With historical monuments dating back thousands of years, a vibrant patchwork of local cultures, and intriguing geographical features, a China vacation offers a wealth of diverse and exclusive experiences. Why not choose a small group tour where you can connect with like-minded travellers to discover the wonders, waterways, and splendours of China.
Explore Hidden Histories of War and Peace
Since the Terracotta Warriors were discovered near Xian in 1974, the city has become a stronghold for China tourism. Head northwest to witness the 1,900 clay soldiers on display at the Museum of the Terracotta Army, just a fraction of the collection discovered in the elaborate mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. No two warriors are the same – each has distinctive features and facial hair, and is dressed according to rank. Though the sculptures are now gray with age, some remain flecked with paint, hinting at brightly-coloured origins.
China’s Terracotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Eternal Army
Stretching across 8,850 kilometres, the Great Wall of China is a UNESCO-listed cultural site and one of the country’s best known icons. The wall took around 2000 years to build, yet up to two thirds of the original unified structure has now disappeared. About a third of the remaining stone and brick fortification is at risk of crumbling to ruins. This landmark is included in most Beijing tours, but in a small group with one of our local guides, you’ll benefit from an expertly chosen view of the signal towers and mountain formations in the distance.
Set on top of Red Mountain in Lhasa, Tibet, the ancient winter residence of the Dalai Lama remains a symbol of Buddhist tradition. Potala Palace is instantly recognizable by its tiered red and white facades. Inside, you’ll find gilded decorations and the intricate resting places of Dalai Lamas from centuries past. Though this UNESCO World Heritage Site features among many Tibet tours, your experience will be appropriately tranquil, as the palace limits the number of visitors permitted each day.
Interact With City and Country Locals
Beijing’s Tiananmen Square may be best known for a 1989 political protest, but the site’s history stretches back to the 17th century. Here, at the exact centre of Beijing, locals have gathered in a public square bordered by a gate, for hundreds of years. Security is much more evident today, you’ll be screened before entering the square, where police presence looms large. No China vacation is complete without walking among the crowds of up to a million people, but if you feel overwhelmed, slip away to discover the Forbidden City, beyond the north gate.
You’ll find locals of a different kind in Chengdu, where 600 acres are set aside as a conservation area for giant pandas. At the Chengdu Panda Base, researchers are particularly focused on panda breeding habits, which means that newborns may be present by the end of summer, or fluffy young cubs in autumn. If you’re willing to don blue scrubs and shoe covers, and pay a donation to the research centre, you’ll be entitled to two minutes of cuddle time with one of the pandas.
Find Serenity On the Water
In the south of China, the Li River cuts a path through some of the country’s most scenic landscapes. Board a riverboat just north of Guilin. During the 4 hour journey, you’ll float past dramatically juxtaposed terrains. At the river’s narrower points, the dramatic peaks and lush green farmland fringing the shallow water seem incredibly near.
The fabled Yangtze River unfolds from the Tibetan Plateau, winding its way past the Three Gorges, to a seaport at Shanghai. This is where most visitors first encounter the so-called “Golden River”, either while exploring the former market town with one of the popular Shanghai tours, or when embarking on a Yangtze River cruise. These short voyages cover significant ground, so you’ll appreciate the local insights offered by your guide along the way. If you’re travelling alone, be sure to enquire about our no single supplement policy, which allows you to share your stateroom and take in the views with a like-minded roommate.
South of the Yangtze River lies Suzhou, a city legendary explorer Marco Polo dubbed, “Venice of the East”, upon seeing its network of canals. Like Venice, Suzhou was a merchant city and a cultural capital, known historically for its art, architecture, and painstakingly cultivated gardens. Much of the city’s traditional architecture has been preserved, and some of the older buildings lost during the early years of the Republic are now being rebuilt. Peek down Shantang Street to see the iconic rows of red lanterns, which cast a warm glow over the canal at night.
The Benefits of a Small Group Tour
The benefits of opting for a small group China tour are paramount. Forget the hassle of working out the complex logistics of your trip. Instead of dealing your hotel check-in, you can enjoy a welcome drink to take in your surroundings. Group tours are perfect for solo and first-time travellers, as well as those looking to get more personal insights on a destination with an expert guide. The only difficulty will be deciding which recommended spot to check out first in your free time.
17-Day Splendours of China & Tibet – Holiday of a Lifetime