The promise of an epic holiday in the heart of the Far East is realised in China, home to both the world’s oldest continuous civilization and futuristic megalopolises. The sheer scale of East Asia’s cultural stunner is as staggering as its seemingly infinite 4,000-mile-long Great Wall. This is a holiday of many contrasts and cultures, where Beijing and Xi’an offer the best ways to explore its revolutionary and imperial past, and Shanghai and Hong Kong present a glamourous glimpse of its future.
A melting pot par excellence, China is located in the Far East, along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. For most, the undeniably centrepiece of the world’s third-largest country is its 4,000-mile long Great Wall, once believed to be visible from space until NASA disproved this theory. But this uplifting and intriguing land seduces with much more, including spectacular interior landscapes, iconic landmarks, mind-blowing peaks, and a fixation with food.
For a taste of China’s illustrious past, be greeted by 8,000 life-sized terracotta warriors, chariots and horses in Xian, and see where the spirits of the dead apparently come to rest at 2,000-year-old Ghost City of the Fengdu. Běijīng, China’s historical capital, never fails to impress on a tour with must-see splendours including the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
By contrast, cutting-edge Shanghai, once known as ‘The Paris of the East’, has buried much of its history beneath sparkling skyscrapers. Here you can eat, shop and get lost in Tian Zi Fang, relax in Yu Yuan Garden, marvel at the Jade Buddha Temple, and stroll down the riverside Bund. Equally dazzling is neon-lit Hong Kong, a city that will ignite your imagination with glittering skyscrapers, high-end shopping malls, and outlying islands dotted around the South China Sea.
Beyond its many cities - of which Suzhou, for its UNESCO-listed Chinese gardens, and Hangzhou, for its tea plantations are both worth visiting - a hauntingly beautiful wonderland awaits. Cruise down the 3964-mile Yangtze River to see the Three Gorges Dam, and journey to the unspoiled Yunnan province for an eclectic mix of geography, climates and nationalities.
For further holiday adventures, take a day trip from Guilin along the Li River to Yangshuo to see soaring limestone peaks, and visit adorable baby pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu – the so-called ‘panda capital of the world’.
We recently sent our Asia specialist Pete out to experience China in all its glory. Here, he tells us all about his adventure.
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