When to go:
Spring and autumn are the best months broadly speaking but there are huge regional variations.
From £3500 per person for a ten day trip.
Wild Swans by Jung Chang – a classic text and a real page turner telling the life stories of three generations of women from the same Chinese family.
If travelling off the beaten track it’s wise to pack loo roll and wet wipes!
Did you know?
In the south of China, people say "we will eat anything with wings except an airplane and we will eat anything with legs except a table."
There’s no easy way to categorise China, the fourth biggest landmass on our globe and a country whose inhabitants make up nearly one-fifth of the total world population. It’s not surprising that you can find almost everything here, from preserved artefacts of ancient civilisations to soaring contemporary skyscrapers, magnificent mountain ranges and tranquil villages to immense cities.
Fascinated by history? Make sure your itinerary includes the incredible Terracotta Army in Xi’an, Beijing’s Forbidden City,and the infamous Tiananmen Square. Hoping to lose – and find – yourself in wild expanses of stunning landscape? Head to Yunnan province in the southwest of the country, or out west to the great deserts of Xinjiang province, once crossed by great caravans of the Silk Road. Perhaps you want to see the best of modernity that the East has to offer, in which case book yourself in for a bustling city break in Beijing or cosmopolitan Shanghai and explore the many excellent restaurants, museums and shops. All this and, of course, the unmissable Great Wall.
China is, by turn, mesmerising, exhilarating and eye-opening, making it one of the most exciting countries to explore today. We can help you decide how best to discover it.
These are just a few of the activities we’ve arranged for our clients in the past. One of them could be the defining reason for your whole holiday, or simply an afternoon diversion.
– The oldest country in the world, China has a culture dating back thousands of years. Much of it may not be immediately familiar, but that doesn’t mean its not rewarding. As well as the big ticket sites, there are plenty lesser known places to be explored.
– China is known as the flowery kingdom for its abundance of flowers and fruits, of which many, such as oranges and orchids, are now grown around the world. Botanists should see Suzhou’s remarkable classical Chinese gardens, which are on the United Nations’ World Heritage List. For those who prefer their nature untamed, Yunnan province has an extraordinary biodiversity, encompassing tropical jungle in the south, gently undulating rice and tea terraces in the middle, and soaring Himalayan peaks in the north.
– Pandas are the emblem of China, but don’t expect to see them while out for a gentle walk in the countryside. It is possible to see them in the wild, but this requires time (at least four or five days), resilience (you need to hike and camp) and deep pockets (specialist guides to track them down do not come cheap). For most people, a visit to Chengdu’s Panda Research Centre is an easier, but still enjoyable way to experience these characterful creatures.
Shopping, markets and food
– The big cities offer a variety of shopping, including many global luxury brands, but locals still use the traditional markets. Indoor and outdoor, these are busy and inexpensive, and will give you the chance to hone your bargaining skills. The diversity of China’s geography and climate has resulted in varying cuisines in each region. In remote areas there may be fewer options, but in big cities you can eat well both in small markets and top restaurants.
– There’s a wealth of diverse buildings across China to feast your eyes upon, from numerous relics of China’s Imperial past, to 1920s French colonial buildings in Shanghai to some of the most recognisable modern buildings in the world, such as Beijing’s ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium.
– China has developed extraordinarily quickly, sometimes at the expense of tradition. It comes as no surprise then, that the best place to experience traditional cultures is in the lesser developed parts of the country. Yunnan province, which borders Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Tibet, is something of a cultural melting pot, and a great place to come to see traditional lifestyles still very much in effect. Elsewhere, the bordering provinces of Guangxi and Guizhou offer fantastic festivals and colourful markets to witness.
Trekking and hiking
– The north of Yunnan province, which is effectively the foothills of the Himalayas offers some great trekking – from gentle day hikes to longer circuits of Holy Tibetan mountains. More accessible, the village of Longji in China’s south is a well developed place to hike amongst pretty rice terraces, and can easily be added to a classic itinerary.
- Getting there
– Fly direct in about 11 hours to Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. Most airlines will let you fly into one city and out of another, so you don’t need to backtrack. If you have time, travel across land. It’s even possible to take the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian Railway all the way from Europe.
– China has a good network of domestic flights connecting major cities. While the service is not always fantastic, the safety record is good and the fleet consists of modern Boeings or Airbuses. For the more out-of-the-way places we would provide a car and driver. Trains between certain destinations can also be a wonderful way to see the country – whether by China’s growing network of highspeed rail, or longer overnight journeys
– China occupies such a vast landmass that the climate varies greatly. In general though, the best time to travel is spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November); summer can be hot and rainy, but plenty of people visit at this time. Winter is very cold in the north around Beijing – though the Great Wall looks spectacular under a dusting of snow, and you’ll have it to yourself.
Visa/ entry requirements
– Tourist visas are necessary to get into China and we can help you with the application. You will need a valid passport and visas must be obtained in your country of origin before travelling. If you are employed in the media, give us a call to discuss how to make the application.
Events (festivals, wildlife migrations)
– China has a wealth of festivals. The most notable is Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival since it marks the end of the winter season. It falls on different dates of the Gregorian calendar each year, somewhere between January 21st and February 20th. The Dragon Boat festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar and Dragon boat racing can be seen throughout the country. Elsewhere there are numerous festivals dotted throughout the year – such as the Harbin Ice festival, the world’s largest ice sculpture festival (December and January); and the Sister Meal festival – a kind of Valentine’s Day festival for the Miao minority in Southern China (varies, but usually in Spring time).
Thanks to China’s size and magnificent landscape it’s possible to get off the beaten track in a way that wannabe explorers will appreciate. Follow the Silk Road though vast plains and forgotten cities; trek the Great Wall; discover one of the world’s last matriarchal societies; explore ‘Greater Tibet’ and travel overland between mountainous Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
- Cultural Nuts
– The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace – Beijing’s landmarks are as fascinating as their names imply. Culture lovers will also want to see the 1920s architecture in Shanghai and the Terracotta Army and Shaanxi Museum at Xi’an. For those who really want to immerse themselves in the culture there’s also Peking Opera – be warned though, it really is something of an acquired taste.
– A stay in Hangzhou will keep newly-weds on their cloud of bliss: pagodas, temples and botanical gardens have ensured this has long been known as China’s most beautiful city.
- Young and Old Families
– Children will be awe-struck and inspired by China, what better way to stretch their minds? Take them to see the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army, the Giant Panda Institute in Chengdu, the Shaolin temple with its Kung Fu monks – sights they’re sure to remember forever.
- Solo Travellers
– China needn’t be off limits to solo travellers. We can ensure your transport is pre-arranged and you have reliable guides to accompany you where required.
– Chinese food we experience in the UK tends to be Cantonese – from Hong Kong and the south – and generally a poor facsimile at that. In reality, Chinese food is incredibly diverse with a bewildering variety of regional specialities. Beijing and Shanghai have world class restaurants of most kinds of food from around the world, as well as Chinese regions; most places of any size now have non-Chinese restaurants for those who don’t get on with Chinese food. We can make recommendations and book the best restaurants for you.