Also known as the cradle of humanity, Beijing is the epicentre of China’s economic, political and educational hub. The city is famous for its Hutongs which are formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences (siheyuan). Since the mid-20th century, many hutongs have been demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. A visit to Beijing will give you a glimpse into China’s imperial past. Highlights of Beijing include: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Olympic Stadium; it is also the gateway for the opportunity to climb the legendary Great Wall of China.


Sprawling along the southern banks of the Yangtze River in the south of Jiangsu Province, the city of Changzhou offers a world of historic, modern, and natural charms. History lovers will enjoy exploring the China Spring and Autumn Yancheng Scenic Area, dating back 3000 years; the famous Tang Dynasty Tianning Temple, a sacred Buddhist site decorated with intricate brick carvings; and the China Dinosaurs Park, featuring a fascinating museum and six entertainment areas. ‘Combs Alley’ provides another interesting look into a particular chapter of the town’s past: its extravagant combs, which were renowned in the Qing and Ming Dynasties. Spend a tranquil day picnicking along the pretty Tianmu Lake, or take in some culture at the galleries, theatres, and bars along Canal Five.


The city of Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province and it serves as a popular transport hub for the entire region. The city is known for its wonderfully relaxing teahouse culture, its extraordinarily spicy culinary scene, and its vibrant nightlife which is bolstered by the large numbers of student and expats who call Chengdu home. The main attraction is undoubtedly the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a conservation centre where visitors can view endangered giant pandas in their natural habitat. Other must-see sights include the Jinsha Site Museum which displays artefacts from the Shu Kingdom, many of which date back as far as the 4th century B.C.


Centered around the city of Chongqing and the Yangzi River, the province of Chongqing is an exciting area for both commerce and travel. The Yangzi is the world’s third longest river, offering hour-long or multi-day cruises from Chongqing city, providing exceptional views of both the wilderness areas along the river and the city’s incredible skyline. Visitors should be sure to witness the famous ‘Twelve Views of Bayu’ all of which are set in and around the city. These include the Ayi River, Changshou Lake, the Furong Cave, Black Mountain, the Three Natural Bridges, the Gorges of Mount Wu, the Tongjing Hot Pools and the Huangshui Forest. Other not-to-be-missed destinations include Wuxi County on the Daning River, Dazu Rock Carvings situated on Dazu County’s steep hillsides, and the Diaoyu Fortress, providing evidence of China’s historic resistance to Mongol forces.


Situated in southwestern China, the laid-back city of Dali rests on the shores of Erhai Lake in the scenic Yunnan Province. This ancient city boasts a fascinating history that dates back to the 8th-century Kingdom of Nanzhao. The surrounding landscape is characterised by rolling lush greenery covering beautiful mountains and glistening lakes. This popular backpacker’s paradise features a centuries-old walled city dating back to the Ming Dynasty boasting an array of traditional heritage homes and historical architecture. Visitors can look forward to viewing the 9th-century Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple and cycling around the remarkably beautiful landscapes.


The immaculately preserved ancient town of Fenghuang lies in western Hunan Province, roughly 30 minutes’ drive from Jishou. Once a frontier town, this riverside settlement became a centre for exchange, despite numerous protective efforts and walls. Watch the vaulted Hong Bridge light up at night, wonder at the beautiful fish and mythical creatures on the historic walls and towers, or see the gorgeous intricate woodwork and antiques at Chongde Hall, once home to the town’s wealthiest resident. The Yang Family Ancestral Hall, built in 1836, offers a chance to see original slogans about the Cultural Revolution. Other highlights include the stately and pretty Wanming Pagoda, and the enthralling Jiangxin Buddhist Temple, once operating as a nunnery. There is an impressive array of accommodation options – the town is particularly glorious to see against the contrast of darkness.


Guangzhou is a giant port city resting on the Pearl River northwest of Hong Kong, and is China’s third largest city. The metropolis offers a unique east-meets-west experience, with chic five-star hotels, shopping malls and avant-garde architecture sprawled out around ancient temples and exotic museums. Modern buildings dazzle throughout the city in the form of the spectacular Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House, the carved box-shaped Guangdong Museum, and the famous Canton TV Tower skyscraper. History buffs can take in a variety of ornate Confusion-era statues and paintings at the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, walk along the picturesque boulevards of the French-colonial Shamian Island, and visit the Temple Of The Six Banyan Trees where Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, taught his first disciples. Other highlights include: the iconic Five Rams Sculpture, the exquisite gardens of the Yuyin Mountain Villa, and one of China’s best museums, the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King.


