What to seeChina's cities:
Beijing is modernising at a tremendous pace, but still retains a historic air, both in the Forbidden City and with its Hutong (narrow streets) offering a glimpse into a more traditional way of life. Shanghai is one of the most dynamic cities in the world, yet despite its awe-inspiring architecture and thirst for all things modern, it remains a city with a fascinating history that can still be seen in the gardens, monasteries and street markets. Hong Kong has something for everyone, from fantastic shopping to a romantic harbour and fascinating museums.
Ancient China: For a more traditional view of China, Xian, as well as being home to the awe-inspiring Terracotta Warriors, has impressive city walls, a number of outstanding temples and a fascinating mix of Buddhist and Islamic influences. In Central China, Pingyao is surrounded by a completely intact Ming dynasty city wall, and this well-preserved city, a UNESCO site, is definitely worth a visit. The town of Lijiang, in Yunnan Province, has an old town of cobbled streets, wooden buildings, canals and lively markets, and gives an excellent insight into traditional Chinese life. Also worth visiting are the Wuzhen water towns, which can be easily reached from Shanghai, the idyllic ancient villages in Wuyuan County, the picturesque villages of Hongcun and Xidi close to Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain), and Fenghuang, a riverside town in Hunan Province that's a throwback to old China.
China has an astonishingly varied scenery, and within Yunnan Province itself this ranges from alpine mountain ranges to tropical rainforests. This is considered by many to the be the most beautiful part of China, its wonderful light being synonymous with Chinese art, and the stone forest near Kunming is one of the natural wonders of the world, along with the dramatic cliffs and waterfalls of Tiger Leaping Gorge. A cruise along the Li River in Guilin offers a great chance to appreciate this region's spectacular scenery of thrusting limestone peaks. The rice terraces of Longji, a few hours from Guilin, also provide for a breathtaking excursion. In south eastern China, Huang Shan is one of the most beautiful areas, with its breathtaking mountain views and surrounding countryside of traditional villages and paddy fields. In Northern Sichuan Province, Jiuzhaigou National Park's gorgeous alpine scenery of thick forests, waterfalls and colourful lakes is well-known to Chinese tourists but something of a secret outside China. In Central China's Hunan Province there are a number of nature reserves, consisting of subtropical forests, majestic peaks, waterfalls, limestone caves and rivers.
Outstanding sights: In Sichuan Province, Chengdu is a laid-back city famous for its Giant Panda Research Station, where you can observe these wonderful and elusive animals up close. Also in Sichuan Province, the world's largest Buddha, the Giant Buddha of Leshan, towers over the Dadu River, the 71-metre high statue having been carved into the side of a cliff. In the Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall, China has two of the world's man-made wonders.