China

8 Most Beautiful Destinations In China, All With Direct Flights From SG Starting At $209 Return

China holiday destinations


We’re always on the lookout for the next “Bangkok”, “Bali” or “Tokyo” – i.e. destinations near Singapore that check off all the right boxes for the perfect getaway. What’s going to be the next hooha? Our bet’s on China, and not just because it’s been all over TikTok lately.

China’s filled with lots of true hidden gems, from stunning national parks to beach getaways that could give Nusa Dua a run for its money. Heck, they even have landscapes that look straight out of Europe. Below are some of the best destinations in China you’d want to visit before they become “mainstream”.

P.S. All of them have direct flights from Singapore – no troublesome transfers needed! Prices below are for return flights in SGD.


How to get around China?


China’s public transport system is probably more technologically advanced than you think. Much like Japan and Korea, China has an extensive railway system, with high speed trains connecting major cities and towns. Within most cities, you can also find a highly connected network of buses and trains.

A good option is to use DiDi taxi booking (iOS, Android). It’s generally safe, affordable, and there are lots of drivers around so you don’t have to wait long before you get a ride.

Now on to the fun part – where to visit.


1. Wuxi


Cherry blossom-lined waterways & bamboo forests



Image credit: @raquel_ege via Instagram 

Nestled close to the ever-so-popular hotspots of Shanghai and Suzhou is Wuxi. Located a 5-hour direct flight from Singapore, the quaint city doesn’t get as much love from international travellers – but it should. If for one thing only, visit in spring for the cherry blossom trees that line the picturesque waterways and frame the ancient temples.


Image credit: @raquel_ege via Instagram 

At Turtle Head Island, you’ll be surrounded by 30,000 cherry blossom trees kissing the surface of the water, flushing the landscape in hues of pastel-pink. And, if this is starting to sound like a great alternative to fighting the spring crowds in Japan, we have more good news for you. Wuxi is also home to Yixing Bamboo Forest. You can consider it an Arashiyama alternative without the gazillion Singaporean tourists.


Image credit: @leekingriver via Instagram

Try not to fall too madly in love with the city adorned with the giant sculptures of Smile Square and flower fields you thought you could only see in music videos. Google “Jiangsu flower fields” – you’ll thank us later. Other attractions include the film set of The Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, which has been converted into a theme park

Getting there from Singapore: Take a 5-hour and 20-minute direct flight via Scoot from $333.


2. Chongqing


“Cyberpunk city”


At risk of sounding a little cynical, a lot of cities tend to fall into the cookie cutter trap. But not Chongqing. You might have seen it popping up all over TikTok, with dramatic skyscrapers built atop steep hills. Call it a city where architects test the boundaries of physics.


Image credit: @chongqing.info via Instagram

I liken it to Hong Kong – the city is extremely quirky, compact and there’s something new and surprising around just about every corner. Along the riverfront, there’s Hongya Cave, which looks like a scene straight out of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. At Liziba station, you’ll see a metro train going straight through a building.

There’s really so much to ramble on about this eccentric city. But if there’s one thing you should know, it’s to stay longer than you think you need to – that’ll give you the flexibility to take a short trip out to Fairy Mountains and Wulong Karst, 2 hours away  by High Speed Rail. If you still have time to spare, don’t miss a 3-day river cruise down the 3 Gorges Dam.

Book a day trip to Wulong Karst.

Getting there from Singapore: Take a 5-hour direct flight via Air China (from $419), China Southern (from $418), or Singapore Airlines (from $656).


3. Haikou


Beach paradise with return flights from just $209



Image credit: @sakura9527 via Instagram

Haikou’s one to keep on your radar, if you’ve already checked other beach destinations like Bali, Gold Coast, and Da Nang off your list. The city has long stretches of sandy beaches and water sports that you can visit any time of the year. Chill at Sunset Beach Bar or browse knick knacks at Baishamen Beach Night Market.

Once you’ve gotten a nice tan, dust the sand off and explore the rest of Hainan Island. Qilou Old Streets is filled with Sino-European architecture and alleyways filled with local food.


Qilou Old Streets.
Image credit: @nssmxnn via Instagram

Sanya, located 1 hour away by bullet train, is filled with attractions like theme parks and loads of beach clubs that rival Bali’s beach clubs. Make the most out of your visit by staying at least a night at the quaint Tianya Town, where you can find waterfront cafes and hotels under $100/night.

