Top China Attractions

Forbidden City

Tiananmen Square

Great Wall of China

Terra Cotta Warriors

Three Gorges

Beijing

Shanghai

Gardens at Suzhou

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Top Activities in China

Yangtze River Cruise

Hiking in rural countryside

History tour

Walking tour of the Great Wall

Observing Pandas in Chengdu

Staying with a local family

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Classic China Itineraries

China in 1 Week

If you have only one week in China, be sure to see Beijing and Shanghai. The former is known for its historical richness and the latter epitomizes modernity in China. Hit the major highlights like the Terracotta Warriors and hike the Great Wall.

Day 1-2, Shanghai: Stroll along the Bund and Pudong Districts, visit Yu Garden, take a boat ride down Huangpu River, and visit the Propaganda Museum.

Day 3-4, Xian: See the Terracotta Warriors and Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum, walk along the Silk Road, visit the Bell and Drum Towers, and shop in the Muslim Quarter.

Day 5 -7, Beijing: Hike along the Great Wall, see the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, National Museum, and Temple of Heaven.

See All One Week China Itineraries »

China in 2 Weeks

If it will be your first time traveling to to China you must see the bustling cities and the serene countryside. Visit Beijing, Xian (Terracotta Warriors), Shanghai, and Guanxi province (known for the picturesque regions of Yangshuo and Guilin). 

Day 1-4, Beijing: Forbidden City, Great Wall of china (Simutai or Badaling), Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and Tiananmen Square.

Day 5-7, Xian: Xian is one of the best preserved walled cities. See the UNESCO world heritage site of Emperor Shi Huang’s Terracotta Warriors. Walk through the Muslim quarters and try the kebabs at the food stalls.

Day 8-11, Yangshuo/Guilin (Guanxi province): See the Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave, and cruise down the Li River on bamboo raft. This region is known for its serene rice paddies and karst mountains.

Day 12-14, Shanghai: Shanghai is known for its eclectic architecture, blending the old (Old Town “Nanshi”) and the new (Shanghai World Financial Center). Stroll along the Bund and Pudong District, see Yu Garden (Yu Yuan), and take a boat ride along Huangpu River. 

See All Two Week China Itineraries »

China in 3 Weeks

Three weeks in China will give you the opportunity to explore the breadth and diversity of the Middle Kingdom’s rich culture, history, wildlife, and terrain.

Day 1-3, Beijing: See the Great Wall of China, Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square.

Day 4-6, Shanghai: Walk along Nanjing Road, see the Bund, Pudong district, Yu Garden, and the Shanghai Museum.

Day 7-8, Xian: See the Terracotta Warriors, the Great Mosque, and stroll through the Muslim Quarters.

Day 9-13, Emeishan: Hike along one of China’s four sacred buddhist mountains, visit a tea plantation, and see one of the largest carvings of Buddha in the world.

Day 14, Chengdu: (Note that this is a great option if you love pandas!) Get up close and personal with the giant pandas of the world famous Panda Breeding Center.

See All Three Week China Itineraries »

1,458
Reviews of China Tours
98% Recommend

4.8 out of 5
Excellent 1,165 Great 251 Average 26 Disappointing 10 Terrible 6
Value
4.8 Guide
4.8 Activities
4.8 Lodging
4.8 Transportation
4.8 Meals
4.8

MC

Recommends

Had a great time, I filled out one of these on paper too, but 10/10 would recommmened April 2016

5.0

China Express - 6 days

Operator On The Go Tours

V

Recommends

A major reason for the very likely September 2015

5.0

China Family Holiday

A major reason for the very likely score was our tour leader Jay. He was informative, made the trip, the understanding of the culture of China, its history and the passion for travel very real for all of us. The trip required someone who could make you feel connected with the country and Jay did that. In terms of the itinerary it was well paced with sufficient spare time. Jay's recommendations especially in Xian with the spinach noodles was just excellent. When we had questions, he answered them or found out. Read more

Operator Intrepid Travel

J

Recommends

Clearly the best for sure!! August 2015

5.0

Imperial China and Japan Tour

Amazing from start to stop. Very professional. Our guides were excellent. Arrived early and willing to do whatever it took to please us. His knowledge of the history and building was first class. I highly recommend this tour company to anyone! Clearly the best for sure!! Read more

Operator Bravo Asia Tours

RK

Recommends

The most memorable part was standing on top of Thorong La after 2 hours trekking from high base camp & then making the descent to Muktinath in 3 hours January 1970

5.0

GHT Manaslu & Annapurna

Way better than I thought I'd do as a flatlander from Indiana!

Operator World Expeditions

R

Does Not Recommend

Pros, cons and tips July 2019

4.0

China, Tibet & the Yangtze

This is a review of the Uniworld China + Tibet + Yangtze tour in June, 2019, taken by my wife (80) and me (77). Since knowledge of a reviewer helps readers to judge the applicability to themselves: we are both former academics, normally spry and immersed in cultural, political, and healthful life activities, but we sometimes found the trip daunting, as discussed below. We resist aging, but not always with full success.

