10 Best “Off the Beaten Path” Places to Visit in China

So you’re planning a trip to China, or you may already live here. We’ve all heard of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, but where else is there to go in China? China is much more than its biggest cities. China is s a huge country with different cultures, languages, foods and customs. From busting cities to lush countrysides, I’ve created a list of recommendations to suit any kind of traveler.

Here’s my list of the 10 Best off the Beaten Path Places to Visit in China!

Best Off the Beaten Path Places in China

Xi’an

Best for: Adventurous types, thrill seekers, history buffs, foodies, culture

Time: 2-3 days

Trust me: I studied abroad here for 3 months summer 2012!

Terracotta Warriors

Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors (traveladept.com)

China’s ancient capital Xi’an is home to the famous Terracotta Warriors! Commissioned by the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang, the massive pit of reconstructed terracotta soldiers and horses is awe-inspiring and a must-see for anyone visiting China. These soldiers are life-size and every single one is individually different from the others. However, Xi’an has much more to offer than just the UNESCO World Heritage site; Xi’an also has one of the only ancient city walls still left standing in China. Rent a bike and ride around the city wall where you can get great views of the whole downtown area.

Xi’an is also home to a thriving Hui Muslim population. Check out the city mosque and Muslim Market (Huimin Jie) where you can snack on noodles and lamb kabobs while souvenir shopping. If you love food, Xi’an is the place to be. While Xi’an is famous for its many different types of noodle dishes, my favorite Xiannese cuisine is rou jiamo, the Chinese version of a pulled pork sandwich!

If you’re a thrill seeker and adventure lover make sure you tack on an extra day or two to visit Hua Shan, one of the most terrifying hikes in the world. While most of the climb consists of stone steps, there are a few sections where hikers must walk along faint-inducing wooden platforms while harnessed to a rope line drilled into the mountain. For those that would rather not risk their lives, Xi’an has a few more mountains in the area suitable for basic hikers and families.

Read more about my adventures living in Xi’an

Click a photo to open the gallery 

Chongqing

Best for: Families, cruises, spicy food lovers, history buffs

Time: 3 days or more

Trust me: I spent 4 days here the summer of 2012, and returned again in May 2015

Dazu Caves

Chongqing’s Dazu Caves UNESCO World Heritage Site

Chongqing is one of China’s mega-cities, resting on the bank of the Yangtzee river. For spicy food lovers, be sure to add Chongqing to your list! Chongqing is the birthplace of hot pot: order any sort of meat or vegetable imaginable and cook it in a boiling spicy broth. Trust me, you’ll leave with a full belly, a numb mouth and a giant smile on your face. Keep in mind, most places also offer a non-spicy version, but if you order spicy make sure to order “wei la” (medium) or you may not be able to taste anything for a few days.

In addition to one of my favorite Chinese cuisines, Chongqing has a great “old town” street called Ciqikou where you can wander, buy souvenirs and eat traditional snacks. If you visit Chongqing be sure to book a day tour through your hostel or hotel to the Dazu caves. Dazu is a UNESCO heritage site for good reason. Built into the stone walls are ancient Tang dynasty Buddhist carvings. While a lot of the color has worn off due to exposure, the carvings are extremely detailed and intricate.

Finally, if you have a few days to spare, book a cruise down the Yangtzee river. While western tours can be a bit out of budget for backpackers, Chinese cruises are much cheaper (but lack in amenities and cleanliness).

Read more about my adventures in Sichuan and Chongqing 

Click a photo to open the gallery 

Sichuan

Best for: Backpackers, panda lovers, spicy food, adventurous types, families

Time: 5 days-1.5 weeks (depending on if you go to northern Sichuan)

Trust me: I spent a week and a half backpacking through Sichuan in June 2012, and three days in Chengdu in May 2015

Chengdu panda

Giant panda snacking on bamboo

Sichuan is one of my favorite provinces in China. The capital of Sichuan, Chengdu, is home to the Giant Panda Reserve: the one place in the world where you can pay (over $200) to hold a panda! If you don’t feel like parting with that much cash, the reserve is still worth a visit to see baby giant pandas playing with each other while adults scarf down bamboo with surprising voracious speed. The reserve also has red pandas, which are just as cute as their larger cousins. If you like spicy food, be sure to try out Sichuan’s famous fish dishes as well as my personal favorite, mapuo dofu (soft tofu in a spicy sauce).

Just south of the capital are two of the most famous sites in China: the Leshan Buddha and Mt. Emei. The Leshan Buddha is the largest carved stone buddha in the world! The average person is about the size of this giant’s pinkie toe. Not too far away is Mt. Emei, known for its monkeys and the golden statue at its peak. Extreme hikers can try to hike the mountain over the course of two days, while most people want to consider the bus pass which will take you most of the way to the top.

Note to travelers: don’t try to hike 10 hours down the entire mountain in one day. Trust me, your legs will never forgive you.

Finally, if you have some time to spare, head up to northern Sichuan located on the Tibetan plateau. Budget travelers can take a seven-hour bus up to Songpan, while those with a bit more cash can opt to fly. Songpan is a great starting point for 1-3 day horse treks in the mountains of the Tibetan plateau where you will be greeted by cute, fluffy yaks. There is also a lot of great hiking in the area. Don’t let Lonely Planet fool you, the city of Songpan itself deserves a day of exploring.

In addition to Songpan, the must-see destination of the north is Jiuzhaigou. A world-famous UNESCO heritage site, Jiuzhaigou is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Mountain snow melts down into a valley of rivers and pools where the water is crystal clear. So clear, in fact, that you can see all the way down to the bottom of these deep pools. Since the pools act as mirrors, the mountains and clouds are perfectly reflected into the water. While you may google Jiuzhaigou and think the images are photoshopped, just know from a fellow traveler that it really is that beautiful. My digital camera photos don’t do it justice.

*Chongqing is a two-hour train ride from Chengdu, making it convenient to visit these two places together.

UPDATE MAY 2015: The Chengdu Panda Reserve now no longer lets visitors hold pandas. Apparently it was bad for the health of the little pandas, so I am in full support of this no longer being in practice. I still recommend you check out the reserve though. You can watch the babies rolling around without worrying about harming their health.

Read more about my adventures in Sichuan and Chongqing 

Click a photo to open the gallery 

Zhangjiajie

Best for: Adventurous types, hikers, Avatar fans

Time: 2-3 days

Trust me: I visited for four days in summer 2014!

Zhangjiajie

Stunning views of Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie, otherwise known as the “Hallelujah Mountains”, is the inspiration for the floating mountains in the movie Avatar. Visitors can purchase a three-day pass where they can hike through these beautiful mountain peaks. One look at these mountains on a cloudy day and you’ll know where the inspiration came from. Adventure lovers can also choose to river raft through the mountains at an additional cost. The inspiration of many travel Pinterest Boards and bucket lists, Zhangjiajie is a must-see.

Zhangjiajie also hosts the Tianmen mountains where one can take a hair-raising 30 minute cable car through the mountains to witness shockingly vertical cliffs and wander out onto a glass platform floor! Visitors can also hike up hundreds of stairs to the “Heavenly Gate”, a hole in the side of the mountain with stunning views. Just note that the Tianmen mountains boast an additional entrance fee (but it’s worth it!)

Click a photo to open the gallery 

Harbin

Best for: Winter China trips, festival lovers, people who can handle extreme cold, culture buffs, art lovers

Time: 2-3 days

Trust me: I went there for 4 days this winter (February 2014)

Harbin Ice Festival

Harbin’s Ice Festival

Harbin is most famous for its Ice Festival that lasts all winter until the snow melts. The Ice Festival is a winter wonderland of buildings, statues and interactive exhibits all made of ice. The ice is even lit up with colored lights placed inside the ice blocks, so it is best viewed at night. During the day, visitors can walk across the frozen lake to Sun Island where giant snow carvings await. Both the ice and snow exhibits are works of art that are worth braving the cold to see.

Located in China’s Helongjiang province, Harbin was once a part of Russia and still contains a lot of Russian culture, architecture and food. Spend an afternoon wandering Zhongshan street, and make a quick trip to the St. Sophia church to appreciate the Russian historical architecture. Be sure to also try the local sausage and homemade bread, as well as the large, cheap bars of chocolate. Finally, Harbin is home to the Siberian Tiger Park, where visitors are the ones in cages! You can wander above the park on elevated walkways and ride a jeep through the park within a few feet of these giant tigers. The park even has a Liger!

Winter is by far the best time to visit Harbin, but keep the temperature in mind: Harbin is FREEZING COLD. I wore three pairs of pants and my legs would still get numb from the cold. I also got teeth freezes just from breathing. Be prepared for your electronics to randomly loose battery as well. Never fear through! You can take out the batteries, warm them up and put them back in to restore the charge. While Harbin is the coldest place I have ever been in my life, it still doesn’t stop tourists from enjoying the local ice cream; I still don’t understand.

Click a photo to open the gallery 

Macao

Best for: Culture buffs, gamblers, those already planning a trip to Hong Kong

Time: Day trip

Trust me: I visited spring 2012

Macau's Portugese square (stareasttour.com)

Macau’s Portugese square (stareasttour.com)

For those of you planning a trip to Hong Kong, be sure to reserve an extra day for Macau. Most known for its casinos, Macau is a great day trip from Hong Kong. A quick two-hour ferry ride will take you to the island of Macau, another autonomous region of China, with its own currency and distinct culture.

While Hong Kong was a British colony, Macau belonged to the Portuguese. Spend the day admiring Macau’s Portuguese architecture and European influence. In the evening, check out Macau’s famous casinos, especially the Venetian, the largest casino in the world. Staying in Macau is pretty pricy, but the ferry runs late, so it is entirely possible to return to the mainland in the evening. Just be sure to buy the ticket home in advance so you’re not stuck on the island!

Guilin and Yangshuo

Best for: adventure, outdoor activities, biking, families

Time: 7-10 days

Trust me: I visited this October 2013

Guilin

View of Guilin from above

Guilin and Yangshuo are some of the most beautiful places in China. An hour apart by bus, these two cities are perfect for exploring China’s outdoors and enjoying the warm southern weather. Spend a day or two wandering the city of Guilin and explore its famous rock formations. Venture out of the city by bus to visit Guilin’s rice terraces, which are golden in the fall. Stay overnight in a village and hike around the terraces if you have time.

While Guilin is a bustling city, Yangshuo is a smaller city popular with tourists. Littered with hostels, international restaurants and bars, you can spend many afternoons and evenings walking around Yangshuo’s West Street. Yangshuo is also a great starting point for outdoor activities like biking, hiking and enjoying the river on a bamboo raft. I would personally recommend taking a trip to the mud caves and hot springs!

Yunnan

Best for: hiking, backpackers, culture buffs, outdoors, Chinese minority culture

Time: 10 days

Trust me: I traveled through Yunnan spring 2012

Dali

Dali Yunnan (photo by Hannah Lee)

Yunnan is another one of my favorite provinces in China. With so much to do and so many places to see, it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to this vast province. The capital Kunming, otherwise known as “Spring City”, is the only large city in Yunnan. Many of the places worth seeing in Yunnan can only be reached by bus or private car (if you have the cash). The first must-see place in Yunnan is Dali. Situated in the mountains near a beautiful lake, Dali is one of the most picturesque cities in China. It’s also home to many western hippies and locals who may or may not offer to sell you marijuana.

The next stop in Yunnan is Lijiang, home of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which can be reached by cable car. Be sure to check out the Chinese minority dance performance at the base of the mountain; it’s absolutely spectacular. Lijiang is also home to an “old town” with many shops and food stalls. Locals may perform choreographed dances at night and encourage you to join in!

Far to the north is Tiger Leaping Gorge, an awe-inspiring canyon surrounded by terrace farms, guest houses and villages. It’s possible to hike the best parts in a full day, but many enjoy hiking along the gorge for a few days, staying at guest houses along the way. Tiger Leaping gorge is one of the most incredible places I have ever been and by far the most amazing hike I have ever done. Finally, Xishuangbana to the south is a beautiful, tropical oasis near Vietnam. Rent bikes and ride through plantations while enjoying the humid weather.

Read more about my adventures in Yunnan

Click a photo to open the gallery 

Xinjiang

Best for: Culture buffs, Muslim culture, Chinese minorities, foodies, history lovers

Time: 10 days

Trust me: I traveled here summer 2012

Heavenly Mountains Xinjiang

Yurts in the Heavenly Mountains

Most famous for it’s separatist political strife, Xianjiang is a mecca of Uighur Muslim culture. Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, has been slowly becoming more and more “Chinese” as the government encourages Han Chinese to move to the city. While Urumqi may not seem so different from the rest of China, it’s a great place to see the famous Caucasian mummies!

In the distant past, Xinjiang was populated by a group of people known as Proto Indo-Europeans. These people had blonde and red hair, and wore Celtic patterned wool cloth. While these mummies are technically “petrified corpses”, the Proto Indo-Europeans purposely buried their dead to preserve their bodies. The Chinese government intentionally designs the museum to make it seem like ethnic Chinese and Proto Indo-Europeans inhabited Xinjiang at the same time, so make sure to read up on the history beforehand.

Urumqi also has a very large bazaar that sells beautiful Xinjiang cloth, saffron and tea among many other things. Finally, head out to the Tianshan “Heavenly” mountains to see yurts and rocky red cliffs.

After Urumqi, take a two-hour flight to Kashgar where you can see the “real Xinjiang”. Kashgar is almost entirely inhabited by Uighurs and Hui minority peoples. Many Uighurs look Kazakh, while a rare few have “Western” features like blonde hair and blue eyes. People in Western Xinjiang speak Uighur, a Turkic language, and almost everyone is Muslim. While ladies do not need to cover their heads outside of mosques, it is respectful to dress conservatively and not wear anything low-cut or above the knee.

Kashgar is famous for having the largest mosque in China. It’s also a great starting point for a quick trip to Yarkent, a small city that most Westerners have never been to. Yarkent was a very prominent city in the Uighur kingdom, and has many beautiful historical sites worth visiting. There is also a large local outdoor market that sells everything from donkeys to fresh honey and even severed goat heads!

Finally, Xinjiang is a great place for amazing food. Famous for its lamb kabobs, naan bread and fruit, Xinjiang is a great place to sample the local fare. Be sure to buy the fresh local honey. Some vendors even grind nuts in with the honey, which you can eat as a healthy snack.

Read more about my adventures in Xinjiang

Click a photo to open the gallery 

Tibet

Best for: adventure, culture, historic sites, hiking, social justice knowledge, scenery

Time: 8-15 days

Trust me: I took an 8-day tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu this summer 2013

DSC_0583

Last but not least, Tibet is one of the most revered “off the beaten path” places to visit. Let me preface by saying that visiting Tibet is extremely difficult, but it can be done. There were definitely times I wanted to pull my hair out or give up, but I am so incredibly glad I persevered.

Firstly, to visit Tibet you need to book a tour; you will not be allowed into Tibet without a tour guide. Most Tibetan tours are extremely expensive for a young person, and some of the tour groups are very large. Through the advice of a friend I found Tibetan Shaman Tours, which I highly recommend. These tours are run by a Tibetan man named Lumbum, and a few fellow Tibetan guides.

My tour guide Denzin was extremely knowledgable, adventurous and hilarious. He is also Buddhist and gave us great insight into all of the temples we visited. Lumbum also allows custom-designed tours, and all accommodation, food and temple fees are paid for separately, meaning you can make your trip as chap or expensive as you want!

Most tour companies will do short Lhasa tours, week-long trips to Kathmandu, 10-15 day trips to Everest and back, and multi-week long treks through the Tibetan countryside. Obviously, it’s important to pick the tour that is right for you, but I would definitely recommend seeing more than just Lhasa. Tibet is such a difficult country to enter; make the most of your trip! I did the 8 day tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu, and it was incredible! We stayed in a different place every night, and I took so many amazing photos. The tour even allowed me to spend a few days in Nepal, a country I never imagined I would visit! I highly recommend trying to enter Tibet while you can. Save up the money, it’s a trip of a lifetime!

ProTip: Make sure you acclimate yourself to the Tibetan altitude. This means no caffeine or alcohol a week before your trip (I know, it’s hard for us coffee lovers) and lots of water. Be sure to take Dayquil and Advil: Trust me, I caught a cold in Tibet and it was horrible! Also, while most sites recommend taking the train, the train itself isn’t always enough. Spend a few days in Xining, Qinghai (another “off the beaten path” place), enjoy Qinghai lake and acclimate to the altitude. You may experience some altitude sickness in Qinghai (especially if you go to the lake), so take it easy, enjoy Qingahi and take the train to Lhasa from there.

Read more about my adventures in Tibet

Click a photo to open the gallery 

If China wasn’t already on your list, I hope it is now! China is so much more than the polluted, dirty, crowded images of Beijing or the giant cosmopolitan skyscrapers of Shanghai. I’ve spent months exploring China and I still haven’t seen it all (hence, my Zhangjiajie trip this summer). Take my advice and check out some of these gems. You may just have the trip of a lifetime!

If you’re planning a trip to China and you need a little extra help, be sure to check out my Trip Planning Services. I offer $30/hour Skype travel consultations as well as more extensive itinerary planning.

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

28 comments on “10 Best “Off the Beaten Path” Places to Visit in China

  1. I don’t know if I’d call Xian or Macau ‘off the beaten path’ – they’re both hugely touristy destinations! I’d add them in with Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong as the best-known places in China. Anyway, that’s just me, and I’m sure there are plenty of folk who haven’t come across them before, and don’t read an inordinate amount of travel blogs like me haha!

    The food in Sichuan sounds like it would be right up my street, and I’ve been trying to find a place in Taipei that serves up food from the region! There are a couple of restaurants that do food from Xinjiang, and I absolutely looooove it – so much so that I’m considering visiting the region next year! Yunnan sounds wonderful too, ditto Harbin. I’d love to go to the festival in Harbin, but I’ve booked up all my holiday now and it won’t refresh until mid-February 2015, so it’ll have to wait until 2016. Oh well! But I WILL go there someday…

    • Hi Tom! I definitely agree with you that Xi’an and Macau definitely aren’t too “off the beaten path” for those of us who do a lot of travel research or live in Asia for a while. I was more basing my reference off of the reactions I get from talking about these places with people back home. You should see the confused looks I get when I tell people I studied abroad in Xi’an (“Where….?”).

      If you like spicy food you should definitely hit up Chongqing and Sichuan. That plus the really amazing sites like Dazu and the Leshan Buddha make that area a must-see for sure. You should also definitely consider visiting Xinjiang! I went with my study abroad group, but it would be really easy to do on your own too.

      By the way, I’m actually heading to Taiwan at the end of June for two weeks if you want to meet up. I may be hitting you up for some trip-planning advice.

  2. This is such a great list! I was in China 2 summers ago and absolutely loved my time there exploring some of the lesser known destinations such as Leshan and Jiuzhaigou. I’d add the Gansu province as being my favourite area in China- so beautiful and diverse and also very much influenced by Tibet.

  3. My parents went to China and told me all about how amazing Xi’an is, but hadn’t heard of the rest of these places. Definitely want to check them out now though!

    • Yeah I think Xi’an is one of those places that a lot of people have never heard of until they start actually planning a trip to China. I love Xi’an though, I studied abroad there a few summers ago.

  4. been reading your of the beaten path in in china,going there for 3 weeks in october this year,starting of with a 2 day train ride from Hanoi (Vietnam) to Beijing .Been to Vietnam 4 times now so looking forward to China

    • Two day train ride? Wow that’s intense! Make sure you pack a bunch of ramen because the train food is horrible (but hot water is free!). I hope you really enjoy your time in China! It’s a great country with a lot to see :)

    • Hi Ben, instead of being stuck in a train for 2 days, why don’t you take a detour at Nanning and head to Guilin & Yangshuo for a day or 2 before continuing to Beijing. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a train that long. I’ll be doing China (September) too from Hanoi, but I’ll take the west route and do a hike at Tiger Leaping Gorge;Lijiang, Pudacuo National Park; Shangri La & Yading Nature Reserve; Daocheng. Cheers

      • Awesome advice Hafiz! Guilin and Yangshuo are beautiful.

        I hope you have a great time in Yunnan. Tiger Leaping Gorge is amazing and I really loved Lijiang’s old town. Have a great time on your trip!

  5. This is a great list – thank you for sharing!
    Unfortunately, we only have 5 days in Beijing so I doubt we will get to get too far from the city. But we were thinking that maybe we could at least do something off the beaten track near Beijing and go to a more remote part of the wall (relatively!). Or we were thinking of taking a fast train out of town for a couple of days even. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks!

    • If you’ve only got 5 days consider going to Jinlingshan, it’s the most remote of the Great Wall sections near Beijing. It was almost empty when I went there in the spring. It hasn’t been refurbished so it’s the most realistic and natural. Just be sure to bring good hiking shoes!!

      Also, I’d recommend checking out 798 Art District. It’s a bit out of the way in Beijing, but it’s really cool! I’m not even an “art person” and I really enjoyed it. There are free and paid art exhibits, graffiti art, cafes/restaurants and cool shops. Just be sure to go in the morning because everything closes around 5pm.

      While in Beijing be sure to check out the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace! I prefer both of these to the Forbidden City :)

      • Thank you! This is super helpful. We are currently in Bangkok, but don’t have winter clothes or hiking boots! might have to try and score some at the local markets before flying out!

        And thank you for the 798 Art District – art has been a theme for our trip so far!

        • You should definitely try to get some warm clothes before you come to China. It’s freezing here! Tennis shoes should also work if you don’t have hiking shoes. That’s what I used :)

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  7. Good post for Off the Beaten Paths. Some i do not think should be on it like Giant pandas and Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors are anything far from off the beaten paths. But the other ones were good.

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  10. I disagree about Xi’An not being off the beaten track. The beaten track for most tourists in China is Shanghai, Beijing, maybe Guangzhou if they’re really adventurous, plus Macao and Hong Kong. Adventurous travel in China is getting out to Xi’An for the Terracotta Warriors or to Chengdu for the pandas. But there’s a lot more to Xi’An than the Terracotta Warriors and most tourists who visit Xi’An never see more than that. Xi’An is also a fabulous gateway to the west of China (which is why it is where it is) and there is so much to see west of Xi’An! We explored two years ago, going all the way to Lijiang and we had a ball!

    • I totally agree. Most people may have heard of Xi’an, but never actually get there. If they do, it’s just for the Terracotta Warriors, and they miss out on the muslim market, mosque, city wall and other amazing things Xi’an has to offer. Xi’an is also a great starting point for a silk road trip to Gansu and Xinjiang!

  11. What a great list of “Off the beaten path” places in China, Richelle. I would love to visit Jiuzhaigou, Zhangjiajie and Harbin for the Ice Festival. I have travelled across Tibet from Lhasa to Kathmandu and through Gansu and Xinjiang on my overland trip from Beijing to Kashgar. Furthermore I have been to Xi’an three times, twice to Chengdu, Leshan and Yangshuo and once to Chongqing when boarding the Yangtze boat to Yichang and I also travelled across Yunnan twice.

    As you are a travel blogger as well and since have been to Tibet, I am wondering if you find it risky to write about your travels to Tibet on your blog?

    I would really love to write about my travels across Tibet on my blog, but I am anxious that I might get in trouble then when applying for a chinese visa or when entering China the next time. Since I absolutely adore China and have friends in the Middle Kingdom that would be an absolut worst case scenario and truly a nightmare.

    • Wow it sounds like you’ve been all over! I honestly wouldn’t worry about what you write on your blog. I’m doing my master’s dissertation on internet censorship in China, and from what I’ve found, they couldn’t care less what people write in English as long as you’re not super popular like BBC or NY Times. They have way more important things to worry about that what an expat writes on her blog. Unless you write in Chinese you’ll be fine.

      • Thank you so much for your response, Richelle, which is so helpful. It’s also a bit what I have hoped, now I am very relieved. Honestly, I have asked a few people who I thought might be able to answer this question, but all I got to hear was “Oh, I would love to read about your adventures to Tibet and along the Silk Road”.

        I wish you the best of luck for your master’s dissertation and I am looking forward to read about your future travels and about your move to Beijing.

  12. Richelle, I have a business trip in October, and an extra week for vacation. I am simply overwhelmed by the size and options in China. My original plan was to see and hike through natural beauty, visit traditional towns filled with culture (and good food), so Lijiang area was my original front runner . I see many of your options have all of these. Can you please recommend your top pick that includes all of these elements that would fit into a Monday-Friday schedule?

    • No problem Jared! I would probably recommend either Yunnan or Sichuan. With only 7 days, you could go to Lijiang and Dali. That area has a lot of natural beauty, and I really enjoy the old town areas of Lijiang and Dali. In Lijiang you can hike the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and see a traditional minority dance performance show, which is famous in the area. Dali is a beautiful hippie town in the mountains that I also really recommend. You can take a ferry across the lake to a small island with a temple, and the whole old town area with the mountain backdrop is stunning!

  13. Thanks for the great rundown of some interesting places that aren’t massive cities along the coast. I’ve definitely noted a few down for our trip and now it seems like a quickie 2 week jaunt on our way to Vietnam may be too short and we should lengthen it a little bit if possible. However, a quick question, while you were in China, did you use any tour groups and if so, do you have any recommendations?

    • Yeah two weeks is definitely too short for China but you can get a good taste! Thankfully, China offers visas that are good for one year, and if you’re from the US or Canada you can get visas for 8-10 years! If you get a good visa it’s a great excuse to come back. As for tours, I actually hope to open my own off the beaten path tours in China one day, but for now I would probably recommend Intrepid Tours :D

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