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Home China Travel Guide The Most Popular Tourist Destinations in China 2024/2025

The Most Popular Tourist Destinations in China 2024/2025

China is a land of captivating contrasts, where ancient traditions harmoniously coexist with modernity. Numerous travelers worldwide have been enticed by its rich history, stunning landscapes and vibrant culture. This article will unfold diverse charms of the country by exploring the 10 most popular tourist destinations in China. From ancient wonders of Xi’an to the vibrant cityscape of Shanghai, from the diverse landforms along the Silk Road to the surreal scenery of Guilin, each destination offers a unique and enriching experience.

Xi’an: A Glimpse into the Splendid Past of Ancient China

As the capital city of 13 dynasties, Xian is regarded as one of the best tourist destinations in China that is overflowing with ancient grandeur, from the remarkable Terracotta Army of the Qin Dynasty (221-207BC) to the iconic Big Wild Goose Pagoda. History enthusiasts will be enthralled by the profound historical ambience of the city.

Besides, Xi’an cuisines are another shining card of the city. If you are seeking a colorful culinary experience, the prosperous Muslim Quarter will be the paradise for you to get a feast.

Xian-Terracotta-Army
Terracotta Warriors and Horses

 

Tourist Type: History Enthusiasts, Cultural Explorers

Visa-Free Policy: Xi’an has adopted the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, which allows travelers from 54 countries to stay in Xi’an for up to 6 days without a visa if they are in transit to a third country.

Suggested Trip Length: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: March – May, September – November

Highlights:

  • Terracotta Warriors and Horses– Appreciate over 8,000 life-sized pottery soldiers, horses and chariots showcasing the supreme handicrafts over 2,200 years ago.
  • City Wall– Enjoy the panoramic views of Xi’an along the well-preserved wall constructed more than 600 years ago.
  • Shaanxi History Museum– Delve into the splendid civilization of China by admiring more than 370,000 precious objects spanning over one million years.

✔ Recommended Tour: 2 Days Essence Xian Tour Package

Shanghai: Where Modernity and Tradition Collide the Most Beautiful Spark

Shanghai is one of the most popular tourism destinations in China. Get prepared to step into the dazzling metropolis of Shanghai and feel the seamless blend of ancient atmosphere and futuristic skyline along the Huangpu River. Urban explorers will delight in the city’s vibrant nightlife and modern art galleries, while food lovers will be treated to a diverse culinary scene, from traditional Shanghainese dishes to international cuisines.

Shanghai the Bund
The Bund at Night

Tourist Type: Urban Explorers, Food Lovers, Fashion Enthusiasts

Visa-Free Policy: Shanghai offers a 144-hour visa-free transit option, allowing eligible travelers to explore the city for up to 6 days without a visa while in transit to a third destination.

Suggested Trip Length: 3-4 days

Best Time to Visit: April – June, September – November

Highlights:

  • The Bund– Hailed as the “Exhibition of the World’s Architecture”, the Bund features 52 towering buildings with different architectural styles of 1900s.
  • Yu Garden– It is an elaborately-designed garden built over 450 years ago, with ancient Chinese architecture setting off with plants, rockeries, ponds and bonsai.
  • Lujiazui –As one of the leading financial centers of the world, Lujiazui is lined with stylish skyscrapers like Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center.

✔ Recommended Tour: 2 Days Best Shanghai Layover Tour

Guilin: Nature’s Masterpiece of Karst Landscape

As an old saying goes, “the landscape in Guilin is the best under the heaven”. Guilin has become one of the best tourist destinations in China, renowned for its ethereal natural beauty along the Li River. Nature lovers and photographers will find endless opportunities to capture the breathtaking scenery during a leisurely cruise along the river.

Guilin Li River Cruise
Li River Cruise

Tourist Type: Nature Lovers, Photographers

Visa-Free Policy: The 72-hour visa-free transit policy has been introduced to Guilin, which allows travelers from 54 countries to visit Guilin for up to 3 days without a visa while in transit.

Suggested Trip Length: 3-4 days

Best Time to Visit: April – November

Highlights:

  • Li River Cruise– Take a joyful cruise down the serene Li River to indulge yourself in the captivating karst landscape with limpid water and rolling mountains.
  • Longji Rice Terraces– Countless terraced fields have been cultivated from the foot of the mountains to the top, offering an enchanting rustic landscape.

✔ Recommended Tour: 3 Days Guilin & Yangshuo Tour

Beijing: Unravel the Imperial Splendors of the Capital City

As China’s political and economical center from the federal dynasty, Beijing is no lack of imperial wonders presenting its glamorous past. History enthusiasts can revel in the exploration along the central axis to delve into stories behind the Forbidden City and also tread on the symbolic Tiananmen Square to take pictures.

Beijing is also a top China tourist destination for visitors having a penchant for hiking tour. They can meet their needs by conquering the magnificent Great Wall sections.

