2 Week China Itinerary – Unmissable Places to Visit in China

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China is a massive country, and with only two weeks, it can be hard to know where to start when planning your China itinerary.

Many visitors stop by the main cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and maybe Xi’an. But what if you really want to explore the country and get off the beaten path?

After five years of living in China, and plenty of experience planning itineraries and showing my friends and family around, I’ve come up with the perfect two week itinerary for China.

Great Wall of China - Itinerary tips for places to visit in China

This route will give you a great sample of things to do in China and help you explore the major sights while also spending some time on the Tibetan Plateau.

2 Week China Itinerary

So, where to go in China?

Below is the Ultimate Two-Week Itinerary for those who want to get off the beaten path and see some of the best places to visit in China.

Days 1-3: Beijing

It’s not a trip to China without stopping by the capital city of Beijing.

After a solid two-years of living in Beijing, I might be a bit biased, but there are so many incredible things to do in this city.

From hiking the Great Wall of China to wandering the Forbidden City, and exploring Beijing’s hutongs, you could spend your full two-weeks here and not see everything.

Hike the Great Wall

Hike the Great Wall of China - tips for a 2 week China itinerary inside

I’m a bit of a Great Wall of China fanatic, and I’ve hiked NINE different sections of the wall. (Yeah, I know I’m a bit obsessed.)

If you want to see the Great Wall the right way, my biggest advice is to get off the beaten path and visit the Wild Wall, a section of  the wall not officially open to tourists.

Either that, or visit a part of the great wall that is tourist-friendly, but un-restored. Check out a section like Huanghuacheng, Gubeikou, or Jinshanling.

Whatever you do, I definitely recommend skipping Badaling, the most famous and touristy section of the Great Wall.

If you want a section that’s easy to visit, take a public bus to Mutianyu instead. While you won’t have the wall all to yourself, you’ll avoid the crowds and have incredible views!

Wander the Hutongs

Wonder the Hutongs in Beijing

I’m in love with Beijing’s hutongs, a network of traditional alleyway streets and courtyard houses that used to cover all of Beijing.

I’ve shown so many people around the hutongs that I’ve developed my own little hutong-day tour route that covers the Lama Temple, Wudaoying Hutong, the Bell and Drum Towers, and Houhai Lake.

But in my opinion, the best way to visit the hutongs is to simply get lost on your way from A to B.

I also recommend taking a tour of the hutongs to learn more about Beijing’s culture and history.

Viator, a Trip Advisor company, has a hutong and food tour. 

Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and Jingshan Park

Jingshan Park - places to visit in China
Jingshan Park

You can’t go to Beijing without seeing the iconic Tiananmen Square with the giant Mao Portrait over the top of the entrance to the Forbidden City.

Spend about 30-minutes wandering around Tiananmen Square, then head into the Forbidden City, where you can explore for about 2 hours.

The Forbidden City is GIANT, and you could easily spend all day there, but for me and most of my family and friends, two hours is just enough to see all of the main sights without getting overwhelmed.

Once you’re finished with the Forbidden City, head to Jingshan Park, where you can catch a view of the Forbidden City (and the rest of Beijing) from above!

Related Post – City guide for Beijing

Days 4-6: Xi’an

Xi’an is one of my favorite cities in all of China.

This ancient capital is a must-see on your China itinerary and is very easy to get to from Beijing. While it’s tempting to take a quick flight, I actually recommend riding the 4.5 hour high-speed train instead.

Once you factor in arriving at the airport 2 hours early, and how far the airports are from both cities (and the fact that Chinese flights are always delayed), the train ends up being both faster and cheaper than flying!

Bike the City Wall

Bike the city wall in Xian - China itinerary tips!

Biking around the ancient city wall is a must on your trip to Xi’an.

You can rent bikes at many of the main gates on the wall, but personally, I recommend starting at the South Gate.

A bike trip around the wall can take anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on how often you stop for photos. Not only will you get to explore this ancient site by bike, you’ll have a view of all of downtown Xi’an from the wall!

Once you get off the wall I definitely recommend exploring the art and caligraphy district near the South Gate.

There are so many shops and souvenirs in the area, and it’s a beautiful neighborhood to photograph.

Explore the Huiminjie Muslim Market

Huiminjie Muslim Market - places to visit in China

The best time to head to the Muslim Market is just before dinner.

Eat your heart out at the many food stalls, and wander through the souvenir area to bargain for things to take home.

While you’re here, be sure to try local lamb kebabs and liangpi noodles!

Terracotta Warriors

You can’t go all the way to Xi’an without taking a day-trip to the Terracotta Warriors – plan time for it on your China itinerary.

This ancient army dates back to the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang, and is China’s equivalent to the pyramids.

