China's attractions are so many, and its landscapes so vast, that travellers will need a lifetime to fully explore this fascinating and impossibly diverse country. That said, the must-see sights are fairly obvious and highly accessible, and, as previously restricted areas open up, the list of world-class attractions keeps growing. In addition to big draw-cards like the Great Wall, the Xi'an Terracotta Army, and the Forbidden City, travellers can choose from a huge range of cultural treasures, traditional temples, incredible landscapes, national parks, and festivals. Travellers should choose areas that they would like to explore wisely, especially if travelling on a budget, because the country's vastness can make travelling from place to place considerably expensive.
One of the most amazing sights in China can be seen in every Chinese city every day: the incredible pace of modernisation reflected in the energy of the people, frenetic urban development, and the relentless embrace of capitalism, with all its virtues and vices. These impressions are likely to leave the deepest mark on visitors to China. The contrast between the ancient and the new is intriguing and makes exploring China a joy for both history and culture buffs as well as the more modern tourist interested in technology and development.
China is a year-round destination, although visitors might want to plan around Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in late January and early February, when much of the country shuts down for a week and public transport is completely booked up.
The new Shanghai Museum is situated on the People's Square, the political and cultural centre of Shanghai. The square boasts a giant musical fountain and several attractive green recreational areas where locals dance and fly kites. It is surrounded by the City Hall, an... see full details
Qin Terracotta Army Museum
In 1974, a group of peasants digging a well north of Mount Lishan in Lintong county, about 18 miles (30km) from Xi'an, unearthed fragments of a life-sized warrior figure. Because the site of the discovery was just one mile (2km) from the as... see full details
Huaqing Hot Springs
The Huaqing Hot Springs, located about 22 miles (35km) east of Xi'an city, at the base of the Lishan Mountains, is where the ancient emperors bathed and relaxed in scenic surroundings. Huaqing is one of the Hundred Famous Gardens of China and the... see full details
The vast Potala Palace stands on a cliff top above Lhasa, considered the greatest achievement of Tibetan architecture. The palace was originally built in the 7th century by the then emperor for his bride. It was later partially destroyed by lightning, and war, but... see full details
The Shigatse prefecture is the gateway for climbers to the North Col climbing route of the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest. The ultimate climber's challenge, Mount Everest towers at 29,028 feet (8,848m) on the border between Tibet and Nepal. The Tibetan name for the... see full details
The impossibly majestic Forbidden City is a historical precinct situated in the heart of Beijing. Almost a city in its own right, the UNESCO World Heritage Site has been declared the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. The Forbidden City,... see full details
This famous square at the heart of Beijing attracts tourists not only with its pleasing design and views of numerous landmarks, including the famous painting of Chairman Mao, but also because it was the scene of so many historic events and is said... see full details
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a perennial favourite among tourists, and with good reason. The magnificent Great Wall, stretching 4,000 miles (6,350km), was built in stages from the 7th century BC onwards, snaking its way across the... see full details
The magnificent Summer Palace at Kunming Lake, in northwest Beijing, was built in 1750 by the Emperor Qianlong, and continued to be an imperial residence until the Empress Dowager Cixi died in 1908. It is the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China,... see full details
Chairman Mao Mausoleum
Although Chairman Mao Zedong of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China requested to be cremated, it was decided hours after his death in 1976, that he would be instead be embalmed. It is said that after his death, doctors... see full details
A place of tranquillity and grand imperial beauty, the Beihai Park is one of the great attractions of Beijing. The park is centrally located and close to the Forbidden City and Jingshan Park, providing a peaceful, natural haven after a long morning of busy... see full details
The Underground City
For more than 20 years, Beijing's Underground City, a bomb shelter just beneath the ancient capital's downtown area, built in case of nuclear attack, has been virtually forgotten by Beijing locals, despite being rather famous among foreigners since its official opening in 2000. A... see full details
The Beijing National Stadium
The Beijing National Stadium, also known as The Bird's Nest due to its appearance, was the hub of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, hosting all of the track and field events as well the opening and closing ceremonies. The unique-looking steel support structures framing... see full details
The Stone Forest of Shilin, about two hours' drive from Kunming, is a breathtaking and eerie landscape which is a must-see for tourists in the area. It is called a forest because the limestone pillars and stalagmites poking out of the green hillsides... see full details