Your China Travel Bucket List!
China is a massive country. Trying to see it all can be overwhelming as is simply knowing where to start. Check out this bucket list of amazing travel experiences in China to help plan a fun and memorable trip!
Explore the World’s Largest Palace Complex
One of the most famous palace complexes in all of China, the Forbidden City is a must-visit when in Beijing. The palace was the home of the imperial Chinese rulers from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (a period covering nearly 500 years). During the time rulers lived here, ordinary people weren’t allowed inside (hence the “Forbidden”) but since then it has been transformed into the Palace Museum, and is now opened to the public. For a special view of the palace, head to Jingshan Park where you can climb a winding staircase and take in an amazing view of the Forbidden City from above.
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See a World Wonder at the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is the must-see of must-sees when planning a trip to China. For many, it may be the main reason they are coming to China. Badaling and Mitianyu are the best sections to visit if you want to see complete sections of walls and beacon towers. If you are looking for a more challenging hike and wild scenery, Simatai and Jinshanling may be more your flavour.
Read 12 things to know before you go to Beijing here!
Rub Shoulders with the Terracotta Army
A relic of ancient history and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures that depict the armies of China’s first emperors. The sculptures represent soldiers and horses standing in battle formation and and should be on the list for any visitor to Xian (and a pretty good reason to go there if you ask us!)
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Indulge your Contemplative Side at Beijing’s Summer Palace
This vast complex in Beijing was an imperial garden during the Qing Dynasty, but today is a relaxing place to stroll and contemplate life. The sprawling grounds are said to be the best preserved imperial garden in the world and is the largest such garden in China. You could spend a whole day enjoying the numerous gardens, lakes and palaces. You can also take a boat ride to see a temple on an island, enjoy a traditional theater performance and shop at recreated shops on the riverbank.
Experience Tibet’s Treasured Potala Palace
Famous historically as one of the residences of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet to India, this World Heritage Sight in Lhasa is now a museum and is a pilgrimage site for many people. The palace stands more than 13-stories high and has more than 1,000 rooms. It is not only a sacred religious site, but is impressive for its physical construction and importance in Tibetan history and culture.
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See the Sights in the World’s Largest City Square: Tiananmen Square
With a name famous around the world for the tragic 1989 massacres, Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest city square. Sitting in the center of Beijing, and named after the Tiananmen (“heavenly gate”) in the north, the square is one of the most significant sites in Beijing. Highlights include the nearly 40-meter tall Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where the infamous Chairmen Mao lays permanently in state, the National Museum of China and the Great Hall of the People.
Get up close to Pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
There’s no other place on the planet where there are so many Giant Pandas in one place and it is the prime place to get close to Pandas during your visit to China. Make sure you take a stroll through the property’s bamboo-lined paths. Pandas aren’t the only thing you can see there. Other wildlife who call the panda base home include red pandas, peacocks, birds, insects and butterflies.
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Tiger Leaping Gorge
One for the intrepid traveler, this scenic canyon on the turquoise-hued Jinsha River is one of the deepest gorges in the world. Adventurous visitors make the trip to the nearby town of Qiaotao which is the jumping-off point for the amazing hike that passes through the high hills of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. The 15 km hike takes several days to complete and features impressive scenery of mountains, the river and other stunning features.
Shanghai World Financial Center
For the best birds-eye view of Shanghai, head to Shanghai World Financial Center. One of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, the building has 101 floors which include various shops, eateries, an elevated hotel and of course, amazing views.
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Leshan Giant Buddha
At 71 meters tall this massive, ancient stone statue depicts a seated Maitreya Buddha and is the tallest Buddha sculpture in the world. The Buddha faces out over the river and can be toured by land or a boat on the river although many say the river offers the best views. The size and architectural artistry of the Buddha are hard to comprehend without seeing them in person, so adding it to any China itinerary is a must.
