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Unique Places To Visit In China


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Mattie Renfrow



China, known for its rich history, ancient traditions, and stunning landscapes, is a country filled with unique and captivating places to visit. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, China offers a plethora of experiences that will leave travelers in awe. Whether you have a deep appreciation for history, are seeking natural wonders, or simply want to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, this article will guide you through some of the most exceptional places to visit in China.


With a civilization that dates back thousands of years, China boasts a remarkable heritage. From the Great Wall winding through mountains to the majestic Forbidden City, there are iconic landmarks that showcase the country’s grandeur and strength. These structures not only preserve the past but also offer a glimpse into the architectural marvels of ancient times.


Furthermore, China’s natural landscapes are equally captivating. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, with its towering sandstone pillars, served as the inspiration for the floating mountains in the movie “Avatar.” Jiuzhaigou Valley, known for its colorful lakes and cascading waterfalls, presents a surreal and ethereal beauty that is unmatched. The Li River, with its picturesque karst formations, provides breathtaking views that have inspired artists and poets throughout the ages.


In addition to these well-known sites, there are also hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. The Mogao Caves, located along the Silk Road, are home to ancient Buddhist art and frescoes that testify to the cultural exchange between East and West. The Hanging Monastery, perched precariously on a cliffside, showcases the remarkable engineering skills of ancient architects.


As you navigate through this article, you will learn about each of these extraordinary places, their historical significance, and the unique experiences they offer. Whether you are planning a trip to China or simply seeking inspiration, this guide will help you make the most of your visit and ensure that your journey through the Middle Kingdom is nothing short of unforgettable.


The Great Wall of China

No trip to China would be complete without a visit to the iconic Great Wall. Stretching over 13,000 miles and built over several centuries, it is not only a marvel of engineering but also a cultural and historical symbol of China. The Great Wall was constructed to protect China from invasions and played a crucial role in the country’s defense throughout its history.


Walking along sections of the Great Wall provides visitors with a sense of awe and wonder. The immensity of the wall, set against the backdrop of rugged mountains and rolling countryside, creates a breathtaking panorama. The most popular section to visit is Badaling, which is easily accessible from Beijing. However, for a more tranquil experience, consider visiting less crowded sections like Mutianyu or Jinshanling.


Exploring the Great Wall allows travelers to appreciate ancient craftsmanship and marvel at the strategic genius behind its construction. The walls, watchtowers, and beacon towers that dot the landscape are testaments to the ingenuity and determination of the Chinese people. As you walk along the wall, you can imagine the soldiers who once defended it and the historical events that unfolded within its walls.


Aside from its historical significance, the Great Wall offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Climbing to the highest points of the wall rewards visitors with panoramic vistas of lush greenery, meandering rivers, and distant mountains. The changing seasons bring their own unique beauty to the Great Wall, with cherry blossoms in spring, vibrant foliage in autumn, and a picturesque snowy landscape in winter.


To fully immerse yourself in the Great Wall experience, you can even spend a night in a nearby village and wake up to witness the sunrise over the ancient structure. This allows for a more intimate and peaceful encounter with one of the Seven Wonders of the World.


As you trek along the Great Wall, you can’t help but be awed by its grandeur and historical significance. It is an experience that not only connects you with China’s past but also leaves a lasting impression of the country’s remarkable achievements. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking an adventure, the Great Wall of China is a must-visit destination that will leave you in awe of its magnificence.


The Terracotta Army

Located in the city of Xi’an, the Terracotta Army is one of China’s most remarkable archaeological finds and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well, this vast underground army of life-sized terracotta warriors has captivated the world ever since.


The Terracotta Army was created as a funerary art to accompany the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in the afterlife. The army consists of thousands of soldiers, horses, and chariots, each meticulously crafted with intricate details that showcase the artistic skill of the artisans of the time. The sight of these life-like statues lined up in battle formation is a true testament to the craftsmanship of the Qin Dynasty.


Visiting the Terracotta Army is a fascinating journey through ancient history. As you walk through the exhibition halls, you will come face-to-face with rows upon rows of terracotta soldiers, each with a unique expression and pose. The sheer scale of the army is overwhelming, and it is fascinating to consider the effort and resources that went into creating such an elaborate burial site.


One of the most awe-inspiring features of the Terracotta Army is the level of detail in the figures. From the intricately carved armor to the delicate facial features, each warrior has its distinct characteristics. It is believed that the craftsmen used real soldiers as models, resulting in a remarkable level of realism.


