This packed itinerary checks off China's top cultural and natural highlights. Visit Beijing to see the Forbidden City and hike along the Great Wall, then take the bullet train to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Warriors. Visit Guilin to see the world's tallest Buddha and enjoy Yangshuo's serene countryside. Tour Chengdu's panda research station before finishing your trip in metropolitan Shanghai.

Highlights

  • Visit the Chengdu panda research station and see China's popular bear close-up
  • Relax in Yangshuo's serene countryside and peaceful Li River
  • Hike the 7th-century Great Wall of China, one of the 7 Wonders of the World
  • See the 7,000+ figures of the Qin Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival / Beijing Beijing
Day 2 Beijing Beijing
Day 3 Beijing Beijing
Day 4 Beijing / Xi'an Xi'an
Day 5 Xian Xi'an
Day 6 Xi'an / Chengdu Chengdu
Day 7 Chengdu / Guilin Chengdu
Day 8 Chengdu Guilin
Day 9 Guilin / Yangshuo Yangshuo
Day 10 Yangshuo Yangshuo
Day 11 Yangshuo/Shanghai Shanghai
Day 12 Shanghai Shanghai
Day 13 Shanghai / Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival / Beijing

Forbidden City in Beijing
Forbidden City in Beijing

Welcome to Beijing! A tour representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel. Settle in, then in the evening visit Wangfujing Street for dinner and drinks. 

Day 2: Beijing

Tourists in Tiananmen Square
Tourists in Tiananmen Square 

Your first stop today is the Temple of Heaven, which was used in rituals heald for the Winter Solstice Festival by emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. From here continue to historic Tiananmen Square, site of the famous 1989 protest and the central location for most current-day national ceremonies. From the square, you can walk to the adjacent Forbidden City for a full-day tour. 

The largest imperial palace is most notable for its high red walls and the vast complex of golden-roofed buildings. For a fully immersive experience, join a famous Rickshaw Hutong Tour & Local Family Visit to see the hutongs—traditional alleyways—that characterize Beijing's old city. The rickshaw ride is a unique opportunity to see an old way of life and experience traditional Beijing culture, as well as to see the dramatic changes to the city's architecture through the centuries.

Day 3: Beijing

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall
Great The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall 

Today you will visit one of China's most famous sites—the Great Wall. The Mutianyu section of the wall is easily accessible from the Beijing city center and is popular with tourists. Built in the 7th century and repaired many times to protect the Chinese empire from invaders, the wall is an iconic part of China's history. Take the cable car up to the wall to tower 14, then walk down as you enjoy views of the surrounding hills. 

In the afternoon take a Hutong tour near Houhai Lake to see Beijing from a local's perspective. 

Day 4: Beijing / Xi'an

High-speed train
High-speed train

Transfer to the train station to catch a high-speed train to Xian, then transfer to your hotel. Visit Moslem Street in the Muslim Quarter of the city, located next to the Drum Tower, where a vibrant local market offers a wide selection of Chinese and Muslim food, goods, and gifts. 

Day 5: Xian

Terracotta Warriors
Terracotta Warriors

Today you will visit the legendary Qin Terracotta Warriors, an army of more than 7,000 figures which guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The incredible testament to Chinese military power was buried along with the emperor in 210-209 BCE and discovered by local farmers in 1974. 

Afterward, drive back to the city and visit the Wild Goose Pagoda, which was built during the Tang Dynasty to store Buddhist scriptures from India. Tour the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, both symbols of Xian's history, then head out for dinner downtown. 

Day 6: Xi'an / Chengdu

City Wall
City Wall

In the morning visit the  South Gate Old City Wall to see the most complete city wall system left in China. Learn about the history and battles fought along the wall, which was used in one of the largest ancient military defense systems in the world. Continue to the Shanxi Historical Museum to see local and national treasures and history. In the afternoon head to the train station to catch a high-speed train to Chengdu. 

Day 7: Chengdu / Guilin

World's largest statue of Buddha
World's largest statue of Buddha

After breakfast visit the Leshan Giant Buddha, which at 233 feet (71 meters) is the world's largest. The Buddha was built in 713 C.E. during the Tang Dynasty and is a top destination for tourists. On your way back stop and see the Huanglongxi Ancient Town to learn about local culture and history. 

Day 8: Chengdu

Panda
Panda

Spend the morning visiting the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Base, which is home to nearly 50 pandas. Tour the facility to learn about the breeding program and see the delivery room, then enjoy watching the pandas frolic and play with each other. 

Afterward, head to the People's Square, where local parents come to pray for luck for their children to find partners and have families. Continue the city tour to a unique street paved with green stones, located to the east of the Temple of Wuhou to see old mansions, halls, inns, and shops. Enjoy a Sichuan lunch, tea, and explore the rich local culture. 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Guilin.

Day 9: Guilin / Yangshuo

Bamboo rafts on the Li River
Bamboo rafts on the Li River

In the morning head out for a leisurely cruise of the beautiful Li River. Bamboo groves, teeth-like sharp hills that rise steeply from the water, calm water, and peaceful farms on the banks give the river a fairytale-like feeling. Disembark in the small town of Yangshuo and spend the afternoon exploring the tourist town. In the evening head to West Street to experience the mixed-culture nightlife.

Day 10: Yangshuo

Yangshuo countryside
Yangshuo countryside

Rent a bike and explore the Yangshuo countryside to enjoy the peaceful landscapes and see rural farms and rice paddies. Later head out onto the river on a traditional bamboo raft before returning to town for lunch. The afternoon is free for sightseeing, shopping, and simply relaxing. 

Day 11: Yangshuo/Shanghai

Bund Waterfront in downtown Shanghai
Bund Waterfront in downtown Shanghai 

Head to the Guilin airport for a local flight to Shanghai, where you will be met by a driver and guide. Head to the hotel to settle in and rest, then in the afternoon head out for some sightseeing and shopping. Grab dinner and drinks at a downtown restaurant and enjoy the nightlight in Shanghai. 

Day 12: Shanghai

City Temple of Shanghai in the Old Town
City Temple of Shanghai in the Old Town
 

Start your city tour at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the best place for a panoramic view of the city, then continue to the 400-year-old Yu Garden and explore the pavilions, halls, ponds, and cloisters of this serene city oasis. 

Later take a walk on Nanjing Road and The Bund to enjoy modern day life in Shanghai. End your day with an elevator ride up to the TV Tower for a panoramic view of the metropolitan city. 

In the evening visit the French Concession, a pedestrian street with a traditional Shanghai Shikumen architectural style to enjoy shopping and dinner. 

Day 13: Shanghai / Departure

Nanjing Road at nighttime
Nanjing Road at nighttime

Spend some free time in the morning finishing up last-minute shopping or sightseeing before transferring to the airport for your departing flight home. Safe travels! 

Map

Map of Best of China - 13 Days
Map of Best of China - 13 Days
Max
Published by Max Yang, updated Mar 18, 2019