Visit Northern China

Top China Destinations

China is not only one of the largest countries in the world, but also one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. More than 55 million travelers from all over the globe swarm to China, then scatter to different region of the vast land each year. The diverse geographic forms create some of the best landscape in the world – beautiful mountains, rivers and gorges in southern China, splendid gobi and desert on the northwest, dominating high plateaus on the southwest, vast grasslands in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, etc. Most charming highlight of China is its fabulous culture and history made by its more than 5,000 years old civilization. Any of the longlasting imperial culture, folk culture, or the art of poem, calligraphy, painting and others, is enough for you to get amazed by the extensiveness and profoundness of Chinese culture. So where to explore above featured culture? Of course from the historical cities and destinations, such as Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, etc.

Learn about the history, culture, attractions, transportation, weather and other travel information about a destination that you are planning to visit is very necessary. So, based on the local expertise knowledge and experience, China Discovery has collected the most popular destinations all of which are unique and easily accessed for you to find your idea destination to go.

Northern China

The northern region used to the culture center of China. It is also the cradle of Chinese civilization. Here are three greatest ancient capital cities – Beijing, Xian and Luoyang. Dunhuang, the important destination of ancient Silk Road, has the most fabulous Buddhism arts. Pingyao is famous for its Shanxi Merchants’ culture. Datong is fascinating for its Buddhism sculpture art and gorgeous temples.




Beijing is the capital city of the People’s Republic of China and the political, cultural and economic center of China. It has a glorious history which can be dated back three millennia. The most highlighting part is its great role of the ancient capital city since the past eight centuries. The city preserves the most magnificent imperial culture of China, including numerous historical architectures, relics, tradition, etc. Many world famous tourist sites are located in or near Beijing, such as Forbidden City, Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, etc.

Why visit Beijing:

  • City of World Heritage Sites - Beijing preserves seven World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Dynasty Tombs and Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal), ranking first among all the cities around the world. Visiting these sites helps travelers to touch the best essence of ancient Chinese culture and history.
  • Great Wall of China - Though the Great Wall sketches though more than a half territory of northern China, the best pieces which are regarded as the masterpiece are located in Beijing, such as Badaling Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall, etc.
  • Transportation Hub of China - Beijing is the most important transportation hub of both the economy and tourism. It is mostly chosen as an international flight arrival city. Furthermore, the flights and trains radiate to most other regions of China, including the far western Xinjiang, Tibet, etc.




Located at the center of China, the capital city of Shanxi Province - Xian, together with Athens, Rome and Cairo, are called as the top four ancient capitals in history. 13 dynasties had settled capital in Xian from the 11th century BC to the 10th century AD, and that is why the UNESCO listed Xian as the World Historical and Cultural City in 1981.

Rich history endows Xian with unique charms as a tourist city. As the home to world-famed Terracotta Warriors and Horses and as the start point of Silk Road, through which China had conducted the most important economy and culture communication with the western world, Xian draws numerous tourists with its enormous historical sites and cultural landscapes, and gives you a chance to explore the ancient China.

Why visit Xian:

  • Terracotta Warriors and Horses - There is no doubt that the Terracotta Warriors and Horses is the highlight of Xian. Buried in the ground for over 2000 years and discovered in 1974, the Terracotta Army not only matters in the art history, showing the highly skilled sculpture area of ancient China, but also fills the archeological blank of Qin Dynasty, presenting the ancient army array and revealing the ancient weapon technology.
  • Ancient Capital - No city in China is like Xian with such abundant history. As the most famous ancient capital city in Chinese history, though the dynastic times had gone, Xian still reserves many historical sites and cultural relics, which are the best way to experience the ancient China, the old and glorious days of China.




Luoyang, in the western part of Henan province, is known to all as the "capital for 13 dynasties" and "city of peonies". Located along the northern side of Luo River, Luoyang is a cradle of Chinese civilization and one of the four imperial capitals of China, together with Beijing, Xian and Nanjing.

Through the ups and downs of ancient dynasties, Luoyang has some famous historical sites like Longmen Grottoes and White Horse Temple for tourists to know its past. Dotted with old-style buildings, the Luoyang old city will take you to enjoy the local life.

