Beijing Forbidden City
Home China Travel Guide Top 20 Must-Visit Tourist Attractions in China (with Popular Itineraries)

Top 20 Must-Visit Tourist Attractions in China (with Popular Itineraries)

There is no lack of historical relics and natural wonders in China, thanks to the long history and vast territory. In this article, we will take you on a journey to the essence of this glamorous country. Get ready to explore top 20 must-visit attractions in China, that will leave you awe-inspired and craving to embark on an exploration of the country’s splendor firsthand.

1. The Great Wall of China

Mutianyu Great Wall
Mutianyu Great Wall

Speaking of China, images of Great Wall will pop into most tourists’ minds. As one of the most iconic landmarks of China, the Great Wall is a testament to China’s ancient engineering marvels, stretching 210,000km from the eastern coastline to the vast desert in the west.

Beijing, with essential wall sections distributed in the suburbs, is considered the best destination for Great Wall hiking tours.

Highlights of Beijing Great Wall:

  • Badaling– As one of the most famous sections in China, it presents a classical view with the winding wall resembling a giant dragon nestled on the rolling mountain ranges.
  • Mutianyu– It is the longest sections of the country with a total length of 5,400m, and has the most bacon towers fully showcasing features of ancient defensive architecture.
  • Jinshanling– Lying against steep mountain ranges, Jinshanling offers the most beautiful vistas. Without too much restoration work, it displays the primitive looking of the Great Wall.

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

Recommended Tours: Beijing Great Wall Hiking Tours

2. The Terracotta Army

Xian-Terracotta-Army
Terracotta Warriors and Horses

If you want to delve into the remote past of Xi’an, the Terracotta Army should be a perfect destination for you. Here, you will unveil the history of Qin Dynasty (221-207BC), learn about legends of Qin Shi Huang – the first emperor in China, and appreciate exquisite handicrafts of the time.

Highlights:

  • The whole archaeologicalsite consists of three burial pits, displaying the military commander and multiple troops during Qin Dynasty, including infantry, cavalry, chariots and crossbow unit.
  • In total, over 8,000 life-sized pottery soldiers, horses and chariots were unearthed from the three pits, all of which are lined up in battle formations, each with different costumes and expressions.
  • You can have a chance to make your own clay warriors under the direction of a skilled craftsmanto have a hands-on experience of this ancient handicraft.

Best Time to Visit: All year round

Recommended Tours: Xi’an Terracotta Army Tours

3. The Forbidden City

Beijing Forbidden City
Forbidden City

Located at the heart of Beijing’s central axis, the Forbidden City used to be the residence of imperial family during Ming and Qing Dynasty (1368-1911), and still showcases its regal dignity today through remarkable palaces built with crimson walls and golden decorations, as well as a wealth of luxury objects.

Highlights:

  • As the largest and best-preserved complex worldwide, the Forbidden City tops the five greatest palaces in the world, housing over 8,000 rooms and 70 grand halls.
  • The Forbidden City also serves as a comprehensive museum collecting more than 1,800,000 precious antiques owned by ancient imperialfamilies, including ceramics, bronze ware, gold and silver works, enamels, embroidery, imperial jade seals…

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

Recommended Tour: 4 Days Beijing Essence Tour

4. The Li River and Guilin Landscape

Li-River-Cruise Guilin
Li River Cruise

There is an old saying popular in China, “the landscape in Guilin is the best under heaven”. And the essence of Guilin landscape lies in the picturesque Li River featuring breathtaking karst scenery on both sides. Li River has inspired countless poets and painters with its captivating scenery and will definitely leaven an everlasting memory in your China tours.

Highlights:

  • Embark on the Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo to take in the most beautiful river views with tranquil waters, lush karst mountains and steep cliffs. You can also take a bamboo raft down the Yulong River in Yangshuo to gain a totally different visiting experience.
  • A number of traditional villages are dotted down the Li River, offering a peaceful rustic landscape along the way. If interested, you can rent a bicycle or a scooter at Yangshuo to obtain an immersive sightseeing tour to the rural utopia around the town.

Best Time to Visit: April – October

Recommended Tour: 5 Days Guilin, Yangshuo & Terrace Field Photography Tour

5. The Potala Palace

Potala Palace
Potala Palace

Tibet is a mystical realm steeped in profound Buddhist culture. Constructed along the steep mountain range, Potala Palace in Lhasa is the symbol of the whole Tibetan area, as well as the pilgrimage site among Tibetan Buddhists. The grand complex offers you a virtual tour to admire the stunning Tibetan architectural style and get insights into Tibetan Buddhism.