In addition to the soldiers, the site also houses various pits that showcase different aspects of ancient Chinese life. Pit 2 contains cavalry and infantry units, while Pit 3 is believed to be the command center. The exhibition halls also include a number of artifacts that were unearthed along with the army, providing further insight into the Qin Dynasty’s military and cultural practices.


The Terracotta Army is not just an archaeological wonder; it is a testament to the power and legacy of the Qin Dynasty. It offers a glimpse into the ancient world and provides valuable insights into China’s rich history. As you explore this incredible site, you can’t help but be in awe of the scale, artistry, and historical significance of the Terracotta Army.


Visiting the Terracotta Army is a truly immersive experience that transports you back in time. It combines history, art, and archaeology, making it a must-see attraction for anyone visiting China. The site continues to be excavated, and new discoveries are made regularly, ensuring that there is always something new and fascinating to discover at the Terracotta Army.


Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, located in the Hunan Province of China, is a natural wonderland that seems like it was plucked straight out of a fantasy novel. This breathtaking park is renowned for its towering sandstone pillars, mist-shrouded mountains, and lush vegetation, providing visitors with an otherworldly experience.


The park gained international fame after serving as the inspiration for the floating mountains in the movie “Avatar.” As you venture into Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, you will understand why it was chosen as the backdrop for such a fantastical film.


One of the highlights of the park is the Yuanjiajie Scenic Area, which boasts towering peaks and breathtaking vistas. The most famous pinnacle in this area is the Hallelujah Mountain, named after the movie’s flying mountains. Standing atop one of the viewpoints, you will be treated to panoramic views of the surreal landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see.


Another must-visit area in Zhangjiajie is the Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve. Here, you will find a series of jagged peaks that resemble a gathering of celestial warriors. The misty atmosphere adds to the mystical ambiance, creating a truly unforgettable experience.


For a unique perspective of the park, take a ride on the Bailong Elevator, also known as the “Hundred Dragons Elevator.” This glass elevator is built into the side of a cliff and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape as it ascends to the peak. It is considered the tallest outdoor elevator in the world and provides a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience.


Aside from its breathtaking beauty, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is also home to a variety of wildlife and plant species. The lush forested areas support a diverse ecosystem, and if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of some rare and endangered species, such as the Chinese giant salamander or the golden snub-nosed monkey.


Exploring Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Whether you choose to hike along the numerous trails, marvel at the unique rock formations, or simply take in the serene beauty of this natural wonderland, you are guaranteed to be left in awe of its grandeur.


Visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is like stepping into a surreal dreamscape. The combination of its mystical scenery, ethereal atmosphere, and abundant wildlife make it one of China’s most extraordinary destinations. So, don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Jiuzhaigou Valley

Jiuzhaigou Valley, located in the Sichuan Province of China, is a true gem of natural beauty and is often referred to as a “Fairyland on Earth.” This UNESCO World Heritage site is renowned for its enchanting turquoise-colored lakes, majestic waterfalls, and multicolored forests, creating a surreal and ethereal landscape that is beyond imagination.


In Jiuzhaigou Valley, visitors are treated to a visual feast of stunning natural wonders. The crystal-clear lakes, such as the famous Five Flower Lake and Long Lake, reflect the surrounding mountains and showcase vibrant colors that range from deep blues to brilliant greens. The beauty of these lakes is simply breathtaking and leaves visitors mesmerized.


Waterfalls are another highlight of Jiuzhaigou Valley. With over 100 waterfalls cascading down from the steep cliffs, the valley is a symphony of rushing water and mist. The most famous waterfall is the Pearl Shoal Waterfall, which is over 130 meters wide and presents a magnificent spectacle that is both awe-inspiring and powerful.


One of the unique features of Jiuzhaigou Valley is its terraced landscapes. The lush forests, adorned with colorful autumn foliage, create a picturesque setting that is reminiscent of a painting. As you stroll along the wooden paths and bridges, you will feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.


The valley is also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The ancient forests are inhabited by various species, including the adorable giant pandas. The abundant wildlife and vibrant ecosystems make Jiuzhaigou Valley not only a stunning visual experience but also an important conservation area.


Exploring Jiuzhaigou Valley is a peaceful and serene experience. The park restricts the number of visitors to preserve its natural beauty, ensuring that you can immerse yourself in the tranquility and take in the sights without feeling overcrowded. The best way to explore the valley is by following the designated walking paths, which allow you to appreciate each and every aspect of this natural wonderland.


