Sorry to make this harder than it needs to be, but there are about a million cool places in China you’ll need to see when you go! But luckily for you, we’ve narrowed it down to the must-see spots.
A trip to China will keep you busy, busy, busy! Even if you pick one or two cities, there are just so many things to do … but good luck choosing just a couple places to see because we have lots and lots of favorites. But if we had to narrow it down...
TOP MUST SEE SPOTS IN CHINA
If you're a lover of Pinterest, you've probably seen the famous rice terraces of China found near a town called Guilin right? Any guide will send you there...but there's actually another lesser known town right next door - and not to knock the rice terraces at all, but you'd be seriously missing out if you didn't know to go spend a few days in Yangshuo.
This place is pretty close to paradise — spend your day biking through these ah-mazing “Dr. Suess” mountains, taking a bamboo raft down the Li River, swimming in mud caves and eating some delicious tropical fruit. There’s a reason this is almost every ILP volunteer’s favorite vacation spot!
(Aren't these Rice Terraces in Guilin dreamy?)
Get out your cameras because the mountains in Zhangjiajie are unbelievably photogenic. In a perfect world, you’d have a couple days to spend in the Avatar Mountains — the ones that inspired the Avatar movie! Keep an eye out for monkeys here and think about taking a dreamy boat ride in nearby Baofeng Lake. Next, you’ll take a taxi ride to Tianmen mountain, where the longest cable car ride of your life will take up you up to the breathtaking peak — climb to Heaven’s Gate and walk on glass walkways thousands of feet above the ground. We love Zhangjiajie!
One of the best parts is that pretty much only local Chinese tourists know about these mountains (and serious photographers), which means your friends back home will definitely be shocked and amazed when you start posting your photos of these incredible mountains that are such a hidden gem! You can say you're a real traveler when you've explored this part of China.
This city I’m sure you’ve heard of and you just have to see the Great Wall while you’re here! You can take an afternoon to see some parts of the wall that are closer to the city (and a little more crowded) to take a toboggan off the Great Wall, or have a guide take you further to explore the more remote places — they'll hook you up with some gear so you can go camping on the Great Wall with NO ONE around! Sunset and sunrise on the Great Wall - yeah, this is real.
While you’re in Beijing, you should also sharpen up your bargaining skills at the Pearl Market. This is one of the biggest markets in the world. We're talking multiple levels and thousands of vendors selling every knockoff your heart could ever want for crazy low prices. Come home with knockoff Converse, Nikes, North Face backpacks and other favorites. Oh, and don’t forget about the Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square — this city will keep you very busy.
But for anyone dying to see more of China, we have great news for you — our ILP volunteers spend a semester living abroad here and get vacation time to see these places and a few more! Teachers won’t spend more than 20 hours per week teaching English so you’ll have time on the weekends to visit favorite cities and also have vacation time to explore even more cities, like these...
ALSO GO HERE IF YOU'RE IN CHINA FOR MORE THAN A WEEK OR TWO
Huanglong + Jiuzhaigou
These national parks are unbelievably gorgeous — they both have stunning pools or lakes of the most beautiful water, but have completely different feels. Huanglong has these cascading pools that go all down this mountain, framed by green, green mountains. It’s stunning. The Jiuzhai Valley is also spectacular — it’s this big park full of pretty, pretty lakes and pristine forest. You will not need to filter any of your Instagram photos because the water here is so colorful and clear. Both parks are just a few hours away by bus, so you can visit both while you’re in the area. Good luck picking a favorite park!
(Huanglong is like real-life Pinterest)
(But we're also obsessed with Jiuzhaigou)
Shanghai + Suzhou
There are lots of hidden gems in Shanghai so you can choose what you’d love to do here (whether that’s shopping at the Science & Technology Shop, wandering the alleyways of Tianzifang, gazing at the Bund skyline or eating your fill of Shanghai dumplings) ... oh and holding baby animals at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park. But while you’re there, don’t miss taking a day trip to nearby Suzhou, nicknamed “the Venice of the east”. You’ll love the beautiful bridges, canals and amazing gardens.
(You'll want a relaxing day in Suzhou after the hustle and bustle of Shanghai)
Come see the Terracotta Warriors! This northern Chinese city is where you can see this famous site, but also where you can ride tandem bikes up on the city’s ancient wall. Walk around the city to grab lunch in the Muslim Quarter, people watch in the gigantic city square and take an afternoon to explore the huge Wild Goose Pagoda.
Chengdu + Leshan
The adorably cute Giant Pandas call Chengdu home, so travel here to see these giants in real life — get to the Breeding and Research Center early to catch them snacking on bamboo. To see the biggest Buddha ever, (seriously, it’s huge — you could fit about 80 people just on one shoulder!) come to Leshan! The two cities are pretty close together, so you can definitely see them in the same trip.
(Pandas in Chengdu...we're in love!)
(This Buddha is HUGE.)
Ready to see these spots and actually live in China for a few months? We've got a free guide to give you a better idea about what life is like here, but you can also check out our blog for more info ... and start your application right now to secure your spot in this country!