China is a land of beauty, ancient history and contrasting cultures. Its sheer size and enormous diversity offers an unforgettable experience. With its lively cities, rich cuisines, traditional rural villages, breathtaking mountains, river scenery and evocative desert landscapes, China should top every traveller’s 2017 wish list. While you may think you know China, there is so much more to explore. We’ve gathered here some of the highlights and must dos to help you plan:
Bustling Beijing features a wonderful contrast of impressive imperial sites, ancient backstreets and the Great Wall with a new wave of development and modernity.
Traverse Tiananmen Square and the marvellous Forbidden City, visit the bustling Wangfujing Night Markets and the Temple of Heaven, with its insight into prayer rituals of the Ming and Qing dynasties, to immerse yourself in the capital city’s history and power. Try your hand at Chinese water calligraphy with locals. Be sure to eat the famous imperial dish, Peking duck, and sample northern-style jiaozi (dumplings) before leaving Beijing.
As the eastern-most port of the Silk Road, the ancient capital of Xian, which is home to the intriguing Army of Terracotta Warriors, is a melting pot of cultures, particularly in the vibrant Muslim quarter.
The city allows the chance to indulge the senses in a potpourri of cuisines and to experience its history cycling along the Ming Dynasty-era old city wall. But it is the fascinating clay army of over 8,000 horses and warriors assumed to have been made to protect the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in his afterlife that really impresses. Not discovered until 1974 by a local farmer, this formidable excavation site has to be seen to be believed.
Shanghai has long captivated the imagination of travellers. At the centre of China’s most cosmopolitan city, the impressive colonial architecture along the Bund and the futuristic Pudong, with its neon lights lighting up the night sky across the river, is a must-see.
Explore the neighbourhoods of old Shanghai, visit the burgeoning art scene and gain insights into the Maoist era at the engaging Propaganda Poster Art Centre.
Surrounding the city are areas that are as traditional as Shanghai is modern. Take to the water for a day trip to explore the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao, famed for its tranquil canals.
Savour southwest China’s famous spicy hot pot or ‘pocked grandmother’s tofu’ in its major metropolis, Chongqing, (commonly known as the ‘mountain city’), before marvelling at the magnificent scenery cruising the Yangtze.
Meet the playful giant pandas, visit a traditional teahouse for an insight into local life, and revel in the chance to see a colourful Sichuan Opera performance when in Chengdu.
Discover the striking limestone hills, the beautiful rivers, evergreen forests and azure pools that have inspired traditional Chinese paintings for centuries.
Climb the stone steps to the top of Fubo Hill for panoramic views across rooftops and limestone mountains, where you can see tea towns and plantations, and experience the mindfulness of Tai Chi by the banks of the Li River.
In rural Longsheng, hike to the spectacular rice terraces known as the Dragon’s Backbone and meet locals in a White Yao Village.
The Silk Road
Traversing the north of China, this ancient trading route abounds with fascinating and diverse landscapes and cultures to discover.
Take a tranquil boat journey along the Yellow River to the beguiling Bingling Si Caves to see the carved Buddhist sculptures. Visit the mesmerizing Labrang Monastery, in Xiahe, the region’s most significant Tibetan Buddhist town. Travel by camel through the desert from the oasis town of Dunhuang, and behold the ancient Buddhist cave art at Mogao Caves (the ‘Thousand Buddha Grottoes’), south of Dunhuang. Further west, board a donkey cart ride to the intriguing Gaochang ruins near Turpan, and experience the clamour and excitement of the Sunday Bazaar in Kashgar where even the camels are for sale. The beautiful Heavenly Lake, set against the spectacular ice-capped Tianshan Mountain Range, is a must see.
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