 

For more itinerary ideas, read our full guide to exploring Haikou.

Getting there from Singapore: Take a 3-hour and 40-minute direct flight via Jetstar (from $251) or Scoot (from $209).


4. Chengdu


Giant pandas & stunning parks for nature lovers



Image credit: @aliciadrnd via Instagram 

Kai Kai, Jia Jia, and LeLe have stolen our hearts. Now imagine a zoo filled with loads of fluffy pandas. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is one of the must-visits in this up and coming city. You could spend a whole day in this massive park housing baby pandas, giant pandas, and red pandas.


Cordoba Cafe.
Image credit: Xingxingpaofan via SoHu

Cuddly “Oreos” aside, the capital of Sichuan has loads to offer. Perfect for fans of the cafe scene in Bangkok and Seoul, Chengdu is chock full of aesthetic themed cafes and tea houses like % Arabica which has a traditional theme, and garden cafes like Cordoba. But that’s not even the best part.


Image credit: @ximu408 via Instagram

If you have time to spare, the city is a great base to take a day trip to one of the most beautiful national parks in China. Jiujaigou is essentially the Swiss Alps of the east, with breathtaking views of snowy mountain peaks and crystal clear turquoise waters. You can get there via a 2.5-hour bus and train ride from the city, or by booking a guided tour with transport included.

Book a 3-day tour to Jiuzhaigou Valley.

Getting there from Singapore: Take a 4-hour and 45-minute direct flight via Air China (from $400), Singapore Airlines (from $535), or Sichuan Airlines (from $451).


5. Changsha


Dramatic landscapes that inspired the Avatar movie



Image credit: @bowl_marry via Instagram 

The biggest reason why anyone flies into Changsha, Hunan, is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. It’s one of China’s most iconic national parks, and is quickly gaining in popularity amongst foreigners for good reason. Zhangjiajie is home to the “Avatar mountains”.


Avatar like the movie with blue people? Yes.
Image credit: @bigyelo via Instagram


Image credit: @oddlyterrifying via Reddit

Despite being 320km from the city, Zhangjiajie is easily accessible via trains, buses or a 4-hour drive. It’s recommended that you stay near or in the national park as a 1-day visit isn’t going to be enough to cover everything there is. We’re talking about a “grand canyon”, a glass bridge that’s not for the faint of heart, and a zipline.


Image credit: @dudu898 via Instagram 

You’ll be remiss if you skip the ancient waterfall town of Furong, also in Hunan province, with nature and traditional homes melded into one picturesque scene. Phoenix Ancient Town is also in the area with centuries-old wooden houses that look like a scene out of a beautiful period drama. We could go on and on about this destination but the article cannot be 100 pages long.

Getting there from Singapore: Take a 4-hour and 45-minute direct flight via Scoot (from $759), China Eastern Airlines (from $759), or Singapore Airlines (from $914).


6. Kunming


Looks like Europe


Fly into the province of Yunnan via Kunming and you’re in for a road trip to remember. Kunming has affordable budget flights from Singapore priced around $400 – return. Visit in spring – from March to May – for a vibrant bloom of jacaranda flowers that bring to mind Tuscany’s wisteria. They’re known to bloom all around Kunming city, but are most beautiful at the following locations:

  • Panlong River Bank
  • Dianchi Convention and Exhibition Center
  • Chuncheng Road


Luxury Lake View Double Room With A Private Swimming Pool.
Image credit: Trip.com

Santorini, sorry Dali is a 4-hour coach or 2-hour high-speed train ride away and is a dupe of the iconic Greek island. Sound on the Clouds Santorini (from $235/night) looks like a bougie hotel in Oia, but without the thousand-dollar price tag. You can even book a room with a private swimming pool ($793/night) if you’re there for your honeymoon.

Sound on the Clouds Hotel Santorini, Dali
Address
C2a-03-03 Ideal State Town, 大理市大理白族自治州云南省 China, 671006
Opening Hours:
Thursday Open 24 Hours Show More Timings
Contact Information


Also, visit Flying Lotus Island that looks like Türkiye.

