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This Ming Dynasty City in between Beijing and Xian is the finest of its kind with much of the Ming and Qing architecture inside the complete city wall preserved. Perhaps the best time to visit is during the International Photography Festival in September although you do need to book in advance.
Only a few hours from Beijing and often overlooked in favour of the capital itself those who do take the time to visit this city are not disappointed. Aside from the Summer Palace itself there are numerous temples making this a well kept secret.
With the right weather the scenery at Mount Huangshan near Hangzhou is some of the best in China although you need a head for heights to appreciate it. Staying overnight in one of the few summit hotels is a must to see the famed sunrise.
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Often visited in conjunction with Huangshan, Hongcun is a small village set in the lush Anhui countryside. Its distinctive architecture and layout is well preserved and gives an insight into how life was lived during the imperial era.
Hangzhou's West Lake & Harbin and its Ice Festival
Hangzhou’s West Lake is famous for it’s tranquil temples and gardens set amongst lush green hills and tea plantations. The new high speed rail link means Hangzhou is now only 38 minutes from Shanghai making even a day trip possible.
The stunning fort at Jiayuguan is one of China’s most amazing sights but the remoteness of this city along the northern Silk Road means it doesn’t receive the visitors it deserves. Aside from the fort you can also visit the Hanging Great Wall.
If you are in China in January the Harbin ice Festival is an absolute must and is one of the most extraordinary sights China has to offer. The scale and quality of the sculptures is breathtaking as can be the -25C temperatures but it’s not to be missed!
Not to be missed Karakorum Highway to Tashkurgan
At the end of China’s section of the stunning Karakorum Highway Tashkurgan has held a hugely strategic position along this trade route for millennia. The fabulously scenic journey to reach this Tajik dominated town is much of the adventure.
A day trip from Sichuan’s province’s capital of Chengdu, the Giant Buddha at Leshan is well worth the journey. The sculpture is set in a park of temples and gardens and looks out across the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers.
Visit Hong Kong & Guangzhou in Southern China
This booming city lies at the centre of southern China’s Cantonese culture but is surprisingly overlooked by travellers eager to reach Hong Kong. Yet Guangzhou has much to offer from Shamian Island to the Chen Clan Temple plus great food!
The precariously perched Hanging Temple outside of Northern Chinas Datong is a gravity defying construction on the borders of Inner Mongolia vast grasslands. As well as the temple Datong also offers the UNESCO recognised Yungang Caves.
The Shaolin Monastery complex outside of Luoyang is famed for it’s martial arts and it is possible to take lessons here amongst the temples. This area can also be combined with the Longmen Grottoes closer to Luoyang.
Dali has a spectacular location sandwiched between the Cangshan mountains and Erhai Lake and is renown as one of the more relaxed destinations in China to visit offering up a mix of boat, cycle and walking trips.