The tour had pluses and minuses.

The biggest minuses:
• My wife’s breathing difficulty in our 3-night stay in Lhasa, Tibet (she spent the whole time breathing oxygen and couldn't go on any outings)
• The (inevitable) problem of touring a totalitarian country where citizens are intimidated from talking honestly about the full scope of their lives

The biggest pluses:
• Our guide, Kevin, who was outstandingly attentive, helpful, supportive and patient. He went out of his way to help in difficult situations (like my wife’s breathing problems in Lhasa).
• We were also quite appreciative of Tiger’s brief stint with us.
• With a few exceptions, our baggage was always handled by others. And the exceptions weren’t overwhelming. Apparently for a group, the weight of any individual bag just gets averaged in with all the other group bags being checked. (Some travelers handled their own carry-ons.)

Most of the other people on the tour were quite amiable and unassuming—not always the case when you travel with people whose financial position has to be pretty good to afford this kind of trip (that financial position too often drives unwarranted expectations of privilege and reverence [if that’s not redundant…]).

The accommodations and included breakfasts (and many other meals) were luxurious, though we ourselves didn’t need them to be THAT nice (in this we’re probably exceptions from other travelers—and in this case, a number of our co-tourists had taken multiple Uniworld tours, so they knew and liked what they'd be getting); indeed, we had to learn to stop tanking up at breakfast just because so many goodies were offered, buffet-style. Had we realized those luxuries were part of what we were paying for (and in retrospect we SHOULD have realized), we might have taken a different, cheaper tour. Ironically, what most drew us to the Uniworld trip were the chance to visit Tibet and the expectation that at such a high cost we’d always be getting outstanding, highly informed guides (which wasn’t always the case; as retired academics, we’re unusually demanding in the critical analysis of what we want to hear).

GENERAL NOTES:

We spent several days on our own before the tour (in Beijing) and at its end (in Shanghai). These were quite valuable to us. Perhaps because of time, the Uniworld tour took us to few museums. We are museum junkies, and visited several during our non-tour times. Among other things, Beijing has a terrific national museum, an interesting (partly because of its political subtext) museum about women and children, and an extensive arts district. Shanghai has its own major museum and a tour of the city’s past relationship with Judaism that gives you a more general sense of the troubling antithesis of glitzy life highlighted elsewhere.

I’ve traveled to many parts of the world, and I’ve always been able to learn at least local alphabets and some minimal language skills. China is the first place I’ve gone where I could do none of the first and only a few words (probably wrongly intoned) of the latter. This was extremely frustrating, especially when we toured on our own. Few people outside the major international emporia (I never quite got used to how many upscale stores were in all places we visited) speak English (why should they?). The one ameliorating factor was that many people (especially store employees) had phone apps that did good to excellent translations between spoken English and spoken Chinese. You should have one for your own use.

In major cities, signs quite often include English, so that you can at least know where to shop and what you're looking at. Prices (which you can often negotiate) are typically typed into a calculator.

Perhaps even more than in the West, people are glued to smart phones. Pretty much everyone, it seems, uses an app that includes texts, phone use, and a payment facility, so that people seem to may carry little or no cash or credit cards. No one seems to care—or maybe everyone is just resigned to—that the government can monitor this app and know a ton of stuff about you. As a foreigner, however, you are unlikely to be able to use this app because you need to have a compatible bank account (probably meaning from a Chinese bank).

No matter how you travel in China, you'll see the amazing efforts to accommodate the expansion cities, so that a “town” of which you've never heard might have a million or more people. On the tour, you'll see almost only architectural and shop glitz that the government and cities bask in. You might get very brief glimpses of poverty.

While on the one hand the Chinese government talks a good game and takes some important steps vis-à-vis the climate crisis, on the other hand they still use an enormous amount of fossil fuel for electricity generation. I was also struck—dismayed—by the fact that from all appearances, people only drink bottled water (Westerners are warned against tap water, but I don’t know if local people build up an immuinity to its problems). Especially in warm weather, I can only guess at the billions of single-use plastic bottles that are used every day by the population of 1.4 billion (plus large numbers of visitors). On rare occasions, like at an airport, you might see a place to refill a water bottle (I assume that water is safe).

Please note that in criticisms like the previous paragraph, I do not intend a holier-than-thou American attitude. I am even more critical of what our government does—or more importantly, doesn’t—do vis-à-vis the climate crisis.

THE PEOPLE

Almost everyone was pleasant and upbeat. We mostly moved among middle- (and presumably upper-)class people; we encountered many others, but they were kind of in the background (just as in capitalist countries), and while we made it a point to notice their existence, we had no meaningful interactions with them.

