- > The Ancient Tea-Horse Trail
- > Ancient Villages & Mountains of Anhui
- > Guangxi and Hunan
- > China's Eastern Seaboard
China is a world unto itself, a country of such scale and diversity that no short description could begin to sum it up. From the freezing snows of Harbin on the northern border with Siberia, to the tropical rainforests of Hainan Island in the South China Sea, this is a land of the most extreme contrasts. It is also a land that is undergoing rapid, wrenching change, as development overtakes city and country alike, transforming the culture and character of the world’s oldest continuous civilisation in the process. It is this tension, between change and continuity, ancient tradition and modernity, that makes modern China such a marvel to explore.
Penetrating China can be difficult. Most first-time visitors to the country will focus on just a few key areas, particularly the trio of eastern cities: Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an. Yet China offers so much more than these popular tourist spots, and while you can’t possibly hope to cover everything in a single trip, there’s much to be gained by stepping off-the-beaten path and travelling to the more remote northern and western regions of the country.
In the west of China, the provincial cities of Chengdu and Kunming serve as gateways to the scenic and cultural treasures of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. These remote regions contain China’s most beautiful and varied landscapes, which range from snow-capped Himalayan peaks to sweltering jungles. They are also regions of great ethnic diversity, where Yi, Miao, Bai and Tibetan peoples continue to live out an isolated existence in highland towns and villages.
Further south, Guangxi is famed for its karst (limestone peak) scenery and dramatic rice terraces. Here you can follow the course of the Li River between provincial capital Guilin and the backpacker’s paradise of Yangshuo to discover one of China’s most scenic regions. Within easy reach of Guangxi, neighbouring Hunan province offers the dual attractions of Fenghuang Ancient Town and Zhangjiajie National Park. Very few international tourists make it to this isolated region, though Chinese travellers have long known of its great beauty and flock here during the holidays.
It is the far northern and north-western regions of China that pose the starkest contrast to the densely populated Eastern seaboard. Beyond Jiayuguan, terminus of the Great Wall, is a land of vast, open expanses, where travel necessarily takes on an epic character. Here you can traverse the seemingly endless grasslands of the Inner Mongolian steppe on horseback, retracing the footsteps of Genghis Khan, or follow the ancient Silk Route from Xi’an, through the Gobi Desert and into China’s westernmost province, Xinjiang.
China holidays with Gane and Marshall
Planning a holiday to China is complicated by the country’s sheer scale. Knowing where to start and where to end can be confusing. We can help. Our staff have travelled extensively in China and will help you plan a holiday that takes in the very best that the country has to offer, whether you would like a tour of the major highlights or a more remote adventure. Get in touch on 01822 600 600 or firstname.lastname@example.org to start planning your holiday to China.
CHINA AT A GLANCE
In planning a holiday to China, it’s perhaps more important to know what to avoid than what to see. Many of China’s most famous and celebrated attractions have become crowded circuses.
China is vast. The Great Wall, which stretches across much of the country, is over 21,000km in length. An appetite for long-distance wayfaring is essential!
Thankfully, getting around the country is easy. China boasts the world’s longest high-speed rail network. Travel by high-speed train is usually more pleasant than flying (though not always cheaper).
Guides in China are often poorly paid and in many cases supplement their income via “shopping” excursions and other kick-backs. Beware cheap tours.
Example itineraries in China
Journey along the legendary tea-horse trail, an ancient trading route connecting West China with Tibet and India, on this 13-day guided tour of Yunnan province. Beginning in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, you’ll travel north to the Tibetan Plateau via the ancient settlements of Dali, Shaxi, Lijiang and Zhongdian, visiting remote villages and taking in stunning mountain scenery along the way.
Journey into Eastern China’s most remote and least-developed province, Anhui, to discover ancient Huizhou villages and staggeringly beautiful mountain scenery. This 10-day part-guided tour can be booked as a standalone holiday or as an extension to a larger tour of China’s Eastern seaboard, with Anhui’s dramatic scenery and slower pace of life providing a welcome antidote to the hustle and bustle of China’s megalopolises.
Explore the spectacular karst landscapes of Guangxi province before venturing north to the remote and often-overlooked province of Hunan on this guided 9-day tour of south-western China. Taking advantage of a new highway between Longsheng and Fenghuang Ancient Town, you'll visit area of China far removed from the standard tourist circuit.
Encompassing the provinces of Zhejiang, Shandong and Jiangsu, China’s Eastern Seaboard extends for 1,200 miles between the mouths of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers. This is the country’s most developed and populous region, containing several of its most spectacular cities, including Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing. Yet it is also a region rich in history and, away from the urban centres, great natural beauty.