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Where to go in China

Being one of the largest countries in the world, it is impossible for travelers to run out of places to visit in China. But with limited time and hundreds of places to visit, it may be hard for a tourist to decide where to go.

Here are our suggestions:

Beijing
the forbidden city with sunset glow in Beijing, China

You should never leave China without visiting the country’s capital. Beijing. One of the most popular cities in China, it contains several UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Peking Man site.

One of its biggest attractions, of course, is the Great Wall of China. Stretching for 8,851.8 kilometers from Shanhaiguan to Lop Nur, the Great Wall is the only man-made infrastructure that can be seen from outer space. No trip to China is complete without seeing it.

The Forbidden City is the home of the legendary emperors and empresses of China. In the olden days, nobody could enter or leave the Forbidden City without permission from the emperor.

Olympics stadiums such as the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest, from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are also found in Beijing.

Other must-see sites in Beijing are the Tiananmen Square, which is the entry point to the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site described as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations.”

Xian

Xian is the largest city in the northwest part of China. It is the home of the famous Terracotta Warriors and Horses found near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Terracotta army lay hidden underground for almost 2,000 years until farmers accidentally discovered them in 1974. Each life-sized warrior is unique, from body type, facial expression, hairstyle, and clothing.

Other tourist attractions in Xian are the Huashan Mountains, where one can have a religious immersion in one of the many Taoist temples in the mountains and find Zen. You can also visit the big and small wild goose pagodas which were built 1,300 years ago.

Although there are no international flights that go directly to Xian, you can reach it by train via the Xian railway station, which links cities from Northwest and Southwest China. Tourists can also catch domestic flights via China’s domestic and low-cost air carriers; you can travel either to Beijing or Shanghai and then catch the next flight to Xian from there.

Shanghai
beautiful Yuyuan garden at night, a traditional shopping area in shanghai, China.

Also known as the “Paris of the East,” Shanghai has become the center for everything modern in China. It is also China’s fashion capital. All the major high-end clothing brands can be found there.

Not everything in Shanghai is modern and techno, however. For those who want to slow down in this fast-paced city, you can visit the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple, the Shanghai Museum, or take a cruise at the Shanghai Huangpu River.

At night, tourists can visit the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the third-tallest tower in the world. The best time to visit the tower is at night when all the night lights of Shanghai are turned on.

For those who want to go shopping, check out the Nan Jing road, the busiest street in Shanghai. Here you can find the best shopping malls and fashion boutiques in China. Every major clothing brand has an outlet on Nanjing road.

Silk Road
Ancient tower at dusk in xian city wall, China

The Silk Road was the most popular trading route during the ancient Chinese period. This route connected South, East, and West Asia with the Mediterranean World. Since Chinese silk was the major trade product during those times, the route was called the Silk Road.

Although the Silk Road is no longer used for trade purposes, it is still swarmed by many travelers today because of the many major tourist spots found along it. Some of the many stops along the Chinese Silk Road are
• Xian, where you can find the Great Islamic Mosque and the famous Terracotta Warriors. Tourists can also stop at the Forrest of the Tablet Stones.

• Zhangye. Here you will find China’s world-famous reclining Buddha, which stands at 7.5 meters high. Zhangye is also famous for its Zhangye Nan Wine (Rice Wine). Tourists can visit wineries that are hundreds of years old.

• Jiyayuguan Pass is one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall of China.

Yangtze River
Foggy scenery along the Yangtze River in China including some ships and mountains

The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third-longest river in the world. Here you will find the Three Gorges Dam, which is the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.

There are sections of the Yangtze River that have been made into natural reserves. To enjoy the sights and sounds of the Yangtze River, tourists can join the Yangtze River Cruises which pass through the Chongqing to Yichang route. This covers sightseeing of the Three Gorges Dam.

Lhasa Tibet
The scenery of the famous Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet

Far away from the rest of the world, Lhasa Tibet can be found at one of the most incredible places on earth, the Himalayas. Dubbed “the rooftop of the world,” Lhasa Tibet has preserved its cultural and spiritual history, making it a great place to learn about pure Tibetan culture.

The word Lhasa means Holy Land, or the Buddha Land, in the Tibetan language. In all of China, this is the best place for tourists who want to immerse themselves in a spiritual experience.

There are flights to Lhasa from Beijing, Chongqing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Qamdo, Kunming, Shanghai, Xi’an, Zhongdian, and Xining. You can also get there by train from Xining, Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing.

Guilin
Reflection of the mountains in Li River landscape on sunset, Yangshuo near Guilin, China

The province of Guilin is truly a pocket of serenity, a paradise on earth. It is blessed with four clear lakes, fascinatingly shaped sheer-sided karst mountains, and the famous Li River, which is printed on the 20 yuan banknote.

The most popular tourist activity in Guilin is the Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshou. Other tourist spots include the Elephant Trunk Hill, which sits at the junction of Guilin’s two rivers, the Li River and the Peach Blossom River. On the Elephant Trunk Hill, one will find the Water Moon Cave, the Puxian Pagoda, Yunfeng Temple, and the Elephant’s Eye Stone.

Despite its natural ambiance and pristine atmosphere, Guilin is full of western-style hotels, as it is a popular destination for international and local tourists alike.

Shaolin Monastery
Monastery of Shaolin, the central entrance, China.

When we speak of China, the topic of kungfu can’t be far behind. So when you visit China, you have got to visit the home of kungfu, the Shaolin temple, where some of the best kungfu (wushu) practitioners still practice today.

This Buddhist temple located at Song Mountain in Henan was founded in the 5th century. Since then, it had been destroyed and rebuilt several times. It’s the latest attack had been during the Cultural Revolution of 1966, when the Red Guards entered it forcibly, captured and flogged the monks before jailing them, and destroyed all Buddhist materials found within the monastery walls.

Today, the Shaolin Monastery’s upkeep is partly funded by donations from martial arts groups from all over the world. The monastery is also honored as one of China’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Hainan

China isn’t all about temples, ancient infrastructure, and martial arts. The Chinese also know how to have fun in the sun. The province of Hainan is called “China’s Hawaii” because of the swarms of local and foreign surfers who come there every year to join the Surfing Hainan Open or to simply have some seaside fun.

Since this entire island has also been declared a special economic zone, Hainan is more prosperous than most other places in China, due to government and tourist support. It also has a larger expatriate community and more Western restaurants and other facilities, especially in the Sanya area.

So if you’re tired of visiting stuffy old museums and ancient architecture, head out to Hainan and enjoy the beach, the breeze, and the surf.

Heaven Lake
beautiful Yangshuo scenery in sunrise, China

Heaven Lake in Jilin is a picturesque volcanic lake that lies at the caldera of Baekdu Mountain, found at the border of China and North Korea.

Aside from the lake’s natural beauty, it holds another fascination for tourists and locals alike: Heaven Lake is said to be the home of the Lake Tianchi Monster, a buffalo-like creature that lived under the lake’s waters.

The Lake Tianchi monster was first sighted in 1903 when it reportedly attacked three people before getting shot six times. It then said to have retreated back into the lake.

Since then, sightings of the monster – or monsters, as some say they saw as many as six at the same time – have been reported by more than a hundred people.

So if you are in search of mythical and mysterious creatures, or if you just want to appreciate the beauty of nature, Heaven Lake is a great place to visit.