5 things to see in China beyond the Great Wall

Enjoying China to its Fullest

China is often synonymous with the Great Wall, but there’s so much more to this vast and diverse country than its most famous landmark. From bustling metropolises to serene landscapes, China offers a plethora of experiences that cater to all kinds of travelers. If you’re planning a trip to China and want to explore beyond the Great Wall, here are five must-see attractions that will leave you spellbound.

1. The Terracotta Army in Xi’an: A Journey Back in Time

Imagine standing in front of thousands of life-sized clay soldiers, each with unique facial features, guarding the tomb of China’s first emperor. The Terracotta Army in Xi’an is one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of the 20th century and a testament to ancient China’s ingenuity and artistry.

Why You Should Visit:

  • Historical Significance: The Terracotta Army was created over 2,000 years ago to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. The sheer scale and detail of this army provide a fascinating glimpse into China’s past.
  • Cultural Experience: Visiting the site offers an immersive experience into Chinese history and culture, showcasing the craftsmanship and beliefs of the Qin Dynasty.
  • Photography Heaven: The Terracotta Army is a dream come true for photographers. The vast pits filled with soldiers, horses, and chariots create stunning visuals.

2. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: Avatar’s Floating Mountains

If you’re a fan of the movie “Avatar,” then the towering sandstone pillars of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park might look familiar. These unique rock formations are said to have inspired the floating Hallelujah Mountains in the film.

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Why You Should Visit:

  • Natural Beauty: The park is home to over 3,000 sandstone pillars and peaks, some as tall as 200 meters. The mist that often envelops the area adds an ethereal quality to the landscape.
  • Adventure Activities: For thrill-seekers, the park offers the world’s longest and highest glass bridge, which spans 430 meters across a canyon.
  • Biodiversity: Zhangjiajie is rich in flora and fauna, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers.

3. The Li River in Guilin: Postcard-Perfect Scenery

The Li River, with its picturesque karst mountains and tranquil waters, has been immortalized in countless Chinese paintings and poems. A cruise along the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo is a must-do for anyone looking to experience China’s natural beauty.

Why You Should Visit:

  • Scenic Cruises: The 83-kilometer journey offers breathtaking views of rolling hills, bamboo groves, and quaint villages. Each bend of the river reveals a new and stunning vista.
  • Cultural Immersion: Along the river, you’ll see traditional cormorant fishermen and rural life, giving you a taste of China’s cultural heritage.
  • Outdoor Activities: Yangshuo, the endpoint of the cruise, is known for its outdoor activities, including rock climbing, biking, and hot air ballooning.

4. The Forbidden City in Beijing: Imperial Grandeur

While the Great Wall might be China’s most famous attraction, the Forbidden City in Beijing is a close second. This vast palace complex served as the home of Chinese emperors for nearly 500 years and is a masterpiece of Chinese architecture and history.

Why You Should Visit:

  • Architectural Marvel: The Forbidden City consists of 980 surviving buildings, each showcasing traditional Chinese palatial architecture. The intricate details and vast scale are awe-inspiring.
  • Historical Insights: As you walk through the courtyards and halls, you’ll get a sense of the opulence and power of China’s imperial dynasties. The Palace Museum houses countless artifacts from ancient China.
  • Cultural Significance: The Forbidden City is not just a relic of the past; it’s a symbol of China’s cultural and historical heritage. Exploring it provides a deeper understanding of Chinese civilization.
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5. Jiuzhaigou Valley: A Natural Wonderland

Located in Sichuan Province, Jiuzhaigou Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its multi-colored lakes, waterfalls, and snow-capped peaks. This fairyland-like destination is perfect for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.

Why You Should Visit:

  • Stunning Landscapes: Jiuzhaigou is famous for its crystal-clear lakes, vibrant foliage, and cascading waterfalls. The Five Flower Lake, with its turquoise waters, is particularly mesmerizing.
  • Biodiversity: The valley is home to a variety of wildlife, including the giant panda. Although sightings are rare, the possibility adds an element of excitement to your visit.
  • Cultural Experience: The area is also inhabited by Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups. Visiting their villages offers a glimpse into their unique cultures and traditions.

While the Great Wall of China is undoubtedly a must-see, venturing beyond it reveals a treasure trove of experiences that showcase the country’s rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant culture. From the ancient wonders of Xi’an to the natural beauty of Zhangjiajie, Guilin, Jiuzhaigou, and the imperial grandeur of Beijing, there’s something for every traveler.