BEST TIME TO GO
All year round
Direct flights from London Heathrow to Beijing, 10hrs 5mins
China’s vast land juxtaposes ancient cultures with modern living. To get round it all, you would need a lot of time, but there are wonderful itineraries where you can combine bustling cities and simple living in the countryside.
Beijing: There are some iconic sights to see, such as The Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, The Great Wall of China, Summer Palace, the narrow alleys of Hutong, with their specially designed carts, the Temple of Heaven, traditional operas and and bustling markets selling all sorts from silk to Buddhas. For something more modern, there’s are several new buildings of note, including the Olympic Bird’s Nest (The National Stadium) and the beautiful National Centre for Performing Arts.
Also in the north of the country are the Mogao Caves, also known as the “Thousand Buddha Grottoes”. A system of 492 temples, dating back to the 4th century, that form an oasis which is strategically located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road, in Gansu province. Jiayuguan Fort – the old military fort is well worth a visit.
Shanghai: A cool and confident city, on the east coast of China. A busy port, with a successful financial and commercial centre. Its gleaming tall sky scrapers and sharp modern buildings contrast with ancient streets, not least the most famous Bund waterfront, which is almost a living museum, having symbolised Shanghai for 100 years. The Yellow Mountains, so named after the Yellow Emporer, (Huang Di) in 747 AD, are some of the most beautiful mountains in China with their hot springs, and whirling clouds – and deservedly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From here, go onto The world renown Terracotta Army, an impressive collection of unique individuals which forms part of an elaborate mausoleum created to accompany the first emperor of China into the afterlife, according to archaeologists. The unique Zhangjajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province is part of Wulingyuan National Park scenic area for those who enjoy nature and being outdoors.
Lijiang: If you want a slice of ancient China, then Lijiang with its quaint cobbled streets, timber and tiled dwellings, canals and traditional craftsmen continuing to ply their wares should figure in your plans. Dating from 1300s, the village is a UNESCO world heritage site. Lying in the South West of the country, it could easily be included in itineraries to Myanmar, Vietnam or Hong Kong.
Chengdu: If you want to come face to face with a giant panda, then the mountainous regions of Sichuan is the destination for you. Also worth a visit for the delicious, spicy Sichuan food. Head a little further north and you will arrive in Juizhaigou National Park, which is the perfect place for some outstanding hiking, and another of China’s numerous UNESCO world heritage sites.
Xitang: A romantic water-town, where nine rivers converge and the eight different sections of the town are linked with bridges, with boats forming a key form of transport. This adds to the tranquility, calm and slow pace of this antiquated town and makes it such a contrast to its relatively near neighbour, Shanghai.