Why visit this city:

  • 13 ancient capitals of China - The profound history and culture of different dynasties such as Northern Wei dynasty and Tang dynasty all left marks in Luoyang.
  • The unparalleled historical sites - The world heritage site-Longmen Grottoes, the first Chinese temple-White Horse Temple and the biggest tomb complex - Luoyang Ancient Tombs Museum.
  • Luoyang Peony Festival - Symbolizing the peace, fortune and prosperity, peony as the city flower of Luoyang, attracts thousands of tourists in April and May each year.
  • Gateway to Other Destinations of Henan - Owning an airport, a high speed train station and a normal train station, Luoyang is a great gateway to other attractions in Henan such as Shaolin Temple and Mount Yuntai.




Pingyao, located in central Shanxi province, is a county-level city. Reputed for the ancient culture, it is home to various cultural relics and about 100 historical sites. Back to its history, Pingyao Ancient City is the great witness with 2700 years of history. Considered as the best-preserved ancient walled city in China and Pingyao city was listed as a World Cultural Heritage site. Around the city, The Shuanglin Temple and Zhenguo Temple will impress you more with its classic architectural styles and imperial treasure of painted sculptures.

Why visit this city:

  • Pingyao Ancient City - By keeping all the features of Chinese Han nationality during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it displays a complete picture of the unusual cultural, social, economic development for tourists tracing back the prosperity of that period.
  • Imposing courtyards - The various well preserved grand courtyards with typical ancient building styles present a great historical value and architectural aesthetics, such as Qiao’s Family Compound, Wang’s Family Compound.
  • Shanxi Merchants' culture - Shanxi was known for its merchant for years and Pingyao as the great hometown, once lived many great Shanxi Merchants, Qiao Zhizhong for instance, the host of Qiao’s Family Compound. Influenced by Confucian culture, their spirit, known as “Jin merchant spirit”, focuses on entrepreneurial spirit, professional ethics and community spirit, which spread into their family history, and can be learned once you travel to the courtyards.




As a little county-level city in northwest of Gansu Province, Dunhuang is a hot tourist destination with a glorious history of more than 2,000 years. It is best known for the magnificent Mogao Caves. Because its vast lands of Gobi and desert, Dunhuang was called Sha Zhou (Town of Sand), later in the period of Emperor Wu, Western Han Dynasty, the city was established as an vital border defensive city of Hexi Corridor to protect against invasion of Xiongnu. Since then, Dunhuang had played profound role in Chinese history, holding strategic gateway location to the western regions, stimulating trade, culture exchange for different cultures. Long ago, tourists and merchants gathered in Dunhuang for travel or business. What followed were customs, religions from different nationalities and regions. The stories about Indian, China, Greece and Islam are described in the Mogao Caves murals.

Ancient time passed by, most of the refulgent prosperity of Dunhuang was covered underground by sand. Only fascinating memory and relics left. Today, Dunhuang is an attractive place to dig out the past flourish and enjoy amazing desert views, marvellous Buddhist art and special ethnic customs

Why visit Dunhuang:

  • Ancient Silk Road journey - As an important stop along the ancient Silk Road, Dunhuang is the best place for you to explore the footprints of ancient trace of Silk Road. Ride a camel just like what the ancient travelers did, march forward on the boundless desert, visit ancient ruins to travel back. Isn’t it exciting?
  • UNESCO Word Cultural Heritage Mogao Caves - The Mogao Caves recorded the 1600 years’ Chinese arts in different periods, including the extreme prosperous Tang Dynasty. It is the treasure house of Buddhist arts, also a unique book keeping cross-culture talks.
  • Magnificent Gobi and Desert Scenery - Meet the most representative Gobi and desert scenery that stretching into far distance, have fun with those joyful desert activities. Break the long-lived silence and loneliness, and add joy to the old friends of nature.
  • Diverse Mixed Culture and Cuisine - The Northwestern China has long been a region of residence many ethnic minorities lived and fought for. The Dunhuang Buddhist caves, local food and people, touching “Silk Road” shows all tell the national fusion and culture exchange happened thousands of years ago.