Highlights:

  • Red Palace– It was built in the center of the complex and was an important site to hold religious rituals. Today, you can tour around splendid scripture halls and Buddha halls inside, and admire eight gorgeous stupas worshipping Dalai Lamas.
  • White Palace– It served as a place for Dalai Lamas to live and handle affairs. You can have a glimpse of their life by visiting their bed chamber, reception room, office, dining hall and scripture hall.

Best Time to Visit: May – October

Travel Tips:

  1. Foreign visitors must travel with a local agency. Independent traveling is not accepted in Tibet.
  2. Tibet is overflowing with Buddhist culture. Please show respect for local customs.
  3. You should notice that taking pictures is forbidden in Potala Palace.

Recommended Tour: 8 Days Lhasa to Everest Base Tour

6. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Prepare to be transported to a world straight out of a fantasy novel as we explore Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. The forest park has impressed countless tourists with its oddly-shaped peaks and towering sandstone pillars, which even inspired the creation of “Hallelujah Mountains” in the movie Avatar.

Highlights: 

  • Tianzi Mountain – Seen from the viewing platform on the hilltop, the vast stretch of sandstone pillars forms a wide “forest”, which will leave you in awe of the uncanny workmanship of the nature.
  • Yuanjiajie –Yuanjiajie features an ethereal natural scenery, where towering peaks resemble strong soldiers lined up before the eyes. Among them, the grand Heavenly Pillar looks so magnificent that it became the prototype of Avatar’s “Hallelujah Mountains”.

Best Time to Visit: April – October

Recommended Tour: 5 Days Zhangjiajie & Fenghuang Ancient Town Tour

7. The Summer Palace

Summer Palace Boat Ride Beijing
Summer Palace

As the former retreat for imperial families, Summer Palace is still a great tourist attraction in China to escape the bustling city life and find tranquility today. Here, tourists can experience the recreational life of ancient royal families for one day by wandering around magnificent halls and enjoying the tranquil lake view.

Highlights: 

  • Longevity Hill At the center of the Summer Palace, the Longevity Hill is filled with magnificent buildings along the terrain, especially religious architectures. Standing atop the hill, you can enjoy an all-around view of the whole retreat.
  • Kunming Lake– Covering about three fourths of the total area, Kunming Lake is regarded as the essence of the Summer Palace with graceful architectures dotted around the lake. Taking a boat ride is the best way to take in the joyful scenery of the surroundings.

Best Time to Visit: May – October

Recommended Tour: 3 Days Beijing Package Tour

8. The Yangtze River and Three Gorges

Yangtze River Cruise
Yangtze River Cruise

Yangtze River is the longest river in China and the segment along the Three Gorges presents the most enchanting scenery to visitors. Embarking on a cruise offers you a chance to take in the awe-inspiring beauty in a leisure way, which will definitely be an immersive sightseeing experience that will stay with you forever.

Highlights:

  • Three Gorges It consists of Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge. Along the way, you will witness mighty mountains and lofty cliffs stretching as far as the eye can see, like towering ramparts guarding the tranquility of the Yangtze River.
  • Three Gorges Dam The dam is the largest water conservancy project in the world. There are a few viewing platforms, offering unique perspectives of the dam and the river scenery from various angle.

Best Time to Visit: March – November

Recommended Tours: China Tours with Yangtze River Cruise

9. Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan

Jiuzhaigou-Huanglong-Five-Colored-Pond
Five Colored Pond in Jiuzhaigou

Anyone who has been to Jiuzhaigou Valley will compare it to “the pure land on earth” or “a fairy-tale world” due to its surreal scenery consisting of gemstone-colored lakes, cascading waterfalls, primitive forests and snow-capped peaks. Jiuzhaigou is a one of the top ten tourist attractions in China that is suitable for visiting all year around. You can take on an exploration at any time to enjoy the full splendor of this natural wonder.

Highlight:

  • Alpine Lakes A large variety of gemstone-colored alpine lakes are the greatest highlight of Jiuzhaigou Valley. Because of rich mineral substances, these lakes reflect diverse colors under the sunlight, turning the whole place into a colorful world that only appears in fairy tales.
  • CascadingWaterfalls  You will also marvel at the large waterfall groups in Jiuzhaigou. Among them, Nuorilang Waterfalls, although without a very large vertical drop, is the widest one in China, spanning over 140 meters, and is the shooting location of many TV series and movies.

