Coming up with an itinerary for a full week in China can prove tricky. Obviously, China’s a big country with plenty to offer travelers of all tastes and budgets. Whether you’re looking for urban delights, rural retreats, or something somewhere in between, it’s all there on a grand scale. No matter where you heading off to, determining where and how to divvy up a seven-day itinerary depends a lot on what’s most important to you and simply going for it.

For this piece, we’re sticking with mainland China recommendations. However, there’s certainly an argument for mixing jaunts to Hong Kong, Macau, or Hainan in with your mainland travels. Of course, adding visits to nearby countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Korea, or the Philippines wouldn’t be such a bad way to go about things either.

Any destination mentioned in this post is more than worthy of visiting on its own for well over a week, but if seven days is all you’ve got, here are some ideas to keep in mind.

Beijing

architecture detail of the imperial palace Forbidden City of Beijing China

Beijing is the cultural and political heart of China, not to mention an amazing place to visit. From traditional hutongs (narrow streets and alleys) to cutting-edge architecture, ancient temples, and contemporary art, Beijing is a city of contrast and contradiction. Spend your night in a newly built hotel and your day exploring the imperial palace. Whether you’re keen on spending your whole week in only one place or intend to hit as many dots on the map as possible, this world-class city with good international and domestic flight connections is perfect to sample the best of China.

Shanghai

Shanghai at night

China’s pulsating commercial center Shanghai has the modernity of a business hub that blends effortlessly with its historic side. You can experience epic shopping, be it at a luxury shopping mall or a market stall; delectable food, prepared by either celebrity chefs or friendly street vendors; and an overwhelming sense of awe that you’re in one of the major cities of the world (just stand at the foot of the impressive Shanghai Tower — the world’s second-tallest structure). Shanghai is an enthralling metropolis offering excitement to all who visit…be it for a single night, a long weekend, or a lifetime. In fact, you may find that 7 days might not be enough to soak up all that this city has to offer.

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Xi’an

The Great Mosque in Muslim Quarter in old city, Xi'an China.

Most famous for its mighty army of terracotta warriors, Xi’an was once the epicenter of imperial China and marked the eastern end of the legendary Silk Road. It’s walled city, ancient mosque, and distinctive culture make this city with a population of more than five million a fascinating destination in its own right.

Sichuan Province

Sleeping giant panda baby
Pandas. Nuff said, right? Sichaun’s where ya find ’em. Beyond everybody’s favorite cuddly and monochromatic forest dwelling fluff balls, great reasons to visit this province include some of the spiciest food know to humanity and the world’s largest stone Buddha. But that’s not all: you’ll find plenty to do in cities like Chengdu, which is the home of Sichuanese opera, which features fire-breathing and colorful masks. You can also spend tons of time exploring the region’s natural beauty at places like Jiuzhaigou Park and the Lugu Lake and hot springs.

More…

Hot air balloon rides over the rice paddies and karsts of Yangshuo…trekking through the Himalayas in Hunan province…journeying to the fabled ice city of Harben – China is a dynamic destination with plenty to explore!
Have you been to China lately? Tell us about any great cities you visited! 

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