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Movie lover. Growing Capoeirista. Space enthusiast. Dedicated craftsman. And best of all, homegrown Los Angeles native. Wait, how in the hell did I end up in China!?
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You're in China, there's a holiday fast approaching, and you have zero clue as to where to spend your next vacation. Shanghai or Beijing? Nope, you've either been before or feel very keen on exploring some offbeat tourist hub you've probably never even heard of. Here's my list of 30+ top things to do and places to visit in China that aren't Shanghai or Beijing.
Leshan Giant Buddha - Leshan
First up? Thee best statue you'll find across all of China, period. The photo above is one thing, but check out its massive frame up close and it's bound to evoke one of the most surreal travel experience you'll ever have. My trip to Leshan Giant Buddah.
Rainbow Mountains - Zhangye
Yes, the picture above is real. Crazy, right? China's Danxia Geological Landform, also known as Rainbow Mountains, is sure to be one of the most beautiful naturally occurring landforms you'll probably ever see in your life. My trip to Rainbow Mountains.
It's arguably China's most beautiful and biggest ancient water town. Now this nugget is definitely what you'll want to see if you're bat-crazy about exploring the cultural side of China. They've got plenty of on-site hostels you can stay in, in addition to loads of restaurants and bars. Oh yeah, just make sure you don't leave without seeing the Fenghuang Tujia Minority Culture Show! My trip to Fenghuang Ancient Town.
Hengdian World Movie Studios - Zhenjiang
It's the world's biggest movie studio. Ever seen that movie Hero starring Jet Li? Remember when he walked through that sprawling emperor's palace and was surrounded by all those imperial guards? Yep, that's it! Hengdian World Studio's also got full blown replicas of famous historical attractions in China like Beijing's Forbidden City, and its even got a small amusement park. My trip to Hengdian World Movie Studios.
Three Gorges Dam - Yichang
China's got the world's biggest hydro-electric dam. It's always good to take a break from the norms to explore China's game-changer technology. And besides, Three Gorges Dam sits along the Yangtze River, meaning that you'll also catch some pretty awesome mountainside views of the country's biggest river. My trip to Three Gorges Dam.
Yiwu City - Yiwu
Made in China, made in China, everything, everything, made in China. Yiwu is home to the world's biggest small commodities market. Toys, Halloween masks, souvenirs, clothing, watches—yep, most of that junk you see around the world has probably came from some transaction with a company in Yiwu. Thinking of what hot items you can sell from China in your home country? Well check out Yiwu!
500-Meter Aspherical Telescope - Guizhou
"ET phone home?" Well, China may be the first to intercept that call. The 500-Meter telescope is the world's largest radio telescope. It can search and detect signals further out in the universe than any other telescope across the world. My friend? Eh, she just called it a 'giant hot-pot.' My trip to the FAST telescope.
Wenchang Satellite Launch Center - Wenchang, Hainan Island
I caught my first ever space rocket launch at China's Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. It's one of the only launch centers amidst China's secretive space program that's open to foreigners. Seeing a rocket launch in China was one of my most memorable experiences in the country!My trip to Wengchang Satellite Center.
Did you know that there are some ports in China that offer international cruises to regions like South Korea, Japan, and even Europe? Check out the Chinese version of Trip.com for instance and they've got tons of destinations to choose. My trip was during CNY 2018. It was a 5-day cruise from Shanghai to Sasebo, Japan. Ask your Chinese counterparts for help with this one! My Roundtrip Cruise From China to Japan.
Type "famous waterfalls in China" in Google and Hukou waterfall is bound to pop up. But don't think picturesque, serene, and beautifully flowing down off the side of a large rocky cliff. Instead, Hukou Waterfall is muddy, rapid, roaring, and on ground level. And that, my friends, makes it all the more reason to see! My trip to Hukou Waterfall.
Xilarumen Grasslands & Xiangshawan Desert - Inner Mongolia
It's one of the best trips I ever made across China. I slept in a yurt, ravaged China's grasslands on a dune-buggy, and explored the desert for the first time ever. It's these kind of trips that make living and working in China the sh**! My trip to Inner Mongolia.
Longmen Grottoes - Louyang
Longmen Grottoes—ah, not the best statues in China to see, but definitely worth it for the curious adventurer looking to discover more of China's ancient historical wonders.
Xaolin (Shaolin) Temple - Dengfeng
Xaolin Temple is thee place to visit if you're into seeing some homegrown kungfu in China. You've seen the movies; you know the stars. But now it's time to see some action in person. You won't see practicioners running across temple roofs or duking it out UFC style--I know, that sucks--but you can witness disciples of all ages training and putting on live shows for tourists.
Shilin Stone Forest Park - Kunming
They say that Shilin Stone Forest Park was once covered by the sea. Over millions of years the sea eventually receded and what you're looking at is the remnants of what lied on the ocean bed. Yeah, enough said.
Karst Hills Of Puzhehei - Yunnan
Puzhehei is China's best kept secret travel destination. It's got karsts hill ranges, ancient towns, caves, and one of the most relaxing canoe cruises you'll ever take in your life. You want to get away from it all? Away from the crowds, and submerse yourself around nature? Well, Puzhehei is that kind of place. My trip to Puzhehei.