Guilin is an attractive city and an extremely popular tourist destination in North Guangxi, China. The city is renowned for its magnificent natural landscape of dramatic limestone karst hills and its colourful minority culture. At the centre of the city lie two beautiful lakes, Shanhu (Cedar) and Ronghu (Banyan), remaining from a medieval-era moat that once surrounded the city. Boats travel through these and other lakes via connected rivers. While the city boasts hundreds of wonderful attractions, the most famous are the Li River, the nearby resort town of Yangshuo, and the picturesque Longji Terraced Fields.


The peaceful tranquillity of this time-worn city is the perfect antidote to the busy, crowded metropolis of Shanghai. Hangzhou locals are extremely proud of their lovely garden city and as the old Chinese saying goes, ‘In heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Hangzhou’. By Chinese standards, the city boasts plenty of green spaces, classical gardens and flourishing parks are dotted throughout. The West Lake and its lush green surroundings are undoubtedly the city’s biggest drawcard. Willow-trees and pagodas line the banks of this gorgeous lake as tiny boats float lazily by, forming a quintessentially Chinese landscape. Take a leisurely stroll along the causeway by the lake; you’ll feel the peaceful ethos of the city and better understand its time-honoured fame as ‘Heaven on Earth’.


The swan-shaped city of Harbin in China’s Heilongjiang Province is known as the ‘Ice City’, a befitting title as it is home to the celebrated Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Tourists throng to this prosperous port city to stare in wonderment at the jaw-dropping ice artworks exhibited at various venues is a dazzling display of ice, colour and music. The cosmopolitan cityscape excites culturally curious travellers as they marvel at the Russian buildings at the old quarter, the fascinating Baroque and Byzantine-style facades at Zhongyang Street, the majestic St. Sophia Cathedral, and the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the Far East. Other magnificent sights include Harbin Polarland, Jile Temple, Siberian Tiger Park, Beiji Village, China Snow Town and the spine-chilling Dragon Tower, the home of the longest transparent glass skywalk in the world.


The city of Kashgar lies on the ancient Silk Road in China’s far west, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Serving as a strategic trading post between China, the Middle East and Europe for more than 2000 years, the city’s rich heritage is evident in its bustling bazaars, numerous craftsmen, Old Town remains and Tang-dynasty town ruins of Mor Pagoda. The inviting warm-yellow walled Id Kah Mosque, built in 1442, is a must-see for spiritual and cultural enthusiasts. Highlights for nature lovers include the Shipton’s Arch rock formation, one of the tallest rock arches in the world, the enthralling Karakul Lake, surrounded by dramatic snow-capped peaks and traditional farming communities, and the nearby Kunlun and K2 Mountains. Make sure to visit the neighbouring town of Gaotay to see incredible local pottery, carvery, and hand-made musical instruments.


The capital of China’s southern Yunnan Province, Kunming is a bustling but pleasant city with some great sights and attractions. Don’t miss the brilliant Wu Mayao Museum of Anthropology, which is housed at Yunnan University, or the Yunnan Provincial Museum, which has an excellent collection of folk musical instruments. The Qiongzhu (Bamboo) Temple is an astonishing architectural feat, and be sure to check the listings at TCG Nordica, an exhibition space which regularly hosts live music and other cultural events. Green Lake Park is a wonderful place for people-watching, and for those with more time in the area, a trip to the Stone Forest (Shilin) – an incredible set of tall limestone rock formations – is highly recommended.


Lanzhou is the capital of the Chinese province of Gansu and is situated near the country’s geographical centre. A popular destination, with vibrant night markets and some iconic sights on offer, Lanzhou also makes a great base for travellers looking to explore fascinating, remote Gansu province more extensively. Must-visit attractions include the Gansu Provincial Museum, which contains items from the Neolithic Age as well as The Flying Horse of Gansu: one of the country’s most famous statues. From there, cross the Yellow River via Zhongshan Bridge to visit White Pagoda Park, which contains a lovely temple of the same name, and then visit Water Wheel Park to view the interesting historic equipment on display. Finally, some highly recommended excursions from Lanzhou include the Tulu Valley, Linxia, Wuwei and Jiayuguan.


Deep in the Himalayan Mountains lies Lhasa, a unique and culturally fascinating city. Lhasa translates to ‘Place of God’, and as its name implies, this city has been the hub of Tibetan spiritual life since the mid-17th century. As a result, it contains a myriad of culturally significant religious sites. These include the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and Sera Monastery. Due to many years of Chinese-influence and modernisation, this once quiet town has been superseded by the bustling commercial streets of the modern Chinese city. Despite this, the old Tibetan quarter has managed to preserve the atmosphere of traditional Tibetan life – you’ll find alleyways filled with live music venues and cabaret bars hosting local performers.


