Great China Itineraries: How Many Days to Spend?

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Although this is often stated about a number of travel destinations, China truly does have it all. From its diverse landscape and divine cuisine to its old-world charm and fascinating culture, a tour to China has something to offer even the most seasoned travelers. Whether you plan to spend your time wandering the streets of Shanghai, marveling at the Great Wall, or tucking into street food in Beijing, you’re sure to have one of the most unforgettable travel experiences of your life.

On the flip side, planning a trip to a country this large and diverse can be daunting. That’s where we come in. Read on for an overview of the best China itineraries to help you plan your trip based on how long you can go for.

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How long should I stay in China?

A view of the towers in Pudong, Shanghai included in your China itinerary
The Pearl Tower has a revolving restaurant that provides a scenic 360° view of Shanghai

Wondering just how long your China itinerary needs to be? Well, we wouldn’t recommend visiting China for any less than a week. The country is vast, to say the least, with so many different sides to it. A 7-day China itinerary would be just enough time to discover the highlights of the two major cities, Beijing and Shanghai, with an additional third city such as Xi’an

To really immerse yourself into all that this incredible country has to offer, stay for longer. If you can, we’d recommend spending around two weeks in China. This gives you enough time to take in must-sees, like the Great Wall, as well as hidden gems such as the Leshan Giant Buddha. You’ll also have time to really soak in all that you’re seeing and generally stroll along at a much more leisurely pace.

The pillar-like formations in Zhangjiajie National Forest park
Previously named Dayong, Zhangjiajie has a recorded history dating back to 221 BC

Have anywhere from nine to twelve days to spend in China? Then check out our top 10-day China itineraries. Ten days may seem like a lot, but trust us when we say that time will fly by in China. In addition to covering all the highlights of Shanghai, Xian, and Beijing as described above, you can explore a completely different side of the country by heading onwards to the famous mountains of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. This is one of those ‘it has to be seen to be believed’ type of destinations. You may find it a little familiar as it served as the inspiration for the scenery in the epic movie, Avatar. Be sure to visit nearby Baofeng Lake, which is situated in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area near Zhangjiajie. Soak in the incredible scenery before making your way to the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge. You can see how adding on just an extra few days in your China itinerary gives you a chance to discover some of the sublime natural landscape of China.

You can also browse through out 10-day tours and trips in China to book one instantly.

The Gate of Supreme Harmony which was built during the Ming dynasty
The Gate of Supreme Harmony is the second major gate in the south of the Forbidden City in Beijing
A handful of  cracked and beheaded Terracotta Army statues
The famed Terracotta Army protects the tomb of China's first emperor

Only have around seven days to spend in China? This might not be enough time to really explore China, but you can cover the highlights of the major cities if it’s all the time you can spare (until your next trip to China, of course). Spend the first two to three days in the bustling city of Beijing. Here, you can spend a day or two wandering through all the sights around Tiananmen Square, including the Forbidden City, the most well-known imperial palace complex in the country. And of course, you can’t leave Beijing without spending at least half a day visiting (and snapping selfies) on the famous Great Wall. 

Head onwards to the city of Xian for a couple of days, where you’ll be fascinated by the life-like terracotta warriors at Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum. You can also learn a lot about the country’s history with a guided walking tour of the ancient capital, discovering the Xian City Wall and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

Finish off your week in China with two to three days in Shanghai, where you’ll discover the most modern side of the country. Must-dos include visiting the Yu (Yuyuan) Garden, wandering the streets of the former French Concession, and taking in the views of the city’s impressive skyline from the Bund. 

Try browsing through our one-week trip in China for more inspiration.

Night view of cruises and the Pudong Skyline in Shanghai
Pudong District in Shanghai is located on the east of the Huangpu River

With a two-week China itinerary, you can really get a feel for just how diverse this country is. After you’ve spent the first week or so following a similar China itinerary as suggested above, it’s time to immerse yourself in the natural side of China. 

Did you know that China has many incredible rivers, including one of the longest in the world? Take a river cruise in China and you’ll get to discover a side of the country that you never could on foot. As part of your two week trip to China, we’d recommend adding in a 4-day cruise on the Yangtze River, also known as Chang Jiang or “The Long River”. You’ll be surrounded by stupendous scenery throughout, such as the magnificent sight of the Three Gorges Dam. 

For more ideas and inspiration check out our recommended 2-week itineraries. Or book a 14-day tour in China with us right away!

China in 3 weeks

People boating and relaxing at the Covered Corridor, Xitang Water Town
Xitang is a local water town and home to well-preserved buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties
A panda resting its head and looking up at the sky
Chengdu Panda Base works to improve Giant Panda conservation

If you have three weeks to spend in China, we’re more than a little jealous! This amount of time gives you the luxury of discovering the country at a slower pace. Instead of just doing a whistle-stop tour of the most popular sights in each of the three cities mentioned above, you can spend time wandering through the city backstreets and discovering the hidden gems. You’ll also have time to fit in a day trip to the ancient water town of Xitang, not far from Shanghai.

This longer, three-week China itinerary also gives you the chance to discover more of China’s diversity. When you’re done with the cities and a three or four day Yangtze River cruise, add in a trip to Chengdu. Nearby, you’ll find the 71-meter-tall Leshan Giant Buddha, as well as the Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre where you can spend at least a day observing these fascinating (and adorable) animals. Finally, take a couple of days to visit the enchanting Tibetan town of Shangrila, where you’ll find yourself transported to another time altogether. 


If you need more help planning your trip or working out the best China itinerary, don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts. If you’d like to book a package or join a group tour, check out our China tours page for more ideas.

Published by Kate Haley, updated on September 17, 2021
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