13 August 2018, Eri Dansa
China is a country that cannot be described with one or two words alone, because it is vast in both history, culture, and influences. There are provinces that have barely been touched by the modern times beyond the cities that continuously work towards innovation. Aside from feasting on soup dumplings and shopping in Shanghai, checking out the Middle Eastern influences in Beijing, or riding a boat down the Yangtze or Li rivers, there is a cornucopia of experiences to seek out. You will be astounded by the breadth of the country, especially if you visit these 8 top-rated attractions in China:
The history of China is fascinating—steeped in years of dynasties, wars, and influences from the world. For over 2000 years, Beijing was the capital of three dynasties: the Yuan, Ming, and Qing. This means that the city is covered in historically significant palaces, temples, and places like the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven. The Forbidden City along has a place with more than 9,000 rooms, as well as museums and other interesting structures. You’re also not going to want to miss the architecture and aesthetics of the Temple of Heaven.
No visit to China is complete without walking the Great Wall. The wall stretches from Beijing to Tianjiang and Hebei Province, but you don’t have to walk the whole thing. The main highlights are the Mutianyu Great Wall and Badaling Great Wall, and Simatai Great Wall, which are well preserved and typically don’t have too many crowds. The course that we recommend would be to first visit the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven before heading to the Great Wall, so you get sequential history and culture. Once you have seen the Mutianyu section, why not visit the Ming Dynasty Emperor Tomb?
One of the reasons Shanghai is a must-see destination in China is because of the blurred lines between old and new. Even while the skyline seems to sprout new skyscrapers on a daily basis, there are influences from time periods scattered throughout. One example is the colonial-era elements of the Bund, a waterfront location with 52 buildings that have various Western-style influences. Many buildings are Baroque, Romanesque, Gothic, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco. It’s like a living museum.
The glass bridge in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park opened in 2016 and rapidly became one of the coolest attractions in all of China. Rising 400 meters over the valley and running 430 meters in length, the bridge gives you sweeping visuals of the location that inspired scenes from the blockbuster movie Avatar. If heights aren’t your thing, you can still spend well over 3 days in Zhangjiajie at other sites, like Yellow Dragon Cave, Yuanjiajie, Tianzi Mountain, and beyond.
Once upon a time, China was connected to the West by the Silk Road. Dunhuang was one of the provinces that sprang up during this time and served as the place where Buddhism entered China. A little further from the town is the Mogao Grottoes, a collection of 700 caves of various sizes that have been filled with ancient art. Over 40 caves are open to the public, but the caves you can visit change weekly. Some have statues, like the famous Tang Dynasty Sleeping Buddha in Cave 148. Others used to be the home to manuscripts and archives. It’s a wonderful look into the past.
About 90 minutes outside of Guilin, where the Li River flows to the picturesque Yangshuo Town, is the very essence of Asia—the Longsheng Longji Rice Terraces. The background of the terraces is made all the more mythical thanks to the Longji—or “Dragon’s Back”--mountain range. The terraces have been cut into the hillside and have served generations of Chinese families. As the sun begins to set, the paddies shimmer and shine like a kaleidoscope. While visiting the rice terraces, you can also try some ethnic cooking from the region, such as zhutongfan, a bamboo tube stuffed with rice, potatoes, peanuts and meat.It’s also a good idea to take a cruise along the Li River to see the limestone karst mountains throughout the area. Be sure to bring a camera!
Emeishan is one of China’s Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains, which is enough of a reason to take the hike. The other reason would be the temples dotting the mountainside and the jaw-dropping, panoramic view of the land from the summit. The temples allow for you to stay overnight, so you can spend a couple of days on the trek, allowing you to enjoy the surroundings for all that they are. Another option is the minibus that ascends from the Leidong Terrace tourist office or the cable car that takes you from base to summit.
Though entrance to the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Lijiang Old Town is a bit expensive, you can come back multiple times, which is recommended. There’s no way you can experience all the Naxi cultural and history packed into this recreated village. In 1996, an earthquake destroyed the town so everything had to be remade. Nowadays, the Old Town is a mix of heritage and modern delights that give you an in-depth experience of Naxi life, language, and history. Be sure to walk to Lion Hill’s summit for an amazing view as well as secluded cafes where you can watch the sunset.
As you journey throughout China, don’t forget to visit these 8 places for a real adventure. Not only will you be able to savor the uniqueness of each region, you will have a change to see the broad range of people, influences, and cultures that all exist in this mystical and intriguing country.