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An awe-inspiring land that wows with its contrasting balance of outstanding ancient culture, breathtaking natural beauty, and the diversity of its varied cities, China is a traveler’s dream. Formed of a collection of provinces, China’s rapid growth and developed accessibility are displayed most prominently by its cities. From Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Xi’an, to Beijing, Guilin, and Hong Kong, the dramatically different urban centers capture the broad spectrum of alternative cultures that make China the captivating, intriguing, and mystical country it is.

While China’s economic growth and modernization dominate the cRead More
onversation these days, its long—and we mean long—and storied history remains one of the most important aspects for visitors. The oldest continuous civilization in history, there are sights, monuments, and reminders of ancient China that stretch back thousands of years from the Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty to the Forbidden City of the Ming Dynasty. It’s not all blockbuster tourist attractions that hold the key to experiencing ancient China, as you deviate from the major sights there’s plenty to explore from the protected temples of the country’s major cities to Buddhist monuments like the Mogao Caves on the ancient Silk Road at Dunhuang.

Given that its cuisine rules the take-out scene in cities all over the world, it’s no surprise that food is a big deal in China. In fact, food is so important to the Chinese that in Hong Kong, rather than hello, it’s common to greet people with the phrase “have you eaten?” Regional cuisines dominate swathes of the country which means you can be dining on dumplings and dim sum one day and bracing yourself for the spice of Sichuan cooking the next depending on where you are. Oh, and those with a love affair with Peking duck and pancakes will want to make the pilgrimage to Beijing and the famous Bianyifang restaurant (established in the 15th century) which is something like the spiritual home of one of the greatest culinary inventions of all time.

Few places on earth can match the natural beauty of the Chinese hinterlands whose deserts and lakes, mountains, and grasslands contribute to a beautifully varied landscape that lures visitors away from the big cities. From the Yuanyang Rice Terraces of Yunnan to the Thousand Islets Lake of Zhejiang, China’s frontiers are packed with once-in-a-lifetime type sights that mean even if you’re not the most adventurous outdoors type, taking some time to explore the landscape is a highly recommended part of any China trip.

The country’s urban centers are booming and its cities present the best that modern China has to offer. There’s the metropolitan Shanghai for shopping on Nianjing Road and strolls along the Bund waterfront, Beijing for important historical sights like Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and Hong Kong for an intense east-meets-west experience filled with dim sum, markets, and island hopping. Beyond the big three, Xi’an appeals with the underground lair of the Terracotta Army and the Wild Goose Pagoda, Guilin is blessed with the beauty of surrounding rice terraces and the Karst Mountains, and Hangzhou impresses with its mix of ancient and contemporary architecture on the edge of the gorgeous West Lake.

A great, grand country of enormous proportions, China has so much to recommend it to the curious traveler. Between the cuisine, the ancient sites, the action-packed cities and its boundless swathes of stunning natural habitat, any visitor to the Middle Kingdom is bound to fall hard for its charms.

Best of China: Hong Kong Travel Guide

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