11 reasons to visit China: What makes China so amazing?
Ready to be amazed? If you are looking for a travel destination filled with culture, mouth-watering food, and exciting sightseeing, China is the way to go. There are plenty of reasons why you should visit China. The country’s cultural and geographical diversity is making it unique in all aspects. This culturally rich, mystical eastern destination gives a magnificent look into history as well as a glimpse into the future. Whether you are looking to roam cosmopolitan cities, explore iconic landmarks, or just sip cocktails at the beach. China has something to offer for every type of traveler.
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Reasons to visit China | What makes China so amazing?
We notice that China remains rather unvisited compared to its South-East Asian neighbors. Which is a big question mark for us. Reasons might include existing assumptions and misconceptions. Such as the reputation of being highly polluted, the language barrier, and the fear of huge crowds … Although there might be some levels of truth to that, the reward of visiting overthrows every doubt you might have had of traveling here. That’s why we want to present the numerous reasons to visit China, so you can make up your own opinion. This country succeeds to amaze us every time. We hope that this post will convince you of all the stunning sights China has to offer. Both natural and man-made. Don’t forget to pack your camera, because you will be turning heads for one photogenic thing after another.
1. Its unique history and rich culture
As one of the Four Ancient Civilizations and a history that dates back 3000 years, China is filled with a very deep and iconic culture. Although nowadays China is characterized by a rapidly changing landscape, with skyscrapers rising high, the country still retains its traditional culture and ways. Big cities like Shanghai, Chengdu, and Beijing are truly a mix of classic Chinese architecture with modern buildings. Here you can be walking through a modern neighborhood one moment, and suddenly come across a peaceful temple or shrine.
Around most big cities, there are still ancient towns, where one can gaze upon traditional buildings and decorations. It’s a genuine display of how life might have looked back in the day. Find yourself in a nearby water town, like Zhujiajiao, Qibao, or Suzhou. Here it almost feels like time has stood still and locals live their lives like they used to. Visit ancient temples and monasteries and wander around little back alleys to witness the true Chinese ways of life. Escape the crowds and seek the peace and quiet that you can find in Chinese gardens. Beautiful landscapes with ponds and pavilions are definitely one of the many ways to experience an aspect of Chinese culture.
Last but not least, China is home to a huge amount of ethnic groups, adding to the country’s unique and diverse culture. It gave life to many languages, different customs, food, architecture, and clothes. When you have the opportunity, try to visit several different provinces. It will give you a better understanding of China’s diverse culture and customs.
2. Most impressive ancient heritage sites
Immerse yourself in China’s ancient treasures, from royal palaces to buried armies, and giant buddhas to old city walls. Thanks to its long history and huge area, China left us numerous ancient heritage sites. The Great Wall, as its most impressive symbol, showcases an incredible masterpiece built by human hands. Walking on the Wall is one of those once-in-a-lifetime adventures that you really don’t want to miss out on. This alone should already be one of the reasons to visit China.
Overall Beijing simply exudes temple and palace galore. The Temple of Heaven, a religious building complex that served as a place of prayer for emperors. The Forbidden City, the imperial palace that dates back to the Ming dynasty, is worth half a day of exploring. Wandering through this walled city palace, you can step in the footsteps of the opulence of the imperial residences that once lived there.
BOOK A TOUR | Skip the line and book your tickets online to explore the Forbidden City
Travel further to Xian, where you can marvel at the splendor of the Terracotta Army. It displays over 8000 life-size soldiers and horse carriages that were buried for more than 2200 years. The list is quite extensive, but next to these most known ones, we want to give a special mention to Leshan Giant Buddha. This humongous sitting Buddha was carved into the side of a mountain. With its 70 meters height, it’s the largest buddha in the world. It’s definitely worth a visit when you are in Chengdu.
3. Mesmerizing landscapes
A lot of people seem to think that China is just one big concrete city. The typical picture of the hustle and bustle of big cities with their beeping taxis and imposing skyscrapers. On the contrary, just a train ride away you will find the most spectacular natural views in the world. Being such a big country, China has a vast variety of landscapes. From the desert in the northwest to lush mountains in the south, you can find it all.
As for hiking enthusiasts, we were definitely spoiled with some jaw-dropping mountain ranges. We were in absolute awe when we arrived at the landscapes of the legendary Yellow Mountains (Huangshan). At Longji near Guilin, we wandered through rice terraces that reach as far as the eye can see. From there, we enjoyed a boat ride on the Li River going to Yangshuo. Along the way, we encountered an endless backdrop of limestone mountains. And at the mystical national parks of Zhangjiajie, it felt like we were up in a fantasy movie. You surely have seen images of the floating pillar rock formations that served as an inspiration for the Avatar movie.
