There’s no place on earth quite like China. Enthralling and off-the-scale massive, China dazzles and appeases travelers with its sheer vastness, breathtaking antiquity, irresistible cuisine and stupendous scenery. A captivating jumble of topographical and climatic extremes and wildly different dialects, China is so diverse that it seems like tons of different nations rolled into one. Whether you’re into snapping skyscrapers, historic sites or majestic landscapes, there are literally hundreds to riveting places to visit in China that will delight your wanderlust and sense of adventure.
Planning a trip, but don’t know where to go in China? Wondering what are the top things to do in China? To help you plan the ultimate trip, we’ve rounded up some of the best and most gorgeous places to visit in China!
Want to see the best of China in one city? Wondering where to go in China for a rocking trip? Then, make sure to include Beijing to your bucket list places to visit in China. As the cultural and political hub of China, the Chinese capital offers a beautiful insight into the country’s expansive history as well as its rapid modernization. Here, you’ll find new subway stations rubbing elbows with preserved elaborate palaces as well as world-class stadiums sharing space with tranquil monasteries. Most of the city’s historic wonders, such as the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, are pretty well-known to the world. But, the most sought-after tourist attraction is nestled outside the capital – the Great Wall of China.
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2. Zhangye Danxia Landform
Wonderfully weird and awe-inspiring, thus UNESCO World Heritage site is nothing short of spectacular. Famed for its vivid and eye-catching landscapes, this site is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most otherworldly places to visit in China. Formed through years of erosions, sedimentation and extreme weather conditions, this dramatic rainbow-colored rock landscape looks like someone had a fun-filled painting spree on a mountainous canvass.
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3. Huanglong National Scenic Reserve
They don’t call Huanglong as a “Fairly Land of Earth” for nothing. With its dazzling azure pools and incredible backdrop, it’s, hands down, one of the most surreal places to visit in China. During the summertime, the scenic reserve will sweep you away with its surrounding exotic flowers and trees that bloom wondrously. Even in winter, you’ll still have a blast in Huanglong, thanks to the gleaming snow-capped mountains in the background. To top it all off, the reserve is home to a ton of exotic animals, such as giant pandas and the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey.
Shanghai – one of the largest and most cosmopolitan places to visit in China – lets visitors experience the future, present and past all at once. Known as a dynamic modern-day commercial mecca, the city celebrates its evolving technology and prosperity with landmarks of industry, such as the Radio Tower and Oriental Pearl TV Tower. For those who want to see Shanghai’s past, make your way to the Puxi side and stroll along the Bund riverside district.
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5. Huashan’s Plank Trail
Feeling adventurous? Why not include Huashan’s Plank Trail to your list of places to visit in China? Trust me, you’ll love every minute of your visit in Huashan’s Plank Trail, known as one of the most mind-blowing places to visit in China. Just imagine yourself walking on a death-defying plank, while putting your faith in hooks and ropes with every step. Nicknamed as the “deadliest trail on earth”, this 40-minute hike takes you from one mountain peak to another, and is truly a great test of courage. Not only will it give you a hair-raising adventure, but you’ll also be treated to stunning views of jagged peaks covered beautifully in shrubs and pine.
6. The Great Wall of China
Of course, no list of the best places to visit in China is complete without the inclusion of its most iconic attraction – the Great Wall of China. Inscribed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall will wow you with its sheer immense size, starching more than 13,000 miles. As a matter of fact, the wall is so fascinating and large that it spans out across a number of provinces in the northern part of China.
Normally, travelers visit the Great Wall of China from Beijing. We, however, won’t recommend it since it’s crazily crowded. Alternatively, you may see China’s legendary monument from sections that are a bit less crowded, like the Gubeikou Great Wall, Jinshanling Great wall and Mutianyu Great Wall. Aside from walking and taking photographs, there are a few other crazily fun things to do in the Great Wall of China, such as camping and racing down on an exciting Toboggan ride.
Even though it’s one of the biggest cities and places to visit in China, the pace here is so much slower and more laid-back than in Shanghai and Beijing. And, in spite of its rapid development, the locals in Chengdu are genuinely chill and relaxed. Just make your way to any park in Chengdu, and you’ll see them exercising, socializing and partaking in a number of leisure activities, from practicing Tai Chi to sipping tea and playing Mahjong.
And, to make things even better, it is the hometown to China’s friendly and charming Giant Pandas. You can catch these lovely creatures in Ya’an Bifengxia base, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Panda Base in Dujiangyan.
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Fond of scenic nature sights? Don’t forget to put Yunnan to your list of places to visit in China. Praised for its picture-perfect landscapes, this province in China will unleash your inner shutterbug with its magnificent attractions, like Tiger Leaping Gorge and YunYang Rice Terraces. As China’s most southwest province, Yunnan is also located nearby other countries in Asia, such as Burma, Laos and Vietnam.
Looking for more historic places to visit in China? Lijian is a perfectly preserved ancient town in China, infused with lovely cultural flavors. As you stroll along the waterways and 800-year-old bridges, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time. For a memorable trip in this town, check out the Dongba cultural center of Jade Water Village and the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
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10. Yi Xian
While not as popular as Hong Kong or Beijing, this UNESCO World Heritage county still deserves a spot on everyone’s list of places to visit in China. One of the most underrated places to visit in China, Yi Xian impresses visitors with its Ming and Qing dynasty residential houses and memorial arches. Structures with elaborate wood, stone and brick carvings are like a glimpse into a beautiful architectural past that’s being quickly destroyed by the booming cities of China.
