China Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know

china travel guide

With its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning landscapes, China offers an unforgettable experience for travelers. From exploring ancient landmarks to discovering hidden gems, China has everything to make your trip exciting, enjoyable, and full of adventure. In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know to make the most of your trip to China, including the best time to visit, top attractions, hidden gems, bucket list experiences, and practical travel tips.  

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Longji Rice Terraces, ChinaUnsplash

Best Time to Visit

China is a vast country with a wide range of climates and regions, so the best time to visit depends on the destinations you plan to explore. Generally, the spring (April to May) and fall (September to October) are considered the most favorable. The weather is pleasant and suitable for outdoor activities. Summer (June to August) can be hot and humid in some areas, while winter (December to February) can be rather cold. It's wise to check the weather conditions and research the specific regions you wish to visit to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip.

Top Attractions

China has a wealth of attractions for visitors to explore. Here are five of the top spots to add to your itinerary.

The Great Wall of ChinaUnsplash

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall is one of the world's most iconic landmarks that spans over 2,000 years of history. It's the longest wall in the world and an absolute must-visit for any traveler. 

The best things to do at the Great Wall of China:

  • Walk the Wall: Hiking the Great Wall is undoubtedly the main draw for visitors, and the Wall offers a spectacular backdrop for a scenic stroll. Each of the Wall's many sections offers unique hiking experiences with varying degrees of difficulty and terrain, from the famous and well-restored Mutianyu to the wild and rugged Jiankou.
  • Enjoy the scenery: Take time to stop and admire the spectacular natural scenery surrounding the Great Wall, including mountain views and valleys dotted with ancient villages. Some sections, like Jinshanling and Simatai, offer particularly stunning landscapes, and visitors will enjoy soaking in the scenic views during a break from walking and hiking.

The Forbidden City, BeijingUnsplash


The capital of China is a city rich in history and culture. It's home to some of the most famous landmarks in the country, such as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.

The best things to do in Beijing:

  • Explore the Forbidden City: Located in the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest imperial palace complex in the world. Walk through its grand halls and beautiful courtyards to gain insight into the fascinating history of Chinese emperors.
  • Wander through the Hutongs: Stroll through the traditional narrow lanes known as Hutongs to experience Beijing's traditional way of life. You can visit Nanluoguxiang, a famous Hutong area, where you'll find shops, cafes, and a vibrant atmosphere.
  • Visit Tiananmen Square: One of the world's largest public squares, Tiananmen Square holds great historical and cultural significance. Explore the square, visit the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, and see the iconic Tiananmen Gate, where important events in Chinese history have taken place.
  • Experience the Summer Palace: The Summer Palace is a vast imperial garden filled with pavilions, temples, bridges, and a tranquil lake. It offers a peaceful escape from the bustling city and provides a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of the Qing Dynasty rulers.
  • Visit the Temple of Heaven: The Temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of architecture and a symbol of Beijing. Emperors used this imperial complex to perform religious ceremonies to ensure good harvests. Explore its stunning temples, halls, and pavilions, set in a serene park-like setting. 

terra cotta warriors, Xi'anUnsplash


Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province in China, is a city steeped in history and culture. It's best known for the Terracotta Army, a remarkable archaeological site that dates back over 2,000 years.

The best things to do in Xi'an:

  • Visit the Terracotta Warriors: The Terracotta Warriors is considered one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world. It was constructed to accompany the tomb of China's First Emperor and is an awe-inspiring sight to behold.
  • Explore the Xi'an City Wall: The Xi'an City Wall is one of China's most well-preserved ancient city walls. You can take a walk or rent a bike to explore this historic landmark and enjoy panoramic views of the city.
  • Discover the Muslim Quarter: The Muslim Quarter is a vibrant and bustling area in Xi'an, filled with narrow streets and lively markets. Explore the vibrant street food scene, visit the Great Mosque, and immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of the Muslim community.
  • Visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda: The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a famous Buddhist pagoda that dates back to the Tang Dynasty. Climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city and explore the surrounding temple complex and gardens.
  • Explore the Shaanxi History Museum: The Shaanxi History Museum is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. It houses a vast collection of artifacts spanning thousands of years, including ancient pottery, bronzes, and sculptures that offer a glimpse into the region's rich history.

Shanghai skylineUnsplash


Shanghai is a bustling metropolis and a shining example of China's rapid modernization. The city's skyline is filled with futuristic skyscrapers, including the Shanghai Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

The best things to do in Shanghai:

  • Admire the classic skyline at the Bund: The Bund is a must-visit in Shanghai, offering stunning views of colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers along the Huangpu River.
  • Explore Yu Garden and the Old Town: Yu Garden is a traditional Chinese garden with beautiful pavilions, rockeries, and ponds. Nearby, you can also explore the Old Town area and visit the Yuyuan Bazaar for shopping and dining.
  • Ascend the Shanghai Tower: Head to the Shanghai Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, to enjoy panoramic views of the city skyline from its observatory.
  • Take a Huangpu River cruise: Enjoy a relaxing cruise along the Huangpu River, where you can see iconic landmarks such as the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center, and the historic buildings of the Bund.
  • Visit the Shanghai Museum: Immerse yourself in Chinese art and history at the Shanghai Museum, which houses an extensive collection of ancient artifacts, including ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings.

