Welcome to China
China, being one of the four ancient civilizations, possesses a rich cultural and historical heritage that dates back centuries.
With a land area ranking third globally and a staggering population of 1.4 billion people, it is the most populous nation in the world.
Furthermore, China boasts a wide range of travel destinations, including natural landscapes, ancient architectural wonders, and globally recognized heritage sites.
Being the world's oldest civilization, China is home to a rich history and cultural heritage that is reflected in its many landmarks and attractions. Visitors can explore a variety of historical sites, including the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the terracotta army, the ancient Silk Road, Buddhist grottoes, giant stone Buddhas, stone carvings, and cave paintings.
One can experience these different historical sites from north to south, from Beijing to Hong Kong. Each region of China has its unique cultural and historical treasures, and visitors can explore them all by travelling across the country.
China's vast land and rich photography resources make it a paradise for photography enthusiasts. Some of the most popular photography destinations in China include Guilin, known for its unique karst landforms, followed by Zhangjiajie and the Yellow Mountains.
The snow-capped mountains and peaks in Tibet, combined with Tibetan monasteries, create a mysterious atmosphere that draws photographers and tourists alike. The spectacular roads along high mountains, beautiful grasslands, and charming villages with farming scenes in Xinjiang, splendid ancient architectures in Beijing, and well-designed gardens in Suzhou are also highly favored by photography enthusiasts worldwide.
With so much to explore and photograph, China is undoubtedly one of the world's top destinations for those who appreciate the art of photography.
Food is an essential part of Chinese culture, and the Chinese people have a passion for eating and trying new ingredients. From north to south, there are over 10 different cuisine styles in China, each with its unique flavors and cooking techniques.
In the northern part of China, people prefer foods made with wheat flour, such as noodles, dumplings, and various wheat-based dishes. Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces have nearly 100 different types of noodles, making them a popular destination for noodle lovers.
In contrast, people in the southern part of China focus more on nutrition and taste. In Guangzhou and the surrounding areas, hundreds of crockery soups and morning tea dishes served with small plates are must-eats. These dishes are known for their delicate flavors and nutritious ingredients.
People living in hot and humid places tend to prefer spicy food, with hot pot in Sichuan province and spicy dishes in Hunan province becoming increasingly popular throughout the country. Overall, Chinese cuisine is diverse and delicious, offering a wide range of flavors and dishes for people to enjoy.
- 6 Zhangjiajie The Avatar scenes in reality
- 7 Hangzhou The place to experience southern Chinese culture
- 8 Chengdu The home of Giant Pandas
- 9 Yunnan The most relaxing tour destination
- 10 Tibet Tibetan culture center and untouched landscapes
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Top things to do in China
- Visit the Great Wall The Great Wall of China is a symbolic monument of Chinese civilization and one of the world's greatest architectural wonders. It spans across the vast expanse of China in the east, west, south, and north, with a total distance of over 5,000 kilometers. In fact, it is the "only visible artificial structure" from the moon. While there are many sections of the Great Wall to explore, the most popular ones in Beijing include Mutianyu, Jinshanling, and Badaling. For more adventurous travelers, the wild sections of Jiankou and Simatai are also highly recommended.
- Walking in the Forbidden City The Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, is the largest and most complete ancient building complex in China. It spans 720,000 square meters, with over 8,700 buildings and a construction area of 155,000 square meters. The Palace Museum holds a vast collection of 1,052,653 cultural relics. The site offers different views in different seasons, making it a perfect destination for architecture lovers and photographers to spend a whole day exploring.
- Admire the Terracotta Army The Terracotta Army, located 1.5 kilometers east of the Mausoleum of Qin Shihuang in Xi'an, consists of three large pits containing over 6,000 pottery figures and horses arranged in orderly circles. These include generals, warriors, and charioteers, each with unique facial features. While the painted decorations have largely faded or fallen off due to fire and soaking, the bronze chariots and horses displayed in the exhibition hall feature exquisite craftsmanship and lavish use of gold and silver. The No. 1 pit is the largest, covering an area of 14,260 square meters and reaching a depth of 5 meters.
