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8 Days in China  - The Best 3 Itineraries for First Time Travelers

8 Days in China - The Best 3 Itineraries for First Time Travelers

Written by Ruru ZhouUpdated May. 26, 2023

China is famous for its historical sights, cultural experiences, and natural wonders. It is full of exotic Eastern charm, offering discovery to Western travelers at every turn.

8 days in China is too short a time to fully experience its diverse culture, history, and natural beauty. However, by carefully selecting and prioritizing destinations and activities, you can still gain a foundational glimpse into Chinese culture and heritage that matches your interests.

Gain inspiration for your 8-day China tour with our top 3 itinerary options. Let us help you make the most of your time in this fascinating country.

China's Best Cities to Visit in 8 DaysThe Terracotta Army

The most popular destinations in China are Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Guilin, and Chengdu.

  • Beijing: As the capital of China, the city showcases a unique mix of historical and modern charm.
  • Shanghai: The vibrant metropolis of China paints a vivid image of China's rapid development with its ambitious and captivating skyline.
  • Xi'an: Xi'an provides a window to ancient and medieval Chinese culture and history.
  • Guilin: An idyllic and tranquil retreat, this area boasts rural charm, verdant karst hills, and serene rivers.
  • Chengdu: Chengdu is the hometown of giant pandas.

1) A Classic 8-Day China Itinerary for Couples and Families

This is the most selected China itinerary for a first China trip. In 8 days, you would discover China's ancient history, rich culture, and modern development.

Ideal for: first-time visitors to China who want the classic China experience

  • Days 1-3: Beijing
  • Days 4-5: Xian
  • Days 6-8: Shanghai
8-day classic China itinerary

Beijing's airports have China's largest number of international flights, so it is an ideal first stop for a China tour.  

In Beijing, explore the Great Wall by walking on its centuries-old bricks. If you would like to have a more authentic experience of the Wall, take a hike along the unrestored section from Jinshanling to Simatai. Marvel at the lavish lifestyle of medieval emperors at the Forbidden City, and get a glimpse of local life by visiting traditional hutongs.

For a special experience, we recommend that you visit the Great Wall at sunset when all the travelers have left. Enjoy having the Wall to yourself, and take some stunning pictures. Or, if you would like to be immersed in the local culture, visit a family in an old hutong, or you could explore a local market or community area where authentic everyday life unfolds.

The Great Wall at sunset

In Xi'an, Discover the awe-inspiring Terracotta Army up close, and make your own terracotta warrior to take home as a memento with a local artisan's guidance.

Stroll atop the City Wall of Xi'an, where the well-preserved architecture and grand wall extent transport you back in time. For an unusual-yet-memorable experience, take a leisurely bike ride on the medieval wall.

In Shanghai, Elevate to the top of the Shanghai Tower — the tallest building in China, the second tallest in the world, and you would have an inspiring view of the city's impressive skyline and a glimpse into China's dynamic future.

Don't miss a visit to the Bund, which showcases a unique blend of architectural styles displaying Shanghai's rich history and diverse influences.

Recommended A time-smart choice
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2). China 8-Day Itinerary with Scenic Guilin

  • Days 1-3: Beijing
  • Days 4-5: Xian
  • Days 6-8: Guilin
8-day China itinerary with Guilin

This itinerary highlights China's historical charm, modernity, captivating natural scenery, and serene rural life. For travelers who would like to appreciate natural beauty and traditional Chinese life, this tour itinerary is an unbeatable choice.

Ideal for: travelers who like history, beautiful scenery, and outdoor activities, and those looking for a more relaxed travel experience.

In Beijing, Discover the best of Beijing in 3 days. Hike along China's imperial-era defense line — the Great Wall, marvel at the splendor of the ancient imperial palace complex at the Forbidden City (boasting 9,999 rooms), and enjoy a relaxing stroll at a tranquil royal garden — the Summer Palace, just as the more recent emperors did.  

Don't forget to visit one of the city's vibrant night markets to fully immerse yourself in the bustling local atmosphere.

In Xi'an:  A visit to the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an is a must for any traveler to China. Marvel at these impressive millennia-old figures up close. To enhance the experience, you might like to make a clay warrior yourself and take it home. Don't miss out on this fascinating activity!

Take a leisurely stroll on the City Wall of Xi'an, and witness the captivating blend of old and new within the cityscape. Remember to take lots of beautiful photos along the way!

  • Peaceful rural scenery in Guilin

In Guilin: Have a few relaxing and enjoyable days in Guilin and Yangshuo. The city and the peaceful surrounding rural areas offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Take a Li River cruise, and enjoy the breathtaking karst mountains, lush greenery, and rural scenery. Enjoy relaxing free time exploring the serene rivers and picturesque lakes within the city.

Recommended tour: Classic Wonders (without Shanghai) — 8-Day Beijing–Xi'an–Guilin Tour

Recommended The best choice for first-timers

3) Classic China 8-Day Itinerary with Giant Pandas

If you're a fan of giant pandas and have limited time to explore China, this tour itinerary is perfect for you. This 8-day itinerary combines cultural and historical experience, an opportunity to see giant pandas, and a culinary adventure.

Ideal for: Travelers who love giant pandas.

  • Days 1-3: Beijing
  • Days 4-5: Xian
  • Days 6-8: Chengdu
China in 8 day itinerary with giant pandas

In Beijing, hike the Great Wall of China, delve into the ancient palace complex of the Forbidden City, and stroll through the hutongs to explore old Beijing.

It's highly recommended to visit the Great Wall at sunset when most travelers have left, providing a great opportunity to capture awe-inspiring photos.

In Xi'an, Discover the awe-inspiring Terracotta Army and stroll along Xi'an's City Wall. Venture into the Muslim Quarter and savor local street food.

Giant Panda, Chengdu

In Chengdu: Chengdu is the hometown of giant pandas. The cute pandas are definitely the highlight of most Chengdu trips. Witness the adorable pandas as they munch on bamboo, climb trees, lounge on branches, or playfully roll on the ground. Their cuteness would surely melt your heart.

Chengdu's cuisine is a must-try for any visitor to the city. Known as a gourmet's paradise, Chengdu offers an abundance of culinary delights. Stroll through Jinli Old Street and sample the local street food. It would be a truly unforgettable Chinese food experience.

Recommended tour: Land of Pandas (first 8 days) — 8-Day Beijing–Xi'an–Chengdu Tour

RecommendedBest for children in a Mandarin Immersion Program

Your Ideal 8-Day China Itinerary — Tailor-Made

We are experts at designing tours to meet our client's individual requirements. If your ideal 8-day China trip would require an adjustment from the itineraries above, or if you would like something quite different, simply contact us and we'll create your dream tour.

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