Jinshanling Great Wall in China

China is fast becoming a popular tourist destination. In 2010, it was listed as the third most visited foreign country in the world. China is a land of opposites from the tropical south to the snowy mountains in the north, from vast natural landscapes to the urban jungles, where ancient traditions meet modern technologies.

The Cities

The modern world collides with ancient eastern traditions in China’s largest cities: Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. Beijing, the capitol and second largest city of China, is home to the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Olympic stadiums, and in the northern part of the city, the Great Wall of China. Contrasting with these ancient structures, Beijing is one of the most developed cities in China. Spend a day touring the Forbidden City, traditional hutong neighborhoods, temples, parks and antiques districts , as well as Tai Chi lessons or a Peking Opera performance. Swap old for new on another day to visit the Olympic sites, museums and contemporary art districts with insider access to local art galleries.

Youyicun garden in Shanghai

Shanghai, the largest populated city in China, is located on the mouth of the Yangtze River in the central China coastline. Despite is population density, Shanghai is known for its immaculate gardens filled with Chinese architecture, canals and classical design using the rocks and hills to blend seamlessly with the pavilions and pagodas. Located just outside of Shanghai are the Classical Gardens of Suzhou and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some of these gardens date back over a thousand years and are well worth a photo-taking excursion.

Hong Kong, at one time a British colony, is truly a mix of Eastern traditions mixed with Western culture. Here Hong Kong rests comfortably in the valleys and surrounding nature reserves, making it a great place to explore the terrain with hikes through the numerous country parks. Nearly surrounded by the South China Sea, the area also has many bays, rivers and beaches. Nature is never more than an hour away from the urban centers. Hike and explore the hills during the day, and take in the extraordinary culinary offerings such as dim sum or hot pot at night.

Qutang Gorge on Changjiang

The Sights

China is full of iconic sights and flavors that are a must-see for most travelers with the Great Wall of China topping the list. The Great Wall, built as early as the 7th century BC, stretches from Shanhaiguan, which is north of Beijing west to Inner Mongolia. The Great Wall is made up of a series of walls, trenches, towers, fortifications and passes that measure over 13,000 miles long with all of its branches. For truly iconic imagery, Luxe Travel recommends visiting the Mutianyu and Jinshanling passes. These forest covered areas surround the granite Wall as it climbs the mountainous hills, dotted with watchtowers.

The Yangtze River is synonymous with authentic Chinese travel destinations. As the longest river in Asia, the Yangtze offers an impressive tour through China’s natural landmarks and native flora and fauna. One of the most popular destinations along the river is Three Gorges area, flanked by tall jade and rocky cliffs, and some of the widest areas of the Yangtze. For an exotic twist on touring China, take one of the exciting river cruises offered along the Yangtze.

Tibet Mountains

One of the most monumental discoveries in China was the unearthing of the Terracotta Army near Xi’an. The sculptures, created to protect the first emperor of China after death, date back over 2,000 years and contain over 9,000 figures such as soldiers, horses and chariots. While several of the pieces have toured the world through various expeditions, a large amount still remain in pits surrounding the Qin Shi Huang mausoleum and are open to public and private tours.

Traveling the Silk Road through China offers a unique authentic travel experience. Named for the interlinking trade routes traversing China west to Europe, the Silk Road today offers a chance to see China outside of the bustling metropolis cities. See Buddhist temples, ancient ruins, varying terrain from mountains to desserts and shop for treasures in places such as Kashgar Market.

While often thought of as its own region, Tibet is in fact a part of the People’s Republic of China. Many travelers to Tibet come to begin their ascent on Mount Everest. However, you do not need to be a climber to enjoy the splendid beauty of the world’s tallest mountain. Tibet is also home to world heritage sites Potala Palace and Nobrulingka as well as the Dalai Lama’s residence.

Shanghai at night

The Cuisine

Dining out in China is not like going down to your local Chinese restaurant. Fresh ingredients, expert preparation and diverse, exotic flavors are all standard fare. There are eight regional styles of cuisine featured throughout China, however you can find most regions represented in the larger cities. From Cantonese dim sum of small bite sized portions to Szechuan’s bold flavors, be sure to sample the rich variety of food beyond fried rice and Chinese noodles.

When to go

Because China is vast and the landscape diverse, when to go will depend largely on where you are traveling. The northern winters are cold and dry, whereas the summer southern regions are warm and moist. Plan to visit Beijing and Shanghai in the temperate autumn months. Consider traveling the Yangtze during February or March. The temperatures will be cooler, but the crowds will be fewer.

If China’s exotic culture, vibrant cities, living history or diverse topography is your next luxury vacation destination, contact the Luxe Travel team at 1-866-365-8747 or concierge@luxetravel.com.