Nanjing, the relaxed capital of the Jiangsu Province, lies on the lower stretches of the Yangzi River in eastern China. History, nature and urban culture co-exist in this famously clean university town. As the capital of ten Chinese dynasties, Nanjing holds a magnitude of historical sites. A spectacular city wall and 14-century Zhonghua Gate still stand, and sites such as the Presidential Palace of the Republic of China and Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum display remarkable artefacts. Characterised by a lush landscape of lakes, forested parks and rivers, the city is ideal for walking. While known for its laid-back atmosphere, the city also offers all the luxuries of modern urban life, with plenty of five-star hotels, trendy shops and exotic restaurants to please all its eclectic mix of visitors. Other highlights include: the mesmerising Linggu Temple Scenic Area, Xuanwu Lake Park, traditional food (Nanjing is the home of Peking Duck), lavish clubs, and the massive Xinjiekou shopping area.


Situated in Pingyao County in China’s central Shanxi Province, Pingyao is a small city with an exceptional UNESCO World Heritage listed old town area. This ancient city, whose history dates back some 2,700 years, is widely considered to be the best preserved ancient walled city in China and is on many lists of the best walled cities in the world. Visitors can look forward to exploring the atmospheric cobblestone streets and discovering the original 600-year old city walls, residences, government offices, and stores of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Other popular activities including relaxing in one of the many rooftop bars offering panoramic views of the surrounding karsts or taking a bamboo-raft ride to take in the sublime river views.


Dotting the southern shores of China’s Hainan Island, the city of Sanya is fringed by several bays fringed by large beach resorts. Dubbed the ‘Hawaii of China’, this flourishing city boasts sandy beaches lapped by crystalline waters. Visitors can look forward to an array of wonder activities such as snorkelling and diving through the colourful coral reefs, surfing in the crystal-clear waters and enjoying a variety of other thrilling other water sports. Other highlights include: Wuzhizhou Island, the upscale hotels that line Yalong Bay, Dadonghai Bay, the Luhuitou Peninsula, and the Nanshan Temple complex featuring a 108 metre-high Guan Yin bronze statue. Don’t miss a visit to the Betel Nut Heritage Park, showcasing the crafts and cultural heritage of Hainan island’s earliest inhabitants.


Located on the estuary of the famed Yangtze River, the renowned international metropolis of Shanghai is a bold and brash mix of East and West. It is home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, historical shikumen houses blending the styles of Chinese houses with European design flair, and it has one of the richest collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. Must see attractions include: the Yuyuan Gardens, loaded with classical Chinese architecture; the many traditional Chinese tea houses serving a wide range of tea along with traditional delicacies; Shanghai Museum with its impressive ancient bronze exhibit; and even a Chinese take on Madame Tussauds which offers a fascinating mix of Chinese and western figures, from film stars to athletes and world leaders. With such a wide range of attractions on offer the city is almost impossible to exhaust – even in a lengthy visit you are likely to only scratch the surface.

Shangri-La City

Set in the in China’s Yunnan Province, formerly known as Zhongdian and sometimes called ‘Gyalthang’ in Tibetan, Shangri-la City offers travellers an intoxicating combination of Tibetan and Han Chinese culture. In a wide, sweeping valley surrounded by towering mountains, the town is the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Deqin – the largest self-governing Tibetan area outside of the province of Tibet itself. Visitors can look forward to visiting the impressive Songzanlin Monastery, the lovely Pudacuo (or Putacuo) National Park, the quaint little 100 Chicken Temple which features a number of colourful prayer flags, and the Golden Temple which is home to the world’s largest prayer drum.


Shenzhen, on the southeastern coast of China, is a metropolis linking Hong Kong to China’s mainland. This technology hub is known for its cutting-edge design, rich culture, shops and thrilling amusement parks. Shenzhen is filled with remarkable buildings, most notably the 600-metre-tall skyscraper Ping An International Finance Centre. The city is also characterised by green parks and plants. The splendid China Folk Culture Villages is the world’s largest miniature park of Chinese monuments, while Window Of The World lets visitors see every part of the world in one day. Real and man-made beaches give the city a Miami feel, and young professionals also flock to the city for its progressive technology and buzzing nightlife. Don’t miss the gorgeous Lianhua Mountain Park, where you can join in tango, sword-fighting and a range of other activities daily.


