The People’s Republic of China is famous for its ancient civilisation and monuments, but the country is very much an emerging power of the 21st Century with much to offer travellers. Due to its sheer size, there are many attractions spread across some twenty-two provinces.
Beijing is the capital city of China and tends to be first on the list for visitors. Of immediate interest is the Forbidden City, which is a city in itself. Within its walls are beautiful gardens and buildings from China’s imperial past, as well as many exhibitions. Beijing has many other attractions and a few days are needed to see historical places such as the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven, a World Heritage Site.
From Beijing, there are internal flights to other cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xian. Xian is located in the Shaanxi Province in Central China and is the location of the Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first ruler of the kingdom of Qin. In 1974, an army of Terracotta warriors was found during the excavation of the tomb. These lifesize statues guarded the Emperor’s tomb and included chariots and horses.
Running through the north of China is the legendary Great Wall. Travellers can visit a number of places along this historic monument, or take a closer look on a hiking tour along one section. The wall undulates across the landscape, with steep slopes in many places, but the effort is worth it to see the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
One of the symbols of China is the giant panda. As the panda is a protected species, visitors can only see these animals in sanctuaries, but there are tours available in places such as Chengdu.
The Yangtze River runs for nearly four thousand miles through the heart of China, with cruises operating up and down the river. This is the best way to see the Three Gorges. From the cruise ships, visitors can see the spectacular mountains and cliffs along the banks of these gorges. Further along the river is the Three Gorges hydro-electric dam, the biggest of its type in the world.
Shanghai is located at the end of the Yangtze River, where it flows into the East China Sea. The city is one of many contrasts and travellers can see the Bund waterfront, with its Colonial Era buildings, then travel to the Pudong area to see modern edifices such as the Oriental Pearl Tower. The Shanghai Tower is also being built in Pudong and will be the tallest in China when complete.
Further south is the island of Hong Kong. Once a British colony, this reverted back to China in 1997. With an extensive public transport system, getting around is very easy for visitors. Overlooking Hong Kong is the Peak, a mountain providing excellent views of the city and surrounding islands. There are also boat trips out to other islands including Lantau, home to the giant Tian Tan Buddha statue.
China is becoming more popular as a destination for tourists, with flights from many UK airports. Travel costs within China are increasing, according to the China National Tourist Office, but still very competitive compared to other countries.