China's Top 9 Places To Visit in October

China's Top 9 Places To Visit in October

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”
– John Donne (1572 - 1631) English poet and scholar

Always wanted to visit China but not sure when to go? Want to capture the beauty of China but fear the unbearable summer heat? Autumn, and especially October, could be the best time to visit China. With autumn just settling in and the hassles associated with summer travel dwindling, October is the perfect time for a getaway. The autumn season boasts comfortable temperatures and lacks the crowds and rain showers of summer. October is the best time to see the autumnal foliage in China. Maple trees turn red and Gingko trees turn yellow.

We always say autumn is the time of harvest. That is especially true for visitors to Shanghai. October is best time for a gourmet delicacy in Shanghai – hairy crabs. If you are a vegetarian, we recommend this dish to you: Lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice and sprinkled with osmanthus flowers. It is a very famous dish in Suzhou, and autumn is the best time to have this dish.

With the visa free transit policy, you can actually visit most of the following cities without a visa to China.

1. Beijing

Fragrant Hill Park

Beijing is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites and having served as national capital for 5 dynasties, Beijing is must for first timers to China. It is full of traditional culture and history, and loaded with modern lifestyles and technology.

In addition to those well-known landmark attractions like the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the summer palace, there is some scenery you can only experience in autumn, the mountains near the Great Wall dress up in shades of yellow and red making the scene even more magical. Another seasonal attraction you should not miss is the Fragrant Hill Park, to see the maple trees with their striking red leaves (it’s traditional to collect them). You can either walk through the lower areas spotted with pavilions and temples and winding paths to wander around, or take the cable car up to the top for some views of the surrounding hilly countryside.

2. Xi’an

the Terracotta Warriors

Xi'an is the capital of Shaanxi Province, in northwestern China. It is one of the oldest cities in China, and the oldest of the Four Great Ancient Capitals, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history, including Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui, and Tang. Xi'an is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. After the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors is the most famous attraction in China and you can’t leave the country without seeing it. Thousands of life-sized clay warriors stand guard at this site that was only discovered in 1974. Autumn is the best time to visit Xi’an because the sky is clear, and the weather is still warm. In the autumn you should go to Cuihua Mountain to enjoy the autumn leaves. Cuihua Mountain is just an hour’s drive from Xi’an; you can hike up to the top.

3. Guilin

Longji Terrace fields

“Guilin has the finest landscape under heaven” is a line in our Chinese textbook and learned by heart by every pupil in China. It’s easy to see why, thanks to the karsts and the River Li that dominate the region all the way up to Yangshuo and beyond. The views are unlike anything you are likely to see unless and until you visit here. The surrounding scenery has inspired Chinese landscape paintings for centuries. It even features on the Chinese 20 Yuan banknote. The best way to immerse yourself in this scenery is to take the Guilin – Yangshuo river cruise down the Li River. Other popular attractions surrounding Guilin city include the Longji rice terraces and the Reed Flute Cave.

Longji (Dragon’s Backbone) Terrace fields is the highlight of Guilin. Farmers tend to their fields here in much the same way they did when the terraces were built during the Yuan Dynasty 800 years ago. From late September to the middle of October, beautiful golden colors take over the terraces. Please come before the middle of October if you want to see the yellow rice paddies, as local farmers will start the harvest after that time.

4. Chengdu

Panda babies

Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan province in southwestern China. It was on most people’s bucket list mainly because it is the gateway to China’s most famous, and the cutest, wildlife mascot – Panda. Panda babies are usually born in August, so it will be a good time to see the cubs in October. The Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center is the best place to see panda cubs.

Although Chengdu is best known as the home of panda bears, it is so much more than those adorable animals. Chengdu is home to many cultural landscapes, including the Wuhou Shrine Museum, China's most prestigious memorial site for the heroes of the Three Kingdoms (220-280) period, the Taoist shrine Qingcheng Mountain, and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, which was built 2,200 years ago and is still in service. Chengdu is also the birthplace of many world-famous cuisines, such as Mapo Tofu and Kung Pao chicken.

