1. Northern China
Approximate Time: 3 Weeks
China is a vast and beautiful country. Unless you have an infinite amount of time, you will have to limit your visit to smaller geographic area. Flights are often inexpensive and can help you minimize on travel time and see more. One of the most convenient cities to begin your trip in is Beijing. Beijing is a very culturally rich and impressive city and you should allow yourself at least four days to explore it. If you're making a loop, this time can be split between the beginning and ending of your trip.
From Bejing you can go to the spectucular Huang Shan mountain. This area warrants at least two days for hiking and exploration. It is possible to stay in a hotel on the mountain but prices can be quite high. From Huang Shan you can make your way to the city of Hangzhou. There is a pleasant lake and plenty of shopping opportunities in this vibrant cities. A day or two is usually sufficient for exploring this city, but if you have more time you can easily find things to do. From Hangzhou it is a short trip to Shanghai. Shanghai is a colorful and vibrant city with many places to explore, shop and dine. Enjoy some of the smaller eateries and street food options during your time here. Shanghai warrants a significant amount of time as there are many different neighborhoods worth exploring. From Shanghai its a somewhat lengthy trip to Xi'an. Xi'an is an iconic Chinese destinations and is included in most trips to the country. The Terracotta Warriors are impressive and awe-inspiring. The city of Xi'an also has a lot to offer if you have the time to linger.
From Xi'an you can travel to Pingyao, which is a smaller town with a lot of character. It is recommended that you rent a bike and explore the nearby countryside as well. The entire area is quite interesting and beautiful. From Pingyao you can make your way back to Beijing and finish your trip in this one of a kind city.
Do take note that destinations can be far apart and trips can be lengthy in China. Consider flights if you are short on time. There are sleeper buses available but the comfort level is minimal. It can make for a unique and affordable experience however.
2. Southern China
Approximate Time: 2 or 3 Weeks
Southern China offers visitors impressive landscapes, breathtaking hikes, and interesting cultures. Many people begin their trip in the cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong. from there you can travel to Macau and see the blending of Portuguese and Chinese cultures. Cross into mainland China through Guangzhou and continue to the beautiful city of Guilin and Yangshuo. You will likely have to take an overnight bus or train ride to make this journey. Alternatively, flying is an option as well. Make sure you spend time exploring the beautiful and breathtaking countryside in this area. One popular activity is to rent a bicycle and explore the rural areas outside of the towns. From Guilin you can catch an affordable flight to the city of Kunming. After spending some time in Kunming, continue to the historic city of Dali. This is a wonderful place to relax for a couple of days before continuing on to the fascinating city of Lijiang, with its prevalent minority populations and unique cultures.
3. Off the Beaten Path
Approximate Time: 1 or 2 Weeks
If you're looking for a more adventurous and extreme experience, then follow this route through Sichuan near the edge of Tibet. Beginning in Xining and make your way to Yushu, Xiewu, Serxu, Manigango, Ganzi, Kangding and on to Chengdu. Make sure you only visit in summer when the weather is more permitable. Also come prepared with plenty of money and food. Resources are rare and buses are prone to breaking down. The scenary along the route is spectacular and the experience will be once in a lifetime.
Yushu offers a unique opportunitiy to experience genuine Tibetan culture with friendly people and a beautiful setting. From there you can take a minibus to Xiewu and then head to Serxu with its traditional monastery. People visit Manigango less for the town and more for the surrounding countryside. Ganzi is a picturesque market town with plenty of nearby Tibetan villages. The trip from Ganzi to Kangding is stunning as well and makes for an enjoyable ride.