BOOK A BOAT TOUR | Enjoy the scenic landscapes from Guilin on a boat tour
The list of natural wonders in this country is endless. However, the number one must-see is of course the Great Wall of China. Even though it’s one of the most touristic spots, it will not leave you disappointed! Since it’s such a well-known attraction, you can expect to see other crowds of tourists. The good news is, there are enough non-touristy parts to discover as well.
In case you are not able to travel to multiple places, you still have lots of possibilities to see different landscapes. Near every big city, you will always be able to find a day trip that is surrounded by nature. Think of the water towns close to Shanghai, or the Dragon well tea plantations close to Hangzhou.
4. Variety in cuisine: from street food to Michelin stars
The food itself could just already be one of the reasons to visit China. Let me tell you it’s an absolute foodies’ paradise! We all had our fair share of Chinese takeaway back home, but nothing will prepare you for the Chinese food here. The cuisine is different for every region, and unique from province to province, with each its own specialties and tastes. Like Sichuan province which is known for its spicy flavors, try out a spicy hotpot when in Chengdu. Shanghainese cuisine is known to be sweeter, a must-try is our own personal favorite Xiao Long Bao, or soup dumplings. The most famous dish must be the roast duck, for which Beijing is known. A must-try for on your travel list, heaven on a plate!
Don’t miss out on more local unknown delicacies as well. The Beer fish in Yangshuo must be one of the best dishes I ever tried in my life. Yes, you read that correctly, beer fish, it’s fish marinated in beer sauce. The region from Zhangjiajie (Avatar mountains) is for example known for Bandit Chicken. This is a whole chicken chopped up into small pieces and stewed in a clay pot with vegetables. Or Guilin, where they serve rice in bamboo that has been prepared on a grill.
The list is endless. So we really suggest you go with an open mind and try to get out of your comfort zone. Try out local dishes, hittin’ the night food markets and street food stands in major cities. Go to places that aren’t typically listed on tourist websites. Even in the smallest places in little backstreets, you are guaranteed to be served mind-blowing food.
5. Friendly & welcoming people
A lot of times Chinese people get a bad rap. Big loud groups, spitting on the floor, aunties shoving and getting ahead in line. These must be the most common images that jump to people’s minds. Although these things aren’t uncommon, once you break past the cultural differences, you might be really pleasantly surprised. Just like the country, the Chinese people really stole our hearts. They are one of the warmest and most welcoming people that you can imagine.
Some unfair judgments frequently occur about Chinese people. Of course, everyone has his own experiences. However, always keep in mind that when traveling to another culture each has its own cultural map. English is not always very common, definitely not outside the big cities. In more rural areas they are less used to seeing that many foreign tourists. But even if they don’t manage to speak English, people genuinely want to help you out. They love introducing people to their culture, giving them an amazing experience, and introducing their cuisine.
A lot of times locals are curious to know more about you, like where you come from. Also, they won’t hesitate to ask for a selfie with you. Be ready to get stared at in crowded places like the Bund in Shanghai and the Forbidden City in Beijing. This stems mostly from curiosity and the fact that there’s a fair share of domestic tourists who are new to these places themselves. This means it could be their first time outside their village or meeting a foreigner. So outside the big cities, it might be difficult to get around without a few basics of the Chinese language. Even a simple ‘nĭ hăo‘ and ‘xièxie’, will put smiles on people’s faces. Even if it’s just by gesturing and body language, people will go out of their way to help you out.
6. Rich in traditions & customs
Chinese culture dates back thousands of years, but its traditions still hold a strong influence in modern China today. Each province is home to sometimes multiple ethnic groups and their own regional customs and cuisine. Besides the Han people which is the largest ethnic group with 91%, there are 55 ethnic minority groups. With each practicing their own cultural customs. While traveling through China, we had the opportunity to see the long-haired Yao woman in Guilin. We tried the local bamboo rice dish while being at the Longji Rice terraces, truly an unforgettable experience. In Zhangjiajie, we had the pleasure of hearing mountain songs from the Tujia people. In Guizhou and surrounding areas, you can admire the beautiful clothing style and silver crowns of the Miao people.
BOOK A TOUR | Find the perfect tour to explore the Longji rice terraces.
Besides its ethnical diversity, China is very rich in customs and traditions. Think of tea ceremonies, yearly festivals, operas, the art of tai chi or calligraphy, medicine, and traditional massages. While traveling there try to experience at least one of the above. Even while wandering around you will surely bump into somebody practicing the art of calligraphy or tai chi. Both practices are to this date common in the Chinese public scene, especially among the elderly.
