The Forbidden City (Beijing)
This curious UNESCO World Heritage Site is an enormous palace complex that has been home to twenty-four Chinese emperors. The lavish architecture and opulent colors impress all visitors, both foreign and domestic. Many tour companies in China include a trip to the stunning Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven, too.
The Great Wall of China (Beijing)
If there’s one attraction that you can’t miss in China, it’s the great wall. The Great Wall of China is one of the seven wonders of the world. Which part of the wall you choose to see, however, depends on your own personal preferences. Sections such as the Jinshanling and Jiankou Great Wall are more original, less restored, and less crowded. The Mutianyu and Badaling sections are more leisurely. Either way, this is an opportunity not to be missed!
The Terracotta Army (Xi’an)
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Terracotta Army is a fascinating – and somewhat eerie – attraction. Thousands of life-size terracotta figures stand silently, forever protecting Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. If you’ve chosen to rent a car, the scenic drive alone will be worth the trip. Before you embark on a self-driven trip, though, be sure to follow The Secret Traveller’s advice over at 1cover on how to avoid driving disasters on holiday.
Zhouzhuang Water Village (Suzhou)
It’s been coined the “Venice of China” – and for good reason! A day trip from Shanghai to these ancient gardens and waterways will provide a snapshot of an unchanged China. Slip in and out of real village life as you explore the crooked walkways and enjoy a harmonious ride in a Chinese-style gondola accompanied by beautiful singing ladies. But, as with anywhere else in the world, travel wisely, keep your wits about you, and store your belongings safely.
Read more about Zhouzhuang here.
Guilin is a must-see, and the best way to explore the city is by renting a bicycle. Guilin will provide you with the most jaw-dropping views and a taste of authentic, rural life. It’s also the place to experience the Longji Rice Terraces, bamboo rafting down the Li River, the Sun and Moon Pagodas, street food, nightlife in West Street, and plenty more.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (Sichuan Province)
The giant panda is no longer an endangered species and this is, in part, due to the work of the Chengdu research base. As home to the world’s largest captive panda population, it is a must-visit. The pandas here enjoy a well-suited lifestyle and are cared for by a clearly loving team. Make sure you’re prepared for an extremely long, seemingly treacherous drive – but boy, is it worth it.