- Meet some adorable friends in Chengdu Chengdu is a bustling and tranquil city that entices countless food enthusiasts every year with its delectable hot pot and local cuisine. Moreover, it is renowned for its beloved giant pandas. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, located just 10 kilometers from the city center, is the world's largest captive panda base, housing 215 pandas as of 2020. Visitors can witness these adorable creatures up close and even apply to volunteer and spend a day taking care of them.
- Experience the very modern life in Shanghai Shanghai is an international metropolis that beautifully blends modernity and tradition. It has served as China's cultural, financial, and trade hub for over a century. While still preserving its ancient Shikumen architecture and distinctive Shanghai-style culture, it is also at the forefront of fashion and innovation. This city seamlessly combines the old with the new, making it a model for urban tourism. Its captivating urban scenery, culture, and commerce attract visitors from all around the world. Shanghai's inclusive, Chinese and Western fusion has created a unique urban vibe, with Western architecture of the Bund complementing the towering skyscrapers of Pudong. Known as the Paris of the East, Shanghai is also a shopping paradise.
- Photograph the breathtaking landscape in Guilin Guilin is a breathtaking city blessed with lush green virgin forests, stunning peaks and valleys, cascading waterfalls, captivating mountain terraces, and over ten ethnic minorities, including Zhuang, Yao, Miao, and Dong. Its typical karst and Danxia landforms have earned Guilin the reputation of having the world's most beautiful landscape, with "green mountains, beautiful waters, strange caves, and beautiful stones." The Li River and thousands of surrounding mountains provide a paradise for photographers, with sunrise and sunset over karst mountains, cormorant fishing with gas lamps at dawn and dusk, and minority women walking in terraced fields being must-do activities for photography enthusiasts.
Best time to visit China
The best time for general travel in China is from April to October, as it is generally milder and less rainy during this period.
In most parts of North China, it starts to get cold after November, while the rainy season in most parts of South China runs from January to April.
However, the low season from November to March is a great time to visit famous attractions like the Great Wall of China, Forbidden City, and national parks of Zhangjiajie and Yellow Mountains, as there are fewer tourists.
For photography, the best time is from May to October, especially in Guilin and Zhangjiajie.
It's important to note that during some national holidays, China can get very crowded. These include the Spring Festival (the end of January to early February), May Holiday (May 1-5), National Day Holiday (October 1-7), and other festival holidays such as the Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival, which do not have fixed dates.
- China is the world's most populous country, with over 1.4 billion people. The country is home to 56 ethnic groups, over 80 languages, and hundreds of accents. In some southern villages, the accent may be so different that neighboring villagers may not understand each other.
- Certain provinces in China, like Xinjiang, are as large as seven UKs or four Japans.
- While China has five time zones, the whole country uses only one time zone, which is Beijing time.
- Food culture and traditions vary greatly from north to south, making for a diverse and fascinating culinary experience in China.
Sample Costs to Travel in China
- Travel from Beijing to Xian, a second-class seat on the high-speed train costs RMB 515 ($80), while an economy-class flight from Shanghai to Guilin costs around RMB 500-800 ($80-125)
- Taxi fares in Beijing start at RMB 13 ($2) for a minimum distance of 3km, while public buses in Guilin charge only RMB 2.
- When it comes to food, a bowl of rice noodles in Guilin costs RMB 6 ($1), an average meal in a Shanghai restaurant can cost around RMB 60 ($9) per person, and 20 dumplings in Xian cost RMB 15 ($2.5). A bottle of water (500ml) costs RMB 2, while a can of local beer is priced at around RMB 6-10 ($1-1.5).
- If you're planning to visit popular attractions, the entrance fee for the Forbidden City is RMB 60 ($9), while a round-trip cable car ride to the Mutianyu Great Wall costs RMB 180. Entrance to the Yellow Mountains costs RMB 320 ($50).
- For accommodation, a 3-star hotel in Yangshuo can cost as low as RMB 150 ($25) per night, while a 4-star hotel in Beijing can cost from RMB 400 ($60).
- Generally speaking, a solo traveler can travel for one week in China with a budget of around $1000.
Plan A First Trip to China
If you're planning your first trip to China and are wondering where to go and what to do, consider visiting Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Guilin, and Chengdu. These destinations offer a diverse range of experiences, including historical sites, ancient architecture, cultural attractions, delicious food, world-famous landmarks, and stunning landscapes.
To fully experience these destinations, it's recommended to set aside at least 10 days for your trip. You might consider spending 3 days in Beijing, 2 days in Xian, 2 days in Shanghai, 3 days in Guilin, and 1-2 days in Chengdu. This will allow you to fully explore each location and experience all that they have to offer.
- If you're visiting Beijing, be sure to check out the must-see attractions like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and Hutong by rickshaw.
- When in Xi'an, don't miss the Terracotta Warriors, Ancient City Wall (bike on it!), Wild Goose Pagoda, Shaanxi History Museum, and the amazing food experience at the Muslim Quarter.
- Shanghai offers plenty of fantastic places to visit, such as the Bund, the world's highest buildings, and water towns.
- Chengdu is the perfect destination if you love pandas, hot pot, and want to experience a slow-paced life in a bustling modern city.
- Lastly, Guilin boasts the most stunning landscape in the world, with hundreds of green and unique karst mountains lining the Li River, idyllic countryside scenery, and breathtaking terraced fields belonging to minority tribes.
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Travel China by Your interests
Due to its vast size of 5,200 km from east to west and 5,500 km from north to south, China offers a diverse range of scenery, culture, food, and ways of life. Consider selecting destinations based on your interests.
For landscape enthusiasts and photographers, Guilin, Zhangjiajie, and Huangshan are among the most sought-after destinations in China, and can be visited year-round. If you're interested in exploring these areas with a focus on photography, consider hiring Mercier Zeng, a professional photo guide who specializes in private tours of these locations.
While these destinations are well-known, there are also lesser-known areas to consider, such as the western region of Sichuan province, which offers breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains and picturesque lakes.
If you're a fan of hiking, you might consider visiting the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan province. This breathtaking location typically requires 2-5 days to fully explore, but the stunning scenery and peaceful villages you'll encounter along the way make it well worth the effort.
During your hike, you'll navigate through beautiful valleys and steep rocky mountains, enjoying the natural beauty of the area. While it may not be an easy trek, you'll likely find that the experience is incredibly rewarding.
If you're a foodie, you won't want to miss out on Sichuan hot pot when visiting China. This spicy and flavorful dish is so delicious that even if it's your first time trying it, you'll likely find it irresistible.
In addition to hot pot, Guangzhou's breakfast tea is another must-try culinary experience. This popular breakfast option is becoming increasingly popular across southern China, and typically features a range of well-cooked dishes, including Siomai, Shrimp Dumplings, Char Siew Bao, Chicken Feet with Soy Sauce, Steamed Vermicelli Rolls, various porridges, and even Durian Crisps. Whether you're a fan of tea or simply love good food, Guangzhou's breakfast tea is definitely worth sampling.
For those interested in experiencing the unique cultures and traditions of China's minority tribes, Guizhou is an ideal destination. This province is home to 17 different minority groups, offering visitors a diverse range of cultural experiences.
Some of the most notable tribes and villages in Guizhou include the Xijiang Miao Village and Zhaoxing Dong Village. These destinations offer a glimpse into the daily lives, customs, and traditions of the local people, including their clothing, cuisine, and handicrafts.
If you're interested in learning more about China's rich cultural heritage, Guizhou is a great place to start.