China is a country rich in culture with beautiful buildings, ancient architecture and incredible landscape. I moved to China on a whim several years ago knowing very little about the country and nothing about the language. Over the course of a year, I got to discover so much about China and the places to see. And let me tell you, there are some amazing things to do and see here.
While it is a beautiful country to visit, China can be extremely overwhelming, not only because of the language barrier but because of the vast size of the country. There are so many different parts of China to explore that it’s hard to choose which places to visit. To help you out, here are seven unforgettable things to do while visiting China.
1) WALK THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
You can check off one of the Seven Wonders of the World by visiting the Great Wall. The Great Wall is iconic and a must-do adventure on your trip to China. It’s located just outside Beijing and has several areas that have been restored. While the closest sections to Beijing are the most-preserved, they also tend to be the most crowded.
Badaling is one of the most popular areas to go to. It is well restored and fairly close to Beijing. If you want a less crowded experience, head a little further outside Beijing. You can hire a private driver for the day that will drop you off at the section you want and wait to take you back to the city.
Mutianyu is a great option to beat the crowds, especially if you get there early. You also have the unique opportunity of riding a roller coaster back down to the entrance!
Head to Jiankou if you’re feeling really adventurous. It’s the steepest and wildest section of the wall, making it the most dangerous part to hike.
2) CRUISE DOWN THE LI RIVER
Some of China’s most stunning scenery is in and around the city of Guilin. This region of China is more tropical and the lush landscape is highly worth exploring. To get the most of it, take a cruise down the Li River to Yangshuo. You’ll be surrounded by dramatic peaks towering over your boat.
The beauty of the Li River is often the inspiration in Chinese art, as well as being on the back of the 20 yuan bill. This destination also lands on National Geographic’s list of the Top 10 Watery Wonders of the world!
The views don’t stop when you disembark in Yangshuo. The town is nestled in the middle of the jagged mountains. Rent a scooter for the day to get out into the countryside and see even more of the beautiful landscape!
3) VIEW THE SHANGHAI SKYLINE
When I first saw the Shanghai skyline, I nearly cried. It might have been because traveling anywhere in China (solo, might I add!) is seriously hard and anytime I ended up in the right place was a victory. But it might have also been the fact that I was as far away from home as I could possibly be and finally seeing a place in person that you’ve only ever read about or seen in movies is really kind of emotional.
Shanghai was one of those places for me. It felt surreal and I never dreamed I would be standing alone in front of one of the most iconic skylines in the world. It’s grand, futuristic and arguably one of the best skylines there is.
For an unobstructed view, head to the Bund, a long boardwalk alongside the Huangpu River. Or if you’d like to get an up-close view of the skyline and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, head to Flair at the Ritz Carlton. This rooftop bar has one of the best views of the city! Day or night, this skyline is worth seeing!
4) VISIT THE ZHANGJIAJIE NATIONAL FOREST PARK
Some of the most stunning and unique landforms in China are at the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. If you’ve seen the movie Avatar, the landscape in the movie was actually inspired by the real-life jagged rock columns at Zhangjiajie.
It’s an amazing place to see, but not the easiest to get to for a foreigner. There are no direct paths from any major city and whether you take the train or fly, you’ll most likely be connecting in Changsha or Liuzhou with a layover.
I was unlucky to visit on a particularly cloudy day, so I didn’t get the full effect. However, the views that I did get to see were incredible and definitely worth the effort of getting there.
If you do make it there on a clear day, there’s a see-through walkway for thrill-seekers. Make sure to take the cable car up the mountain to pass right through some of the majestic landforms!
5) OVERLOOK THE FORBIDDEN CITY
The Forbidden City is in the heart of Beijing and a popular attraction for tourists. The former palace is a complex of buildings and was not available to the general public until it was turned into the Palace Museum in 1925. It’s a fascinating place to explore but my favorite experience was discovering the park just across from the exit.
For about 30 cents, you can enter Jingshan Park and hike to the top where there are some beautiful buildings. The best part? You get a bird’s eye view of the Forbidden City below. Seeing it from above really put into perspective just how big the complex actually is.
6) HIKE THE PLANK WALK ON MOUNT HUASHAN
Ever since I saw a viral video on the Plank Walk, I knew I had to see it for my own eyes. Mount Huashan is one of the Five Sacred Mountains in China and not for the faint of heart.
If you’re feeling in shape and extra adventurous, you can opt for the soldier’s way up the mountain, which is nothing but steep steps and I believe there’s around 4,000 of them. We opted for the cable car but still managed to climb thousands of steps throughout the day.
Depending on the routes you take, you can see vertigo-inducing cliffs, stairs angled at nearly 90 degrees and pathways with only a chain to hold on to.
Then there’s the plank walk, which is literally just planks sticking out from the side of a cliff. Oh, and then there are the metal bars that magically protrude out as steps down to the actual plank walk.
All I could think of the entire time was: who put these here and how?! That’s not true. I was also thinking about the chain my harness was connected to (also magically drilled into the rock wall) and if it would really hold up lest I fall. But it is absolutely an unforgettable experience to have.
7) GO TO THE ICE AND SNOW FESTIVAL IN HARBIN
Harbin is one of China’s most interesting cities. It’s located in the far northeast side of China and has a lot of Russian influence due to the construction of the China Eastern Railway back in the day. Because of its location, temperatures can get extremely cold. Enter the Ice and Snow Festival.
Each year, Harbin residents host the largest ice and snow festival in the world. There are ice and snow sculpture contests, ice slides and even life-size castles made entirely of ice. I’ve never seen so many ice and snow activities before in my life. It was like an amusement park made of ice.
Head to the frozen river for skating, tricycles, or snowkiting. Next, head to one of the two ice parks or the snow sculpture expo. Don’t forget to take a break from the cold to try a Russian sausage!
CHINA THINGS TO DO WRAP UP
China is such an interesting country full of amazing landscape and there are so many great places to see and things to do. While some of these places are a little off the beaten path, don’t let it deter you.
I missed many a train and plane on my adventures around China. While it was tough at times, the stories are priceless and it made reaching the final destination that much more worth it! Whether you choose to explore the cities or the countryside, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience.
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit China. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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Our Top Places To Stay in Shanghai, China
- The Puli Hotel And Spa
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- Fairmont Peace Hotel On the Bund
- Find the best price on hotels in Shanghai, China
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