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With its diverse range of landscapes, cultures and history, China makes an ideal destination if you like to get out and explore during their holiday. This formerly sleeping giant is now an emerging financial and industrial powerhouse, where dynamic, futuristic cities sit alongside the splendid remains of its ancient civilisations. Walk down busy city streets, through cities with millions of people, only to turn a corner and find an ancient shrine, a quiet garden and a unique moment of Zen. That’s what holidays in China are all about: small moments of harmony, found while exploring a huge country.
The diversity of its landscape and the cultural heritage of its people are fascinating. Rather than being overwhelmed by China’s size and the variety of attractions on offer, the easiest and best way to see the country is to go at your own pace and select guides when you can. Suitable for all ages and interests, a luxury holiday to China is truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Put simply, the great appeal of China is the scale. You’ll find giant pandas, great walls and huge terracotta armies. All of these elements feed into the incredible presence that China has in the world. This size, and the huge diversity of its landscape, plus the cultural heritage of its people add up to an enchanting destination. Here, in the world’s most populous country, you might get lost in the sheer volume of things to see. While a city break in a city like Paris or Rome would give you a neat list of ‘must see’ destinations, on China holidays, an entire day could easily be spent at one of the premier spots.
A vast complex of delicately adorned courtyards and incredible architecture, this monument to China’s heritage will awe you with its giant turquoise lion statues, gold trimmed facades, and its sheer scale. You’ll be taken aback by the enormous effort this fascinating monument to the past represents. Called The Forbidden City because it was off-limits to anyone but its noble residents for more than 500 years, it was the secret palace complex of China’s two most famous dynasties, the Ming and the Qing. Nothing will prepare you for a walk through the city as each sumptuously adorned courtyard or hall is replaced by another, yet more magnificent. Symbolic reds and golds feature heavily on the ornate decor, demonstrating the authority, supremacy and richness of the Chinese emperors.
Discovered in 1974 by local farmers, and now standing proudly on display in vast underground pits, The Terracotta Army are said to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor and are truly a spectacle to behold. Buried in three giant pits, over 10,000 warriors, horses, chariots, each with individual facial characteristics, hairstyles and dress stand majestically protecting the emperor’s tomb. This is also a live excavation site, and it’s fascinating to know that new areas are being identified for excavation, which could yield yet more treasures. The sheer size and detail of the site is breathtaking. You’ll also find an informative museum and research centre on the site, and at the gift shop you can even pick up a replica warrior to take home with you.
The capital of the People’s Republic of China since 1949, Beijing has long been the country’s political and cultural hub. You’ll find plenty to see from eight centuries of ancient and modern development. The Forbidden City, surrounded by walls and the world’s largest moat, was home to 24 emperors from 1420. The Imperial Palace, or Palace Museum, is the largest in the world. You’ll discover Tiananmen Square, or “gate of heavenly peace,” in the centre of Beijing: it’s one of the world’s largest public spaces and contains the National Museum of China. The Beijing Zoo, around 30 minutes’ away, is a prime place to see the giant panda for which China is so famous.
With luxury hotels, shimmering skyscrapers and a pulsating nightlife, Shanghai is a beacon to China’s future and the perfect place to end your 5-star holiday. The ‘city by the sea’ has glittering buildings, world-class shopping facilities and plenty of nightlife to keep your party going till the early hours. A great option is the Huangpu River night cruise, where you get to see the city in all its illuminated glory from the best possible vantage point. Have your camera at the ready and you’ll get some incredible photos of Shanghai’s intriguing blend of eastern and western architecture. After your cruise, head to the nightlife district on Hengshan Road, for cocktails, music and a party scene to rival all other great cities in the world.
Whether you start your visit in the historic capital of Beijing, with its ancient sites, glorious temples and tranquil gardens, or Shanghai, with its skyscrapers, futuristic architecture and vibrant nightlife, prepare for a full-on treat for all your senses during your holiday to China. A must-stay city is also Chengdu, famous for its Panda Breeding Centre, but also home to captivating temples, charming teahouses and a thriving foodie scene. In addition, don’t miss a visit to Xi’an for its iconic terracotta warrior statues. Xi’an’s importance as the famed end of the Silk Road makes it an intriguing city to explore, so make sure you take a stroll to the old city walls. Also, leave time for a trip to the atmospheric Dong Da Jie, said to be the oldest restaurant in the city. Accommodation in the larger destinations like Beijing and Shanghai runs the full range of luxury resorts to modest hotels. In more rural areas, the offerings are often more catered towards the backpacking markets, but the occasional well-equipped hotel, especially concentrated on popular areas of the Great Wall, is fantastic.
China’s vast land mass straddles the world’s different temperate zones, so you may experience extremes of weather - either extreme heat or cold - in different parts of the country’s vast area. Generally speaking, the best time to visit China is in the spring or autumn, when temperatures are generally more moderate, and it’s possible to avoid the extreme heat and humidity or cold, as well as the crowds which travel en masse during the summer months. If you don’t mind braving the crowds, consider whether you’d like to experience Chinese New Year, when the country comes alive in a celebration of vibrant colour and light.
Time difference: GMT +8 hours
Currency: Chinese Yuan.
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin.
Flight time from the UK (London): Approximately 10 hours.
Arrival Airport: Beijing Airport - transfers take approximately 45 minutes. Shanghai Airport - transfers take approximately 40 minutes.
Entry details (for British passport holders): A visa is required and needs to be arranged before departure. Passports need at least 6 months validity from your date of entry. Before you depart, check the latest travel advice at www.fco.gov.uk
A local Signature representative will meet you at your arrival airport and escort you to your pre-booked transfer vehicle. Your travel documentation will contain all contact details should you wish to get in touch with a local representative during your stay.
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