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17-Day China Itineraries: 4 Unique Options

17-Day China Itineraries: 4 Unique Options

Written by Chris QuanUpdated May. 17, 2023

17 days in China would allow you to have an in-depth travel experience.

You could cover the most popular cultural and natural destinations, including China’s top landmarks and some relaxing outdoor activities.

You could also choose to visit some off-the-beaten-track routes for more unique experiences.

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1. The Most-Chosen 17-Day China Itinerary

If it is your first time to visit China and you want a highlight-rich and leisurely travel experience, this itinerary is suitable for you.

You could leave your footprints on the Great Wall, explore China's imperial past in the Forbidden City, see the inspiration for Avatar’s Hallelujah Mountains, and enjoy leisurely countryside life within a picturesque pastoral landscape.

  • Days 1‒5: Beijing
  • Days 6‒7: Xi’an
  • Days 8‒10: Zhangjiajie
  • Days 11‒14: Guilin
  • Days 15‒16: Shanghai

Days 1‒5: Beijing

As the first stop and capital city, you are suggested to spend a little more time in Beijing to adjust to jet lag and have a more in-depth and authentic experience.

The must-see attractions that are regularly visited, like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, need about 3 days.

But for a deeper experience, you could spend more time on the Great Wall with a night visit and a stay in a town below the Wall, where you could have interesting hands-on experiences like tie-dying, or a camping and hiking tour.

For more authentic ways to experience local life, taking a rickshaw to visit the hutongs, visiting a local market, or visiting a local family and chatting with the host are all good ideas. We could arrange them for you.

Recommended The best choice for first-timers

Days 6‒7: Xi’an

The highlight of Xi’an is visiting its top attraction — the Terracotta Warriors, which could be complemented with a special hands-on experience of making your own clay warrior. It would allow you to better understand the history and artisan-ship behind the Terracotta Army.

Shaanxi History Museum and Big Wild Goose Pagoda are also musts. You also learn much about China’s ancient and medieval history there.

For foodies, the Muslim Quarter is the place to explore local delicacies.

Days 8‒10: Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie National Park is definitely a breathtaking place to go. You could see Hallelujah Mountain and other pillars that helped provide the inspiration for Avatar. Its gorgeous steep trails are excellent for hiking.

Challenge yourself by walking on the world's longest and highest glass-floored bridge.

You could also take the world's longest cable car to the top of Tianmen Mountain and enjoy its eye-catching natural scenery of spiky peaks.

RecommendedThe best choice for nature lovers

Days 11‒14: Guilin

In Guilin, you could slow your pace and enjoy stunning countryside views while doing some relaxing outdoor activities with your kids or partner.

Spend a day in Longsheng County to see its incredible terraced fields with a light walking tour.

And spend a day in Guilin for city sightseeing, followed by a river cruise to see the area’s celebrated karst landscape.

The other two days would be spent in Yangshuo, where you could take a bamboo raft, ride a bike, or ride a sidecar to explore the countryside. Walk between the paddy fields and meet the locals.

Days 15‒16: Shanghai

In Shanghai, the Bund is the place to go to capture its essence. An in-depth walking tour is recommended, which would take you into some of the old Bund buildings and bring you to an understanding of their golden age and backstories.

Shanghai is one of the most developed cities in China. You could go up to the top of Shanghai Tower, tallest building in China, to overlook the whole city, or take a cruise on the Huangpu River to see its skyline rise above you.

You would also get some free time in your last stop to wrap up your tour your way — enjoy a relaxing spa, have fun in a rooftop bar, go shopping...

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2. 17 Days in China with a Panda Experience

If you want pandas on your 17-day-in-China to-do list, you could consider this itinerary:

  • Days 1‒4: Beijing sightseeing with must-see landmarks, a hutong tour, and some cultural experiences
  • Days 5‒6: Xi’an (the Terracotta Warriors, museums, and a food tour)
  • Days 7‒9: Chengdu with a panda program
  • Days 10‒14: Yangtze River cruise with shore excursions
  • Days 15‒16: Shanghai (the Bund, Yu Garden, and some free time)
  • Day 17: Departure

To make your first trip to China complete with a panda encounter, besides the classic route — Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, Chengdu — hometown of pandas —should be included.

We would specially arrange a panda volunteer program to suit you. You would have the chance to have a close encounter with some lovely pandas. During the program, you would get to go into pandas’ bedroom for daily cleaning duties, make their favorite cakes, watch them being fed, and get a souvenir certificate.

