A LIFETIME’S SUPPLY OF CULTURE AND BEAUTY
China holidays reveal the ancient culture that is found across this vast and diverse country, from the winding Yangtze River to the snow-capped mountains, the farmers working the fields to the thronging cities.
Few places can offer travellers the variety of experiences that holidays in China do. For a start, the country is huge, with landscapes from the snow-capped peaks of Tibet to tropical Hong Kong. As diverse as the changing landscapes are, so too is the culture, history, people and cuisine as you travel from one place to the next in this vast land.
There is something here for everyone, from cruising the winding Yangtze to cycling through the rice fields in Yangshuo, discovering artefacts thousands of years old or the newest cocktail bar in trendy Shanghai.
Beijing is China's thriving capital, with towers of glass and steel, Olympic Games venues and parks all giving the city a modern flavour. It also has a fascinating imperial past that can be seen in its impressive monuments, like the Forbidden City. Take a leisurely rickshaw ride through the ancient hutong streets, walk the Great Wall of China and indulge in the city's signature dish, Peking Duck.
Known as the Pearl of the Orient, Shanghai has captivated the imaginations of travellers for over a century. Nowadays the city has two very different stories to tell, with the stately colonial architecture of the Bund riverfront on one side of the river, and the skyscrapers and futuristic design of Pudong on the other.
Travellers come to Xian to see the famous Army of Terracotta Warriors, actually just out of town. One of the most important archaeological finds of the last century, there are thousands of intricately-carved statues on display. Xian itself is China's oldest city, once an important hub on the Silk Road. It remains a melting pot of peoples and cultures, especially in the vibrant Muslim Quarter, and the ancient city walls can be explored by foot or bike.
Despite Chengdu's rapid development, it still offers delightful pockets of backstreet life, teahouses and riverside parks to explore. Home of the Giant Panda Research and Breeding Centre, some of China's most beautiful temples and monasteries are dotted amongst its vast forested surroundings.
Misty Emei Shan, or Mt Emei, is one of the Middle Kingdom's four famous Buddhist mountains. Climb through the forested mountain scenery accompanied by monks and pilgrims, past evergreen trees and temples old and new, all the way into the clouds.
Nestled below the peaks of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang's old town provides a refreshing contrast to the big cities of China. Narrow cobbled paths, canals rushing beneath old stone bridges, traditional stone and timber houses and cosy tea shops are all part of Lijiang's charm. The old town is still dominated by the matriarchal Naxi people, whose bright blue clothing colours the streetscapes and markets as they have for centuries.
Ancient Dali retains its historic atmosphere, with life running at a slower pace. Set between the shores of Erhai Lake and the dramatic slopes of the Cangshan Mountains, and dotted with tiny fishing villages, the region is home to a number of China's ethnic minorities. Its market streets are a fascinating blend of old and new, featuring popular local handicraft shops and cafes. Visit the Three Pagodas or simply wander Dali's charming streets.
Kunming is known as the 'City of Eternal Spring' for its mild climate and the agricultural bounty nearby. This modern and orderly Chinese city retains pockets of the past, like the colourful shopper's mecca that is the Bird and Flower Market, and the temple-studded slopes of the Western Hills, with views over the Dian Lake. Sample the city's famous culinary speciality - a steaming bowl of Across-The- Bridge Noodles.
Guilin's dramatic limestone karsts, the slow flow of the Li River and the tree-lined streets and paths make this pretty town more than just a jumping off point for cruising the Li River. The Reed Flute Cave, where vast underground caverns are adorned with dramatic limestone formations, is part of Guilin folklore.
Cycle out of the small town of Yangshuo into the hill-studded rice fields and villages outside town or cruise the tranquil river to see the age-old practice of cormorant fishing. Back in town, visit the colourful markets or relax in one of the town's many al fresco restaurants with a Tsing Tao Beer or one of many varieties of tea.
Long hidden from the outside world by its remote and rugged mountain surrounds, Zhongdian now welcomes travellers fortunate enough to journey this far into Yunnan Province. Set high on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, it shares culture and religion with Tibet. Explore the monastery of Songzanlin, and perhaps meet one of the Living Buddha's who reside here. Travel to outlying villages where age-old traditions are maintained, and marvel at some of Yunnan's breathtaking mountain landscapes.
Let Lhasa transport you to another world. Often described as the heart and soul of Tibet, the capital of this province is a magnet for monks, nomads and adventurous travellers keen to soak up the magical atmosphere. Explore the religious sites of the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Drepung Monastery, seek out the Kyi-chu valley scenery and take your time to wander the Barkhor Circuit.
Thoroughly modern and culturally complex, this city of skyscrapers has something to amuse travellers from all walks of life. Known as a shopping Mecca, posh malls give way to local boutiques and antique stores to futuristic gadget shops. Cuisine is an obsession here and the choice and quality of restaurants is astonishing. With a multitudes of neighbourhoods to wander and sites to see, the usual short stopover is rarely long enough.
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Discover the Great Wall
Travel a little further from Beijing to see the famous wall at a less-crowded stretch at Mutianyu, or drive to Jinshanling where even fewer tourists venture.
Feast on the varied cuisine
Whether you are dining at a famous Peking duck restaurant or eating in a local home, discover regional specialities from Sichuan spice to the weird and wonderful.
Explore Hong Kong’s neighbourhoods
Explore Stanley’s seaside sights and Central’s antique district, stroll through Kowloon’s backstreets and sample the local delicacy, dim sum (yum cha). Families are sure to enjoy Hong Kong’s Disneyland, or Portugal’s colonial history take the JetCat ferry to Macau.
The Army of Terracotta Warriors near Xian
Buried for over 2000 years, see the overwhelming number of intricately carved warriors and horses, as well as other characters at this important archaeological site.
Cruise the Yangtze
Watch the natural beauty of the Yangtze River float past from the comfort of your own private balcony.
Meet a Giant Panda in Chengdu
The giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu is the best place to do this, where the focus is on conservation.
Watch the famous Shanghai acrobats
The acrobatic arts have a long history in China, seeing a great revival with the advent of the People’s Republic. Modern performances of acrobats performing near impossible feats combine this tradition with modern effects.
Explore by bicycle
Cycle along the imperial fortifications at Xian or amidst the soaring karst scenery of Yangshuo, through the backroads, villages, fish farms and lotus fields.
Travel the Silk Road
One of the world's great trade routes, the exotic Silk Road has fascinated travellers for centuries. Board a donkey cart ride to the Gaochang ruins near Turpan and soak up the atmosphere as the sun rises over this magical site.
Villages of the Yunnan
Find villages and monasteries that are less frequented by tourists amongst the mountains around the towns of Lijiang and Dali.
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