Beijing Forbidden City
Forbidden City

Tourist Type: History Enthusiasts, Architecture Admirers, Hikers

Visa-Free Policy: Beijing is eligible for the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, allowing travelers to explore the city for up to 6 days without a visa while in transit.

Suggested Trip Length: 4-5 days

Best Time to Visit: April – November

Highlights:

  • Forbidden City– It served as the home of ancient imperial families for more than 600 years, boasting magnificent palaces as well as a variety of antiques and royal objects.
  • Summer Palace– It used to be the summer retreat for royal families with splendid palaces and pavilions elaborately distributed along the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake.
  • Great Wall Hiking Tour –Embark on an exhilarating hiking tour to famous Great Wall sections, such as Badaling and Mutianyu, to embrace the grand vistas of this ancient defensive construction.

✔ Recommended Tour: 4 Days Beijing Essence Tour

Lhasa: A Spiritual Journey to the Roof of the World

Lhasa is one of the best tourist destinations in China, located at a high altitude. It is the spiritual center of Tibetan Buddhism. Spiritual seekers will find solace in the revered Potala Palace and Buddhist monasteries. It is also the holy land for adventure travelers. Step on the Everest Base Camp (EBC) at the foot of Himalaya Mountains. It is a dream come true for most explorers throughout the world.

Potala Palace
Potala Palace

Tourist Type: Spiritual Seekers, Adventure Travelers

Visa-Free Policy: Lhasa does not fall under the visa-free transit policy, and foreign travelers need a Tibet Travel Permit to visit this region.

Suggested Trip Length: 3-5 days at least

Best Time to Visit: May – October

Highlights:

  • Potala Palace– Perched on a hilltop about 3,700m above the sea level, the complex is the holy place of Tibetan Buddhism and the pilgrimage site among believers in Tibet.
  • Yamdorktso Lake– Praised as the “turquoise earring left by the goddess”, the azure lake is one of the three most sacred ones in Tibet, presenting an exotic plateau landscape.
  • EBC (Everest Base Camp)– Circled by majestic Himalaya Mountains, the base, at an elevation of 5,200m, is the shrine for all adventurers around the world.

Essential Travel Tips:

  1. Independent traveling is not permitted in Tibet. Please travel with a local travel agency.
  2. Lhasa is located at a high altitude. It is suggested tourists get enough rest and avoid intense physical activities.
  3. Tibet is steeped in Tibetan Buddhist atmosphere. Please respect local religious customs and traditions.

✔ Recommended Tours:

4 Days Classic Lhasa City Tour

8 Days Tibet Tour: Lhasa to Everest Base Camp

Sichuan: Encounter Giant Pandas and Spicy Delights

Nature enthusiasts and food lovers will definitely consider Sichuan as a bucket-list China tourist destination when planning China tours. The province is synonymous with the adorable giant pandas, and Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding enables visitors to have a close look at these animals and observe their real life. Besides, the wonderland of Jiuzhai Valley unveils its primitive allure and attracts tourists with its unraveled waterscapes.

Food connoisseurs are in for a treat as Sichuan cuisine is renowned for its bold flavors and fiery spices. Do not miss the chance to savor the famous hot pot, Kung Pao Chicken, Mapo Tofu… and sample a variety of mouthwatering street snacks in bustling night markets.

Chengdu Pandas
Baby Pandas in Chengdu Giant Panda Base

Tourist Type: Nature Enthusiasts, Food Connoisseurs

Visa-Free Policy: Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, has carried out 144-hour visa-free transit policy. Travelers from certain countries can stay in Chengdu for up to 6 days without a visa while in transit.

Suggested Trip Length: 4-5 days

Best Time to Visit: March – May, September – November

Highlights:

  • Encounter Giant Pandas– Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is the best China tourist destination for panda lovers, offering an opportunity to observe and learn about these lovely creatures in a semi-wild habitat.
  • Jiuzhai Valley– Immerse in the high land scenery boasting limpid alpine lakes, pristine forests, cascading waterfalls, snow-capped mountains as well as the unique Tibetan customs.

✔ Recommended Tour: 4 Days Chengdu Tour with Giant Panda and Leshan Giant Buddha

Hangzhou: A Serene Paradise on Earth

Hangzhou is a romantic city that has inspired poets and artists for centuries. The serene landscapes of the iconic West Lake provide a sense of tranquility to all the tourists. You can either take a leisure walk around or enjoy a boat ride on the lake to immerse yourself in the captivating surroundings.

As the home of Longjing Tea, Hangzhou boasts many tea plantations. If interested, you can set off an exploration to a plantation and enjoy a calming tea ceremony while sipping the authentic Longjing green tea.

Hangzhou West Lake
West Lake

Tourist Type: Nature Lovers, Relaxation Seekers

Visa-Free Policy: Hangzhou is eligible for the 144-hour visa-free transit policy.

