Overview

Never was there a country of such huge contrasts. Home to the world’s fastest train and to the ox driven plough. The second largest global economy and yet 40% of Chinese remain in rural areas. Ancient structures co-exist with vast communist edifices. Come and discover what makes China so endlessly and fascinatingly diverse.

At 3,747,879 square miles, China is around the same size as the United States, but has a population of over a billion more inhabitants. Not surprising then that a staggering almost 20% of the total global population is Chinese. In a land with huge cities, vast rivers, massive mountains (the peak of Everest forms its border with Nepal), it is common for visitors to feel over-faced with the challenges of doing everything. Pick a well-paced itinerary which includes the highlights but allows time to relax and enjoy the distinct sights, flavours and sensations of each destination as well.

Highlights

China is famed for its 5,000 year history, which attracts tourists from around the globe. This fascinating country boasts breathtaking scenery, which varies from cityscapes, deserts, vast grasslands and elegant waterside towns.

Iconic sites

Meet Xian’s terracotta warriors, buried in 221BC to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang in his after-life. Platoons of clay soldiers, each one baring unique facial features, are accompanied by their horses, chariots and over 40,000 well-preserved bronze weapons. They were initially discovered in 1974 and continue to be excavated to this day. In fact, only in 2010, a 2000 year old bowl of soup was discovered during preparations for Xian’s airport extension. Qin Shi Huang also played a role in the early building of the Great Wall although most of the stone and brick work that is extant today was built by the Mings in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The world’s largest man-made structure stretched more than 13,000 miles across rugged landscaped but a section is easily visited as a day trip from Beijing. Perhaps China’s most iconic symbol is its giant panda. With their cuddly shapes and endearing personalities, these endangered beauties have captured hearts around the world. Visit them at the Chengdu Research Base for an up-close experience and learn about the on-going conservation work.

Imperial palaces

No experience of China is complete without a tour around Beijing’s Forbidden City, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The complex was home to 24 of China’s emperors including the last emperor, Puyi, ousted from power in 1911. At almost a mile long, surrounded by city walls, moats and gardens, and fronted by Tiananmen Square, the site takes some time to explore. It is currently subject to a 19 year restoration project, due for completion in 1921, to return it to its imperial glory. It fell into significant disrepair during the Cultural Revolution, but plans to tear it down were thankfully not acted upon. The design of the structure was planned down to the tiniest detail and crammed full of royal symbols and lavish features. When they weren’t in the Imperial City, emperors and their families, wives, concubines, servants and eunuchs could be found at their Summer Palace just outside the city centre. Well worth the visit, the complex includes an artificial lake, beautiful gardens and covered walkway.

When to visit

China is the third largest country in the world, so it has great extremes in temperature and weather conditions. April, May, September and October offer the most moderate climate, with mild temperatures and sunshine. The wet season occurs from June to July around Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu and Shanghai, but reaches the South China in from April to May and August to September.