In Chengdu, you could also go to People’s Park to see what Chengdu people’s daily life is like. Try some interesting experiences that locals enjoy, such as a Chinese kung-fu tea show.

With a 17-day itinerary, you could also enjoy a leisurely Yangtze River cruise to slow down and appreciate the stunning natural scenery and other attractions along the Yangtze River.

Recommended The best choice for panda fans

3. A 17-Day China Itinerary with Tibet

With a 17-day itinerary, you could also choose to go to Tibet, one of life's must-see destinations for many, known for its unique culture and untouched beauty.

You could spend 8 to 10 days to explore Tibet in combination with “the golden triangle”:

  • Days 1‒4: Beijing with iconic landmarks and cultural experiences
  • Days 5‒6: Xi’an with a visit to the Terracotta Warriors
  • Days 7‒15: Tibet with Lhasa highlights and Everest Base Camp
  • Days 16‒17: Shanghai with a Bund trip and free time activities

In Tibet, go to the iconic Potala Palace, visit famous and less-traveled monasteries, meet locals and see their daily life in Barkhor Street, have a picnic by on a Yamdrok lakeside, and go to Everest Base camp, leaving your footprints on “the roof of the world”.

If you are interested in the Tibetan lifestyle, we can arrange for you to visit a local Tibetan family. You could talk to the host (with our guide’s interpreting) about the family’s life and help them with farming work.

Please note: Tibet Entry Permits are a must for foreign travelers to visit Tibet. They should be applied for at least 2 weeks in advance. We can handle it for you when you book a tour with us.

RecommendedTop Tibet itinerary

4. A 17-Day China Tour of the Silk Road

The Silk Road is a great choice if you prefer an off-the-beaten-path route, especially you are interested in ancient grottoes, deserts, and Xinjiang with its exotic culture and unique landscapes.

9 to 10 days would be on the Silk Road with 7 to 8 days in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an:

  • Days 1‒4: Beijing sightseeing
  • Days 5‒6: Xi’an sightseeing
  • Day 7: Zhangye (see “rainbow mountains” — a unique Danxia landform)
  • Days 8‒10: Dunhuang (Buddhist grottoes, dreamy desert, and a remote section of the Great Wall)
  • Days 11‒15: Xinjiang (a Uygur culture experience and Heavenly Mountain scenery)
  • Days 16‒17: Shanghai sightseeing

The highlights of this itinerary are absolutely the scenery and cultural vibe along the Silk Road.

In Zhangye and Dunhuang, you would see marvelous landscapes with unique Danxia landforms and a beautiful oasis. Ride a camel through dunes in the pristine desert. Visit the old Mogao Caves to see fine murals and learn about how Buddhism entered China.

In Xinjiang, enjoy stunning scenery at Heavenly Lake and go to Urumqi's largest bazaar to feel the buzz of exotic life in the city furthest from the sea.

Visit China's largest mosque in China's westernmost city — Kashgar, and enjoy an afternoon tea in an ancient teahouse.

In Turpan, learn about the famous Karez Well System and unveil the secrets of how this ancient underground water project works. Don't miss tasting the sweet grapes and melons — regional specialties.

Recommended Silk Road Tour


The Silk Road once reached across Xinjiang and extended into Central and western Asia. If you have the time and are interested in the whole Great Silk Road, see our 21-Day The Great Silk Road Tour.

How Much Does 17 Days in China Cost?

For a private tour of China, the average cost per day is about US$220–350 per person, including flights/trains within China, 4- or 5- star hotels, lunches, attractions, guides, and private transport. 

Thus, for a couple, a 17-day private tour may cost about US$7,500–12,000 in total. You could also invite your friends and their partners to join the trip. The cost would become more affordable with a larger group.

For a family of four, it may cost about US$14,000–19,000. Kids under 10 usually get 30–50% off. (International airfares are not included.)

The cost of flights from the U.S. or Europe to China varies a lot depending on when you fly and which airline you use, from around US$1,200 to US$3,000 for an economy round trip.

RecommendedThe best choice for foodies

The Peak Season May Increase the Cost

Peak tourist times in China are the first weeks of May and October (China’s two golden weeks), summer holidays, and Christmas and New Year holidays.

The biggest price difference between the off and peak seasons is in the price of hotels and airfares. Their prices can go up by 50 to 100%.

Our refund policy minimizes the monetary risk to you when booking: you'll receive a 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights if you cancel up to three weeks before departure. (See more details)

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