If it’s your first time to China, it can be hard to even know where to start. China is a big, complex country with so much to see and so much to do. It’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer to the problem, but here are 5 things that we think can’t be missed by the first-time China visitor.
1. Imperial China
China has a rich history of over 5000 years. It boasts an impressive imperial heritage, which must be explored to appreciate the context of the country and civilization. Must-see sites of imperial China include the Forbidden City in Beijing- bastion of power for the last 500 years of China’s imperial rule; and the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an- ancient relics in the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China.
Explore China’s imperial past on our classic China tour of the Middle Kingdom.
2. The Great Wall
Arguably one of mankind’s greatest architectural feats and undoubtedly a must for the first-time China visitor. The Wall spans over 13,000 miles and its history is as fascinating as it is long. There is little to no signage on the wall to tell the stories though, so having a good guide is essential for bringing the history of the Wall to life.
There are a number of different sections to choose from depending on interests and fitness levels. Sightseers and families with young children will enjoy strolling along the restored Mutianyu section of the Wall and riding the gondola and toboggan. Hikers will enjoy the near-vertical treks along unrestored wild Wall sections at Jiankou. All visitors should avoid the Badaling section if possible. It is the section that most tour groups go to and is the most overcrowded and over-commercialized section of the wall.
Let our WildChina guide tell you the stories of the ancient Great Wall on a tour of Beijing.
3. Modern China
The topic of China’s growing middle-class and unprecedented rate of socio-economic transformation is a big one globally. See it for yourself first-hand with a visit to one of China’s major economic centers – Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong, a truly eye-opening experience. Enjoy a drink in a bar on the 87th floor of the Park Hyatt Shanghai in Pudong and marvel at the endless sea of skyscrapers and cranes that stretch as far as the eye can see. Taste Michelin star grade Chinese BBQ pork buns at Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong. People-watch at the high-end shopping district of Sanlitun in Beijing to marvel at the incredible spending power of Chinese consumers.
Discover the glassy steel jungle of modern China on our Shanghai Highlife tour.
4. Daily life
Witnessing the simple joys of daily life in China is a must-do experience. In between the busy streets lined with skyscrapers and fancy cars, locals find oases in public parks where they practice taichi, fan dancing, mahjong, opera singing and more. Some parks even have a match-making market where parents of China’s busy young professionals exchange photos and information in hopes of finding the perfect match for their kids. Some of our favorite places to see daily life are the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and People’s Park in Chengdu.
Daily life at the park thrives in Chengdu, one of China’s most relaxed and fun-loving cities. Experience it for yourself on our Chengdu tour.
5. Nature (and pandas!)
Away from the hustle and bustle of China’s big cities, there is plenty of serenity and natural beauty in China’s countryside. The top 2 places to explore: 1. Yangshuo, Guilin. Here you’ll find winding rivers dotted with cormorant fishermen and framed by poetic karst mountains – the inspiration for Chinese poetry and paintings for centuries over. 2. Chengdu. Home of pandas and lush mountains covered with bambo, also the birthplace of Taoism.
Weave down the Li River through the the famous karst mountain landscape on our Guilin tour.