Here you can see row upon row of life-size terracotta warriors in giant pits.

Altogether, with the bus ride and visiting the site, you’ll want to budget your morning and afternoon for this day-trip.

Hua Shan

Hua Shan

If you can manage to squeeze in a day-trip to Hua Shan, then I 100% recommend it!

Take a harrowing cable car up the side of the mountain, to embark on the “world’s most dangerous” hike.

Here you can find the infamous Hua Shan plank walk, where you’ll strap yourself into a harness and walk along a plank embedded into the side of a cliff.

The view down is enough to make your heart beat out of your chest, it’s one of the craziest things to do in China, but the experience is worth it!

Day 7-8: Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong

Jiuzhaigou in northern Sichuan, China

Jiuzhaigou in northern Sichuan is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and one of the best places to visit in China.

Hike all day through crystal-clear lakes and rivers that reflect the bright blue sky.

Here you’ll be able to see all the way down to the bottom of each lake, and capture photographs most people could only dream of.

The next morning head to Huanglong, which is known for its colorful calcite deposit pools. These sky-blue mushroom-cloud pools make it obvious why many Chinese people call Huanglong a “fairyland”.

Day 9: Horse trek in Songpan

Horse trek in Songpan - do this on a 2 week China itinerary

If you love riding horses, you’ll definitely want to put this on your China itinerary and take a one-day horse trek on the Tibetan plateau.

The cute mountain town of Songpan, just near Jiuzhaigou, is home to day and overnight trips on horseback.

Travel with a local Tibetan guide, and explore parts of China that most tourists will never see.

Day 10-12: Chengdu

After a quick flight or a 4-6 hour bus ride down to Chengdu, you’re going to want to spend the afternoon exploring the beautiful gardens and teahouses in this scenic city.

For your first evening, I also highly recommend going for hot pot, a famous eating experience from Sichuan and Chongqing.

Don’t worry, they have non-spicy broth for those who can’t handle the heat!

Hot pot - a famous eating experience from Sichuan and Chongqing, China
hot pot

Leshan Buddha day trip

When in Chengdu, you’ll need to take a trip to the Leshan Buddha, the largest carved stone Buddha in the world.

You can easily hop on a day trip from your hotel, or take one of the many tourist buses there and back.

This Buddha is definitely worth the two-hour trip to see its massive scale. I’m about the size of one of his smaller toes!

The Panda Reserve

Don't miss the Panda Reserve in Chengdu, China

If you visit Chengdu, you definitely can’t miss the Panda Reserve, it’s one of the best things to see in China.

Be sure to head there in the morning, when the pandas are most active. Catch them eating bamboo, playing with one another, and sleeping in trees. Who knew little pandas love to sleep in trees?

You’ll also need to head to the baby area, where they have the youngest pandas playing with toys and rolling around.

Trust me, the Panda Reserve will definitely be a highlight of your trip.

Day 13: Beijing

Temple of Heaven, Beijing - one of the best places to visit in China

For your last day in Beijing, I recommend visiting the Temple of Heaven, my favorite imperial site in the country and one of the top China tourist attractions.

Afterwards, you can head over to the Pearl Market, one of my favorite bargaining markets in Beijing.

Stock up on sunglasses, electronics, silk, pearls, and a new suitcase to get all of your shopping home!

I know what you’re probably thinking. Wait… no Shanghai on this list of places to go in China?! 

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Shanghai as a tourist city.

My decision to skip it might be pretty controversial, but I honestly think there’s much more to do and see for a traveler in Beijing, than in Shanghai.

Besides, it’s always much cheaper to get a round-trip flight in and out of the same city.

However, if you really want to visit Shanghai before you leave, I have an optional Shanghai ending in this itinerary as well.

Just keep in mind, you’ll only want to head to Shanghai if you can actually sightsee on day 14, instead of using day 14 to fly home.

Day 13-14: Shanghai

Shanghai, China

If you really want to spend some time in Shanghai, make sure you have two full days at the end of your trip to China to give this mega city justice.

Of course, you’ll need to see the Bund.

You may want to stop by a few other famous sites like the Yu Yuan Gardens and surrounding area, Jing’an Temple, and the French Concession.

I also highly recommend slurping on a plate of soup dumplings while in Shanghai.

Many people say that the best soup dumpling place is just outside the Yu Yuan Gardens (you’ll find the line without even trying), but personally, I recommend going to a small local place outside of a touristy area to get an authentic experience.

Finally, if you want a great view of the city you can go up in one of Shanghai’s iconic buildings.

I’ve only been up in the JinMao Tower, but I’m dying to visit the Shanghai World Financial Center because they have a glass-bottom floor!