The westernization of outward behavior was almost palpable. My wife had visited 10 years ago and regularly commented on the difference. My impression is that the young (teen-agers, young adults) are especially into western fashion and culture—and to what to me was a surprising extent, seemed to be able to afford indulging that taste.

For what it’s worth, my observation was that people are quite materialistic, focus their lives on that, and increasingly able to afford to indulge themselves. Outwardly, at least, they have little concern with the strictures of their government. Tiananmen Square seems to be in the distant past. Treatment of Moslems and Uighurs (not unlike our current treatment of immigrants and Moslems or our like history of racial and ethnic conflicts) was far away. So far as I could tell, people like Americans (though we’re also bizarre outsiders—there are occasional instances of Chinese people, especially ones who live far from the cities we visited, walking up to a foreigner and asking to take a photo together (this happened to me on the Great Wall, with some pretty young guys).

SECURITY

This abounds. You need to carry your passport everywhere. You'll encounter frequent security checks where you have to put whatever you're carrying through a scanner and show official IDs. In Lhasa, these checks were even present as you wove your way through street markets.

At every airport check-in, you not only go through a security scanner, but you then step up on s short stool so that someone with a hand scanner can go over every inch of your body. (I have sometimes wondered whether proliferation of security folk, including regular police, in nations like this is a clever device for combining meaningful security with full employment.)

The government must have an incredible volume of disk space and incredibly fast computer programs to be able quickly to access information about any given citizen or visitor. Check-in at airports always includes a live photo of you. I’m sure if anyone in the security services had wanted to track me down at any time, it wouldn't have taken more than a few seconds. (For each accommodation where you stay, you have to register with the police. Hotels typically do that for you.)

IN-COUNTRY TRAVEL

We had 4 in-country flights (part of the reason for what Uniworld charges), and much as we wanted to visit the places to which we flew, the time and effort involved in getting from to shuttle bus (then sometimes a long walk) to hotel to airport to check-in to security to boarding to flying to disembarking to shuttle bus to the next hotel became overwhelming.

The tour included 3 nights in a luxury boat on the Yangtze River. This was quite pleasant and included a night’s visit to a show (I don’t remember exactly which one, but when on our own my wife and I went to a couple of shows in Beijing—well worth it even if they're not something to your normal taste). Here, we had some down time. At our ages, we needed more of that. I got sick while on the boat and got what seemed like pretty good medical care.

(By American standards, medicals for my wife in Lhasa and for me on the Yangtze boat were low but not miniscule.)

By American standards, taxis are cheap. They were pretty easy to find in Beijing. (The “universal” app includes signups with services like Uber.) But in Shanghai, they were extremely rare, and we had to get help from strangers to order one. As you would expect, this is especially hard when it’s raining and you're a very long walk from your hotel. Among maybe a dozen or two cab rides during our entire stay, we had two bad experiences with cabbies; I advise photographing the driver’s information and the meter area. I found that this significantly mitigated the problems.

We took the metro in Beijing. After brief adjustment, it was very easy to use. The main difficulty is that stations are far apart, so on (say) a rainy night, you will still need an umbrella and endurance. Shanghai seems to have an equivalent subway system, but we never used it there.

LHASA

Part of the altitude problem my wife (and a few of our fellow travellers) had appears to be the flight’s forcing a lack of transition from sea level to an altitude over 2 miles. (On the other hand, a slower, staged transfer probably would have added cost to an already expensive trip—and maybe loss of a day’s touring.) Especially for older folk, however, I think this is a relevant concern.

I don’t know why, but although I could feel very mild pressure in my breathing, I was fine for the entire Lhasa visit. I had a different disappointment (perhaps idiosyncratic to myself, an academic and non-religious person): if I remember correctly, our entire stay involved visiting Tibetan religious locations. I quite support SOME such visits—religious history is central to human existence—but I would have liked to see aspects of other Tibetan cultural history.

Because of Beijing political issues with Tibet, filing out your Chinese visa involves the charade of not mentioning you're going there (if you do mention it, your visa apparently will be denied).

And a warning re Lhasa (and at least the Great Wall): there can invite lots of climbing, and a number of us, especially some of the older people (even when altitude wasn’t an issue), chose to climb minimally (just enough to get a sense of where steps were going and what the resulting view would be). Kevin and other guides were totally understanding—indeed, we were offered climbing options.
Read more

Operator Uniworld

S

Recommends

I loved our ACIS trip May 2019

4.0

ACIS Company reviews

I loved our ACIS trip. The biggest complaint was the economy seating on the long over night flight. Adults didn't have the availability to upgrade due to the type of seats that were purchased. We also got our seat info. fairly close to the date of departure (30 days) which made it difficult to choose seats. The airline representative said that we should have received our flight info. earlier. Everything else about our trip was exceptional. My only hesitation in booking another trip is not having a guarantee that adults could choose to pay to have seats out of economy. Read more

Operator ACIS

See all reviews for China Top Operators & Trips
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