In 10 days you can see China's highlights plus embark on an active adventure, like cycling around rural villages in Guangxi. If you're a history buff, consider a greatest hits tour of Beijing's Forbidden City, a hike along the Great Wall, and a visit to the Terracotta Army in Xi'an. To go off the beaten path, combine the highlights with a cruise down the Yangtze River—and if you're really adventurous, travel from Beijing to Tibet and continue on to Mt. Everest.

Itinerary #1: China's Highlights 

This 10-day grand tour of China covers a diverse array of highlights, from Beijing and the Great Wall to the Terracotta Army of Xi'an, the terraced rice fields of Longshen, and the hotbed of commerce and culture that is Shanghai. 

Walk along the Great Wall of China
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing Beijing
Day 2 Beijing City Tour: Famous Historical Sites Beijing
Day 3 Beijing City Tour: Architectural Highlights Beijing
Day 4 Beijing to Xi'an by Bullet Train Xi'an
Day 5 Xi'an Full-Day Tour Xi'an
Day 6 Xi'an to Guilin Guilin
Day 7 Longsheng Full-Day Tour Guilin
Day 8 Guilin to Shanghai Shanghai
Day 9 Shanghai City Tour Shanghai
Day 10 Departure from Shanghai  

You'll arrive in Beijing and spend the first three days visiting the most historic sights. First, you'll head to the heart of the city and Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world. On the north end is an even bigger marvel of city planning: the Forbidden City. This temple complex and former home of China's emperors dates to 1415, during the Ming dynasty, and takes up a full 180 acres. After the Forbidden City, you'll take a pedicab tour of Beijing's ancient alleyway neighborhoods called hutongs.

The Beijing experience culminates on day three when you travel north of the city to the Great Wall of China. You'll hike or take a cable car up to the wall and walk atop its ramparts, passing watchtowers and enjoying the surrounding mountain scenery. Day four begins with a visit to the ancient Chinese holy site the Temple of Heaven, then you'll take a bullet train west to Xi'an, one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. The city is most famous as being home to the Terracotta Army.

The Terracotta Army is a massive archeological site that was the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, founder of the Qin Dynasty. The thousands of life-size terracotta statues on display here represented his armies, and the process of building them took 40 years. On day six you'll head south from Xi'an for the river city of Guilin. Here you'll see natural marvels like the massive Reed Flute Cave, and travel down the Li River by boat.

One excursion you'll make on the Li is just south of Guilin, to Longshen. In this rural area, you'll see the famous green rice terraces hugging the mountainsides plus meet locals from nearby ethnic minority villages. On day eight you'll fly to the east coast of China and Shanghai. On a tour, you'll visit the Bund waterfront area, the commercial shopping district of Nanjing Road, and the pleasant Yu Garden, which dates back over 400 years. Day 10 you'll depart China. Learn more

Itinerary #2: China's Highlights & Yangtze River Cruise

This 10-day packed itinerary combines the highlights of China's historic cities with a multi-day cruise down the Yangtze, where you'll pass through incredible river gorges and tour abandoned waterfront towns.

Take a cruise on the Yangtze River
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing - Stroll Wangfujing Street Beijing
Day 2 Great Wall Guided Tour & Olympic Park Beijing
Day 3 Beijing City Tour - Train to Xi'an Xi'an
Day 4 See the Terracotta Army - Xi'an Culture Tour Xi'an
Day 5 Xi'an Bike Tour - Train to Chongqing - Three Gorges Cruise: Day 1 Yangtze River Cruise - Day 1
Day 6 Three Gorges Cruise: Day 2 Yangtze River Cruise - Day 2
Day 7 Three Gorges' Cruise - Day 3 Yangtze River Cruise - Day 3
Day 8 Three Gorges Cruise: Day 4 - Train to Shanghai Shanghai
Day 9 Shanghai City Tour & Oriental Pearl Tower Shanghai
Day 10 Departure from Shanghai  

The trip begins with your arrival in Beijing. On day two you'll not only tour the Great Wall but also visit Olympic Park, the massive athletics complex that was built specifically for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. After a city tour on day three that includes Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, you'll hop a train to Xi'an. Over a couple of days, you'll visit the Terracotta Army and take a bicycle tour around the ancient city walls. 