Also known as Xigatse, this ever-growing and thriving town lies in a fertile plain in Tibet. It is regarded as a holy city insofar as it was the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, a Tibetan spiritual leader, but it’s significance as an economic, political and cultural centre is also well established. The ‘old town’ is quite small and lies at the foot of the imposing (but empty) Shigatse Dzong fort. Most visitors head to the Tashilhunpo Monastery to explore the cobbled streets, surrounding kora, and see the Future Buddha (the largest gilded statue in the world). Other must-visits are the Wordo Museum (grab a bite and pop into the private museum upstairs) and the enchanting Tibetan Market.


Known by locals as ‘Paradise on Earth’, Suzhou is a city in Jiangsu Province, famed for its magnificent classical gardens and traditional waterside architecture. The water towns of Suzhou are crisscrossed by canals, rivers, and bridges affording it the title: ‘The Venice of the Orient’. Marvellously preserved ancient buildings, monuments and streets are built along the waterways giving visitors a real sense of ancient China. The flat terrain and mild climate make it an ideal destination to explore on foot or by bicycle. Alternatively, you can catch a boat ride to appreciate the fascinating ancient architecture and the spectacular canal scenery.


Identifiable by its luminous cityscape, the bustling Tianjin is a wondrous municipality and coastal metropolis in Northern China. With fascinating scenery, cultural masterpieces, diverse cuisine and charming sites of worship, Tianjin draws in travellers from far and wide to explore its many wonders. Visitors to this lively destination can meander through the Haihe riverside facade of Treaty Port Area; admire the historical paintings and ceramics at the Folk Art Museum; watch a fantastic opera performance at the Guangdong Guild Hall; enjoy a cup of coffee at the Minyuan Plaza; and immerse themselves in culture at the iconic Monastery of Deep Compassion. Don’t miss out on the magical views offered during a ride on the acclaimed Eye of Tianjin, a 120-metre tall ferries wheel build over the tranquil Haihe River.


Affectionately known for its intense sunshine, towering snow-capped peaks, vibrant turquoise lakes and golden barley fields, Tibet, affectionately known as ‘The Roof of the World’ is a wondrous self-governing region in China. Travellers to this wondrous destination explore its enchanting surrounding scenic landscapes, indulge in the mouth-watering local cuisine, and visit its abundance of temples and shrines. Among the notable attractions are: Jokhang Temple, the spiritual heart of Tibet; Sakya Monastery, one of the largest and most beautiful monasteries; Chimpuk Hermitage, a fascinating collection of cave shrines; Nam-Tso, the second largest lake in China home to sacred waters; and Mikado Glacier, a picturesque glacier under a towering 6385-metre peak. Don’t miss out on the magnificent Potala Palace, an architectural wonder which was once the winter residence of the Dalai Lamas.


The slow-paced oasis town of Turpan (usually referred to as Tulufan) is located in the easterly part of Xinjiang, on the Silk Road route. Filled with heritage sites and sacred places, the area offers a paradise of exploration for culture and history enthusiasts and is also home to some breathtaking natural features. The incredible Jiaohe Ruins constitutes one of the most legendary ancient cities in the world, as it is not only one of the oldest – dating back 1600 years – but also one of the largest and best-preserved on earth. Other significant sites include the 6th-to-14th-century Bezeklik Cave Complex, filled with extraordinary Uyghur Buddhist art, and the enthralling 44-metre-high, geometric- and floral-decorated Emin Minaret. The gorgeous and majestic Flaming Mountains, which look like tongues of fire at midday, make for some excellent photographs.


Sprawled across the Yangtze and Han Rivers in China’s Hubei province, Wuhan is comprised of three ancient towns, and is fast developing into an important centre for China’s future. With the slogan ‘Wuhan, different every day’ for its constant progress, but also dubbed the ‘city of rivers’ and home to numerous picturesque parks and abundant cherry blossom trees, the city presents a wonderful juxtaposition of different activities and attractions. Visitors looking for a buzz will enjoy the city’s vibrant nightlife, foodies delight in the abundance of delicious street food (especially the sesame-infused hot dry noodles) and art enthusiasts are sure to love the wealth of contemporary galleries. Dating back more than 3500 years and boasting a wealth of significant cultural and historical sites, the city could even be explored for its heritage alone.


Situated in the Zhejiang Province of China in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, the historic town of Wuzhen is a popular tourist attraction in the heart of the golden triangle encompassing Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou. The 1300-year-old Whuzen ‘Water’ Town is built on a network of waterways with ancient stone bridges traversing centuries-old canals. The town is linked to the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and flourished as a part of the silk trade. It has been awarded a place as one of China’s top ten historical and cultural towns. Visitors can look forward to wandering around the incredibly picturesque streets lined with souvenir shops rows of Qing dynasty wooden homes.