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One of the most recognizable examples of architecture in Shanghai, the Bund is a waterfront area that encompasses the former Shanghai International Settlement. There are dozens of historical buildings that reflect the various international settlements that inhabited the Huangpu river bank over the years.
Be inspired by beautiful scenery along the Li River
If you are looking for breathtaking and awe-inspiring scenery, the karst landscape along the Li River is one of the best places you can go in China. The Li river and Yangshuo has inspired generations of artists and today is a great place to go to snap photos for your Instagram.
Wonder at the Yellow Mountains near Shanghai
The yellow mountains near Shanghai and Hangzhou are China’s most famous mountains and home to one of the country’s best national parks. Head there to experience the parks famous “five wonders” – seas of clouds, interesting rocks, sun rises, hot springs and twisted pine trees.
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Make a Pilgrimage to Mount Kailash
In an exotic and remote corner of western Tibet, Mount Kailash dominates the landscape. The mountain is pristinely beautiful and is also a spiritual pilgrimage site for four religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bon). Many religious devotees come here to trek a 52 kilometre trail that circles the mountain. While religious pilgrims typically make the hike in a single 14-16 hour trek, most tourists take it a bit slower and spend several days on the route soaking up images of mountains, alpine lakes and herds of domestic mountain yak. Getting there isn’t easy but if you manage it, you’re sure to have the experience of a lifetime.
Take a cruise through the Three Gorges
The three gorges reservoir region is a mountainous stretch along the Yangtze River. The trio of gorges are carved between the steep cliffs and make for the most scenic navigable section of the Yangtze. One of the best ways to experience the gorges is to take a river cruise between the cities of Chongqing and Yichang. Here you can explore caves, crystal clear waters, suspended walkways, and see the world’s largest hydroelectric dam.
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Go Shopping on Nanjing Road
Nanjing Road, the main shopping street of Shanghai, is one of the busiest shopping streets in the world. It stretches from the Bund to Jing’an Temple and attracts locals and tourists from all over the world. Shop over 600 shops and businesses for high-class fashion, international brands and traditional goods, or simply stroll the street, window shop and soak in the energy of Nanjing.
Step Back in Time in the Old Town of Lijiang
Lijiang, in the northwest of China’s Yunnan province is a charming historic village with an atmospheric 800-year old section of town complete with cobblestone streets, beautiful streams, bridges and traditional homes. You can also enjoy famous views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from many places in town.
Go Skiing at the Highest Ski Resort in the World
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a small glacial mountain range and in fact is the southernmost glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. The mountain is a popular ski resort but it is also a famous scenic spot for sightseeing, hiking, mountain climbing, and other forms of outdoor recreation. Nature lovers will delight at the diversity of plant and wildlife species found throughout the mountain range’s 13 peaks, various rivers, pools and meadows.
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Study Kung Fu at Shaolin Temple
If you want to study Kung Fu in China, you should really go to the source. Shaolin Monastery is a Chan Buddhist temple in Hanan Province that is most notable as the birthplace of Kung Fu. Here you can step back in time as you walk amidst hundreds of ancient pagodas. It’s certainly an interesting place to visit even if you aren’t interested in martial arts (the temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site), but if you really want to learn Kung Fu, you can book training directly with the temple who will organize your classes and accommodation nearby.
See Shanghai from Oriental Pearl Tower
The futuristic Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower sits opposite the Bund in Shanghai, offers some of the best views of the city and is an interesting architectural structure in its own right. At 468 meters tall, it is one of the world’s tallest TV towers and includes several floors from which you can enjoy the skyline including a glass-floored level at 263 meters high and a revolving restaurant.
Find more China travel inspiration here!
Melanie Grosjean is a full-time mommy and part-time writer who left the U.S. for Asia several years ago and never looked back. Nowadays, she spends as much time traveling with her husband and toddler as possible. When she isn’t on the road or squeezed into economy class, you can find her sipping an iced latte or blogging at www.adventurefamilylife.com.