Explore China

Explore China
China will forever change the way you look at the world. It is an expansive country with over 5000 years of history and culture to explore, but its voracious growth in recent years has left many travellers stunned by the mixture of beautiful topography with the never ending chaos of staggeringly high pollution, enormous crowds, and concrete cities.

As one of our travellers stated, “China – everyone should go, the complete otherworldliness of it is shocking and mind altering and you won’t regret it.” Most people equate sightseeing with The Great Wall of China, an ancient wall extending over 5000kms of steep terrain, and the wall is a sight you don’t want to miss, but what stands out the most about this country is the diversity between regions.

In the Guilin area, you’ll see amazing limestone karst formations, and in the Gansu area (northwest) you’ll discover the multicolour mountains of Zhangye Danxia Geological Park. Head east towards the coast in the Guǎngdōng region and you’ll find beautiful waterfalls and ancient temples. Whereas cities like Hong Kong are an intense stimulation of urban modern living offering anything from watching Cantonese operas to slurping up wonton soup, to singing karaoke, or shopping for the latest and greatest in everything.

Whether you’re interested in cycling between terraced rice paddy fields, or paddling down the Li River, or exploring the silk trade route, you can be assured that nothing compares to travelling through China. In amongst the smog, so thick sometimes you can’t see 2 feet in front of you, you will find beauty and uniqueness that will touch your soul in ways you never thought possible.

Li River and Yangshuo
Yuanyang Terraced Fields
Tiananmen Square

Places to Visit in China

  • Hong Kong
  • Shangai
  • Xi’an
  • Guilin
  • Hangzhou
  • Chengdu
  • Huangshan

Unique Things to See and Do in China

  • Explore the ancient Hutongs (narrow alleyways)
  • See the Terracotta Army in Xi’an
  • Tour the Forbidden City in Beijing
  • Take a boat down the Li Guilin
  • Admire the rock formations in Jiuzhaigou
  • Eat Sichuan Lazi Ji (chicken with chilies) in Chengdu
  • Buy Panda Tea (which is made from Panda poop!)
  • Take a cruise down the Yangtze River

Ancient Temples in China

One the biggest draws to touring around China is the extensive history that still stands today – ancient sites, whether religious temples or evidence of great empires past. There are literally thousands of them littering the landscape, so how do you chose what to see?

One temple of interest is the White Horse temple, which was the first Buddhist temple in China – dating back to 68 AD. Built in honour of the Eastern Han Dynasty, it also has many other religious temples built on the same site. Next to it are other religious temples, from Myanmar, India, and Thailand, which is interesting to see the architectural differences between them. The close proximity of all of them makes this spot a great choice if you are limited on time but would like to see the differences between styles and customs.

Another top spot is the Hanging Monastery just outside of Datong, China. Venturing out to this one is exciting because it is literally attached to the side of a rock. The wooden structure dates all the way back to 491AD. Be prepared for the crowds though, like we said this is a popular spot. Take the time to research the temples in the areas you’ll be travelling to, to see which ones really appeal to you because there are so many to chose from.

Getting Around China

The major cities, such as Beijing and Hong Kong, have excellent public transportation systems – although highly congested at peak times. The rural areas are can be a bit more difficult, particularly if you are taking a bus. Roads may be under construction and delays are common, however there is service to many villages that most travellers would be seeking.

Trains are the best way to get between destinations unless the journey is really long and a flight would be more efficient. The trains are much more comfortable, plus you’ll see some beautiful scenic areas that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.  There are a ton of options in seating classes, everything from overnight compartments (sleepers) where the “soft sleeper” has 4 beds and more room, and the “hard sleeper” which has groups of 6 beds with only a partition between groups. There are also differences in seats,  and in the types of trains.

Did you know…?

Chinese merchants were the first to develop paper currencies to avoid carrying around heavy coins!

Hui zi“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Did you ALSO know…?

That during an archeological excavation, officials  found ancient noodles that dated all the way back to (2400 – 1900 BC). 4000 year old noodles, made with millet!

Domestic flights are another option between cities, and China has been expanding with new airports every year. During peak season times, like Chinese New Year, you’ll find flights hard to book unless you do it well in advance. Prices are often reduced when booking through agents, whether in the departing city or online, compared to booking through the airlines themselves, but it never hurts to check first.

Best Time of Year to Travel to China

As with any travel, knowing when the climate changes will occur, what areas you are travelling to, and when the national holidays fall are all really important in determining what time of year you should go. In the case of China, the land mass is huge and depending on whether or not you are going to hike the Himalayas, travel the silk route, meander through the countryside, or book a 5 star hotel in major cities like Beijing and Hong Kong, you’ll need to map out each region you’ll be travelling to and assess the timing. Here are a few thoughts and considerations before you book:

  1. If you plan on taking guided tours, contact your tour company for some advice and then get a second opinion.
  2. Be aware of national holidays – There are three Golden Weeks in China - national holidays in which domestic flights, hotels, and transportation routes are completely sold out due to all the locals travelling. Most travellers tend to avoid these times all together, because the congestion of people can be unbelievable and terribly exhausting. But for those who love adventure and a good party with lots of food, the holidays are Chinese New Year (this one is a week long with several weeks winding up and down!), Labour Day and National Day (May 1st week, and October 1st week).
  3. When the university students finish their semesters the influx of travellers on the train system goes up.

Ready to plan your visit to China? Check out these popular guides and trips.

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