While China is one of the safest hideouts from COVID-19, the rest of the world hasn’t been too lucky. Instead of planning out a list of international traveling destinations, 2021 is a special opportunity for expats to expand their traveling experience within China. Before you pack your bags, here are a few quick domestic traveling guidelines to keep in mind.
Most destinations are slowly reopening, but make sure to have a clear understanding of a location’s risk level, travel requirements and quarantine policies. By taking a quick scan at the new WeChat mini program for regional risk level, travelers can select low-risk areas (areas with zero new confirmed cases) to book their tickets. Although different regions have different policies, travelers should prepare three essential items in advance: green health codes, a valid passport and a 14-day trip record.
For every trip, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in China strongly recommends that all travelers bring a sufficient supply of masks, hand sanitizers, etc. In crowded areas such as airports or train stations, always remember to wear a mask.
To ease your travel planning process, the HERE! team has created a 2021 domestic traveling itinerary with six remarkable destinations. Soon enough, you will be roaming the streets of Beijing, hiking the mountains of Zhangjiajie, and making a WeChat post about the breathtaking wonders of Zhangye!
Live Like A Local
Holiday Pick: Spring Festival (February 11 – February 17)
Route Expert: 3.5 Hours Flight
Traveler Type: A holiday in a modern city with a group of friends
Beijing is a must-visit destination that kicks off our 2021 domestic traveling itinerary. To capture the Forbidden City from a bird’s eye view, expats can head over to Jingshan Park to marvel at this incredible landmark. The park provides a quiet alternative to the bustling city of Beijing.
For a daytime stroll, visit modern-day 798 Art District. As the city’s progressive art area, 798 consists of decommissioned buildings renovated into classy art galleries and museums. Whether you are wandering the avant-garde gallery of Ullens Center for Contemporary Art or the hangar-like building of Communist slogans, these charming streets are filled with surprises at every corner.
After checking “eat Beijing Peking duck” off your bucket list, immerse in local life and choose an outdoor dining experience instead. The endless array of food options can be found at Wangfujing Street, where street vendors serve skewered oddities, traditional snacks, and more.
An Escape Into The Mountains
Holiday Pick: Qingming Festival (April 3 – April 5)
Route Expert: 1.5 Hourse Flight
Traveler Type: Peaceful, nature-oriented trip for the entire family, including elderly and children
If you have watched the blockbuster movie Avatar, you will likely remember Pandora’s breathtaking landscape. But where did this inspiration derive from? This takes us to the misty mountains of Zhangjiajie in Hunan.
Take a daytime hike through the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and its 3,000 sandstone pillars covered in green foliage, setting the tone for a memorable hiking experience. Make a quick stop at the Bailong Elevator, the world’s tallest outdoor lift. On the plateau above, take in the incredible Hallelujah Mountain and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime scenery.
If you’re up to be a daredevil, step onto the glass bridge above the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. Glance down at the park’s valleys, waterfalls and streams from the charming view above. After a tiresome hike, head over to Baofeng Lake and take a scenic tour via the 30-minute boat ride. Look out for locals singing melodious folk songs or rowing their bamboo rafts across the calm lake.
Home of the Panda
Holiday Pick: Dragon Boat Festival (June 12 – June 14)
Route Expert: 2.25 Hours Flight
Traveler Type: Perfect for panda-lovers and city explorers
You can’t go to Chengdu without visiting China’s most beloved creature: pandas. During the morning feeding session at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, get a close-up experience by watching the lively interaction of these large panda bears. Along the pathways lined with Fernleaf bamboos, visitors can stop by different sectors within the panda base. From the nursery room, you can quietly watch the female pandas nurse their cubs. In the pandas’ outdoor ecosystem filled with lakes, forests, and man-made dens, you may even catch panda bears playing in the water or climbing trees.
With chirping crickets in the background, take a stroll through the stylish Kuangzai Alley. Here, you can easily find rows of chic restaurants, cafes, bookstores and souvenir shops. The alley also offers an interesting variety of Sichuan cuisine and other signature dishes. Overall, the modernized nostalgia of Kuangzai Alley makes it a pleasant visit.
Holiday Pick: Labor Day (May 1 – May 5)
Route Expert: 5.1 Hours Flight
Traveler Type: Outdoor views for photographers, cultural explorers and hikers
It’s time to explore a geological wonder—the rainbow mountains of Zhangye, Gansu.
At sunrise or sunset, watch the vibrant beauty of the Danxia Landforms from one of the five sightseeing platforms within Zhangye National Geopark. To admire the picturesque view from a different viewpoint, take the opportunity to soar into the air on a hot air balloon. After a 17 km drive from Zhangye National Geopark, you’ll arrive at Binggou Danxia Geopark, where you can discover majestic mountain structures.
On the next day, take a detour to the two temple attractions near the area. Uncover interesting gems at Giant Buddha Temple, including the longest reclining Buddha and a collection of cultural artifacts that reflect Chinese art, architecture, history and Buddhism. From there, drive towards Matisi Temple to explore thousands of grottoes uniquely carved into a mountain.
Wine Taste At Your Own Expense
Holiday Pick: National Holiday (October 1 – October 7)
Route Expert: 2.5 Hours Flight
Traveler Type: Sights and activities for a group tour
Blending a traditional and modern ambiance, the vibrant city of Qingdao is best known for its creation of—you guessed it—Qingdao Beer. In an old German architectural building lies the Qingdao Beer Museum, a place for visitors to uncover the brewing techniques and ingredients behind Qingdao Beer. At the end of the tour, visitors can also get a free tasting of the famous beverage!
Speaking of museum destinations, our second recommendation is slightly different… and maybe even a little dangerous. The Qingdao German Prison Museum captures the remnants of the prison site, including torture chambers used by the Japanese and cell blocks for inmates. The chilling experience is one that visitors can never forget.
Hainan On A Budget
Holiday Pick: Mid-Autumn Festival (September 19 – September 21)
Route Expert: 4 Hours Drive
Traveler Type: A fun beach vacation for a family with young children
Looking for an overall inexpensive and relaxing getaway during this three-day break? Our 2021 itinerary has you covered.
As the summer heat begins to wane, opt for a breezy beach holiday and nice coastal scenery at Hailing Island. Splash into the waters at Horsetail Bathing Beach and take evening walks on the sand. ATV rentals are available for any expats that are enthusiastic about racing down the beaches. If you want to venture out into the sea, rent a local fishing boat or hitch an exhilarating ride on a jet ski.
By nightfall, step out of your resort and roam the vibrant local streets. Since Hailing Island has been dubbed the “Guangdong fish storehouse,” the fresh seafood is a key highlight due to its abundance of fishing businesses.