With strategic planning you can cover China´s highlights, like Beijing, Xi´an, and Shanghai, in a week. In those three cities alone you´ll find the Great Wall, Terracotta Army, and Yu Garden, a centuries-old green space. Or, if you´re thristing for an off-the-beaten path adventure, consider a sampan ride down the Li River or head to Yunnan, near Tibet, for nature excursions to mystical mountain peaks. Consult the itineraries below to find out which journey is right for you.

Itinerary #1: Best of Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai

This weeklong getaway takes you to China's historic cities and famous sights, from Beijing and the Great Wall to the Terracotta Army of Xi'an and a final jaunt around the scenic waterfront and shopping districts of Shanghai.

The largest imperial tomb in the world is in Xi'an
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing Beijing
Day 2 Beijing City Tour Beijing
Day 3 Great Wall Guided Tour - Overnight Train to Xi'an Beijing
Day 4 Arrival in Xi'an - Terracotta Army & Muslim Quarter Xi'an
Day 5 Tour the Fortifications of Xi'an - Fly to Shanghai Chengdu
Day 6 City Tour of Shanghai Shanghai
Day 7 Departure from Shanghai  

You'll arrive in China's capital and tour the highlights on day two. This includes Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world. Having been founded in 1651 and being the site of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, this public space has seen a lot of history. From here you'll walk to the adjacent Forbidden City. This massive temple complex was home to China's emperors beginning in 1415 during the Ming Dynasty and continued through 1912 and the end of the Qing Dynasty.

Day three you'll visit the most internationally famous archeological site in China: the Great Wall. The tour includes a stroll atop the ramparts of the Mutianyu section, which dates back to 1368 ACE. After the wall, you'll board an overnight train west to Xi'an, an ancient city regarded as the cradle of Chinese civilization. Beyond the interesting city sights, like Xi'an's ancient fortress walls and its historic Muslim Quarter, people flock here to see the Terracotta Army.

Comprising the army are thousands of life-size statues representing the soldiers of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who founded the Qin Dynasty in 210 BCE. The whole archeological site is a 38-square-mile (98-square-km) necropolis for Emperor Qin. This makes it the largest ancient imperial tomb in the world.

After seeing the Terracotta Army, on day six you'll fly to Shanghai, a city with a modern edge yet plenty of historic sights. You'll tour 400-year-old Yu Garden, see 1920s landmarks like the Shanghai Bank Building and Customs House, and stroll along the Bund waterfront area, where you can look back at a magnificent skyline view of Shanghai. Day seven you'll depart China. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Yangtze River Cruise

This seven-day off-the-beaten-path adventure not only includes multiple days on the stunning Yangtze River but you'll also squeeze in some highlight tours in Beijing as well.

Take a relaxing and scenic cruise down the Yangtze River
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing - Stroll Wangfujing Street Beijing
Day 2 Beijing Highlights Tour Lhasa
Day 3 Fly from Beijing to Chongqing - Three Gorges Cruise: Day 1 River Cruise
Day 4 Three Gorges Cruise: Day 2 River Cruise
Day 5 Three Gorges Cruise: Day 3 River Cruise
Day 6 Three Gorges Cruise: Day 4,  Train to Shanghai Shanghai
Day 7 Departure from Shanghai  

Upon arrival in Beijing, you can discover the beating heart of the city with a visit to Wangfujing Street, a shopping area/night market where you can pick up everything from souvenirs to delicious street food like steamed rice cakes, mutton skewers, douzhir (fermented mung bean juice), tanghulu (sugar-coated haws), and, for the more adventurous diners, scorpions and tarantulas. On day two you'll visit major highlights like the Forbidden City and Great Wall.

Day three you'll fly to Chongqing, which sits on the Yangtze River. Here you'll board a four-star riverboat for the famous "three gorges cruise," a three-day eastward route that passes through three awe-inspiring river gorges: QutangWu, and Xiling. You'll also stop occasionally and hike around mountainside Buddhist temples and visit eerily quiet ghost towns that were abandoned during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world.

The cruise culminates on day six when you arrive at the city of Yichang. Here you'll get to visit the Three Gorges Dam before hopping a train east to Shanghai. That evening you can head out and explore the city before getting some rest and departing China the next day. Learn more

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Itinerary: #3: Classic Highlights of China

This highlights tour of China covers the most historic sights and landmarks, taking you from the ramparts of the Great Wall to the museums and gardens of Shanghai.