On day five you'll take a train to Chongqing, a large city on the Yangtze River. This is the starting point of a three-day cruise on a four-star riverboat. The ship will begin its eastward journey on day six, and there will be stops at old temples plus the "ghost city" of Fengdu, a city that was abandoned during construction of the region's famous hydroelectric dam. After passing through a number of beautiful river gorges, the cruise culminates with a tour of this dam on day eight. 

After the river, you'll transfer to Shanghai for the final leg of the trip. Day nine you'll see all the city highlights, including Yu Garden, the Shanghai Museum (which houses an impressive collection of artifacts dating back to Neolithic times), and the most famous temple in Shanghai: Jade Buddha Temple. It was built in 1882 and features two large Buddha statues made from white jade. Finish the trip with some shopping in the glitzy, upscale shopping district of Nanjing Road. On day 10 you'll depart. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Hong Kong, Chengdu, Zhangjiajie, & Guilin

This exploration of China begins in the global economic hub of Hong Kong and continues to Chengdu to spend time with giant pandas followed by a visit to Zhangjiajie's massive sandstone pillars and capped off with river adventures in Guilin.

Leshan Giant Buddha, near Chengdu
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Hongkong Hong Kong
Day 2 Day Trip to Macau Hong Kong
Day 3 Fly from Hong Kong to Chengdu - Tour Jinli Street Chengdu
Day 4 Chengdu Panda Base & Leshan Giant Buddha Chengdu
Day 5 Fly from Chengdu to Zhangjiajie Zhangjiajie
Day 6 Zhangjiajie Park Tour: Yuanjiajie & Tianzi Mountain Zhangjiajie
Day 7 Zhangjiajie Park Tour - Glass Bridge & Tianmen Mountain Zhangjiajie
Day 8 Fly from Zhangjiajie to Guilin Guilin
Day 9 Yangshuo Day Trip Guilin
Day 10 Train from Guilin to Hong Kong - Departure  

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, you can satisfy any shopping pangs right away by visiting major commercial enclaves like Peking Road and Kowloon City District. The glitzy life continues on day two with a ferry ride to Macau, the "Las Vegas" of China. Here you'll tour famous landmarks, markets, and stop in at the Venetian Resort for some fun and maybe a gondola ride. On day three you'll fly from Hong Kong to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.

Chengdu is a laid-back metropolis with much history and culture. Regarding culture, you'll get an eyeful on the afternoon of day four you travel to where the Min and Dadu rivers meet to see the Leshan Giant Buddha. Standing 233-feet (71-meters) high, this is the largest stone Buddha in the world. That morning, however, you'll enjoy an equally unique excursion to Chengdu Panda Base, the largest panda breeding and research center in the world. Here you can see giant pandas in a protected environment. 

On day five you'll fly to Zhangjiajie, in northwest Hunan province. Your destination here is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, a protected area home to towering sandstone pillars, many of which are well over 1,000-feet (300 meters) tall. The mountain scenery here is so otherworldly that it inspired the landscapes in the feature film "Avatar." Over a couple days, you'll explore the park thoroughly, both hiking along the streams at the base, ascending to the tops of a pillar, and walking across a glass bridge over a massive canyon.

Day eight you'll fly to Guilin and continue the outdoor excursions with visits to karst caves and boat rides down the Li River. A river trip on day nine takes you to rural Yangshuo County, where on the riverbanks you'll see towering limestone mountains, bright green rice paddies, and grazing buffalo. Day 10 you'll return to Hong Kong from Guilin and depart China. Learn more

Itinerary #4: China Cycling Tour from Guizhou to Guangxi

This southeastern China getaway eschews the major cities for a cycling adventure through the mountainous provinces of Guizhou and Guangxi, during which you'll stop in ancient villages and take river tours along the way.

