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The Top 7 Must See Places in China (and How to Get A Visa)

Jason has a background in business, travel, and athletics. He is happy to share his knowledge with others and loves to continually learn.

Why China?

China is an amazing country with much diversity, natural beauty, and man-made wonders. With 5000 years of history, Chinese culture has more depth than just about any other and that means there is so much more for visitors to explore and discover.

China is made up of 33 provinces (34 of Taiwan is included), municipalities, and special regions. An example of a municipality is Shanghai; the city is so large that it is basically its own state or province.

China has natural diversity with several different mountainous regions, lots of plain regions, and of course the massive Gobi Desert which is shared with Mongolia.

Beautiful China

Wulingyuan National Park, an inspiration for the movie Avatar, is one of the beautiful sites in China. However, it is difficult to access.

Wulingyuan National Park, an inspiration for the movie Avatar, is one of the beautiful sites in China. However, it is difficult to access.

#7 The Presidential Palace in Nanjing

This grand home sprawls out over 90,000 square meters. Visitors can view buildings, rooms, and gardens that have been maintained or restored to look just as they did when Nanjing was the capital of China back from the early 1900s.

A garden view of the Presidential Palace grounds.

A garden view of the Presidential Palace grounds.

#6 Shaolin Temple

This birthplace of Kung-Fu is one of the most authentic places to visit. Located in Central China, it is older and less accessible than many other sites. This makes it less busy. Mountains surrounding the temple add complete the picturesque scene. The temple is situated within Henan Province and is a few hours drive from the largest and capital city of Zhengzhou.

the-top-20-must-see-places-in-china

#5 Hong Kong Shopping

Hong Kong was formerly part of the United Kingdom and as a result, it feels and looks different from the mainland. Hong Kong is famous for shopping ranging from open air markets where one can pick their favorite hanging fish to luxury malls with the world's most high-end fashion brands.

#4 - Terracotta Warriors

Thousands of soldiers buried and now uncovered? This exhibit is truly on of the most unique sites in all of China. The downside: it's become quite the tourist attraction and it's often crowded, making the visit slightly less enjoyable.

The Terracotta Army's pit 1 contains 4,000 infantry and 50 chariots.  The museum has been built over the pit to protect the army from natural elements.

The Terracotta Army's pit 1 contains 4,000 infantry and 50 chariots. The museum has been built over the pit to protect the army from natural elements.

The infantry solders in detail.

The infantry solders in detail.

A view from outside the museum.

A view from outside the museum.

#3 Beijing Olympic Park

When China won the bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic games, they went all out building a park to surround all of the major venues. Each building itself represents an architectural masterpiece, and together the Olympic Park is truly spectacular.

A combination of fog and pollution slightly shroud the "Birds Nest" National Stadium.

A combination of fog and pollution slightly shroud the "Birds Nest" National Stadium.

#2 The Bund at Shanghai

Observe on the most fantastic skylines with three towers reaching above 400 meters on the edge of the Pudong River with historic European buildings just behind. At one point, a majority of Shanghai was controlled by various European powers who setup areas called "concessions." While China has controlled all of Shanghai for some time, many of the older buildings still exist.

A view of the Shanghai Central Business District/Pudong District from the west side of the Pudong River. British concession buildings are directly behind.

A view of the Shanghai Central Business District/Pudong District from the west side of the Pudong River. British concession buildings are directly behind.

Old British buildings from the former British concession.

Old British buildings from the former British concession.

#1 The Great Wall of China

Some say it's overrated. Yes, much of the wall is deteriorating and many of the more "famous" sections have been remodeled. But the wall is without a doubt one of the most outstanding structures created in human history. It's definitely worth the visit.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The flag of the People's Republic of China

The flag of the People's Republic of China

Getting a Visa

While some visitors from certain countries can tour china visa free, those from the US and many EU nations must obtain a tourist visa prior to travel.

The first step is to ensure that you have valid passport with a minimum of six months before expiring. Getting a passport can take a month or two (with some exceptions for emergency travel) so it's important to get started right away.

Next, you'll need photos (just like passport photos) to submit. You'll need to complete this form from the Chinese Embassy.

You'll also be required to show your travel plan. Which cities and places do you intend to visit and on which dates? Finally, the Chinese embassy or consulate usually requires a letter of invitation from the person or entity you are visiting or where you are staying.

For more information, visit the Chinese Embassy (to the USA) ebsite.

For some, the visa process is a reasonable DYI project; others prefer to use an agency for more convenience. Agency pricing usually start around $100-150 and can go up depending on the level and speed of service.

Which One?

Comments

John on September 30, 2018:

I've been to HK but I would like to explore the mainland. I'm inspired by their rich culture and history.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on September 27, 2018:

I wish to visit the Great Wall of China, which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Liz Westwood from UK on September 27, 2018:

This is a well-written and well-illustrated article. It gives a great introduction to China.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 27, 2018:

I have been to Hong Kong, the Bund and the Great Wall but I want to see the Terra Cotta warriors. There are so many places in China to visit and I want to go back.