From either of these skyscrapers, you can see all of the surrounding city, and the world-famous Pearl Tower right next door.

The perfect sample of China

Xian - places to visit in China

Obviously, with a country as large as China, there are so many options for where you should spend your two weeks.

Substitute Sichuan with a week in Yunnan, or end your trip in Guilin and Yangshuo.

There are far too many incredible places to visit in China, and the unfortunate reality is that it’s impossible to see everything in a few months, let alone two weeks!

However, this China itinerary will create an incredible trip around China and is designed to give you a great introductory visit.

You’ll get a peek at China’s politics, history, culture, pandas, cuisines, and natural beauty.

You’ll explore the biggest cities, and smallest countryside towns, all while following a schedule that gives you time to appreciate each place.

Traveling to China can be daunting, and while there is no such thing as a perfect two week China Itinerary, in my opinion, this one is as close as it gets!

Related Post – 34 things to know before you visit China

Planning a Trip to China

Accommodation in China

  • Booking.com has thousands of properties in China including hotels, apartments and hostels. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.

Tours of China

Flights to China

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

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I hope this list of places to see in China helps you plan your own China trip. If you have any China travel tips, please share in the comments.

19 thoughts on “2 Week China Itinerary – Unmissable Places to Visit in China”

    1. So glad this helped you Mellanie! China has SO many cool places to see, and it was actually kind of hard to narrow it down to just two weeks. I would just tell myself that this trip to China is an introductory trip, and if you love it you can always come back and see Yunnan, the Avatar Mountains, Guilin and Yangshuo, etc. Let me know if you have any questions about your upcoming trip!

  1. I cannot see doing justice to China with only two weeks! However, smany people have barely that much time so your itinerary will certainly help anyone visiting China for the first or second time. I visited Jiuzhaigou in 2016 and was heartbroken to hear about the earthquake in 2017. It was my understanding the park had not yet reopened when I visited China between Sep – Nov 2017. Have you heard otherwise? While you are providing general information here have you considered mentioning the altitude for Jiuzhaigou? (Despite taking medicine I was forced to leave a day early)

    An aside, my absolute favourite new place was the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang.

  2. Trying to sort out an itinerary for 10 days in China in which we start in Beijing and end in Hong Kong for Art Basel. The festival is our main reason for this trip so the last 3 days would be spent in Hong Kong. Any recommendations?

  3. Hi there may I know how to get from one place to another for the two weeks in China itinerary?
    Beijing to Xi’an by fast train as I know and from Xi’an to jiuzaigou by flight and the rest I couldnt find it on ur blog. I was thinking of ending the trip in shanghai if possible .

    Hope you could share more details

    Thank you

  4. How does JIUZHAIGOU look like after the earth quake. it happened on Aug 8th and your blog was written after but you do not mention the ways it changed this area. is it still worth paying a visit?
    Thank you

  5. Fabulous blog!!! Thanks so much – I’ve got two weeks in China and this has helped narrow down the amazing places to chose from! Just one question (no worries if you are unsure!) – did you organise a tour of the national parks/ Songpan? I’ll be solo for that part of my travels and have been looking into it.. would rather do on my own but unsure! Thanks 🙂

  6. This is the best info I’ve found yet. I’m attempting to plan my 14 days in China on my own with hiring guides in each city.
    I’m planning 6 nights in Beijing , 2 or 3 nights in Xi’an??
    Now here’s my dilemma, do I go to Chengdu or Guilin??
    Then I need to end in Shanghai where we depart back to USA
    I’m Stuck with how many nights in Xi’an, then where to next and how to get there
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  7. I’m planning my trip from your blog with my sister in September- did you fly from back from Chengdu to Beijing ?
    Thanks Mandy

  8. DId someone help with your touring while in china…we are getting outrageous pricing here in the US and Im wondering how easy it is to find a guide once you’re there and if you even need on or just a good guide book.

  9. Hello! I am planning on doing your trip – can you provide links or to travel/transportation options on days 4- 10? Thank you so much!

  10. Tyrone Swaddling

    Loving your guide! My friends an I are booking our whole trip around the itinerary you have written. I have one question though, what travel did you use to make it from Xi’an to JIUZHAIGOU? Any help is appreciated 🙂

  11. Hi! Thanks for all the information, it’s really helping me to plan my trip to China. I was just wondering how do you recommend getting from Xi’an to Jiuzhaigou?

  12. Hi! I was just wondering how you travelled to/from Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong?
    I’m planning a trip arriving from Shanghai and I’m trying to figure out how I can most effectively connect Shanghai – Jiuzhaigou/Huanglong – Xian – Beijing. Is it possible (and recommended) to travel overland or best by plane? Any insight would be hugely appreciated! many thanks, Carina

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