Is China a safe country to travel to? In our experience and according to numbers, definitely yes. Despite coming across as an overwhelming country, with around 2 billion people and highly populated cities, China is rated as one of the safest countries to live, work, study, and travel. The country makes it a top priority to guarantee people’s safety, definitely when it comes to the safety of foreigners. China has one of the lowest capital crime rates in the world. When walking around you will notice that a lot of surveillance is in place. This can be in the form of officers and cameras in public places such as shopping malls, parks, streets, etc.
As a woman (Frédérique here speaking) I felt perfectly comfortable walking around at night on the streets of Shanghai. Of Course, we advise you to always be careful and watch your belongings. Definitely, for solo travelers and in more tourist places. Keep your common sense at all times, and don’t fall victim to any tourist traps!
Something you might find surprising is that China is actually quite an affordable travel destination. Prices are definitely way cheaper than most Western countries and fairly comparable to Southeast Asian countries. Of course in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, you can make it as expensive as you like. Around tourist places, you will most likely find restaurants that are in the same price class as in the West. But anywhere you go, you can find food, comfortable accommodation & transportation for everyone’s budget. You can slurp a bowl of hand-pulled noodles or bite into some delicious Xiǎo lóng bāo for next to nothing. You won’t burn a hole in your wallet here trying out different street foods and dishes.
BOOK A HOTEL | Find your perfect accommodation for Shanghai
Within cities, you have public transport and even taxis that are really affordable. They can get you from one end of the city to the other. High-speed trains are super convenient to travel across the country at very attractive prices. The same goes for hotels, for which you can go as luxurious as you want. But also backpackers will find a wide range of possibilities. The only thing that might take a small bite out of your budget is the entrance to certain attractions, as well as the complementary services (like cable cars).
9. Shopping Walhalla
No surprise there, but China is the ultimate shopping paradise. If it was closer to home, we would regularly return on a shopping trip to Shanghai. Besides the typical tourist spots to buy your souvenirs, keep your eyes open for some locally handcrafted items. From beautiful silk, and jade bracelets, or carved statues to Chinese tea sets and calligraphy pens. Also, the fashionistas are spoiled here with the latest trends in some of the coolest shopping malls. You definitely might want to bring an extra suitcase!
10. Development & Modernization
Those who love big city vibes, will not fall short in China. Next to Hong Kong, our own favorite Shanghai, but also Chengdu, Chongqing, and Beijing will blow you off your socks. Personally, we would definitely suggest Shanghai as an example to get a taste of modern-day China. The ever-changing skyline by the Huangpu river is the perfect symbol for a country like China that is constantly changing. While you can still see a lot of the old traditions everywhere you go, China rises head and shoulders with its development above the rest. Exquisite shopping malls that are seemingly built overnight, infrastructure connecting major cities from north to south, and well-organized transport. The best part is, that all you need is your smartphone to get around. Visiting one of the big cities will leave you totally flabbergasted and curious about the future to come.
11. Travel Convenience
Traveling through such a big and widespread country as China has never been as easy as it’s today. In the cities themselves, public transport will easily get you to every place. The operating metro systems are one of the most organized we have ever seen. They will get you from one point of the city to the other in no time. Most of the time stops are also mentioned in English and otherwise, there are useful apps that you can download.
Having a smartphone will get you easily anywhere in China. As a highly digitalized country, you can buy & find everything here with just a click. The same goes for taxis, you can use the app Didi to get a cab (something like uber). They are plentiful everywhere and are relatively cheap, perfect to get back home after a night exploring the town. We advise you to always carry a name card from your hotel or destination in Chinese characters with you to show the driver, since not every driver’s English is that great.
Want to travel to your next destination on the itinerary? The high-speed train from Shanghai to Beijing will get you there in just a couple of hours at 350km/h and that for really modest prices. Traveling through China is like a breeze. We definitely suggest experiencing these high-speed trains, if not only for the efficiency and comfort, then it’s for the breathtaking views you will be treated to along the way. Otherwise, there are enough national flights at reasonable prices to get you anywhere you wanna go.
Need any more reasons to visit China?
After traveling to a few other Asian countries before and having a vision of what China would be like, we have to be honest: nothing can prepare you beforehand. When you start exploring and traveling within this country and all the beauty that it has to offer, so many things will impress you. We can already scratch off a lot of amazing moments on our bucket list, but there are so many more things to do. Whether you want to get your hiking hearts going, enjoy some tropical islands, or experience big-city vibes, China has got you covered! We hope to have inspired you with our favorite reasons to visit China. But ultimately we just advise you to get out there with an open mind and experience it for yourself.
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