China - Great walls and ancient silk roads, vast terracotta armies and forbidden cities, buzzing modern metropolises and other-worldly limestone landscapes, coupled with sensational wildlife, fabulous food and intoxicating culture. With all this and more there's no one best place to visit, if time permits visit them all.
We've list our top places to visit on any holiday to China - from the furthest reaches of the opposing Great Wall, Beijing and Tiananmen Square to off the beaten track places such Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Tiger Leaping Gorge where magnificent lofty vistas and the worlds deepest canyon are to be found.
Some say it can be seen from space, but unless you’re a top gun at NASA, perhaps you’ll never know. Instead, experience the real deal. One of the Seven Wonders of the World and an enduring symbol of Chinese civilisation and genius, the UNESCO protected Great Wall of China was built as a defensive structure to protect China against marauding invaders from the north. Although the present wall dates mainly from the Ming dynasty, some 20 states and dynasties were involved in its immense construction over a period of 2,000 years and followed different routes and building extensions as required. Snaking some 6700 kms across barren hills, deserts, mountains and plateaus, the now partially ruinous Great Wall stretches east to west in northern China and is believed to be the longest man made structure in the world.
Today, people from all over the world visit to walk on the Great Wall of China, stand on a watchtower and view the wall, winding as far as the eye can see, over the horizon. The Badaling section is perhaps the best preserved and most frequently visited by tourists. A modern-day visit to the Great Wall offers a healthy, if steep and vertiginous walk, with breathtaking views of the Chinese countryside.
The discovery of Emperor Qin’s army of 2,200 year old terracotta warriors in 1974 by local farmers who happened to be digging a well. More than 7,000 life-sized warriors stand in military formation in excavated pits under the cover of a modern protective hanger. Made of local clay, no two faces are alike – each is said to be an individual portrait. Delicate excavation continues on site, where hundreds of warriors remain smashed like eggs, not due to the passage of time but rather a peasant revolt after the emperor’s death. The emperor’s tumulus (ancient grave mound) is located about a mile away and is said to contain untold treasures.
Renowned for it’s striking, if bizarre scenery - vast areas of karst limestone outcrops that rise up from flat rice paddy fields, and beautiful pagodas, Guilin is often the subject of Chinese painting. On our tours that travel to Guilin, we will visit the enormous and dazzlingly beautiful Reed Flute Caves. The city is filled with a delicious fragrance of Sweet Osmanthus trees and indeed this is the meaning of the name Guilin - "forest of Sweet Osmanthus". As it is located in the subtropical zone in the southern part of the country, Guilin boasts a pleasant climate throughout the year. When there, take in the views from the intriguingly named Elephant trunk hill, and visit the beautiful Banyan Lake, so smooth it looks like a mirror.
Capital of the People’s Republic, Beijing is China’s political, economic and cultural centre. With an awesome history, Beijing was established in 1045 BC and for 800 years served as the capital of several dynasties. Tiananmen Square is the largest public square in the world, which plays host to Chairman Mao’s great mausoleum. Staring out across Tiananmen from above the Gate of Heavenly Peace is the famous Technicolour portrait of Mao. It is through these gates that one can enter the Forbidden City. Built between 1406 and 1420, it served as the imperial palace for the Ming and Qing dynasties and is said to contain 9999 rooms. Residence of the emperors and focal point of the empire, entry was forbidden to all those, except on imperial business until 1911, when the last emperor, Puyi was overthrown. Beyond the city is the Summer Palace. A preserve of the emperors seeking respite from the summer heat, the Summer Palace is set around beautiful Kunming Lake.
Although the river itself and life along the banks are fascinating in themselves, centre stage on a Yangtze cruise is the awesome journey through the Three Gorges on a cruise from Chongqing to Wuhan. The Three Gorges (Qutangxia, Wuxia and Xiling) were formed around 70 million years ago during movements in the earth’s crust. Towering perpendicular cliffs and sharp gorges give way to the Yangtze below. Despite China’s controversial Yangtze dam project, where the waters are set to gradually rise until 2009, creating the world’s largest dam, it is thought the Gorges will still be as breathtaking, although some villages and landmarks will ultimately disappear. Check out the Three Gorges on our 15 day ‘Yin and Yangtze’ tour
Suzhou in Jiangsu Province. One of China’s most charming cities, it’s fame rests on it’s waterways and canals that are dotted with traditional bridges, houses and gardens. A cruise on the Grand Canal is the perfect way to discover Suzhou’s beauty and allows you to see the local people going about their day to day business.
The city is renowned for it’s silk as it was the original source of the 'sea' silk road, and so on our group tours that travel to Suzhou, we will visit a silk workshop so that you can bring back gorgeous souvenirs or gifts.
You can see bamboo and pine forests, winding streams, sheer hills without even leaving the city in the UNESCO heritage Humble Administors Garden. There are elegant pavillions and courtyards interwoven with nature, and fragrant lotus filled pools and floral exhibitions - heaven in a garden!