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Advice on China Itinerary

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Hi there,

I am starting to plan a trip to China in April. We are already booked to fly in and out of Hong Kong, as we have friends there to visit. Aside from that, I have the following places on my wish list. You will note that I am not including Beijing, and while I know there will be those that say don't miss it, I have other places I'd rather do (no Shanghai either).

My husband and I are fairly experienced travelers, and prefer slightly off the beaten path experiences. We would most likely fly between cities if possible to minimize travel time, but trains are a possibility as well, especially if they're overnight ones.

Jiayuguan/Dunhuang - Great Wall, Mogao Caves (3-4 nights)
Xian - Terracotta Warriors (2-3 nights)
Chengdu - Pandas, Leshan, Emei Shan (3-4 nights)
Guillan/Yangshou OR Lijiang area - Torn between these two (3-4 nights)

We have 13 nights total for these destinations. I am trying to figure out how long and how hard it will be to travel from place to place, especially as we're in and out of Hong Kong. I am especially interested in feedback on the last dilemna, but also any advice on getting to the Jiayuguan/Dunhuang area (round trip from Xian I am thinking). This part of the Great Wall sounds great since we're missing Beijing, plus the other interesting sights/off the beaten path feel, even though I know this is a haul.

In general, we like interesting architecture, beautiful natural scenery, good food, and hiking/walking. I am anticipating that this trip will have more stops than some prefer, but am willing to give up a little relaxation time in order to see more.

As always, I appreciate your help. I always receive such helpful feedback from the forums, which makes me feel bad that I haven't done trip reports lately!

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