Our China holidays
Our China holidays immerse you in this captivating, ceaselessly fascinating country, through iconic sights and experiences such as the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Army, Yangtze River cruises and panda breeding centres. But they also take you beyond the regular tourist routes, allowing you to appreciate lesser-known sides of China and its people. That might mean walking more remote parts of the Great Wall of China to help relieve the strain on the busy section outside Beijing, or trekking with a local guide through Yunnan province, staying in small villages where you, and your welcoming hosts, can share cultural insights.
Our top China holidays
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From £301916 days inc UK flights
Explore the Terracotta Warriors, Forbidden City and the Great Wall
Best time to go on holiday to China
The best time to visit China isnít easily surmised: itís a big country with a climate that varies from region to region. You can travel year-round, but you must be prepared for what the seasons might throw at you Ė the south is subtropical with sweltering summers, the north bears the brunt of harsh winters, and Central China takes a bit of both. You can travel around more comfortably in spring and autumn; a handy rule of thumb is to travel from south to north in spring and from north to south in summer.
Map & highlightsMost holidays to China start in the capital, Beijing. A popular segment of the Great Wall is within a three-hour drive away Ė time it right to avoid the coach crowds. Another city, Xiían, is the resting place of the Terracotta Army and the beginning of the Silk Road. Escape the cities in Yangshuo, where cyclists can peddle away from tourist bars to rice paddies and mountainous limestone karsts. Spectacular scenery borders the Yangtze River, which you can explore by ship. Meanwhile, long known as a city break, Hong Kong is in fact mostly made up of mountains and parkland within easy reach of downtown.
Beijing is not a beautiful place. Itís chaotic and stiflingly smoggy, but if youíre brave and open-minded it represents an adventure of history, of power, and of the future all rolled into one. The Forbidden City, its main attraction, is a mammoth compound of almost 1,000 palaces, museums and pavilions and was the former home of Chinaís emperors from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing.
Great Wall of China
2. Great Wall of China
Wriggling its way west over treacherously steep mountains to the dusty Gobi Desert in the east, the Great Wall of China attracts everyone from day trippers to serious trekkers. Itís easy to squeeze the Great Wall into any trip to China thanks to its proximity to Beijing, but the further from the city you go, the more youíll find your group alone and surrounded only by the spectacular scenery.
3. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a little bit fur coat and no knickers: it has an unrelenting drive for money and status powered by its moneyed elite, but many locals work very long days and live in cramped conditions. The flipside? An infectious energy, a surprisingly traditional culture and a cooler, more sophisticated outlook than its mainland contemporaries.
4. Terracotta Army
Xiían of yesteryear was the beginning and end of the Silk Road, a thriving and sophisticated city of commerce, religion and creativity. Marked by an impressive wealth of important sites and relics, notably the Terracotta Army that still stands guard, modern day Xiían is more traffic and pollution than pomp and procession, but well worth a visit nonetheless.
A world away from Chinaís built-up cities, Yangshuo is a village flanked by exquisite countryside and jutting karst pyramids carved into the elements by the lapping green waters of the Li River. It can get busy during peak season, but there really arenít enough superlatives to describe the surrounding scenes of water buffalo grazing and local farmers working their fields wearing conical hats.
6. Yangtze river
The aquatic equivalent of Chinaís Great Wall, the Yangtze is a twisting, turning hotbed of scenery and culture that stretches from remote mountain plains through canyon gorges and into fertile regions where other lakes connect. Itís most hair-raising stretch, the Three Gorges, was once unnavigable. Now though, thanks to a dam, it is a beautiful lake for ferrying and cruises.
Chinaís recorded history starts with the first dynasty that ruled about 5,000 years ago. Beijing is an excellent primer for both this ancient history and a peek into a tech-fuelled future; visit the Forbidden City, Temple of Summer and Tiananmen Square. In most cities, modern skyscrapers are matched by towers dedicated to Buddhism like the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xiían and Shaolan Temple in Guangzhou. However, one of the best ways to experience Chinese culture is to follow your nose to the street food stalls, night markets and tea gardens where you can sip chai and test your chopstick skills on steamed dumplings.
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall is actually several linked-up walls Ė a serrated line of fortifications expertly engineered over a couple of thousand years to protect Northern Chinaís territories and trade. The best-preserved parts are at Mutianya, a couple of hoursí drive away from Beijing, where you can walk along the wall from tower to tower between pine-covered mountains. Some holidays offer you a day trip to the Great Wall from Beijing or you can commit to an itinerary that explores a much longer section over a few days on foot.
The story of the discovery of the Terracotta Army in Xi’an is almost as legendary as the army itself. It was uncovered by labourers in the 1970s who dug up a clay figure that ended up revealing one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the world. The tomb is a spectacular recreation of the soldiers and riches that Qin Shi Huangdi – the first emperor of China – gathered around himself in the 3rd century BC. Alongside the 8,000-plus clay soldiers marching through their burial pits, you’ll see bronze artefacts and archaeologists actively restoring the long-lost tomb.
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Yangtze River cruises
The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia – a 6,300km waterway that flows east from the Tanggula Mountains in Western China to Shanghai. Yangtze river cruises are the best way to navigate this colossal waterway. The voyage will usually pick out a corner of the river to explore over a few days, such as the mountainous Three Gorges and their controversial dam. There are more architectural achievements along the riverbank. You can hop off to see the Shibao Pagoda and White Emperor City, as well as natural architecture like the cavernous Goddess Stream.
Family holidays in China
Travelling to China with kids is definitely an adventure, but a completely achievable one when you travel with our family holiday specialists. The distances can be immense, so these experts will create an itinerary that inspires short attention spans and keeps little legs refuelled. After all, the wonders come thick and fast in China – from the Terracotta Army and Great Wall to neon-lit night markets and Kung Fu lessons in Shaolin Temple. Rickshaw rides are the most exciting way to explore the cities, while bamboo rafts steered by local guides will take you upriver, past fantastical limestone karsts.
Walking holidays in China
Walking in China doesn’t have to be a big expedition. You can pin your holiday together with walking tours of Beijing and Hong Kong or explore a section of the Great Wall. On the other hand, it can absolutely be an expedition. More challenging treks take on the Tiger Leaping Gorge (deeper than the Grand Canyon) or Yunnan (for mountains and monasteries). Either way, you’ll be paired up with walking guides who’ll show you the way while unveiling the thousands of years’ worth of human and natural history you’re walking through. Find a walking holiday in China that suits you.
If you'd like to chat about China or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
[Culture: Stella Tzertzeveli] [Great Wall of China: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen] [Terracotta Army: Aaron Greenwood] [Yangtze River cruises: Chensiyuan] [Families: Peter McGahan] [Walking holidays: Joshua Earle]