Best Time to Visit: All year round, especially Autumn (September – November) when Jiuzhaigou becomes a realm of multiple colors.

Recommended Tour: 5 Days Chengdu Private Tour to Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou

10. Shaolin Temple in Henan

Luoyang Shaolin Temple
Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple is a world-famous tourist attraction in China to delve into the profound history of Zen Buddhism. As the home of Shaolin Kung Fu, it also offers you a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn about the origins of this kind of martial arts and witness captivating Kung Fu performances and training sessions closely.

Highlights

  • Profound Buddhist Culture Shaolin Temple is the cradle of Zen Buddhism in China. While visiting, you can appreciate magnificent Buddha halls and worship the solemn pagoda forests to get an insight into the rich religious culture here.
  • Shaolin Kung Fu Witnessing the renowned Shaolin Kung Fu is a can’t-miss activity for those who are interested in Chinese martial arts. Every day there will be exciting Kung Fu performances at the theater inside the temple. With luck, you might be selected to learn a few moves from the monks on the stage.

Best Time to Visit: All year round

Recommended Tour: Luoyang Highlight Day Tour to Longmen Grottoes & Shaolin Temple

11. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Chengdu Pandas
Baby Pandas in Chengdu Giant Panda Base

No one can resist the charms of the adorable giant pandas. For a close-up interaction with these lovely creatures, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the home of over 100 adult pandas, near the downtown area should be the optimal destination for panda lovers. You can spend a half day here observing giant pandas eating bamboos, sleeping, and playing with each other. Their chubby body and slow movements will definitely melt your heart.

Best Time to Visit: March – April, September – October

Travel Tips: If you are seeking a special experience, you may consider joining in a one-day volunteer project at Dujiangyan Panda Base to help take care of giant pandas under the direction of professional keepers.

Recommended Tour: One-Day Chengdu Panda Tour

12. Hong Kong Skyline & Victoria Harbour

Hong Kong Star Ferry
Victoria Harbor

Hong Kong is the paradise for photographers. The city houses about 300 stylish skyscrapers over 150 meters high and 60 high-rises that are more than 200 meters tall, forming the superior skyline along the coastline of Victoria Harbor. At night, the buildings will all be ablaze with lights, attracting numerous tourists and locals to capture the splendid scenery.

Best Time to Visit: October – May

Recommended Tour: One-Day Classic Hong Kong Tour

13. Yungang Grottoes in Shanxi

Yungang Grottoes Shanxi Datong
Yungang Grottoes

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Yungang Grottoes is one of the four greatest grottoes in China, with a history of more than 1,500 years. There are over 250 caves in total, enshrining more than 59,000 Buddha statues in all sizes from 2 centimeters to 17 meters. Here, you will travel through time to have a deep exploration of China’s grotto art by admiring these intricate sculptures as well as exquisite murals.

Best Time to Visit: May – October

Recommended Tour: 2 Days Datong Cultural Heritage Tour

14. West Lake in Hangzhou

Hangzhou West Lake Boat Trip
West Lake

The picturesque West Lake is widely accepted as the symbol of Hangzhou. It is also one of the best tourist attractions in China, boasting enchanting natural landscape decorated with elegant gardens, pagodas and temples. You are recommended to take a boat ride or cycle around the lake for a more joyful experience.

Highlights: 

  • Tranquil Lake Views West Lake is a perfect combination of man-made landscape and natural scenery. You can find fine bridges, beautiful causeways shaded by lush plants and elegant architectures elaborately distributed at the lake, just like icing on the cake.
  • Longjing Tea Plantations You can also stop by the nearby plantations of Longjing Tea to enjoy the idyllic scenes, learn about Chinese tea culture, and enjoy a cup of fresh tea.

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

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

15. Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park

Zhangye Danxian Rainbow Mountains
Zhangye Danxian Rainbow Mountains

Both nature lovers and photographers will find Zhangye Danxia Landform Geopark one of the greatest destinations on earth to feel the grandeur of the nature. Resembling painters’ palette, rolling mountains here display vibrant colors under the sunlight and stretch all the way to the distance. You will appreciate the most stunning Danxia landscape from the viewing decks in the geopark.

