2 Weeks in China: Sample Itineraries

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2 Weeks in China Sample Itineraries

2 Weeks in China

In the newest addition of our itinerary series, we give you TWO separate sample itineraries for 2 weeks in China, one of the most fascinating and unique destinations in the world. Both of these itineraries begin in Beijing as most travellers arriving on international flights will land here. You’ll need to arrange visas in advance; and although the requirements are a little arduous, we managed to secure ours pretty seamlessly in Hong Kong.

The first itinerary is designed to help you explore the diverse and culturally rich northern part of China. First you’ll walk the Great Wall of China and explore a place that has been closed to the public for centuries, the Forbidden City. You’ll then head down to Shanghai, the economic centre of China with a day trip to Zhujiajiao, affectionately called the “Venice of the East” by Marco Polo. Next you’ll head north to Xi’an to visit the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth century, the Terracotta Warriors. Your final destination will see you head to the vibrant metropolitan city of Chengdu to visit China’s most famous bear, the Giant Panda.

The second itinerary again begins in Beijing, where you’ll walk the Great Wall explore the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square before heading down to Shanghai and Zhujiajiao, the “Venice of the East”. After you’ll head southwest to one of the most beautiful town’s in all of China, Yangshuo, where you’ll float down the Li River on a bamboo raft and cycle amongst karst mountains and rice paddies. Then you’ll head to Ping’an, a tiny town in the heart of the “Dragon’s Backbone” to explore a valley of picturesque rice terraces. Finally you’ll head west to the Yunnan Province where you’ll experience a the unique culture of China in Dali.

As always these sample itineraries are simply a guide and depending on what type of traveller you are, you can modify to suit your style.

China

Looking back on our year in Asia, China stands out as without a doubt the most geographically and culturally diverse country we visited.

China is the third largest country in the world with a depth of history that absolutely boggles the mind. It’s a force to be reckoned with, there’s no use fighting it (as Ross learned). That said, the stunning landscapes, enthralling history and warmth & curiosity of the Chinese people (particularly outside the big cities!) will help you get over the culture shock of people relieving themselves in the streets, your dinner being butchered in front of your eyes and near apocalyptic smog that often envelops Shanghai and Beijing.

The country is raw and unapologetic in a strangely refreshing way. We sheepishly attempted to learn a bit of Mandarin and found that the differences in regional dialects made the prospect virtually futile, but worth the laugh with locals. You will undoubtedly get hopelessly lost (and locals will truly try to point you in the right direction even if it’s the opposite direction from the last person you asked) and have no idea what you’re eating (my vegetable soup came with a black bird claw), but isn’t this why we travel?

We can’t think of many better places to get uncomfortable, unleash your inner explorer and get lost in wonderment. Check out our Impressions of China post for more on why this country will always hold a special place in our hearts.

If you are lucky enough to have more than 2 weeks in China then you should look to either combine these itineraries into one or delve deeper into one part of this vast country. We really can’t emphasize  how expansive and diverse the country is, it would take a lifetime to truly grasp its enormity, but these options should give you a taste for future exploration possibilities.

Let’s go!

2 Week Itineraries

Itinerary One: Beijing, Shanghai, Zhujiajiao, Xi’an, Chengdu 

Days 1-4: Beijing

  • Ease into the new country, culture and timezone by exploring just a few sights on your first day. We highly recommend trying Peking Duck, Beijing’s most famous dish on your first night. Check out Sifi Minfu Restaurant.
  • Spend a full day visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. At night head to the nearby “Snack Street” where you can try all sorts of uniquely Chinese street food delicacies from scorpions, to starfish, to seahorses. Or you can just eat something “plain” like chicken feet or squid on a stick!
  • Spend a full day exploring one of the 7 Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China. It’s possible to find your way to and from the Great Wall independently but we chose to book a tour from our hostel to Mutianyu. Read all about our experience at the Great Wall including which part of the wall we recommend in this post. Make sure to take the sled down from the top!
  • Time permitting, find your way to the Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former home of many dynasties. Spend half a day walking around and pay a few dollars to paddle boat around beautiful Kunming Lake. 
  • Check out our photo tour of Beijing to charge up your wanderlust!

Where we stayed: Dragon King Hostel – $33 USD per night (private room shared hot shower)

2 Weeks in China Great wall

Days 5-7: Shanghai & Zhujiajiao

  • Spend a day exploring the financial capital of China with a walking tour of the Bund and if time permits, across the river into Pudong. Lonely Planet has a fantastic self-guided walk for both the Bund and Pudong that we used while travelling around China. Make sure to check out Old Shanghai and make a stop at the beautiful Yu Garden and City God Temple.
  • At night head to one of the many expat bars around the French Concession area. Here is a great list from Rough Guides.
  • Get up early and head to Zhujiajiao the famed river city that Marco Polo once called the “Venice of the East”. Jump on the bus line called Hùzhū Gāosù Kuàixiàn (Chinese: 沪朱高速快线) they are usually use pink buses. Check out wikitravel’s page for a detailed description of how to find the right bus.

