Traveling around China was never high on my bucket list. It wasn’t until I was living in Shanghai that I started to become curious about the country, it’s diverse landscapes, its culture and its hidden gems. It only took a few stories from other expats and a few photos and I was convinced: there is so much more to China then Beijing and Shanghai.

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Over the next few months I took advantage of summer in China and made it my mission to explore as much of the country as I could. I didn’t cover it all, in fact far from that, but with the help of some locals and my own experience I had enough knowledge to compile a list of Top 10 Things To Do in China. I hope this list will one day help you plan your own adventure in China

1. Great Wall of China

Topping the lists of many travellers is the Great Wall of China, considered to be the #1 attraction in China. The Wall can be visited in many places along its length, however majority choose to do it as a day trip from Beijing.

Great Wall of China, China, Asia
Great Wall of China
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2. Forbidden City

Visit China’s most famous museum and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, the Forbidden City. Located in Beijing, this Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and remains the 2nd most visited attraction in China.

Forbidden City, China
Forbidden City, China. Photo credit:

3. Spend a weekend exploring China’s most metropolitan and modern city, Shanghai.

Shanghai isn’t known for an abundance of sights and attractions.  It is known for being a city that carefully balances the old and the new, along with traditional and modern sides of today’s China.

View from the Bund, Shanghai, China
View from the Bund, Shanghai, China

4. Visit one of China’s many traditional water towns, like Suzhou, Zhujiajiao, or Xitang.

For a more authentic journey into traditional China, choose a town that’s less commercialized and less popular with the tourists, like Zhujiajiao. Zhujiajiao is located only an hour away from Shanghai, making it easy to see on a day trip.

Zhujiajiao Water Town, China
Zhujiajiao Water Town, China

5. Spend a few days admiring breathtaking views and breathing fresh mountain air while trekking through Yellow Mountains (Huangshan).

Located only a few hours away from Shanghai, the stunning scenic views of the Huangshan will make you forget that you are in China… but the thousands of Chinese that will inevitably surround you at the top of the mountain will make sure to remind you.

To get away from the crowds use a simple tactic – when a Chinese tour group turns right, you turn left. Repeat, until there are no Chinese tourists in sight. Now relax and enjoy!

Huang Shan, Yellow Mountains, Anhui, China
Views of Yellow Mountains (Huang Shan), Anhui, China

6. Explore 350 km of limestone formations, known as the Stone Forest (Shilin),

located just outside of Kunming, in Yunnan Province. Shilin is like nothing I have seen before, an incredible natural phenomena that is bound to take your breath away.

Stone Forest (Shilin), Yunnan, China
Stone Forest (Shilin), Yunnan, China

7. Go on a hike in Tiger Leaping Gorge, a World Heritage Site since 2003.

The Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the greatest treks through diverse landscapes of China. Opt for a more challenging high trekking trail that starts in Qiaotou, instead of the flat tourist path that runs along the water.

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan, China - things to do in China
Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan, China

8. Rent a scooter and explore the karst mountain scenery of Yangshuo,

just outside of Guilin in Guangxi Region. You’ll come face to face with traditional villages and real life, untouched by tourism.

Karst mountains in Yangshuo, Guangxi, China
Karst mountains in Yangshuo, Guangxi, China

9. Pet a panda at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre.

Plan to visit in early spring (April) and late autumn(October/November) if you want the chance to cuddle baby pandas. But be prepared to pay more for it.

Panda at the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center, China - things to do in China
Panda at the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center, China. Photo credit:

10. Visit Tibet,

a completely autonomous region of China, makes it feel like you have entered a completely different world. Despite the fact that you must travel to Tibet in an organized group and can not explore this part of China on your own, this stop on your tour of China is a true cultural immersion and one that you will be glad you made.

The Potala Palace, Tibet, China
The Potala Palace, Tibet, China. Photo credit:

What destinations in China would you add to this list? Share them with other readers in the comments below.

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1 thought on “Top 10 Things To Do in China”

  1. Mutianyu Great Wall in Beijing
    Posted on 11/30/2014 by
    Mutianyu Great Wall, is one of the most famous and best preserved sections of the Great Wall together with Badaling and Jinshanling sections.Located in Huairou County northeast of the Beijing urban area, the Mutianyu Great Wall crosses the mountain ridges connecting Juyongguan Pass to the west and Gubeikou to the east. Along with nearby Huanghua Great Wall and Jiankou pass, these fortifications make up the northern barrier protecting Beijing city and the imperial mausoleums. High quality construction and unique features make this section of the Great Wall a prominent feature in the defense of the Capital and an exciting tourist destination.

    Mutianyu is a section of the Great Wall of China located in Huairou County 70 km northeast of central Beijing. First built in the mid-6th century during the Northern Qi, Mutianyu Great Wall is older than the Badaling section of the Great Wall. In the Ming dynasty, under the supervision of General Xu Da, construction of the present wall began on the foundation of the wall of Northern Qi. In 1404, a pass was built in the wall. In 1569, the Mutianyu Great Wall was rebuilt and till today most parts of it are well preserved. The Mutianyu Great Wall has the largest construction scale and best quality among all sections of Great Wall. Mutianyu’s 2.5 kilometer stretch of the Wall allows you to walk for more than an hour as you explore 22 watchtowers and the valley on both sides of the Wall. In late afternoon, or in poor weather, you often might find yourself alone with only the sound of the wind to keep you company. Travel back in time and see the Wall as it was when it was built hundreds of years ago.

    Mutianyu is considered as the most beautiful Great Wall in Beijing. It is a bit more rugged and slightly less crowded than the more famous Badaling. There are abundant natural springs which feed a great variety of plants and trees. Over 96% of Mutianyu is covered by trees and orchards, keeping the air fragrant with chestnut blossoms in the spring and fresh all year long. Besides, The Mutianyu Pass consists of 3 watchtowers, one big in the centre and two smaller on both sides. Standing on the same terrace, the three watchtowers are connected to each other inside and compose a rarely seen structure among all sections of Great Wall.
    Travelers visiting the Mutianyu Great Wall have the possibility to experience the Great Wall in different ways, whether using the thousands stone steps or a cable car. Definitely one of the best places to hike for experiencing the Great Wall, Mutianyu and its surrounding lush forest and woodland transports everyone back to ancient times, back in Imperial China.

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