Suggested Trip Length: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: March – May, September – November

Highlights:

  • West Lake– As the symbolic travel attraction of Hangzhou, the West Lake offers an enchanting natural scenery with elegant pavilions and stones, serene temples as well as lush trees.
  • Longjing Tea Plantations –Stop by a plantation of Longjing Tea to indulge in refreshing aroma in the air, learn about the tea-making process and enjoy a cup of Longjing Tea.

✔ Recommended Tour: 2 Days Hangzhou Tour: Tea Plantation, Bamboo Forest

Silk Road: Retrace the Ancient Trade Route

For centuries, the Silk Road has facilitated the economic and cultural exchange between the East and the West. It is one of the best travel destinations in China, that enthrall history enthusiasts with remnants of ancient cities, fortresses, and caravanserais. Besides, tourists can feast their eyes on various natural landscapes, such as vast deserts and colorful Danxia landform. Trekking along the Silk Road can also be considered as a cultural exploration into diverse ethnic traditions and profound Buddhist arts.

Silk-Road-tour-camel-riding
Camel Ride along the Silk Road

Tourist Type: History Enthusiasts, Adventure Travelers

Visa-Free Policy: The Silk Road spans several provinces and regions, each with its own visa requirements. Travelers should check the specific policies for the areas they plan to visit.

Suggested Trip Length: Varies (at least 10 days for a comprehensive journey)

Best Time to Visit: May – October

Highlights:

  • Zhangye Danxia Landform– It is renowned as the best Danxia landform in China, with majestic rainbow mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.
  • Mogao Caves in Dunhuang– Enjoy the splendid grotto art by viewing a wide variety of murals of Buddhas and flying apsaras, as well as Buddhist statues.
  • Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar– The bazaar is filled with local specialties and handicrafts and is a top China travel destination for tourists to indulge in the exotic customs of Uygur nationality.

✔ Recommended Tour: 8 Days Silk Road Adventure Tour from Xining to Dunhuang

Huangshan: Majestic Peaks and Surreal Views

Mt. Huangshan, also known as the Yellow Mountains, boasts awe-inspiring natural wonders, including strange pines, oddly-shaped rocks, sea of clouds, hot springs and winter snow. It is a top China destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to explore major scenic viewpoints following various trails. Witnessing the sunrise or sunset from the summit is a must, and it could be a surreal experience that will stay with you forever.

Mount Huangshan
Mount Huangshan

Tourist Type: Hikers, Landscape Photographers

Visa-Free Policy: Huangshan is not eligible for the visa-free transit policy. A valid Chinese visa is required to visit.

Suggested Trip Length: 2-3 days

Best Time to Visit: May – November

Highlights:

  • Oddly-Shaped Pines and Rocks– Use your imaginations to see the strange rocks and pines of Mt. Huangshan, and they offer different views from various angles.
  • Sea of Clouds –The sea of clouds is the optimal wonder of Huangshan. It blurs the edges of queer peaks, turning the whole place into a scroll of landscape painting.
  • Sunrise and Sunset Scenes –Tourists should never miss the glamorous sunrise or sunset on Mt. Huangshan, when the sun cast its golden light on the precipitous peaks, presenting the stunning beauty before the eye.

✔ Recommended Tour: 2 Days Huangshan Private Tour: Yellow Mountain, Hongcun Village

Suzhou: The Venice of the East

Suzhou is one of the top tourist destinations in China, well-known for its classic gardens, ancient canals and fine silk. The meticulously designed gardens, such as Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lingering Garden, have attracted numerous culture enthusiasts and architecture admirers. These gardens perfectly epitomize Chinese aesthetics and offer a serene escape from the bustling city. During the Suzhou trip, visitors can also have a chance to experience local leisure lifestyle by strolling along flagstone alleys in one of the ancient water towns, like Zhouzhuang and Shantang.

Suzhou Humble Administrator's Garden
Humble Administrators Garden

Tourist Type: Culture Enthusiasts, Architecture Admirers

Visa-Free Policy: Suzhou has adopted the 144-hour visa-free transit policy.

Suggested Trip Length: 1-2 days

Best Time to Visit: March – May, September – November

Highlights:

  • Classic Gardens– Wander around elegant gardens, like Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lingering Garden, to immerse in the tranquility of these elaborately-designed ancient estates.
  • Ancient Water Towns –Tourists may spend a leisure day in old water towns, such as Zhouzhuang and Shantang Old Street, to admire ancient residences and stone bridges lined along the water lanes and have a glimpse of traditional local lifestyle.

✔ Recommended Tour: Suzhou Highlight Day Tour

If you are planning your first trip to China and want a tailor-made itinerary, please feel free to contact us at any time!

Here we recommend you several China tours to the listed destinations:

10 Days China Tour of Beijing  Xian  Chengdu  Shanghai

9 Days Shanghai  Suzhou  Hangzhou  Huangshan Private Tour

10 Days Ancient China Silk Road Tour from Xian to Kashgar

 

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