5. Cruise on Yangtze River

As the third longest river on the planet behind the Nile and the Amazon, the Yangtze River extends 3950 miles (6380 km) from its headwaters on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau to empty into the East China Sea near Shanghai.

the Yangtze River

The Yangtze River is one of the most well-known rivers in the world and has a rich history and is of great importance to China's people. The longest river in Asia, it not only serves as a lifeline to millions of people, but also some of the most artistically inspiring scenery in China. It goes without saying that the best way to see a river is to travel along it, and a Yangtze River Cruise is a popular pastime in China. Pass through the Three Gorges, take fascinating shore excursions and enjoy the passing scenery by opting for a 3 or 4 day cruise between Chongqing and Yichang. The highlight of cruise is the Three Gorges which is 700 miles long, with the Wu Gorge being the longest. Wu Gorge is the most wonderful landscape gallery along the Yangtze River, integrating canyons, landscapes, clouds, villages and ancient sites. In autumn, Wu Gorge will be dressed in vibrant red leaves which attract visitors from home and abroad. There are nearly 200 varieties of red-leaves trees such as Cotinus coggygria and maple trees at the Wu Gorge area.

6. Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Located in the northwest of central China's Hunan Province, Zhangjiajie is home to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Giant sandstone pinnacles rise skyward from the valley floor, some up to 200m tall with tufts of evergreen shrubs clinging to their narrow summits. Thousands of these striking monoliths are eroded away into the earth forming a towering stone forest. The sandstone pinnacles inspired the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar directed by James Cameron. Among the gorgeous peaks, hidden in the dense, lacy greenery, flow attractive streams, pools, waterfalls and rivers that provide a cool, serene ambiance during summer days. But the best time to visit Zhangjiajie is in autumn, when the colors of the landscape are dramatic and the weather is temperate. The national park is covered with red maple leaves, yellow ginkgo, evergreen pine trees, colorful wild flowers and fruits, like a beautiful oil painting, which is intoxicating.

7. Hangzhou

The Osmanthus

Hangzhou, is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang Province in eastern China. Marco Polo visited Hangzhou in 1290 and was so overwhelmed by the beauty of city that he transcribed, and thus popularized, a famous Chinese saying "in heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou." Hangzhou grew to prominence as the southern terminus of the Grand Canal and has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China for much of the last millennium. The city's West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, immediately west of the city, is amongst its best-known attractions. The weather in autumn is very comfortable. The sweet-scented Osmanthus is everywhere as city flowers will be in full bloom in October. The Osmanthus tree produces a light, fresh and pleasing fragrance with its small yellow flowers. Manjuelong Village to the southwest of West Lake is the best spot for smelling the tree flowers. There, more than 7000 Osmanthus trees are planted, with some being 200 years old.

8. Suzhou

Tianping Mountain

Suzhou is located just west of Shanghai in Jiangsu Province, just 30 minutes’ ride on the bullet train from Shanghai. Suzhou is famous for its classical gardens. Many of these delicate classical gardens were built between the 14th and 20th centuries during the time of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and about 10 of them are still in good condition. Nine of them were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city is also known for the production of silk and a vibrant history of the embroidery craft. In autumn, you cannot miss the maple leaves on Tianping Mountain. The mountain is famous for its red maple, grotesque stone, and crystal spring. To the front of the mountain there is a grove of 400 maples that dates back to the 16th century. As autumn approaches, the mountain is colored by maple, tuning from green to yellow, orange, purple and then red.

9. Shanghai

As China’s cultural, economic, financial and technological hub and home to some 24 million people, it’s no exaggeration to say Shanghai has something for everyone. Take a walk on the Bund along the Yangtze riverfront and admire Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque architecture side by side with gleaming skyscrapers. Shanghai is also known for its modern art, trendy bars and stylish restaurant scene. There's no better time to visit Shanghai than autumn as the temperatures dip and leaves begin to turn. You can see autumnal foliage of over 200 species of trees including Ginkgo, Chinese tallows, Trident Maples and Callery Pears in several parks in Shanghai.

Chinese crabs

The arrival of autumn also means a gourmet delicacy in Shanghai – hairy or mitten crabs. This unique specimen of crab is known for its furry claws, which resemble mittens. Hairy crab is famous for the sweetness of its meat and its orange-yellow roe. Female crabs are more prized than its male counterpart as it’s supposed to taste sweeter and has more roe. The hairy crab originated from the Yangcheng Lake, which is located in the city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province, only a few hours train ride from Shanghai.

As most people know, we have a national holiday for the 1st week of October, and we call that week “Golden Week” in China. It is one of the busiest times of the year to travel as tens of millions of people make the most of one week of holidays to visit family or go on vacation. To give you an idea about how many people will be travelling during the holiday week: In 2018, 726 million Chinese tourists traveled around the country during the Golden Week. With this in mind, you’ll probably want to consider a few things if you’re considering taking a trip to China during this time.

By Leon Long
China Expert