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With the largest population in the world comes an extremely long traveler’s to-do list. We’re here to narrow it down to a list of the top ten things to do in China to help all you overwhelmed travelers out there makes sense of it all.
1. Visit the Forbidden City, Beijing
The Forbidden City served as the Imperial Palace for 24 emperors throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties and is widely recognized as the most important historical site in China. Tourists can walk through the grounds and explore the city, which is now a museum full of historical relics.
2. Walk a portion of the Great Wall
The Great Wall is probably China’s most famous attraction and for good reason. The wall stretches for more than 5,000 miles (13,000 according to one archaeological survey that included disconnected portions of the wall) across China and that means plenty of options to see it and do a little walking. We recommend seeing the section closest to Beijing. It’s well preserved and easy to access and booking a tour is easy.
3. See the Terracotta Army, Xi’an
During his rule, China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Ding, put hundreds of thousands of his subjects to work building terracotta warriors to protect his tomb so that he would be protected in the afterlife. More than 2,000 years later, the soldiers still stand. One of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries in human history, the Terracotta Army can’t be left off the itinerary.
4. Catch the view at Victoria Peak at night, Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s skyline is one the most spectacular (and colorful) in the world and the best way to take it in is from above. Victoria Peak looks down on the city and Victoria Harbor. If you catch it on a clear night, the view is jaw-dropping.
5. See the Panda Bears in the Minshu Mountains of Sichuan
No animal is more treasured in Chinese culture than the Panda Bear. Although you can see the bears in some of the world’s more famous zoos, nothing compares to seeing them in their home territory. Native to just a small section of central China, seeing them in the wild is an unforgettable experience.
6. Bike around West Lake, Hangzhou
Some argue that West Lake (located in the eastern city of Hangzhou) is the most beautiful place in China. The lake has inspired Chinese poets and writers for centuries and a bike ride on the path around the lake is sure to be a peaceful escape for travelers coming from the chaos of Shanghai or Beijing.
7. Hike in Jiuzhaigou National Park
If you’re lucky enough to visit Jiuzhaigou Park in the fall, you will see the striking combination of trees changing color set against strikingly blue lakes. The color combination is something you can only hope your camera will capture.
8. Explore the Yungang Grottoes, Datong
A series of caves and sculptures carved into a sandstone cliff, the Yungang Grottoes are an amazing example of China’s Buddhist culture and history. Some of the sculptures are more than 1,500 years old and wandering through the caves and finding yourself at the feet of a massive Buddha sculpture is a mesmerizing experience.
9. Hike the Yellow Mountains
The most famous mountainous region in China, the Yellow Mountains shouldn’t be missed. From the Buddhist temples to the world-class hiking trails, the Yellow Mountains are another great way to see China’s natural side.
10. See the Potala Palace, Lhasa
A massive palace built by the 5th Dalai Lama in the mid-seventeenth century, the Potala Palace sits at 12,300 feet above sea level in the Himalayas. An imposing and beautiful structure, the palace stands 13 floors high and has more than 1,000 rooms and roughly 10,000 shrines. Visitor numbers are strictly limited so visiting outside of the summer tourist season is highly recommended.