China’s capital is also one of the country’s main tourist attractions with world famous sights such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven to name just a few. The city also has superb cuisine, famous markets, some stunning modern architecture including the 2008 Olympic Stadium and the warren of ancient residential streets known as Hutongs to add to the charm. All in all a few days in Beijing is time very well spent and consequently we include 3 nights in the city on most of our Trans-Siberian tours.
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province but what puts it firmly on the tourist trail is that it is the home of the Giant Panda with the Research and Breeding Base being the best place in the world to see these symbols of China. If you have ever dreamt of holding a baby panda (for an exorbitant fee mind and suspended as of 2017) this is the place to do it. Besides Pandas the city is pleasant enough and outside the city the Giant Buddha at Leshan and Mount Emeishan are both well worth a visit.
Guilin & Yangshuo
Guilin, and more particularly the nearby town of Yangshuo are the place in China to see the classic limestone karst scenery, rivers and rural life that many have in their minds when they think of China. A cruise down the Li River is the most popular way to see the scenery but there are also plenty of cycle routes and bamboo rafting trips that immerse you in amongst it just as well. Yangshuo is also an excellent place to rest up on your travels being one of the more relaxed places in China with some lovely small boutique hotels set in lovely locations.
Harbin is a city in China’s north east that happens to be on the Trans-Manchurian train line making it an easy stopover on the way to or from Beijing. For most of the year there is no special reason for tourists to visit the city. However for about 6 weeks each year from early January Harbin hosts one of China’s most spectacular but still relatively unknown events, the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival. This is an ice festival like no other with vast and only slightly scaled down sculptures of buildings from around the world recreated in ice and lit up from within.
Hong Kong makes for the ideal start or finish point for a trip in China. If starting there it is an easy city to deal with, well organised and compact, before entering China proper. At the end of the trip it is a fantastic place to relax for a few days, shop it’s markets or enjoy the vibrant nightlife and food scene. Well served by international flights this city has a spectacular location and its world famous harbour and the Peak are a must for every visitor.
Shanghai is China’s second city to Beijing but the two could not be more different in looks, history and culture. Shanghai is first and foremost a financial and trading centre from the impressive banking houses along the European style Bund to the modern skyscrapers that form the increasingly impressive skyline of Pudong located just across the Huang Pu river. The city lacks the sights that other parts of China have but makes up for this with its dynamism and the glimpse it gives the visitor of China’s exciting future. If you travel to Xian from Beijing it makes sense to exit China from Shanghai rather than backtrack to Beijing.
If Russia and Mongolia didn’t provide you with enough adventure adding Tibet into your trip will surely succeed in doing so. This high altitude part of China is like nowhere else from the capital of Lhasa, home to some spectacular architecture to the landscape and towns on the way south down the Friendship highway all the way to Kathmandu. Tibet also has Mount Everest and the best and most easily accessible views of the world’s highest peak close to the border with Nepal.
Next to Beijing, Xian is also a top tourist draw, chiefly for the vast ranks of the Terra Cotta Army which have made the city famous worldwide. Historically it has log been an important world city and was the Eastern end of the Silk Road. Xian was also capital of China during the Tang Dynasty considered a golden period of prosperity and artistic expression. The Xian of today has a lot to recommend it besides the Warriors including the vast City Walls, vibrant Muslim Quarter and some excellent museums and mausoleums not to mention stunning mount Huashan outside of the city.
The Yangtze is China’s longest river slicing through the middle of the country from west to east from Yunnan province to it’s exit in to the see near Shanghai. Cruises run the route from Chongqing to Yichang taking 3 nights with occasional departures going all the way to Shanghai adding a further 4 nights to the trip. The chief draw of the cruises are the spectacular Three Gorges of the Yangtze which are still impressive despite losing some of their height to the lake built up by the vast dam of the same name.