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In a country so mind bogglingly big and with a history so incredibly rich, typing “what to do in China” into Google is likely to throw up a pretty endless list – it would be impossible to see them all on the one trip. But the real focus here is on the ancient, because as far as China’s attractions are concerned, the older the better. These are the sights that make up the very core of this spellbinding country. In fact, it’s through these iconic sites that China’s storied beauty is brought to life.
Many of the things to do in China primarily fall under Beijing’s big umbrella. Take the Great Wall of China – you wouldn’t really come all the way to China without ticking one of the new seven wonders of the world off of your list, would you? Just a short trip outside of the city’s smoggy embrace and you’ll be treated to a real “pinch me, I must be dreaming moment”. This might wall will have you mesmerised in moments.
Back in the city centre Tiananmen Square is forever abuzz with activity, the Forbidden City’s vast expanse is always on hand to teach visitors of ancient dynasties and the Temple of Heaven is guaranteed to blow all of your Instagram followers away. But as much as Beijing may boast a lot, Xian is hot on its heels. The Terracotta Army has been dubbed the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century and not without reason. So it’s good news that all of these must-see attractions are included as part and parcel of our base itinerary then, right?
Over in Hong Kong, it’s views that are favoured above a lot else. If sweeping views of that iconic skyscraper skyline are top of your list, Victoria Peak offers the crèm de la crèm of panoramas. But if getting back to Hong Kong’s heritage is more your thing, the traditional sampan boats and fishing village vibes of Aberdeen Harbour should be your go to.
Then there’s the sights of China’s waterways. The Yangtze’s Three Gorges Dam is a bucket-list tick unlike any other that you’ll have made so far. Here a 21st century, monster of a man-made dam – the biggest of its kind in the world – makes the river the accessible cruising territory that it is today. Whilst just a Li River raft away from Guilin, the tourist town of Yangshuo may not be as appealing as it once was, with its neon lights somewhat tainting the natural beauty that put it on the map, or 20 yuan bill as it were, but this town’s surrounding charms are still just as alluring as ever.
Ensure you don’t miss a thing by using our itinerary builder. First, choose your base itinerary so the most important sites are on the map (don’t worry if a destination is missing at this point – you can add it later). Then simply tailor your holiday to your exact requirements.
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With a history dating back nearly 2,700 years and still standing today at a staggering 21,196 km long, the Great Wall of China really is one of the world’s most mind-boggling attractions. Originally built to keep invaders out, ironically now it’s continually repaired in order to draw visitors in.Discover more
Dating back nearly 600 years, this walled city-within-a-city is one of the most important imperial palaces in China. Housing a whole host of Emperors from both the Ming and Qing dynasties and standing as everything that the founder of modern China, Chairman Mao, was against, the Forbidden City is the ultimate symbol of traditional power.Discover more
Pretty as a picture and a mandatory stop during any visit to Beijing, the Summer Palace – where emperors once came to play – is a serene spot, perfectly showcasing all things quintessentially Chinese. Think intricately designed ancient architecture backdropped by the lush verdure of picturesque gardens, all looking out over a charming lake.Discover more
Strikingly beautiful and drenched in rich imperial history, the Temple of Heaven is an integral legacy of traditional China. Built during the Ming Dynasty in 1420, the same year as the Forbidden City, you can expect plenty of old-school Chinese architecture sat within the tranquil grounds of its very own 267-hectare park.Discover more
Not just another square, Tiananmen is up there as one of the world’s largest and also one of its most political. Dating back nearly 500 years, today this square is utilised to showcase the grand scale of the communist party. Overlooked by a Mona Lisa like portrait of the late founder of modern China, Chairman Mao himself, this is a concrete expanse with one hell of an atmosphere.Discover more
As ethereal as the name suggests, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain consists of 13, snow-capped peaks of adventure loving fun. Primarily known for being a ski resort, but also just a scenic spot renowned for its hiking opportunities and gobsmacking glacier park, this small mountain range has got it all going on.Discover more
One of the most influential Buddhist sites in Xian and an icon of this ancient city, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a must-see sight. Originally built in the year 652 in order to study Buddhist scriptures, the pagoda now stands at 64.5 meters tall and is a total of seven storeys high, housing beautiful stone detail and cultural relics from its base right through to its body.Discover more
Often thought to be mere fiction, the Terracotta Army may not be as fantastically formidable as they’re portrayed in The Mummy, but they’re certainly a frozen force to be reckoned with. Dubbed the best archaeological find of the 20th century, the thousands of figures that make up this 2,200 year old clay army now provides one of our greatest insights into ancient china.Discover more
A mile-long stretch of European-style architecture that hugs the western bank of the Huangpu River, the Bund is where it’s at as far as Shanghai is concerned. An iconic montage of 52 colonial buildings, not only does this waterfront make for a pretty wander, but it also marks the historical centre of this giant of a city.Discover more
It’s one of the most beautiful waterways in the world – and that’s no exaggeration. When looking for classic oriental beauty, Li River should be top of your list. Connecting the scenic city of Guilin with the popular tourist town of Yangshuo, you can expect towering Karst landscapes punctuated by sleepy fishing villages that come to life on their respective market days.Discover more
Steer away from its tacky, tourist-focussed town centre and you’ll discover just why “Guilin has the best scenery under the heaven, but Yangshuo is even more beautiful”. Lying at the confluence of the Li and Yulong Rivers, it’s in Yangshuo’s countryside that you’ll find the epitome of China’s pastoral beauty in the form of dramatic karst peaks and lush rice fields.Discover more
Kohl rimmed eyes, inky noses and those signature circular ears that sit upon a fluffy white face – pandas are hard to beat on the cuteness scale. And with less than 2,000 of them left in the world, the Chengdu Panda Base - a non-profit breeding and research facility, housing nigh on 200 pandas in natural surrounds – is one of the best places in the world to see this loveable species.Discover more
A key stop on any Yangtze River cruise, Fengdu Ghost City is not for the faint hearted. Peppered with shrines, temples and monasteries, as well as artistic depictions of ghosts, devils and generally quite disturbing afterlife imagery, this is the ultimate pitstop when it comes to taking in China’s quirky history.Discover more
Holding the record as the longest ‘building’ – or architectural structure as is were – in the world, the Three Gorges Dam is quite the engineering marvel. Born out of necessity, to make the most beautiful but also the most treacherous parts of the spectacular Yangtze River passable, the dam is now a key source of tourism in its own right.Discover more
A far cry from its Scottish port town namesake, this harbour epitomises Hong Kong’s mishmashed culture and contemporary collisions. Highrises rear their modern heads over a busy fishing harbour made up of traditional junks and tourist luring sampans – here, you’ll find everything from floating restaurants to floating markets.Discover more
Repulse by name but certainly not repulse by nature, this bay is where it’s happening according to China’s in-the-know billionaires. Featuring a smattering of Hong Kong’s trademark swanky skyscrapers backdropped by picturesque undulations and skirted by powder white sands, say hello to the islands most popular beach resort. Think glitz, glamour and a distinctly trendy buzz.Discover more
A hidden gem, Hong Kong’s best kept secret and all the other cliches that you can think of. Yep, we’re going there, because Tai Long Wan is worthy of them all. This coastline, comprised of four white-sand bays is the side to the skyscraper island that you don’t hear about – a tranquil escape from Hong Kong city’s madness awaits.Discover more
Welcome to the heart and soul of Hong Kong, a.k.a. Victoria Harbour. A sight that you’re 99.9% sure to already be familiar with, this is a landmark that won’t disappoint. Managing to have more of a wow factor in person than in pictures, Hong Kong’s headline act really is quite something. From its nightly Symphony of Lights show to the neon buzz that sums up this destination as a whole.Discover more
Claiming the title as Hong Kong island’s highest point, Victoria Peak provides vistas that are set to wow. Home to the region’s rich and famous, think an upmarket spot that offers sweeping views of both the urban and leafy jungle that makes up the mega metropolis that is the most frequently visited city in the world. This is how to see Hong Kong.Discover more
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