The Yellow Mountains, ChinaUnsplash

The Yellow Mountains

This UNESCO-listed mountain range in Anhui Province is known for its unique landscape of granite peaks, twisted pines, and hot springs. It's a great place to hike and take in the scenery.

The best things to do in the Yellow Mountains:

  • Watch the sunrise: The Yellow Mountains offer breathtaking sunrise views. It's a magical experience to see the peaks emerge from the mist as the sun rises.
  • Hike the trails: There are many hiking trails in the Yellow Mountains, including the famous Western Steps, which offer stunning views of the peaks and valleys. The trails range from easy to challenging, so there is something for everyone.
  • Enjoy the hot springs: The Yellow Mountains are home to several natural hot springs, perfect for relaxing after a long day of hiking. The hot springs are known for their therapeutic properties, so it's a great way to rejuvenate and refresh.
  • Marvel at the unique rock formations: The Yellow Mountains have many interesting and unusual ones, including the Flying Over Rock, the Elephant Trunk Peak, and the Ape Looking at the Sea.
  • Take in the stunning views from the cable cars: One of the highlights of a trip to the Yellow Mountains is the cable car ride, which gives visitors spectacular views of the peaks and valleys below. There are several cable cars to choose from, each offering a unique perspective of the Yellow Mountains.

Hidden Gems

While many tourists flock to China's most popular attractions, there are still plenty of hidden gems to discover. Here are five off-the-beaten-path destinations to consider:

Jiuzhaigou Valley

Nestled in the Sichuan province, Jiuzhaigou Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its colorful lakes, waterfalls, and snow-capped peaks. It's a paradise for nature lovers and photographers.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

This beautiful park in Hunan Province inspired the floating mountains seen in the film 'Avatar.' It's home to towering sandstone pillars and is an excellent place for hiking.

Dunhuang's Mogao Caves

Discover the ancient Buddhist cave art at the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang. These well-preserved caves showcase intricate sculptures and vibrant murals that depict Buddhist history and culture.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

This spectacular gorge in Yunnan Province is one of the deepest in the world and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Gulangyu Island

This charming island off the coast of Xiamen is known for its colonial architecture and peaceful beaches.

Temple in Beijing, ChinaUnsplash

Bucket List Experiences

If you're looking for experiences that are truly unique to China, here are ten bucket list items to add to your itinerary.

  • Take a boat ride on the Li River in Guilin and admire the stunning karst landscapes.
  • Explore the ancient water town of Wuzhen and experience traditional Chinese culture.
  • Visit the Shaolin Temple and witness a Kung Fu performance.
  • Attend a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, immersing yourself in the culture and history of tea in Hangzhou or the tea-growing regions.
  • Marvel at the futuristic architecture in Guangzhou's Tianhe CBD.
  • Explore the Longsheng Rice Terraces and witness the stunning scenery.
  • Explore the vibrant markets and local cuisine in Chengdu, including sampling the famous Sichuan hotpot.
  • Attend a traditional Chinese opera performance in Beijing or immerse yourself in a dazzling acrobatics show in Shanghai.
  • Participate in a tai chi class in the tranquil parks of Beijing to learn the ancient art of harmonizing body and mind.

Wuzhen Visitor Center, Jiaxing, ChinaUnsplash

Travel Tips

Before you head off to China, make sure you keep these travel tips in mind:

  • Entry and exit requirements: Before traveling to China, ensure that you have a valid passport with at least six months of validity remaining. Most visitors will require a visa, so it's important to check the visa requirements that apply to your country of residence and plan accordingly.
  • Language: The official language of China is Mandarin, but English is commonly spoken in major cities and tourist areas. However, it's helpful to carry a pocket-sized language guide or a translation app to facilitate communication, especially in more remote areas.
  • Currency: The official currency of China is the Chinese Yuan (CNY). Credit cards are widely accepted in larger cities, but it's always a good idea to carry cash, especially when traveling to remote areas.
  • Plugs and Adapters: China uses a two-pin plug/socket system with a voltage of 220V. It's wise to carry a universal adapter to ensure compatibility with various types of outlets.
  • Getting around: China has an extensive transport system, including high-speed trains, domestic flights, buses, and taxis. High-speed trains are an efficient and comfortable way to travel between major cities. Public transportation, such as subways and buses, is widely available in most cities and can be an affordable option for getting around.

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China eSIM: Stay Connected With Airalo

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