Today the celebrations kick off for Chinese New Year. We see no better reason than this to sing the country’s praises. The World’s largest annual migration has begun, with China seeing hundreds of millions return home for the party. If you fancy being a part of this next year and you’ve been toying with the idea of a trip east, today’s the day to make your (Chinese) New Year’s resolution and make it happen.
The world’s second largest country, China is made up of 9.6 million square kilometres of land area offering a varied landscape with a rich heritage that is rivalled by no other place on earth. Looking at a map of China, it’s easy to see how some travellers can be overwhelmed. The country’s sheer size makes seeing the ‘highlights’ near-impossible in just one trip but if you do want to see as much as possible, there are a number of China tour options that could suit you.
Where to visit first?
In the West there’s the lush and sub-tropical Chengdu or the mountain-kingdom of Tibet. Head south to Hong Kong or the South China Sea and you hit paradise beaches and waters shared by Vietnam and Hanoi. And what about the capital Beijing and China’s largest city, Shanghai? Like the menu in your local Chinese take-away – the offering is plentiful and there’s a taste here to suit everyone. The key is forward planning and a measured approach to picking the right number on the menu for you.
History Buffs: Look to the North
Visit Beijing in the North of China for the best and most in-depth journey into the country’s history. The Palace Museum, or the ‘Forbidden City’, where access was forbidden for 500 years (two dynasties of imperial rule) is China’s most well-preserved collection of ancient buildings and the biggest palace complex in the entire world. The Great Wall of China is also a day trip away from Beijing. For an insight into China’s political standing, there’s no better spot than the infamous and at times, chilling, Tiananmen Square.
History buffs will also love Xian, the former capital of an epic 13 ruling dynasties, for its rich history that dates back over 3,000 years. Most travellers pin point Xian for its Terracotta Army –thousands of larger-than-life-size warriors sculpted out of terracotta – that took a total of 700,000 workers to complete over 2000 years ago.
Party-loving City-philes: Go East
Go east for the bright lights of Shanghai and enter a realm that is akin to Besson’s The Fifth Element or Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. In a land as ancient as China, Shanghai has ascended up and beyond, with its sci-fi sky-scrapers and art-deco architecture. This is post-modern China in which cultures collide. People-watch in People’s Square, eat croissants in Frenchtown and party after dark in some of the world’s best bars.
Culture-Vultures: Head to Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a melting pot of culture. Located on the South China Sea, the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China benefits from a pretty coastline and the lively vibe of a thriving city. Contemporary art, performance and film thrive here and Hong Kong is well known as the culinary capital of China. Every day in Hong Kong holds a different experience, from hanging out at the Sikh temple to shopping like a maniac (the variety of stuff on offer in the malls and boutiques here is immense) and cruising with cocktails along the harbour at night. Meet artists, poets and beach bums. Hong Kong offers diversity in its activities, landmarks and people.
Off the Beaten Track: Go West
For adventurous travellers that want to visit some of the lesser-known regions of China, west is best. Look to the west of China for remote regions that hold an expanse of cultures and peoples. From exotic Tibet, bordering the Himalayas, to the Taklamakan Desert in the far north-west of the country, there are plenty of spots to explore if the road-less-travelled beckons you. Highlights include Dunhuang, from which you can access the Mogao Caves, China’s most extensive collection of Buddhist statuary that dates back to the 3rd century and the breath-taking Turpan, a bright green oasis set within a desert.