Tour the Summer Palace, near Beijing
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing - Stroll Wangfujing Street Beijing
Day 2 Summer Palace & Beijing City Tour Beijing
Day 3 Great Wall Guided Tour & Olympic Park Beijing
Day 4 Temple of Heaven, Train to Shanghai Xi'an
Day 5 Shanghai City Tour Shanghai
Day 6 Day Tour to Suzhou & Tongli Shanghai
Day 7 Departure from Shanghai  

You'll arrive in Beijing and kick off your grand tour on day two. In the morning you'll head outside the city to the Summer Palace, a lakeside palace complex used by emperors dating as far back as the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911). The beautiful imperial gardens here are the largest in China and take up an impressive 1.1 square miles (2.9 square km). In the afternoon you'll return to the city and tour historic sights like Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Day three you'll spend at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, walking its ramparts and enjoying the surrounding mountain scenery, and on the morning of day four you'll visit the Temple of Heaven. This temple complex is filled with great halls and altars dating to the 15th century and is where emperors used to come to pray for a good harvest. Later in the afternoon, you'll hop a train east to the coast and Shanghai. 

Your tour of Shanghai begins on day five with stops at Yu Garden plus the Shanghai Museum, which is home to China's largest collection of ancient artifacts dating back to Neolithic times. On day six you'll travel west of Shanghai to the river city of Suzhou, known as the Venice of Asia due to its many romantic canals. Highlight activities include taking a gondola ride and visiting gardens that date back to the 12th century. Day seven you'll depart. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Discover the Yunnan Province

Prepare to go off the beaten path for seven days in China's beautiful Yunnan Province on an active adventure that includes excursions to national parks, gaping river gorges, stone forests, and traditional villages.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Kunming, Transfer to Dali Dali
Day 2 Dali Day Tour: Erhai Lake & Old Town Dali
Day 3 Dali to Shaxi, Tour Ancient Town Shaxi
Day 4 Shaxi to Lijiang, Tour Ancient Town & Black Dragon Pool Lijiang
Day 5 Day Trip to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Lijiang
Day 6 Day Trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge Lijiang
Day 7 Fly from Lijiang to Beijing/Shanghai - Departure  

You'll arrive in Kunming, the capital of China's southern Yunnan province. A driver will meet you and you'll head out to visit the Stone Forest, an almost mystical area filled with towering and jagged limestone rocks jutting into the sky. Then you´re on a train to Dali, a city on Erhai Lake that dates back to the 8th century when it was the capital of Nanzhao, an ancient kingdom inhabited by the ethnic Bai people. Day two you'll visit the lake and tour Dali's historic Old Town.

Day three you'll travel to Shaxi, an ancient market village, stopping on the way at nearby Shibao Mountain, known for its temples and cave grottoes created by the Bai people over 1,000 years ago. On day four you'll continue towards the border with Tibet to Lijiang, a historic city home to the Naxi people. Nearby is a highlight of the province: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. This biological reserve consists of 13 snow-capped peaks, and you'll take a scenic cable-car ride to see them on day five.

On day six you'll head outside Lijiang to the Yangtze and Jinsha rivers, home to unique natural landmarks. At Jinsha, you'll visit Tiger Leaping Gorge, a river gorge that measures 12,434-feet (3,790-meters) deep. It's a great place to enjoy a few hours of hiking on mountain trails. On day seven you'll fly from Lijiang to Beijing or Shanghai and depart China. Learn more.

Itinerary #5: Beijing, Guilin, & Shanghai

This seven-day adventure covers three beautiful yet distinct areas of China: the capital of Beijing, the coastal metropolis of Shanghai, and the otherworldly river lands around Guilin. 

Come to Guilin and take a ride down the gorgeous Li River
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Beijing - Stroll Wangfujing Street Beijing
Day 2 Great Wall Guided Tour & Olympic Park Beijing
Day 3 Forbidden City Tour - Fly to Guilin Guilin
Day 4 Yangshuo Day Trip Yangshuo
Day 5 Tour Reed Flute Cave - Fly from Guilin to Shanghai Shanghai
Day 6 Shanghai City Tour Shanghai
Day 7 Departure from Shanghai  

The journey begins in Beijing, where you´ll spend the first two days touring major landmarks. These include the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Olympic Park, a massive sports complex built for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. On day three you´ll fly to southern China and the city of Guilin, which sits on the Li River. This entire region is filled with tranquil waterways, green rice paddies, and towering karst mountains. And Guilin is the perfect base of operations for river tours. 

Day four you´ll embark on one such adventure as you take a raft down the Li River to the rural county of Yangshuo. The scenery on this easy ride will be spectacular as you´ll pass the aforementioned rice paddies plus grazing water buffalo and sleepy farming villages. You´ll even stop to visit unique rock formations and ancient trees. Capping this excursion will be a trip to a massive limestone cavern on the morning of day five. Afterward, you´ll catch a flight from Guilin to Shanghai.

On day six you´ll hit the streets for a city tour of Shanghai. This includes stops at Yu Garden, the Shanghai Museum, and Nanjing Road, the main commercial district in the city. On day seven you´ll leave Shanghai for home. Learn more

More Great 7-Day China Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your China trip? Check out these 7-day itineraries, or describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen.