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For many people, their New Year’s resolution is to travel more or learn a new language. Why not kill two birds with one stone (一箭双雕 – yī jiàn shuāng diāo) by heading to China to do both? Not only is China an amazing country to explore, but English is not widely-spoken. This means you’ll have no choice but to put your Chinese skills to the test when traveling there. Now is the perfect time to travel to China. More and more cities are offering visa-free visits and airfare there is cheaper than ever before. Here are some of the best places to go in China in 2018 to help you plan your trip.
While it’s quite common for big cities in China to offer 72-hour transit visas, Beijing just upped the ante and is now giving visitors six whole days visa free to explore the capital! If you’re ambitious, you can see all the big sites in Beijing in that time. We’ve got an awesome itinerary you can follow for 72 hours in Beijing to start with, hitting things like the Forbidden City (故宫 – gù gōng) and the Great Wall (长城 – cháng chéng).
With those extra days, you can tack on some awesome Beijing day trips, such as hiking in the Fragrant Hills (香山 – xiāng shān) or rafting and bungee jumping in Shi Du (十渡 – shí dù). You’ll also have more time to dig into the amazing culinary and night life scenes here. Mmmm… Beijing roast duck!
If you seek adventure, nature, and culture on your China journey, then your best bet is to head straight to Yunnan. With a name meaning “South of the Clouds,” this province in the corner of southwest China is a fascinating place to explore. Start in the Spring City of Kunming (昆明 – kūn míng) and spend a few days visiting the parks and temples while sampling delicious Yunnan cuisine and the city’s fun nightlife. While it’s a great city, you’ve got to get out and see more of this beautiful part of China.
You can head to Dali (大理 – dà lǐ) for cycling, swimming, and hiking. Visit the popular Ancient Town of Lijiang (丽江古城 – lì jiāng gǔ chéng) and take a trip out to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Relax in the quaint town of Shaxi (沙溪 – shā xī) and check out the bustling Friday market. Spend a few days hiking above the Yangtze River at Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 – hǔ tiào xiá). Get wet and wild in the biggest water fight ever during Dai New Year in Xishuangbanna (西双版纳 – xī shuāng bǎn nà). You could dedicate your entire trip to this province and never get bored!
Formerly a cluster of fishing villages, Shenzhen is now a boom town with well over 10 million people. It’s actually one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, and it’s not showing signs of slowing down any time soon.
The city is home to some interesting theme parks, such as Window of the World and Splendid China. Shenzhen also makes for the perfect jumping off point if you’re starting your China journey by flying into Hong Kong or Macau. Speaking of HK and Macau…
Whether or not Hong Kong (香港 – xiāng gǎng) and Macau (澳门 – Ào mén) are actually parts of China depends on who you ask. Let’s keep geo-politics out of this, though, and include them here as excellent travel destinations either way. In HK, be sure to explore both the Hong Kong Island and Kowloon sides of the city. With some extra time, you could even head out to Lantau Island or do some hiking and beach hopping. Of course, be sure to eat plenty of dim sum (点心 – diǎn xīn) as well!
Macau is an interesting place, as it really has two different sides. There’s the colonial side with beautiful churches and gardens, and then there’s the part of Macau that has led it to be called the “Vegas of the Orient” with massive casinos. Check them both out in this short video:
In northeast China, you’ll find the stunning Changbai Mountain (长白山 – cháng bái shān). The “Eternally White Mountain” sits on the border between China and North Korea, and it is a very sacred place to Koreans (they call it Mt. Baekdu). It’s not exactly easy getting there, but it’s well worth it when you hike up and take in the view. If you’ve got a couple of days, you can check it out from two different sides. In addition to the viewpoint over the lake, you can walk through the forest, see China’s version of a “grand canyon,” and even eat eggs that were boiled in a natural hot spring.
Start your trip in Fujian off in Xiamen (厦门 – xià mén). This coastal city often comes up in lists of the best places to live in China, and it’s also a very popular one to travel to. Spend a day visiting Gulangyu (鼓浪屿 – gǔ làng yǔ) island, which is just a short ferry ride away. There are also plenty of beaches, restaurants, bars, and even a great night market.
While Xiamen is definitely a great city, the main reason to head to Fujian is to explore the tulou (土楼 – tǔ lóu). These “earthen buildings” were constructed as communal dwellings by the Hakka and Minnan people between the 12th and 20th centuries and they are an amazing sight to behold. You can easily spend 2-3 days bouncing around the different villages. See some highlights in this video and be sure to add it to your China itinerary:
China has three different Buddhist grottoes you can visit. There are the Mogao Grottoes (莫高窟 – Mò gāo kū) in Gansu, the Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟 – lóng mén shí kū) in Henan, and the Yungang Grottoes (云冈石窟 – yún gāng shí kū) in Shanxi. At these ancient sites, you’ll find impressive Buddhist carvings in caves. Try to visit at least one if you’re traveling to China this year. All are reachable by train and there are plenty of things to so and do in those cities to make it worth your while.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to traveling in China. Whether you’re looking to visit big cities, learn at historical sites, or just to get lost in the beauty of nature, China’s got it. You could spend a lifetime here and not see it all, but why not start out with a couple of weeks? You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll probably be planning your return trip before it’s even finished.