Jiuzhaigou Valley truly feels like a hidden paradise, untouched by the modern world. Its pristine beauty and magical landscapes transport visitors to a place of serenity and awe. Whether you are a nature lover, a photographer, or simply someone seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Jiuzhaigou Valley is a destination that will leave an indelible mark on your heart.


Visiting Jiuzhaigou Valley is like stepping into a timeless realm of beauty and wonder. As you revel in the incredible scenery, you will understand why this enchanting place is often regarded as one of China’s natural wonders.


The Li River

The Li River, located in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of southern China, is a breathtaking natural wonder that has been inspiring poets and artists for centuries. This iconic river is famous for its stunning karst landscape, with limestone peaks rising dramatically from the water’s surface, creating a picturesque scene that seems straight out of a painting.


A popular way to explore the Li River is by taking a leisurely cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. The cruise allows you to immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the river and take in the awe-inspiring landscape at a leisurely pace. As the boat drifts along the tranquil waters, you will be treated to breathtaking views of the dramatic limestone cliffs, greenery-draped hillsides, and quaint fishing villages that dot the riverbanks.


One of the most iconic landmarks along the Li River is the famous karst formation known as the Elephant Trunk Hill. This hill resembles an elephant drinking water from the river, and it has become a symbol of Guilin’s natural beauty. Climbing to the top of the hill provides a panoramic view of the river and surrounding countryside, allowing you to fully appreciate the grandeur of the landscape.


Another highlight of the Li River is the mesmerizing scene at Xingping, where the river winds its way through a series of picturesque karst peaks that are featured on the back of the 20 yuan banknote. This iconic imagery has made Xingping one of the most photographed spots along the Li River, capturing the hearts of photographers and travelers alike.


Aside from the stunning scenery, the Li River is also a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Adventurous visitors can go hiking or biking along the river’s edge, exploring the hidden trails and immersing themselves in the untamed beauty of the surrounding countryside. From panoramic viewpoints to hidden caves and waterfalls, there are endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.


Visiting the Li River offers a peaceful and awe-inspiring experience that is unlike any other. The combination of the magnificent karst landscape, the meandering river, and the vibrant local culture make it a must-see destination in China. It is a place where nature’s raw beauty takes center stage and leaves a lasting impression on all who have the privilege to witness it.


Whether you cruise along the Li River, hike through its scenic trails, or simply relax and soak in the tranquil ambiance, you will find yourself captivated by the beauty of this natural wonder. The Li River is a testament to the power and beauty of nature, and a visit here is a truly unforgettable experience.


The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, located in the heart of Beijing, is a magnificent palace complex that served as the imperial residence for Chinese emperors for over 500 years. With its grandeur, rich history, and stunning architectural design, the Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of China’s most iconic landmarks.


Entering through the imposing Gate of Heavenly Purity, visitors are transported back in time to the imperial era of ancient China. The sprawling complex consists of over 980 buildings, beautifully preserved and adorned with intricate details, including vibrant red and gold colors, ornate carvings, and dragon motifs.


Exploring the Forbidden City allows you to immerse yourself in the opulent world of Chinese emperors. As you walk through the ceremonial halls, splendid palaces, and meticulously manicured gardens, you can imagine the grand receptions, royal ceremonies, and political intrigues that unfolded within these walls.


The main axis of the Forbidden City is lined with majestic halls, such as the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. These halls were used for important ceremonies and audiences with the emperor, showcasing the power and prestige of the imperial court.


Behind these grand halls lies the Inner Court, which was reserved for the emperor and his immediate family. Here, you can explore the lavish living quarters, including the Palace of Heavenly Purity and the Hall of Mental Cultivation. The exquisite decorations and intricate furnishings offer a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of the imperial family.


Beyond the architecture and royal residences, the Forbidden City also houses a remarkable collection of cultural artifacts. The Palace Museum, located within the complex, showcases a vast collection of imperial treasures, including ancient paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, and rare artifacts that span thousands of years of Chinese history.


Visiting the Forbidden City is like stepping into a living museum that preserves the essence of China’s imperial past. The sheer magnitude of the complex and the sheer beauty of its architecture make it a must-see destination for history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, and anyone eager to delve into China’s rich cultural heritage.


As you walk through the monumental gates and traverse the vast courtyards, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe and reverence for the history and cultural significance of the Forbidden City. It is a place where the grandeur of ancient China comes to life.


