit: April to November

Recommended to Visit with: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing

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9. Yunnan - Most Beautiful Karst Landscape and Countryside in China

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

Yunnan is located in the southwestern China. It is the most diverse province in China, both in culture and natural landscapes, which has given Yunnan the respectable reputation of the “Colorful Yunnan”. There are 25 ethnic minority groups harmoniously together with Han living on this land. You have chance to explore the local featured custom, and find out the interesting contrasts. The sceneries the province offer are hugely varied: from the dense jungle in the south, soul-recharging rice terraces in the southeast, to majestic snow mountains and high plateau in the north and northwest. You will find every moment in your trip is full of surprise and pleasure.

There are many places you can go in Yunnan. Kunming, the capital city, also known as Spring City, is suitable to spend one or two leisure days in the city, then go to nearby famous attractions, such as Stone Forest, Dongchuan Red Land, etc. Lijiang, located in the northwest of Yunnan, is known for its beautifully preserved Lijiang Old Town, the UNESCO Heritage Site. Usually, you can spend 2~3 days in Lijiang, one day for exploring in Lijiang Old Town area, one day for traveling to see Baisha Mural Paintings, Shuhe Ancient Town, Former Residence of Joseph Rock, and one day to First Bend of Yangtze River and Tiger Leaping Gorge. If time allows, try to climb the Jade Dragon Snow Montain. Shangri-la, only about 170km from Lijiang, is strongly recommended to be visited after your Lijiang trip. Here you’ll lose yourselves in old towns, Buddhist monasteries, picturesque lakes, the breathtaking beauty and the hospitality of unsophisticated Tibetan people, as the British writer James Hiltons writes in his novel The Lost Horizon. Before going to Lijiang and Shangri-la, if time allows, you can make a stop at Dali. Dali is renowned for Silver Cangshan Mountain and Jade Erhai Lake, Dali Old Town, Three Pagodas, Xizhou Ancient Town, etc. All these attractions will give you a visual feast of both culture and nature. If you are a photographer, or want to see something quite spectacular, you can’t miss Yuanyang where has the World Heritage Site - Honghe Hani Rice Terraces. It is remote, but it appeals numerous travelers and photographers come to this heaven-like destination with several hours. The amazing rice terraces like the ladder towards heaven are worth your time waiting and shooting. Everything here is your subjects – sunset, sunrise, sea of clouds, Hani folk houses, rice paddies, cattle, ox…

Type: Culture, Nature, Photography, Ethnic Groups

Highlights: Stone Forest, Dali Erhai Lake, Lijiang Ancient City, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, Pudacuo National Park

Recommended Trip Length: 4~11 days

Best Time of Visit: April to November

Recommended to Visit with: Sichuan, Tibet

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10. Xinjiang - Explore Ancient Silk Road

Top 10 China Destinations in 2018

Many people believe that Xinjiang might be one of China's best-kept secrets. Compared to other very popular and famous travel destinations in China like Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Guilin, Xinjiang still remains its holiness and mysteriousness with fewer crowds. Xinjiang, once a vital stretch of the Ancient Silk Road, today is attracting more and more people to explore its magnificent beauty – exotic and varied Middle Asia Culture (Islamic, Turkic and Kyrgyz), delicious food, diverse landscapes of deserts, prairies, snow mountains, lakes, etc.

As the largest province in China, Xinjiang is full of places to explore. Urumqi, Kashgar and Turpan are three most popular ones. The capital city Urumqi is mainly used as the gateway to other destinations in Xinjiang, and has not much to see in the city. Flights connect Urumqi with most major cities in China, such as Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, etc. as well as a number of Central Asian cities, including Almaty (Kazakhstan), Bishkek and Osh (Kyrgyzstan), Islamabad (Pakistan, via Kashgar), Novosibirsk (Russia), Moscow, Baku (Azerbaijan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). From Urumqi, you will only have to drive about 120km to the Heaven Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in Xinjiang. Next destination can’t be missed is Kashgar. Since located in the western corner of Xinjiang, near to Kyrghyzstan, Uzbekistan and India, Kashgar has been an important trade and cultural center of Xinjiang as well as the Silk Road for more than two millennia. There is the largest bazaar in Asia with daily traffic of more than 100,000. Here is the best place to experience Muslim culture. Highlighting attractions include Abakh Hoja Tomb, Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar Old Town, Kashgar Bazaar and Karakul Lake. Turpan also should be on your destination list. Geographically as the lowest point and the hottest spot in China, Turpan surprises you with spectacular natural landscapes - vast expansion of desert, lush and exuberant valleys of grape, tenacious desert plants, etc. There are also many other places to go other than Urumqi, Kashgar and Turpan if you have about 10~14 days in Xinjiang, such as Kanas Lake, Taklamkan Desert, Hotan, etc.

Type: Culture, Nature

Highlights: Heaven Lake, Id Kah Mosque, Kashgar Bazaar, Karakul Lake, Kanas Lake

Recommended Trip Length: 4~9 days

Best Time of Visit: May to November

Recommended to Visit with: Xian, Dunhuang

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Other Destinations You May Be Interested in

Above list is the Top 10 Most Recommended Destinations in 2018. While China has way too many than the Top 10s. It time allows, or if you are interested, you can also go to explore Ancient Silk Road in Gansu, experience ethnic culture in Guizhou, take a Yangtze River Cruise, enjoy leisure time in a watertown in Suzhou or Hangzhou, go to learn about Chinese Kungfu in Shaolin Temple, etc. Other featured destinations includes Inner Mogolia, Datong, Pingyao, Wudangshan, etc.

During the past years, we have managed to organize thousands trips to different destinations in China for our clients. Our aim is to create ideal itineraries which are tailored to match your individual needs, interests, and budgets and make sure that you are taken care of every step along the way while you are in China. So please make your move and go to discover the REAL China with China Discovery now!

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