Image credit: Ctrip

Getting there from Singapore: Take a 4-hour and 15-minute direct flight via Scoot (from $411) or China Eastern Airlines (from $710).


7. Xiamen


Coastal city with skyscrapers & vehicle-free island



Skyscrapers and Meihai Flower Terrace.
Image adapted from: @__morris.com__ & @visit_xiamen via Instagram

We all only have so many days of annual leave, and if you can’t decide what type of holiday to spend them on, Xiamen has an eclectic mix of many things. You’ll find skyscrapers stretching high above, surrounded by an abundance of parks, hiking trails, and cycling paths. Among the must-visits are Xiamen Mountains-to-Sea Trail and Meihai Flower Terrace.


Gulangyu Island.
Image credit: @fairway_byfair via Instagram

Thanks to its coastal location, this Fujian town has pleasant weather all round and has been coined as “Garden on the Sea”. The island of Gulangyu is one of the highlights you can’t miss, located a short ferry ride from the mainland. This car-free town is chock full of colonial villas and quiet beaches you can explore on foot.


This was one of the film sets of Mulan live action.
Image credit: @babetka_cz via Instagram 

Take a trip inland to check out the “earth buildings” of Fujian, also known as tulou. Nope they aren’t spaceships that descended from Mars. These were constructed before the 20th century and are shaped this way for fortified defence.

Getting there from Singapore: Take a 4-hour and 35-minute direct flight via Singapore Airlines (from $326) or Garuda Indonesia (from $480).


8. Qingdao


Stay in castles & explore picture-perfect hiking trails



Jufeng Peak at Laoshan Mountain.
Image credit: @bogcsaaa via Instagram

Considering that return flights to Qingdao come under $500, it’s a surprise that most Singaporeans are still largely unaware of this hidden gem. With a mountainous landscape next to the seaside, the charming city is dotted with European-style churches and museums from the colonial era.


Image credit: @visitqingdao via X

First up, go castle hopping – there are unique hotels you can stay in such as Zhao’s Castle Shiyong B&B, which teleports you to the Middle Ages. Here are more castles you shouldn’t miss:

  • Qingdao Qingdao Film Museum – Museum with a “Disneyland” aesthetic
  • Yantai Xifram Chateau – French castle with wine tastings
  • Yantai Wencheng Castle – Gothic architecture reminiscent of Dracula


Image credit: @fullc_jerry_chung via Instagram 

Badaguan Scenic Area is perfect for one of those Xiaohongshu popularised “city walks”. And of course, you can’t miss a visit to the iconic Tsingtao Beer Museum, with freshly brewed beer samples to try.

Getting there from Singapore: Take a 5-hour and 50-minute direct flight via Scoot from $448.


What are some things I should know before going to China?


Truth be told, it can be difficult to plan for a free-and-easy trip to China. Google, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube don’t have a whole lot of in-depth information on the country. ICYMI, these sites are also blocked within China.

But with the right tips and tricks, you’ll be able to explore the country like a pro. For a start, get a VPN – it’s a quick hack that’ll allow you to access all the blocked sites mentioned above. A popular option is Surf Shark – while it has a subscription fee, you can sign in to unlimited devices so you can share log-ins with your travel gang and split the cost.

A lot of SIM cards and travel eSIMs these days come with VPN without extra charge.

A brief list of apps you’ll need to navigate China:

  • Baidu Maps (iOS, Android) – Alternative to Google Maps
  • WeChat (iOS, Android) – Commonly used for mobile payment, some hotels also send you details like WiFi password via this app when you check in. Restaurants also have menus you can scan and order on WeChat.
  • Alipay (iOS, Android) – Similar to WeChat. It also has DiDi taxi integrated within it – a.k.a China’s local version of Grab or Gojek.
  • Xiaohongshu (iOS, Android) – Local alternative to Instagram to search for activity ideas.

Places to visit in China before they get popular

So, there you have it – China’s way more than just the Shanghai and Beijing you visited with your family on tour aeons ago. Would it really be the next “ Japan” for Singaporeans? Only time will tell but you best bet it’ll be a good idea to add this to your 2024 travel bucket list before they become flooded with “leh”s and “lah”s.

For more travel ideas:


Cover image adapted from: @visit_xiamen, @ximu408, @babetka_cz via Instagram

Kezia Tan

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