Exploring the Forbidden City is sure to be a memorable experience, providing a glimpse into the imperial world of ancient China and leaving visitors with a profound appreciation for the country’s rich history and architectural splendor. 

The Potala Palace

Perched on a hilltop in the heart of Lhasa, Tibet, the Potala Palace stands as an extraordinary example of Tibetan architecture and spirituality. This UNESCO World Heritage site is not only a magnificent palace but also a symbol of Tibetan Buddhism and the religious center of Tibet.


The Potala Palace was initially built in the 7th century and expanded over the centuries by successive Dalai Lamas. This architectural marvel consists of a complex of buildings, including the White Palace and the Red Palace, with its iconic golden roofs and intricate murals.


Visiting the Potala Palace is a journey into the heart of Tibetan culture and spirituality. As you make your way through the various halls, chapels, and living quarters, you will be immersed in a world of ancient traditions, religious rituals, and breathtaking artistry.


The Red Palace, with its revered chapels and ornate prayer halls, is the most sacred part of the Potala Palace. Here, you can see magnificent statues of Tibetan Buddhist deities, intricate thangka paintings, and ancient scriptures. The atmosphere is filled with a sense of reverence and tranquility, offering an opportunity for reflection and spiritual contemplation.


The Potala Palace also provides stunning panoramic views of Lhasa and the surrounding Himalayan mountains. Climbing the stairs and walking along the palace’s whitewashed walls, you can gaze out at the breathtaking scenery and marvel at the architectural wonder that is this palace. The sight of the palace illuminated at night is particularly captivating and creates a mesmerizing atmosphere.


Aside from its architectural and spiritual significance, the Potala Palace is a living testament to the history of Tibet and its relationship with China. The palace houses countless treasures, including ancient artifacts, religious relics, and historical documents that offer insights into the rich and complex history of the region.


A visit to the Potala Palace not only allows you to appreciate its architectural splendor but also offers a chance to understand and respect the spiritual and cultural traditions of Tibet. It is an experience that is both awe-inspiring and humbling, leaving visitors with a deep sense of reverence for Tibetan Buddhism and its enduring legacy.


As you wander through the majestic halls and absorb the spiritual energy of the Potala Palace, you will come to appreciate its significance as a sacred and cultural emblem of Tibet. The colors, the artwork, and the serenity of the palace make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Tibet’s unique heritage.


The Mogao Caves

Hidden within the desert landscape near Dunhuang, China, the Mogao Caves are an extraordinary testament to the Buddhist art and culture of ancient China. Also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes, this UNESCO World Heritage site is home to a sprawling complex of caves adorned with intricate murals, statues, and ancient manuscripts.


The caves were carved into the cliffs along the Silk Road and served as a place of worship and pilgrimage for over a thousand years. The artwork within the caves reflects the diverse artistic styles and religious beliefs of the various dynasties that patronized the site.


Entering the Mogao Caves is like stepping into a hidden gallery of Buddhist art. The walls of the caves are covered with colorful frescoes depicting scenes from Buddhist scriptures, celestial beings, and the lives of Buddha and other revered figures. Each cave presents a unique artistic expression, providing a visual feast that reflects the skill and devotion of the artists.


One of the most remarkable features of the Mogao Caves is the library cave, known as Cave 17. Discovered in the early 20th century, this cave contained a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts and texts, including Buddhist sutras and other religious texts. The discovery of this hidden library has provided valuable insights into the intellectual and cultural exchange that took place along the Silk Road.


Visiting the Mogao Caves is a humbling experience that offers a glimpse into the spiritual and artistic achievements of ancient China. The dedication and craftsmanship that went into creating these caves are evident in every brushstroke and intricate detail on the walls.


As you explore the caves, you can truly appreciate the religious devotion and the cultural exchange that took place along the Silk Road. It is a testament to the rich history of China and the significant role that Dunhuang played as a hub of trade, religion, and intellectual exchange.


Today, the Mogao Caves continue to be a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists and a source of inspiration for artists and scholars. The ongoing conservation efforts ensure that future generations can continue to admire and learn from this exceptional site.


A visit to the Mogao Caves is a journey through time, immersing you in the spirituality and artistic brilliance of ancient China. The combination of the stunning murals, the peaceful ambiance, and the historical significance of the site make it a must-visit destination for anyone with an appreciation for art, history, and cultural heritage.