Highlights: 

  • Rainbow Mountains Various sediments have decorated mountains with “ribbons” in multiple colors, such as red, yellow, green and white, just like mystical tattoos given by the god. Against the blue sky, these rainbow mountains will give you a strong visual impact.
  • Glamorous Sunset View The rainbow mountains will present the most notable color contrast in the late afternoon when the setting sun cast an orange glow over the colorful hills, providing a strong sense of depth.

Best Time to Visit: May – October

Recommended Tour: 8 Days Silk Road Tour from Lanzhou to Dunhuang

16. The Shanghai Bund

the Bund
The Bund

For most tourists, the Bund is usually their first destination upon arrival in Shanghai. It is a waterfront block along the Huangpu River, boasting 52 classical mansions constructed in different styles during 1900s. On the opposite bank is Lujiazui Financial District where stylish skyscrapers are lined up pointing to the sky, offering a totally different skyline against the Bund. Here, you can not only admire the fusion of Eastern and Western influences, but also feel the contrast of the past and modernity of the city.

Best Time to Visit: All year round

Recommended Tour: 3 Days Classic Shanghai City Tour

17. Dunhuang Mogao Caves

Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang
Mogao Grottoes

As one of the four greatest grottoes in China, Mogao Caves in Dunhuang is a renowned attraction along the Silk Road, and is regarded as a treasure house displaying gems of Buddhist arts more than a thousand years ago. There are 735 sacred caves in total, adorned with a large amount of Buddha sculptures and exquisite frescos recording Buddhist stories, images of Buddhas and flying apsaras, folk life, as well as natural landscapes.

Best Time to Visit: May – October

Recommended Tour: 5 Days Highlights Silk Road Tour: Xi’an & Dunhuang

18. Yellow Mountain in Huangshan

Mount Huangshan
Mount Huangshan

Yellow Mountain, also known as Mt. Huangshan, is one of the four most famous mountains in China, that impresses tourists with strange pines, oddly-shaped rocks, sea of clouds, hot springs and winter snow. Following the winding trails, you will explore breathtaking sights one after another. Make sure to witness the awe-inspiring sunrise and sunset, which will provide you an unforgettable experience atop the mountains.

Highlights:

  • Oddly-Shaped Pines and Rocks– Pines and peaks of Yellow Mountain are “cultivated” into distinctive shapes by the nature. Some even provide diverse views if seen from different angles.
  • Sunrise and Sunset Scenes –Viewing the sunrise or sunset views is a can’t-miss activity. At that time, the surrounding peaks will all be gilded by the glow of the sun, and the whole place will be turned into a scroll of warm-toned oil painting.

Best Time to Visit: May – November

Recommended Tour: Mt. Huangshan Day Tour with Round Way Cable Car

19. Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan

Sichuan-Leshan-Giant-Buddha
Leshan Giant Buddha

Located at the conjunction of three turbulent rivers, Leshan Giant Buddha stands at an impressive height of 71 meters against a steep cliff, making it the largest stone Buddha statue in the world. The construction work of the Buddha lasted for more than 90 years, which is really an engineering feat in China’s history. You can either climb up the cliff to have a close-up view of the Buddha, or take a boat to see the full extent.

Best Time to Visit: March – April, September – October

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

20. Lijiang Old Town in Yunnan

Yunnan Lijiang Old Town
Lijiang Old Town

20. Lijiang Old Town in Yunnan

Step into the enchanting world of Lijiang Old Town, a well-preserved ancient city nestled in Yunnan Province. This UNESCO World Heritage site showcases the unique architecture and traditions of Naxi ethnic minority. You can obtain an immersive exploration into local culture as you visit historic landmarks, such as Mu Residence and Dongba Culture Museum.

At night, Lijiang Old Town will turn into a vibrant place. You can either sit in a pub at Bar Street to enjoy the beautiful ballads, or go to the center area of the town to join in the bonfire party and dance with local Naxi people.

Best Time to Visit: All year round

Recommended Tour: 3 Days Lijiang Tour: Cultural & Natural Experiences

Popular China tour packages to the top 20 must-visit attractions:

Lost your password?

A TripAdvisor award-winning China travel agency organizing diverse private and mini-group China tours. We offer in-depth experience, free cancellation, flexible & safe trips.

Email

WeChat/Whatsapp

Call

(+86)18792910029
(08:00-21:00 Beijing Time)

Send us a quick inquiry

    I prefer to be contacted via:

    Your travel consultant will reply within 24 hours.