Speaking of underrated places to visit in China, another city that you should consider checking out is the tranquil Quanzhou. Although it’s not well-known for its tourism, the city has an array of experiences to offer to visitors, including indulging in the local food scene, seaside fishing and hitting local Buddhist temples. Furthermore, it has preserved a great and laid-back setting from its ancient heritage.
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12. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Thanks to the blockbuster flick Avatar, the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has become one of the trendy and most beloved places to visit in China. Home to karst caves and dense forests, Zhangjiajie was the real-life inspiration to the movie’s setting of the Hallelujah Mountains. And just like the movie, the place is totally magical and an enthralling sight to behold, especially when you lay eyes on the tips of these towering limestone cliffs.
While visiting the park, you may also spend time exploring the Huangshizhai Scenic area, Tianzi Mountain Area as well as the Tianmen Mountain, home to insanely gorgeous views, a glass skywalk and a string of vertical cliffs. What’s more, the place has a few noteworthy hiking trails, cable cars, viewpoints and sky bridges.
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Xi’an is a paradise for history lovers. After all, it is one of China’s great ancient capitals, and is a city where centuries of history come together. As you explore the city, you get to see the world’s longest city walls as well as a bunch of Taoist temples and mosques. Not to mention, it is home to Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s mighty terracotta army – a UNESCO World Heritage site made up of thousands of figures of soldiers and horsemen buried to protect their ruler in the afterlife.
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With its breathtaking limestone scenery, it’s easy to see why Guilin is labeled as one of the most visually pleasing places to visit in China. And even if you’re spending a couple of days there, you’ll have a chance to experience a mishmash of fun-filled diversions, such as bamboo rafting, visiting ethnic rice terraces, cycling in rural countryside and taking a relaxing cruise on Li River. And, did mention that a visit in Guilin lets you savor some super tasty rice noodles?
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There’s no shortage of things to do in Guangzhou for history buffs and culture cultures. Sure, the city is renowned for its skyscrapers and neon-lit streets, but it also has plenty of historic sites that highlight the city’s 2,000-year-old history, like Sun Yatsen Memorial Hall, Temple of Six Banyan Trees and the Ancestral Temple of Chen Family.
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Jiuzhaigou shimmers and sparkles with hues of its crystal clear turquoise lakes. Admired for its natural backdrop, this valley also wows visitors with its snow-covered karts, giant pandas and wealth in majestic waterfalls. Moreover, it has a host of activities for those who want to get a bit active in their adventure in Jiuzhaigou, like climbing and hiking in the glassy Long Lake or the Pearl Shoal Waterfall.
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Unlike the other top places to visit in China, Kashgar doesn’t exude a typical Chinese charm. Set deep west of China, Kashgar feels like an Afghan town, with its bulbous Mughal-style mosques.
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18. Hong Kong
Surprised? With its own legal system, immigration and passport channels and money, “Asia’s Word City” isn’t often deemed as a part of China. And though most locals in Hong Kong consider themselves Chinese, they usually don’t consider themselves a part of the country. In fact, they even have their own flag, anthem and Olympic team. Even so, Hong Kong is still geographically a part of China, and is even one of the two SARs (Special Administrative Region) of the country. Truthfully, it’s a complex system, and probably best described in one lengthy blog post.
Despite its complex status, Hong Kong remains a popular destination, and is usually viewed as one of the can’t-miss places to visit in China. With its impressive skyline, floating islands and sumptuous dim sum, you’ll have a memorable vacation in this world-class Asian destination.
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Macau – the other SAR of China – is a high-energy city, lauded as the gambling mecca of Asia. But, make no mistake about it – there’s more to Macau than its ritzy world-class casinos. In Macau, you’ll find an impressive array of nightlife, entertainment and shows. With its rich mixture of European and Chinese culture and architecture, the city’s historic center has also been designed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, making it one of the must-see places to visit in China.
Hainan, located in the southern region of China, oftentimes feels more like a Southeast Asian destination, like Thailand or the Philippines. In Hainan, you’ll find pine forests, coconut palms, lush jungles as well as some of the country’s finest beaches, like Monkey Island’s secluded coves and Sanya Beach.
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21. Leshan Giant Buddha
Standing proudly at 223 feet, the Leshan Giant Buddha is, no doubt, one of the country’s great architectural marvels, and is currently the world’s largest sitting Buddha. Built in the 8th century, this statue is directly carved into the riverside cliffs, and visitors may climb the stairs to the cliff top from the Buddha’s feet, to enjoy awesome views.
Hangzhou – Zhejiang Province’s capital – is one of the seven ancient capitals as well as best historic places to visit in China. Once, it was fondly described by the celebrated traveler, Marco Polo, as one of the world’s finest and most luxurious city. As you visit the city’s West Lake scenic area, you’ll find more than 60 cultural relic sites and a plethora of impressive attractions. Furthermore, you may also take a cruise on the lake, to catch several noteworthy sites. As an added bonus, the city is by far one of the best places to visit in China, for those who want to see a tea plantation.
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Sitting 2,000 meters above sea level, Kunming is a place of soaring peaks with a cooler climate. Aptly dubbed as the “City of Eternal Spring”, Kunming also has a ton of cultural relics, like the Yuangtong Temple, which dates back over a thousand of years. To add more spice and fun to your trip, don’t forget to hit the other top spots in Kunming, including the Stone Forests Reserve and Daguan Pavilion.
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Harbin is another place in the country that hardly feels Chinese at all. Not only does it have a Russian Quarter, but it has onion-dome shaped mosques and snowy cobblestoned streets as well. Plus, it lets you enjoy some serious vodka and visit ferocious Siberian tigers on the nature reserves nearby. And, by the way, the city hosts a magical ice festival in winter too, making it one of the best places to visit in China for those who prefer have some icy fun.
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