The Yellow Mountains

The Yellow Mountains, also known as Huangshan, are a majestic range of mountains located in the Anhui Province of China. Renowned for their breathtaking scenery, unique rock formations, and mystical sea of clouds, the Yellow Mountains have long been an inspiration for poets, artists, and nature enthusiasts.


Rising dramatically from the surrounding landscape, the Yellow Mountains offer a stunning combination of towering granite peaks, deep canyons, and lush vegetation. As you ascend the mountains, you will be greeted with panoramic vistas that showcase the natural beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site.


One of the most captivating sights in the Yellow Mountains is the famous sea of clouds. Often shrouding the peaks in a mystical veil, the sea of clouds creates a surreal and ethereal atmosphere. Watching the sunrise or sunset from the mountaintops, as the clouds dance and swirl around you, is a truly awe-inspiring experience.


The Yellow Mountains are also known for their unique rock formations. Some of the rocks resemble mythical creatures or objects, earning them imaginative names such as the Turtle Peak, the Monkey Gazing over the Sea, and the Flying-over Rock. The intricate shapes and textures of these rocks add to the enchanting beauty of the landscape.


Hiking in the Yellow Mountains allows you to immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of nature. The mountain trails take you through dense forests, past crystal-clear streams, and up steep stone steps, offering a sense of adventure and discovery. Along the way, you may encounter ancient pine trees, bamboo groves, and colorful wildflowers, creating a picturesque and serene environment.


For an extra touch of magic, consider spending a night in one of the mountain-top hotels or guesthouses. Waking up to the sight of the sunrise over the peaks is a spectacle that will forever be etched in your memory.


The Yellow Mountains are not only a visual delight but also a cultural treasure. The area is steeped in folklore, legends, and ancient traditions. From the famous hot springs to the traditional inkstone quarries, there are numerous cultural attractions to explore and discover.


Visiting the Yellow Mountains immerses you in a world of natural beauty and cultural significance. The combination of the stunning landscapes, the mystique of the sea of clouds, and the rich cultural heritage of the area make it a destination that should not be missed.


Whether you are an avid hiker, a nature enthusiast, or a lover of scenic beauty, the Yellow Mountains will leave you in awe of their grandeur and inspire a deep appreciation for the wonders of nature.


The Hanging Monastery

Perched precariously on the side of a sheer cliff, the Hanging Monastery is a breathtaking architectural marvel that defies gravity and leaves visitors in awe. Located near Datong in Shanxi Province, China, this unique monastery is an incredible testament to human ingenuity and religious devotion.


The Hanging Monastery, also known as Xuankong Temple, was built over 1,500 years ago during the Northern Wei Dynasty. Its unique construction technique allows it to seemingly “hang” on the side of the cliff, supported by a series of wooden pillars and beams that are embedded into the rock face.


As you approach the Hanging Monastery, you can’t help but marvel at its intricate detailing and the remarkable engineering skills required for its construction. The monastery is a fusion of Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian elements, reflecting the religious diversity of ancient China.


Inside the monastery, you will find a collection of over 40 halls, pavilions, and courtyards interconnected by narrow corridors and steep staircases. Each hall is dedicated to a different deity or religious figure, adorned with exquisite statues, ancient texts, and ornate carvings.


One of the remarkable aspects of the Hanging Monastery is its ability to seamlessly blend with the natural surroundings. The monastery seems to become one with the cliff face, as if it was born from the rock itself. This harmonious integration of human craftsmanship and nature’s beauty creates a truly enchanting sight.


Visiting the Hanging Monastery offers a sense of adventure and exploration. As you walk along the narrow walkways and climb the precarious staircases, you can’t help but feel a rush of adrenaline and a sense of reverence for the monks who built and maintained this sacred site for centuries.


Besides its architectural significance, the Hanging Monastery also serves as an important place of worship. It continues to attract Buddhist pilgrims and visitors seeking spiritual solace. The tranquil ambiance and panoramic views from the cliffside add to the sense of serenity and contemplation.


The Hanging Monastery stands as a testament to human perseverance, architectural brilliance, and the power of faith. Its unique location and stunning design make it an iconic landmark in China, drawing visitors from around the world.


Visiting the Hanging Monastery is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The combination of its remarkable location, architectural ingenuity, and spiritual significance makes it a must-see destination for anyone seeking to explore the wonders of ancient China.


As you stand in awe of the Hanging Monastery, you will be reminded of the incredible achievements of humanity and the enduring power of religious devotion. It is a place that will leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.