06 December 2017
China boasts numerous cultural, historical, culinary and natural attractions for you to explore. Open the door to the Far East with this tour of four Chinese cities running north to south, introducing you to this contradiction of a country that’s somehow both timelessly ancient and effortlessly modern.
Beijing has served as the seat of Chinese civilisation for centuries, providing a wealth of sites for you to discover. Visit its legendary Forbidden City, the vast home of China’s Emperors that’s renowned for its ornate scarlet citadel. Step into history on Tiananmen Square, passing massive portraits of China’s most infamous 20th century leaders as you walk. Head up north and see the crumbling Great Wall of China, visit the 15th century circular Temple of Heaven complex and view religious relics, or meet one of the last century’s most notorious global figures at the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
There are various other sites for your itinerary in Beijing. Stroll along idyllic Jingshan Park with its intricate pagodas and manicured gardens. Sample Far Eastern delights at the city’s beloved street food markets with tasty treats like iced candied hawthorn ‘Bing Tanghulu’ sweets and succulent ‘Chuan’r’ skewers. The city hosts various family attractions like the Chaoyang Theatre which is renowned for its traditional acrobatics shows and the Happy Valley Amusement Park, and you can pick up authentic trinkets, fine silks and ornate jewellery at the Wangfujing Street shopping district.
Explore the beginnings of China with a trip to the central city of Xi’an. The standout attraction is the ‘Terracotta Army’, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses over 8,000 life-like sculptures of soldiers and horses created for China’s first emperor, Qin Shi. This site is part of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, a vast burial complex modelled on the old capital of Xianyan filled with exquisite funeral objects. Delve into China’s ancient past with visits to 7th century Buddhist landmark the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and the Ming Dynasty-era City Wall which is still in good condition.
Xi’an is an ideal destination for all travellers. For something unique head to the Forest of Stone Steles, known for its rows of intricately-engraved ancient stone tablets. Trek up the mist-shrouded Mount Li and you’ll find carved pavilions, as well as the soothing Huaqing Hot Springs. Take the kids to try treats like ‘Jiasan’ steamed stuffed buns at bazaars in the city’s Muslim Quarter, or enjoy cultural performances including acrobatics, stilt walking and Shaolin Kung Fu at the Tang Paradise theme park. Wake up to the glorious sunrise at Mount Hua, one of China’s five holy peaks, and cap your trip off by taking in the fantastical music fountain show at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
Choose from a menu of attractions in the southern city of Chengdu. It’s major draw – especially for kids – is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding where you can meet these gentle giants and other endangered creatures like black-necked cranes. Chengdu is also home to the Dujiangyan dams which were built for irrigation over 2,000 years ago. Other major sites include Taoist holy site Mount Qingcheng, nicknamed ‘the most peaceful and secluded mountain under heaven’, and spiritual complex The Monastery of Precious Light known for its 13-storey Tang-era Sarira Pagoda.
Chengdu is the ultimate bucket list destination, with various things to check off. Take in a hauntingly-beautiful performance at the Shufeng Sichuan Opera House which is based the city’s cultural park, where you’ll also find the Pavilion of the Eight Trigrams that feature dragon carvings. Head back in time by strolling along the bluestone walkways of Jinli Old Street where you can frequent authentic tea houses, savour spicy delicacies and attend a traditional Lantern Festival every February. Visit the largest seated stone Buddha statue on Earth at Leshan, buy premium goods at the New Premium Century Global Center which is one of the world’s largest buildings, or view rare bamboo groves at Wangjian Tower Park.
See the best of 21st century China in southern commercial hub Shanghai. A must-see is the Oriental Pearl Tower; a futuristic structure you can climb, providing you with panoramic views. Your kids will insist on a trip to Shanghai Disney Resort where they can meet Disney Princesses and go on fun rides like the ‘Seven Dwarves Mine Train’. View the Shanghai World Financial Centre, one of our planet’s tallest skyscrapers and visit the iconic Nanjing Road with its buskers and street vendors selling items like pastry balls, Phoenix-shaped jewellery and calligraphy art, to really delve into Shanghai.
Shanghai is a centre for the global pearl industry, so browse outlets like the Hongqiao International Pearl City to find fabulously ornate jewellery. The city also hosts a treasure trove of cultural sites including the Jade Buddha Temple which is known for its intricate statues, the peaceful Ming-era Yu Garden that’s home to idyllic ponds, rockeries and pavilions, as well as the Shanghai Museum where you can see bronze and jade artefacts, along with paintings and calligraphy, dating back centuries. Round off your trip by taking a jaunt along famed waterside walkway The Bund, which is lined with distinctive colonial and contemporary structures, reflecting everything you’ll find on a trip to China!