China is the fourth-largest country in the world, population over 1.3 billion people, 297 living languages, 23 provinces, and endless points of interest. Where does a first-time traveler begin to explore China?
Though it is impossible to experience all that China has to offer, but IML Travel has boiled everything down to an essential starter pack for someone willing to jump right in.
Days 1–4: Beijing
From the known attractions like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City to lesser-known places like 798 Art District, many sights in China are located in Beijing.
Spend your first two days in the country by joining a hotel tour. Many hotels in Beijing offer one or two days tour and others can simply recommend one for you.
After you get to know more about the city, continue your journey and make sure you don’t miss the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. Also, don’t forget about Beijing’s street food. Between shopping trips, stop by a food stall in Wangfujing for a local treat experience, or eat like a royal at one of the amazing roast duck restaurants of the city.
Days 5–7: Xi’an
After getting familiar with Beijing, hop on a train to Xi’an. Four days in country’s capital will likely have worn you out, try to stay awake on this train ride. The view from the train cannot be missed, especially for the first timers. On this train ride you will pass endless rows of towering, abandoned construction projects, then faceless fields, and finally the striking Hua Mountains.
Once in Xi’an, take a relaxing stroll in the Muslim Quarter, where you can see first-hand the city’s historical status as the gateway to the Silk Road. Moreover, Xi’an is famous for its various types of noodles, and the Muslim Quarter is the best place to get them.
Of course you trip is incomplete without having seen the Terracotta Warriors. Over 8,000 life-sized figures were created during the reign of China’s first emperor to guard his yet-unopened tomb.
But don’t just go to Xi’an for the Warriors. The walls are quite impressive, but don’t forget to look down for a bird’s eye view of everyday city life.
Days 8–11: Guilin and Yangshuo
With one week of wandering around in the north, now it’s time to pack your lightweight clothes, because you’re headed south.
On the eighth day of your trip, arrive in the southern city of Guilin and take a car to the nearby town of Yangshuo. Both Guilin and Yangshuo are well on the beaten path, but you wouldn’t know that by the condition of the roads.
Remember to schedule a driver in advance for the trip into Yangshuo. This should run you around RMB300 ($45) and can usually be arranged through your hotel.
Like Beijing, there are endless things to do in the Guilin-Yangshuo. Unlike Beijing, most of the activities in this area revolve around nature. You can take an unforgettable cruise on the Li or Yulong River. Stop by the ancient town of Xingping; get subterranean in the neon-lit Reed Flute Cave, and frame the sky at Moon Hill.
For your last day in southern China, visit the Longji Rice Terrace, located a few hours from Guilin. These terraces are one of China’s iconic attractions and you would be diligent if you passed them up. These terraces have four unique styles, matching with each season, from bright green in the summer to frosty white in the winter.
Days 12–14: Shanghai
Now fly to metropolitan Shanghai to finish off your journey. Visit the famous places in Shanghai like the Bund and the French Concession and treat yourself to a foot massage. Also, you can consider joining a tour here as well, perhaps a food tour that will show you more than just the city’s gastronomy.
Know more about Great Wall of China