The vibrant, affluent and modern port city of Xiamen rests on China’s southeastern coast, across the strait from Taiwan. With its long promenades and European architecture, the island city has become known as a kind of Chinese Mediterranean, and is most famous as a stepping-off point to the smaller Gulangyu Island. Seen by many as the jewel of the entire province, Gulangyu is a vehicle-free island with meandering streets lined with colonial villas, lush gardens and gorgeous beaches. The city of Xiamen also features the world’s longest elevated cycling path, the Xiamen Bicycle Skyway; and along with its blooming creative industry, it boasts a wonderful youth culture. Don’t miss: spectacular tropical views from Sunlight Rock, an evening stroll beside Yundang Lake, and kitesurfing off the coast.


Located in the centre of the Weihe Plain, bounded by the Weihe River in the north and the Qin Mountain Range in the south, Xian is the undisputed root of Chinese civilization and an important economic, cultural, industrial centre of the central-northwest region. The city provides visitors with modern facilities as well as numerous world-class ancient, religious, and cultural attractions showcasing the great changes in the country just like a living history book. Must see attractions include: the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi, the immaculately restored and mighty city wall, and of course, the primary attraction, the astonishing display of approximately 2,000 life-like terracotta warriors, horses and chariots. The assemblage has been billed by the tourist industry as the Eighth Wonder of the World and a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 1987. For those seeking a unique, authentic and fascinating cultural experience, Xian won’t fail to impress.


Xining’s mild climate and beautiful setting have earned it the nickname ‘China’s Summer Holiday Capital’. Located on the Tibetan Plateau, the city is surrounded by glassy lakes and rugged mountain peaks. Bird Island’s, on Qinghai Lake, lives up to its name – thousands of birds congregate here in the spring and summer months to breed, creating a dazzling spectacle for nature lovers. Xining is also a sacred centre for both Buddhism and Islam, encompassing several holy sites that are both historical legacies and architectural masterpieces. These include the Northern Tibetan Temple, the Kumbum Monastery, with its exceptional sculptures and murals, and the Dongguan Mosque – one of the largest mosques in all of China, dating back over 600 years.


Situated in Guilin, Guangxi Province in the south of China, Yangshuo is a county featuring a popular eponymous tourist resort town. The area is best known for its spectacular scenery characterised by magnificent karst mountains, caves, temples and the picturesque Li River. Visitors typically take a cruise down the river which delivers them at the bustling little town which features some remarkable historical Chinese architecture. The main attraction within the town is the 1400-year-old West Street which is lined with a dizzying array of shops, restaurants, hotels, and bars. Visitors can also enjoy the nightly performance of a show called ‘Impressions of Liu Sanjie’ which is performed on the Li River, with the audience seated on the river bank and twelve karst hills forming a dramatic backdrop. Other popular activities in the area include mountain climbing, bamboo-rafting and cycling through the through the dreamy hills and valleys.


Yangzhou, a top tourist destination in China, is situated on the northern bank of the Yangtze River in central Jiangsu Province. The city has a lot to offer, attracting crowds for centuries with its abundant cultural assets, photogenic waterways and landscaped gardens. Heritage highlights include the spectacular Daming Temple, which holds significant historical importance; Slender West Lake, a man-made lake dating back to the fifth century BC and decorated with 24 historic sacred sites; and the Yangzhou Museum, filled with thousands of cultural artefacts, a massive screening area, and themed exhibits. Nature and history combine in the magnificent Ming Dynasty Ge Garden, featuring unique uses of bamboo and stone, and the He Garden, with its distinctive light-manipulating artworks, spectacular opera pavilion, and sacred buildings.


Situated in the northwest of China’s Hunan Province, Zhangjiajie is famous for its surreal natural landscapes and its rich ancient heritage. The enormous, mesmerising Zhangjiajie Scenic Area is the main attraction: a valley of purple and orange natural karst towers piercing skywards from swathes of emerald green forest and foliage. Visitors can see a bird’s eye view of the towers from Huangshi Village, and then explore the area by hiking up thousands of stairs or via cable car. A huge range of other natural wonders are bountiful here, including massive underground cave systems, turquoise lakes, and much more. Visitors can discover the rich heritage of Zhangjiajie at the Tujia Folk Customs Park, where they can watch live traditional dances, and at the Phoenix Ancient City, where small ancient wooden houses and bridges lean over the Tuojiang River.