China’s vastness makes it a destination you can revisit countless times without ever getting bored or seeing the same thing twice. From ultra futuristic Shanghai to ancient Xian, the Far Western deserts to the southern hills around Guilin, this is a country that revels in its differences and diversity.
The world’s fourth largest country has a fast improving transport system. An ever-growing high-speed train network criss-crosses the south and east of the country, serving Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Regular trains cover great distances, while in the cities modern subway systems and buses serve booming populations.
To say China is blessed with some of the world’s best cities and greatest sights is an understatement. The capital Beijing alone offers endless opportunities for travellers. From the majestic sweep of Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City via the stunning Summer Palace, this is a city where China’s modern present rubs up against its ancient past. The grand sweep of the Great Wall of China is just a short car ride away.
The bright lights of Shanghai provide a futuristic counterpoint. The architecturally ambitious skyscrapers of its Pudong district serve up huge views, while the Bund and French Concession add an air of colonial grandeur.
The buzzing city of Guangzhou is not to be missed, its huge population and cultural diversity making it one of China’s most vital metropolises. For Chinese history at its most spectacular, Xian’s Terracotta Army museum is a highlight that should have a place of every itinerary. The scale and ambition of this ancient model army is mirrored in the relentless march of progress on show in the modern city nearby.
Escaping to the country is easy too, China’s unbelievable landscapes offering plenty for adventurers and dreamers. Guilin’s towering limestone peaks are perfect for both.
China’s size is a blessing when it comes to exploring. Beijing’s Hutongs, the narrow alleyways surrounding the Forbidden City and beyond, are ideal for idle strolling.
If you’re looking to walk the Great Wall, take the four-hour drive out to Jinshanling from Beijing to clamber on the ancient monument away from the crowds on the renowned Badaling section.
Way out west, the city of Urumqi is a world apart from the China of legend. The capital of the minority Uyghur people, it feels more Central Asian than Chinese, its place on the old Silk Road making it a mecca for traders as well as intrepid tourists.
Chinese food is multifarious and marvellous. As the capital of Sichuan province, Chengdu is the place to try hearty hot pots and spicy beef in chilli oil. The Yunnan food at Southern Barbarian in Shanghai has a devoted following. Try the fried goat’s cheese.
Beijing’s backstreets are growing in culinary stature, with the Yunnan specialities at Dali Courtyard a must. There’s no menu, you get whatever the chef’s fancy cooking. As the birthplace of Dim Sum, Guangzhou is the best place in China for steamy dumplings. Make sure to check out Mei Xin Garden if you happen to be in town.