Datong, as the second largest city in Shanxi Province, is a historical and cultural city. Located in the center of Datong Basin in the north of Shanxi Province, the junction of Inner Mongolia, Shanxi Province and Hebei Province, Datong has always been of vital importance in military due to its strategic position. It’s the capital city of Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 386 ~ 534). The city keeps a low profile, yet contains infinite energy. From the magnificent Yungang Grottoes of Northern Wei Dynasty to Huayan Temple and Shanhua Monastery of Liao Dynasty (A.D. 907 ~ 1125) and Jin Dynasty (A.D. 1115 ~ 1234), from the mysterious Hanging Temple which combines Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism together to the Taoist Mount Heng, Datong has perfectly mixed the multi-ethnic cultures into one and creates a new and unique Datong.

Why visit the city:

  • Experience the Culture of Northern Wei Dynasty - As the ancient capital of Northern Wei Dynasty, Datong has lots of precious historical sites and relics from that time. Whether the amazing Yungang Grottoes or the precipitous Hanging Temple, tourists can experience the legacy of Northern Wei Dynasty in those historical sites.
  • Foodie’s Paradise - Datong is full of delicious food from Central Plains and areas beyond the Great Wall. Various mutton and beef dishes, famous cooked wheaten food (sliced noodles are most famous) and other food made of coarse grains are the specialty in the local area.
  • Yingxian Wooden Pagoda - The existing oldest and tallest wooden pagoda in China is Yingxian Wooden Pagoda, which is very close to Datong City, and tourists normally will add the pagoda into their Datong itinerary.


CHINA still set to Top Tourism

Despite the recent COVID Crisis and its impact on tourism and travel generally with China being worst hit predictions signal a bounce back. Experts agree that despite the pandemic China will be a a top destination by 2030. The Yellow Mountains and Shanghai Tower will be topping global travel bucket lists as China leapfrogs France to become the world’s top tourist destination.

And more Chinese will be travelling overseas in the coming decade than any other nationality, as household incomes rise, according to Euromonitor International’s Megatrends Shaping the Future of Travel report.

At the World Travel Market in London, Euromonitor International’s Head of Travel Caroline Bremner said: “Destinations like China are poised for a successful performance in inbound tourism, with China set to overtake France as the leading destination worldwide by 2030.”

The report estimates there will be 127 million arrivals in China each year by the end of the next decade, compared to 126 million in France and 116 million in the US.


China will overtake France to become the biggest tourist destination by 2030

Image: Euromonitor International

Asia on the up

Globally, 1.4 billion trips are expected to be taken this year, a 5% increase on last year, with total travel sales coming in at almost $2.5 trillion, according to the report’s author, Wouter Geerts.

Travel across Asia is especially taking off, with both inbound and outbound trips on the increase thanks to upcoming sporting events (the Tokyo Olympics and Winter Games in Beijing) boosting the region’s appeal, as well as “rapidly growing economies, and an expanding middle class seeking to spend its increasing disposable income on travel”.

Technology is a huge factor in this growth, says Geerts: “Online travel intermediaries such as Ctrip and Fliggy are today’s travel enablers in China, while traditional travel intermediaries in Japan and South Korea such as JTB and Hanatour are actively investing in their online channels to meet demand from their constantly-connected consumers.”


Digital technology is aiding travel and tourism in Asia

Image: Euromonitor International

“The gradual process of loosening visa restrictions has made travelling in the region easier, with 80% of arrivals in Asia originating from the region,” he adds.

Asia’s place as an emerging tourism market - both as an attractive destination and as a growing source of tourists.

It predicted the top 10 fastest growing destinations for leisure travel spending between 2016 and 2026 would be India, Angola, Uganda, Brunei, Thailand, China, Myanmar, Oman, Mozambique and Vietnam.


China’s pulling power

Within Asia, China is seeing the biggest tourism growth, with outbound trips set to reach 260 million by 2030. As well as becoming the biggest inbound market by 2030, domestic tourism is also taking off. And there will be 6.7 billion domestic trips by 2023, up from 4.7 billion in 2018.