Tianjin Binhai Library - Tianjin
I've never seen a library so cool in my life. Just take a look for yourself. And truth be told, most people weren't even there to read—they just came to take pictures. I don't blame them!
Bone-chillingly cold but well worth the adventure! Harbin's International Ice & Sculpture is probably China's most renown festival. The event host ice sculpture artist from around the world and includes a bunch of fun interactive activities. Temperatures may be in the negatives, but your mood will undoubtedly be in the positives! My trip to Harbin.
Tianmen Cave - Zhangjiajie
China's giant hole? You can't make a trip to Zhangjiajie without paying it a visit. And how big is the hole? Well, big enough for a person to jump out of a plane in a wing suit and fly right through it. By the way, that really happened! Plus, Tianmen Mountain is home to Heaven-Linking Avenue, which is perhaps China's scariest road. My trip to Tianmen Cave.
Does China even have any good beaches? Yeah, I didn't think so at first either until I discovered Sanya, a region of Hainan Island loaded with some of the best beaches across the country. What's more, while in Sanya feel free kick back under palm trees, drink from real coconuts, or watch a live showing of exotic Chinese mermaids on a cruise ship. And don't forget the giant statue of Guan Yin! My trip to Sanya.
"Avatar" Mountains - Zhangjiajie
Remember those floating Hallelujah Mountains from James Cameron's blockbuster hit Avatar? Alright, maybe that flick came out that long ago and so you've forgetten. Nevertheless, if you want to personally explore the Chinese mountains that paved the way for their design in the movie, book a ticket to Zhangjiajie for your next holiday. My trip to Avatar Mountains.
Huangshan "Yellow Mountain" is probably China's most famous mountain, and for good reason. The views are sick, the hike is challenging, and visitors can sleep in a tent or spend the night at a hostel perched at its top. One thing you can't miss: Watching the sunrise!
Zhongshan Bridge - Lanzhou
Lanzhou is known across China for its savory noodles. What's more, the city sits on the banks of the Yellow River and has some pretty cool looking bridges that go across it.
Li River & Karsts Hills Of Yangshuo - Guilin
Guilin is China's best travel destination; well, actually, it's just more of my favorite. Your looking for natural scenery? Check. Guilin's got it all, and by 'got it all' I mean "Oh-sh*t-these-are-some-of-the-sickest-mountain-ranges-I've-ever-seen-in-my-life!" You just have to see it for yourself, and what better way than from a 5 hour cruise down Li River. Ever seen the back of a 20RMB note? Yep, that's it!
Head Statue Of Mao Zedong - Changsha
You need to see the head statue of Mao Zedong in Changsha. If you're into seeing monuments and cool cultural and historical landmarks in China, make Changsha your next destination asap!
Canton Tower - Guangzhou
Despite what you may have heard, Guangzhou is one of China's most beautiful cities—hey, stick around long enough and you'll hear some off-the-wall stories. The first attraction you'll need to explore is Canton Tower—there's an observation deck on top of it--followed by a cruise along Pearl River.
Kingkey 100 - Shenzhen
If you love Hong Kong as much as I do, then you're definitely going to dig Shenzhen. Shenzhen is the best place to enjoy the aesthetic style of Hong Kong without leaving the Chinese mainland. It's also got a tropical feel and lots of nature to explore in and around the city. And by the way, Shenzhen and Hong Kong are literally right next to each other. In fact, their connected. You can't beat that!
Baicheng Beach - Xiamen
Xiamen is widely known for its beaches and seafood. You can expect lots of local tourists to head there during Spring Festival, so make sure you plan your trip well to avoid the crowds.
New Century Global Center - Chengdu
Chengdu is a massive, laid-back city renown for its pandas, teahouses, spicy cuisine, historic sites, and the world's largest building. It's been voted as one of China's most livable cities and it's been said that the best time to visit Chengdu is in the fall. By the way, see the pic above? That's just one teenie tiny section of the New Century Global Center!
Yangtze River Cableway - Chongqing
You might find that Chongqing looks a lot like San Francisco. Towering skyscrapers spread out across a sprawling central business district surrounded by water, rolling hills, and cool looking bridges. If you're looking for a developed Chinese city that will visually blow your socks off, I highly recommend a trip to Chongqing. And yeah, you can quote me on that!
Terra Cotta Warriors - Xi'an
There's this famous quote in China that goes a little something like this: "If you want to learn about China's history of the past 5000 years, visit Xi'an. The past 1000 years, head to Beijing. The past 100, pay a trip to Shanghai". Xi’an is of of the best places to get a historical look at ancient China.
Tiger Leaping Gorge - Yunnan
You know the Grand Canyon in the United States? Imagine heading all the way down to its base and looking up. Wouldn't that be one hell of an experience? Yunnan's Tiger Leaping Gorge offers the same kind of awe-inspiring adventure, except it's a colossal mountain range that you're looking up at. If you're a nature geek or hiking enthusiast, go there ...now.
Potala Palace - Tibet
Probably the coolest temple you'll see in all of China. Getting there may be difficult—you'll need to join a verified travel agency—but the trip will undoubtedly be worth all the effort. Plus, you can always gloat about being one of the foreigners that actually made it!
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Well, that's my list of 30+ top things to do in China. What do you think? Have any other cool places and things to see? Let the world know down below!
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