With six climatic zones, China is a vast and diverse country that offers endless opportunities to explore all-year-round. Now with a vaccine within sight, we anxiously wait to restart our travel plans for 2021.
If you are thinking of adding the Middle Kingdom to your travel list, make 2021 your year to do just that. Our founder Mei Zhang shares what makes travel to China in 2021 especially unique. To help kick off your travel planning, we’ve got you covered with our top recommendations across China for each season.
Keep the festivals going
There is no better way to understand Chinese cultures than to take part in traditional festivals. The biggest festival of the year, Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year), isn’t the best time to move around China (unless you like having 1.3 billion travel buddies), but if you only have this opportunity to leave the city, consider one of these destinations.
There are also plenty more festivals to discover throughout the year, especially in China’s ethnically diverse southern and western provinces. Head to Guizhou in late February or early March for the Miao people’s extended New Year celebrations.
Eat and Drink
For us, food is an essential part of any journey; it tells you just as much about local culture and traditions as language or architecture. One of our favorite foodie cities in China is Chengdu — it is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, after all — and you can get to know what makes its spice-packed cuisine tick on a WildChina expert-led tour this spring with Jen Lin-Liu, owner of Black Sesame Kitchen and author of several books on Chinese cuisine.
We also love to pair our food with great wine, and Western China’s Ningxia Autonomous Region is the place to be when it comes to good grapes. Visit Ningxia in late Spring to watch the vines being dug up and the new season beginning. Join us on one of our UnTour Food Tours x WildChina co-branded wine tours to the region where we’ll meet winery owners like Emma Gao and go behind the scenes to understand why Ningxia wine is quickly becoming known as some of the best in the world.
As the temperatures start to soar in Beijing and Shanghai, head west towards the Tibetan Plateau where the higher altitudes make the temperatures perfectly refreshing at this time of year.
At the time of writing, the Tibetan Autonomous Region isn’t open to foreign visitors and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. But don’t forget that Tibet doesn’t stop at the border. Why not take a road trip in Sichuan to Daocheng Yading or head to Qinghai, Yunnan or Gansu to explore Tibetan cultures, spot wildlife you’d never expect in China (if you’re up for a real adventure ask us about visiting the snow leopard sanctuary in Gansu), and witness out-of-this-world landscapes.
This year in Gansu, you can also get up close and personal with the art of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang with WildChina expert Neil Schmid, one of the world’s leading authorities on the visual culture of medieval Buddhism.
Swing into Fall
In late August, travel to Xishuangbanna to celebrate “swing” festival with the Akha people, who build swings out of wood from the jungle and compete to swing as high as possible to bring good luck and bountiful harvests to their villages.
Travel with the experts
Our exclusive gastronomic journey through Central Asia with award-winning chef and author Anissa Helou was named a ‘dream trip’ on Conde Nast’s Reasons to Travel in 2021, and we can’t wait for the very first departure this fall.
February 15th, 2021: Please note that the itinerary for our gastronomic tour with Anissa Helou is currently being updated. Please check back soon for the changes or reach out to us directly at email@example.com
Nothing beats exploring a destination or topic from an expert in their field and fall seems to be when it’s all happening in the WildChina camp this year. Imagine following in the footsteps of China’s ancient tea merchants with the first documented westerner to have traveled the legendary Tea Horse Road, Jeff Fuchs, or diving chopsticks-first into China’s cuisines with award-winning food writer, Fuchsia Dunlop.
Check out our full list of expert-led journeys we have prepared for fall 2021
Take some time for R&R
With cooler temperatures, autumn is one of the best times to visit China. One of our favorite places to get away from it all is Guangxi Province and we spent time in 2020 finding the best spots in the region to focus on wellness. There’s just something about hiking and biking between the karst mountains, swimming in gin-clear rivers, and spending time learning how local communities live off the land, that carry all your stresses away. Guangxi is also an awesome place to travel in spring if fall feels too far away.
Winter is the perfect time to visit the villages surrounding Dali, Yunnan as you can watching the curing process for the region’s famous salt-cured ham as it happens. In 2021, WildChina founder Mei Zhang will be personally leading a journey she designed to this region and documented in her book Travels Through Dali: with a leg of ham. If you’ve seen our WildChina Bazaar stalls around your city, be sure to pick up a piece of ham to try before you travel.
Carry on learning
Wherever you are in the world, uncover new perspectives on China in 2021 with our WildChina On Air series. In 2020, we launched this series to help you carry on exploring China from home, and we had so much fun discussing food, history, literature, and more with expert Sinophiles from all over the world, we’re continuing throughout 2021. You can join us each month or watch the replays back on our YouTube channel.