Enjoy the mountain scenery in Guizhou and Guangxi
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guizhou - Cycle to Zhaoxing Congjiang
Day 2 Combined Drive/Cycle Excursion to Liping Liping
Day 3 Cycle to Dong Villages - Drive to Basha Miao Basha
Day 4 Drive to Chengyang Village - Half-Day Cycling Tour Sanjiang
Day 5 Hike the Longji Rice Terraces Longsheng
Day 6 Cycle the Lingqu Canal Xi'an
Day 7 Cycle to Haiyang Town - Cave Hike Gaoshang
Day 8 Pro Cycling Route to Daxu - Ride to Xingping Xingping
Day 9 Hike Up Xianggongshan Hill - Cycle to Yangshuo Yangshuo
Day 10 Depart China  

You'll transfer from an international hub in China to Guizhou province by train, arriving at the railway station in Congjiang County. The adventure kicks off fast, as right away you'll meet your guide and hop on a bike. Then you'll ride to the mountain village of Zhaoxing, home to Dong ethnic minority people. The next three days you'll spend on combined cycling/driving trips to ever more remote, traditional villages that are surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery.

Day five you'll arrive in Longshen County, which is famous for its rich green rice terraces tilled into the sides of hills and mountains. You'll see these hypnotically beautiful landscapes when you embark on a day hike up a mountain, at the top of which you'll enjoy panoramic views of the terraces. Day six involves a 19-mile (30 km) ride along Lingqu Canal, located just outside the river city of Guilin. You'll be riding alongside ancient history, as this artificial canal dates all the way back to 214 BCE.

On day seven you'll drive to the town of Baishi and embark on another hike, this time to a massive karst cave. The next day you'll ride along a route used by professional cyclists to Guangxi. Your first stop here is Daxu, an ancient market town on the Li River that dates to the year 200 ACE. The trip culminates on day nine with a boat ride on the gentle waters of the Li followed by a hike up a hill for great views of the region's towering limestone peaks. On day 10 you'll depart China. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Holy Tibet

Get ready for 10 days in China and Tibet, which begins in Beijing and continues to the mystical city of Lhasa, the spiritual and religious capital of Tibet, before culminating at Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. 

Potala Palace, in Lhasa
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing - Stroll Wangfujing Street Beijing
Day 2 Beijing Highlights Tour Lhasa
Day 3 Temple of Heaven - Fly from Beijing to Lhasa Lhasa
Day 4 Potala Palace & Lhasa City Tour Lhasa
Day 5 Tour Lhasa's Religious Sites Lhasa
Day 6 Drive from Lhasa to Shigatse - Sightseeing Shigatse
Day 7 Shigatse to Tingri Tingri
Day 8 Day Trip to Mt. Everest Base Camp Tingri
Day 9 Drive from Tingri to Gyirong - Stop at Lake Paiku Gyirong
Day 10 China to Nepal - Departure  

You'll arrive in Beijing and enjoy a highlights tour that includes the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall of China. On day three, you'll fly west to the Tibet Autonomous Region and its capital, Lhasa. Located on the Tibetan Plateau at 11,450 feet (3,490 meters) altitude, Lhasa was established in 639 ACE by the founder of the Tibetan Empire. As the spiritual capital of Tibet, it was the home of the Dalai Lama until he fled the country during the 1959 Tibetan uprising against China.

You'll spend two days touring the famous sights in and around Lhasa. Naturally, you'll visit Potala Palace, the gargantuan, whitewashed fortress-palace that sits on a hill overlooking the city. Potala Palace served as the winter home of the Dalai Lama beginning in the 7th century and has changed little in the intervening centuries. You'll also tour nearby Tibetan pilgrimage sites like Barkhor Square and Jokhang Temple plus monasteries where you'll get to see monks debate the scriptures.

Day six you'll drive south from Lhasa to Tibet's second-largest city, Shigatse. On the way, you'll stop at Yamdrok Lake, a holy site that Tibetans believe can locate the Dalai Lama's eternal soul. On day seven you'll continue driving over mountain passes on the way to Tingri, a town that's the base for excursions to Mt. Everest. The next day you'll visit Mt. Everest Base Camp and see prime views of the world's tallest peak. You'll then continue on into Nepal, where you'll catch your flight home. Learn more

More Great 10-Day China Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your China trip? Check out these other 10-day China itineraries, ranging from active, to cultural, to luxury, or family-friendly trips.

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Map of 10 Days in China - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 10 Days in China - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas