Choosing to travel around China can be a daunting experience. It’s huge and diverse, with an often bewilderingly different culture and its own long and storied history. Read on to find out about six truly unique experiences for visitors to China.
1. Explore Shanghai
The world’s biggest city by population is modern China’s “showpiece”. It won’t be hard to get lost exploring this awe-inspiring city, but to start you off, Yu Gardens are a big tourist draw for a reason, while the Bund area offers stunning views of Shanghai’s most famous buildings. And don’t forget Shanghai’s cuisine: from xiao long bao, delicious oozing broth-filled dumplings, to the famous drunken crab dish.
2. The Yellow Mountains
Named after the Yellow Emperor of legend, these mountains are known as the most beautiful in China. Here, you’ll find hot springs, mystical seas of cloud, as well as an abundance of unusually shaped pine trees and rock formations. The Yellow Mountains are like an ancient Chinese scroll come wonderfully to life. There are cable cars to whisk you between the main tourist sites, but the traveller in search of adventure will choose one of the spectacular hiking trails that wind around the stunning crags and valleys.
3. Hanging Temple of Hengshan
One of the few sites in the world dedicated to not one, or even two, but three religions. Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism are worshipped peacefully side-by-side in this gravity-defying temple. Nestled in the Hengshan mountains, the Hanging Temple is exactly what it sounds like: a cluster of traditional Chinese temple structures perched on a cliff face. It might appear magic, but it was in fact constructed by drilling a series of holes into the cliffside over 1,400 years ago.
4. Off the beaten track at the Great Wall
Another must-see! But stay savvy, and step the experience up a notch by avoiding the crowds. The Great Wall stretches across hundreds of miles, and each section has its own distinct personality and charms. Steer clear of Mutianyu, nearest to Beijing, or busy Badaling. Instead, head to Huangyaguan, where the Great Wall winds its way precariously through mountain ridges and yellow-hued cliffs and crags. Or take spectacular moonlit photos at Simatai, the only section open by night.
5. Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors
Over 2,000 years ago, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered thousands of life-sized warriors to be crafted from terracotta clay to guard his burial site. Incredibly, they are still standing where they were placed, having only been discovered in 1974. Laid out in ranks across an area the size of a soccer field, each of the 8,000+ figures has a distinctive and unique face. It’s an absolute must-visit, giving an amazing insight into the culture and society of ancient China. Read our full guide on how and when to visit here.
6. Visit the Chengdu pandas
Have you ever wanted to hug a panda? The Chengdu Panda Base is one of the very few places in the world where you can. If you want to get a little less up close and personal, observe these fascinating (and adorable) creatures in their natural environment at the Giant Panda Breeding Centre instead. Find out more about their vital conservation work on the centre’s website.
Can’t choose between them? We can’t blame you. First-time visitors can often be overwhelmed by China! Luckily, the many guided tours of China available can be tailored to pretty much any itinerary you desire, whether you’re a hiking fanatic, wildlife-lover, city-slicker or history buff. Happy travels!