Everything about China is large! It’s a large country, it has the largest palace complex, the largest Buddha statue, and not to forget, the Great Wall of China! Considering all this, the experiences that you are bound to gain while travelling in this nation will also be largely impressive, so sit back and read about the 10 must-have experiences in China.
1. Behold the mighty Leshan Buddha
It is truly a sight to behold and no photograph in this world can do justice to this monolithic statue of the Buddha. Carved out of a hill, this 71-meters-tall statue overlooks the confluence of three rivers, Min, Qingyi, and Dadu. It took over 90 years to complete the statue, an incredible feat of human engineering!
This largest Buddha statue in the world is located to the east of Leshan City of the Sichuan Province. The artistry is simply amazing. Here’s something to ponder upon – there are about 1,021 buns skillfully embedded on the head of the Buddha! This UNESCO listed World Heritage Site should definitely be on your list while visiting China.
2. Meet the army of Terracotta Warriors
The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang’s massive mausoleum is bound to leave you in awe and wonder. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the finest example of China’s ancient burial rituals and architectural style; it’s also one of the most visited sites of the country. This necropolis in Xi’an was constructed on the instructions of the celebrated king, he wanted his mausoleum to be filled with his precious gems and jewels and made thousands of terracotta soldiers that would protect him in his afterlife. The beauty lies in the detailing that has gone into the making each and every soldier – all have distinctive features, they vary in height, and sport uniforms according to their ranks and there are at least 8,000 of them – a true masterpiece!
3. Spend an evening by the Bund
The symbol of Shanghai, the Bund is a must-visit. It’s the best place to see and admire various architectural buildings ranging from Gothic, the Renaissance, Baroque, and Neo-Classical. The promenade along the Huangpu River is usually brimming with tourists and locals alike. Enjoy the sunset or take a stroll, or stay until late evening to view the marvelous Shanghai skyline, the Bund will not disappoint you. If you are an early riser, head to the waterfront to see health conscious locals practicing Tai chi, jogging, and more.
4. Head to the Avatar Mountains
The renowned director of Avatar movie, James Cameron took inspiration from the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan province which is famous for the 3,000 majestic quartzite-sandstone geological pinnacles that have been formed over millions of years. The sub-tropical climate is the result of evergreen shrubs making these giants their home. The early morning mist around them makes them appear to be floating in the air – the view is surreal! The forest park has ample fauna and floras and boasts of over 149 animal species. Once unknown to the world, the forest is now flooded with tourists, thanks to the blockbuster movie – Avatar. Head there soon before its gets more popular!
5. Check out the Potala Palace
Perched upon Marpo Ri hill, at an altitude of 3,700 metres, the White and Red Palaces of Potala are awe-inspiring. This architectural marvel in Lhasa was once the administrative seat of the Tibetan Government and winter residence of the Dalai Lamas. The name of the palace is derived from Mt. Potala, a mythological mountain. Containing more than 1000 rooms, comprising of prayer halls, golden stupas, and splendid chapels, the palace gives an insight into the scale and artistic wealth of Tibetan culture. Remember to book your tickets in advance, and arrive an hour before your allotted time or you will be refused an entry, so plan your visit way in advance.
6. Marvel at the Longmen Grottoes
Your search for ancient Buddhist cave art ends here! Located in the south of Luoyang city, these caves are a treasure trove of Buddhist carvings and sculptures, dating back to centuries. There are about 2100 grottoes or caves, 785 niches, more than 100,000 Buddha images and statues. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located on the bank of river Yi; the first construction of the cave began in 493 AD and continued for over 400 years; spanning over six successive dynasties of Emperor Xiaowen.
7. Explore the Forbidden City
The world’s largest imperial palace, the Forbidden City or Palace Museum is an expansive palace complex in the heart of Beijing city. Home to 24 emperors, the Forbidden City has 980 buildings, 90 palace quarters and courtyards, and over 8,728 rooms – the scale and enormity of this palace complex is well-worth your time and money. The museum has ancient treasures and historical artifacts – a collection that is beyond comparison. It is China’s biggest tourist attraction, drawing over 14 million visitors annually. The complex is so huge that it’s not possible to see it on one go, so head to the nearby Jingshan Park and enjoy the view of the entire complex from the hilltop. It’s advisable to hire a knowledgeable guide to understand the history better, the guide will also help in avoiding the crowds.
8. Get amused by the super cute giant pandas
Lazy and complete foodies, the giant pandas can be seen frolicking around the Chengdu Panda Base. It’s hard to escape the antics of these super cute pandas! The base is a breeding centre for these pandas and has created an environment to safe guard these endangered species – also a national treasure of China! Visitors come to Sichuan to see these adorable animals in their full glory, especially the little pandas. Full of bamboo groves, the park in itself quite peaceful and makes for a great stroll!
9. Pray in the Temple of Heaven
Recognized as a “masterpiece of architecture and landscape design”, the Temple of Heaven stands true to its name. The holiest imperial temple of Beijing, it is also a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Built in 1420 by the Ming dynasty, it was a place to pray for a good harvest. The temple complex has a Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest which is built without a single nail. Visit the temple in the morning and you will find people practicing Tai chi, sword fighting, or practicing traditional dance.
10. Cruise the river Li
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, float on the motorized rafts or cruise down the Li River to experience ultimate calmness and soak in the breathtaking scenery. If you happen to be in the Guangxi Province, make sure you take some time out to enjoy the sail from Guilin to Yangshuo; the 83 km stretch takes about three hours to complete. As you go floating down the river, you will be greeted with misty karst mountains, ancient villages and paddy rice fields, offering a poetic setting. In Yangshuo, you can hire a kayak and go about discovering the tranquility of the place, all by yourself!
Though not on the list, but a trip to China is incomplete without visiting the Great Wall of China. It’s a quintessential China experience that is hard to overlook, Xièxiè! ( Thank You)