Where we stayed: Blue Mountain Bund Hostel – $25 USD per night (private room)

2 Weeks in China Zhujiajiao

Days 8-10: Xi’an

  • After checking into your hostel, head to the Muslim quarter where you can spend your evening walking up and down the market sampling uniquely Northern Chinese cuisine.
  • The next day you’ll explore what many call the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century, the Terracotta Warriors. Check out our post which includes tons of info on how to get there, costs and other helpful tidbits.

Where to stay: Twin City International Youth Hostel– $15 USD per night (dorm room)

2 Weeks in China Xian

Days 11-13: Chengdu

  • Chengdu, a clean and metropolitan city, is the home of two of the best giant panda research bases in the country. The first is the world famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and the other is Bifengxia Panda Base which is a 2 hour drive away.
  • If you are interested in volunteering with giant pandas, make sure to check out our popular post which details our experiences working as zoo keepers and how you can too.

Where we stayed: Chengdu Smile Hostel – $5 USD per night (Dorm Room)

2 weeks in China Chengdu

Day 14: To the Airport

  • Fly back home or onward to your next destination!

Itinerary Two: Beijing, Shanghai, Zhujiajiao, Yangshuo, Ping’an, Dali

  • Ease into the new country, culture and timezone by exploring just a few sights on your first day. We highly recommend trying Peking Duck, Beijing’s most famous dish on your first night. Check out Sifi Minfu Restaurant.
  • Spend a full day visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. At night head to the nearby “Snack Street” where you can try all sorts of uniquely Chinese street food delicacies from scorpions, to starfish, to seahorses. Or you can just eat something “plain” like chicken feet or squid on a stick!
  • Spend a full day exploring one of the 7 Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China. It’s possible to find your way to and from the Great Wall independently but we chose to book a tour from our hostel to Mutianyu. Read all about our experience at the Great Wall including which part of the wall we recommend in this post. Make sure to take the sled down from the top!
  • Time permitting, find your way to the Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former home of many dynasties. Spend half a day walking around and pay a few dollars to paddle boat around beautiful Kunming Lake. 
  • Check out our photo tour of Beijing to charge up your wanderlust!

Where we stayed: Dragon King Hostel – $33 USD per night (private room shared hot shower)

Snack Street Beijing

Days 4-6: Shanghai & Zhujiajiao

  • Spend a day exploring the financial capital of China with a walking tour of the Bund and if time permits, across the river into Pudong. Lonely Planet has a fantastic self-guided walk for both the Bund and Pudong that we used while travelling around China. Make sure to check out Old Shanghai and make a stop at the beautiful Yu Garden and City God Temple.
  • At night head to one of the many expat bars around the French Concession area. Here is a great list from Rough Guides.
  • Get up early and head to Zhujiajiao the famed river city that Marco Polo once called the “Venice of the East”. Jump on the bus line called Hùzhū Gāosù Kuàixiàn (Chinese: 沪朱高速快线) they are usually use pink buses. Check out wikitravel’s page for a detailed description of how to find the right bus.

Where we stayed: Blue Mountain Bund Hostel – $25 USD per night (private room)

2 Weeks in China Shanghai

Days 7-9: Yangshuo

  • Wedged between the Yulong and Li Rivers, Yangshuo with its stunning karst mountain backdrop is one of the prettiest towns we visited in the entire world.
  • Rent a bicycle and spend a half day exploring the countryside where you’ll see rice farmers, water buffaloes and caves in one of the most gorgeous backdrops in Asia.
  • Float down the Li River on a bamboo raft where you can take part in an awesome water fight with other travellers!
  • Read all about why Yangshuo is our favourite city in China.

Where to stay: Pu Yue Ju Rural Resort – $12 USD per night (Dorm)

2 Weeks in China Yangshuo

Days 10-11: Ping’an (The Dragon’s Backbone)

  • Spend a full day trekking through one of the most stunning and largest rice terraces in the world, the Dragon’s Backbone of Guilin.
  • Check out our post Ping’an – Dragon’s Backbone to read all about our incredible time in this breathtaking part of the world!

Where we stayed: Long Ji International Youth Hostel – $15 USD per night (private room)

2 Weeks in China Ping'an

Days 12-14: Dali

  • Spend a half day walking around the historic walled city which dates back to the 8th century. Make sure to check out the local market in the southwest part of town where you can see minority groups like the Bai people sell their produce and livestock.
  • Trek up Mount Cangshan where you’ll pass many ancient tombs on the way top. After reaching the peak you’ll enjoy stunning views of the crystal clear waters of Erhai Lake. Make sure to check out Zhonghe Temple at the top which holds a lot of spiritual importance for the people of Dali.
  • To learn more about Dali and our experiences check out our popular post 3 Nights in Dali.
  • Fly from Dali back home or on to your next destination!

Where we stayed: Sleepy Fish Lodge – $13 USD per night (private room)

2 Weeks in China Dali

We spent a month in China and felt like we didn’t even scratch the surface of this vast country. It’s as rich in culture and historical significance as you’ll find anywhere in the world. You’ll undoubtedly leave the country plotting your next visit.

We hope these sample itineraries for 2 weeks in China have helped you plan out your next adventure, thanks in advance for liking and/or sharing this post!

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Cheers,

Ross & Alyse


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Ross

Lover of travel, photography, nature, movies, and nachos. If you love Star Wars and Lord of the Rings we'll probably become best friends.
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