China is one of the world’s most loved countries, a place where antique nature and vast urban cities collide in stark contrast with one another - creating a land that is equal parts historic and futuristic, sure to enthral even the most seasoned of travellers.
The myths of the forbidden city entice as the incredible quartz pillars of Wulingyuan form an enchanting stone forest that blends almost seamlessly with the soaring skyscrapers of Beijing and Shanghai, while beach dwellers head south to explore the pristine beaches found on the outlying islands of Hong Kong. Hidden amongst all of this are the famous flavours of China - blending the delicacy of Peking Duck with the fiery spices of Húnán Cuisine and the simplicity of Momo (Chinese dumplings) - China has it all.
There is so much to see in the country that it’s almost impossible to find a place to begin. Many tours start in the cities and make their way out on rural paths to China’s beautiful countryside and sleepy villages. If you’re flying in to Shanghai then be sure to take a stroll through Yu Gardens and explore the Old Town and the mystical Forbidden City, while at night, we suggest a trip on the river where you can enjoy a uniquely inspiring view of Shanghai’s stunning and vast neon skyline. Close by you may want to take in the picturesque town of Wuzhen, nicknamed the Venice of the East, for it’s built on a series of canals that mirror the ancient stone bridges and traditional buildings above. A peaceful boat ride around the canals is a perfect way to spend a lazy spring afternoon. Of course no trip to China is complete without a visit to the Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum: home to Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta army whose task it was to protect the emperor’s entry into the afterlife. The site was made a UNESCO site in the 1980’s and is a must see for anyone serious about getting to grips with the true breadth of Chinese culture. Another absolute must is the Great Wall of China - built over hundreds of years to protect China’s northern border and spreading over several provinces - a walk on the wall is as compulsory as seeing the pyramids on a visit to Egypt. Though we don’t suggest attempting the full walk - as the wall is a staggering 13,000 miles long.
Head to the Wuyuan county when you feel like getting back to the countryside - there are more than 50 villages in this remote area of China, nestled along riverbanks and amidst rice paddies, at the feet of great mountains and covered in diverse flora and fauna. Not too far away you’ll find the Dazhang mountains and the dreamy Wolong valley so head there to explore the ghost-like waterfalls and dewy forests before descending to the sleepy Sixi villages that are made up of genuine Hui architecture and dotted in the middle of vast farmlands.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a foodie and plan to sample some serious delicacies when in China then you’re in luck - as China’s cuisine is world-renowned for being one of the best and most complex in the world. If you want to experience it to the fullest then take a food tour of China where you can take part in cooking classes and learn the secrets of Sichuan and Shanghainese cooking. You could also take to the markets of Shanghai and the night markets of Hong Kong to sample the fresh ingredients offered up by the stall holders. In the Sichuan province you’ll find a mixture of old and new - rural and urban, as you explore ancient towns like Huanglongxi and eat Sichuan Hot Pot in Chengdu. If you’re a seafood aficionado then we suggest heading to the bright lights of Hong Kong where you’ll find some of the best seafoods in Asia but to get to the true heart of Chinese cuisine, you can do no better than to sample the many delicacies found on food markets all over the country, where you’ll find everything from Bamboo Tofu served with dried chillies and green peppers, Qingcai Baozi (steamed bun) with bak choi, mushrooms and tofu, to Shaokao (Chinese barbecue - usually with a mix of meats and vegetables all lovingly threaded on to bamboo skewers) and Banmian (Noodle soup) which comes in many shapes, sizes and colours with a variety of toppings including sausage and chicken mixed with Sichuan peppers and pickled long beans.
Travelling in China is in short a breathtaking experience, the views are as awe-inspiring as the foods are delicious while the people are welcoming and the cities diverse and grand.
If you’d like to find out more about touring China, whether to sample the cuisine, or to traverse the mountains, then please take a look at our available tours in China here.