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China Tour Planning

Planning Your Time to get the Most from your China Tour

When looking to plan your first China tour it is best, rather obviously, to first have a think about what it is you most want to see when you are there. The trouble with this is that most people tend not to realise just how big a country China is.

I often get people asking me, when they are looking to book holidays in China, can I just base myself somewhere and go out and see the best of what China has to offer from that base but, of course, this is simply not possible. If you were visiting Europe you wouldn’t base yourself in London and then go out and see Rome one day and Madrid another, coming back to London every night! in a country this size you have to plan your time well and make sure you don’t spend too much in somewhere that seems like a major city but actually has very few sights that are worth seeing.

Beijing can't be missed for its Forbidden City and the Great Wall

In my opinion Beijing is the place in China that you’re going to want to spend the longest. No other area has as many sights that are worth taking in and you ideally want to give yourself 3-5 days there if you are on a two week trip. The Great Wall is the obvious must see, along with the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Then you have the second Tier of the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. These are the places most people will consider but there is so much more that’s really worth a look into while you’re there including the “hip” areas of Gulou – a bit like a Chinese version of Camden Lock and the art district of 798, something both art lovers and those slightly indifferent can enjoy.

On top of this you have to get into the Hutongs, the traditional housing there and a bicycle rickshaw ride through there is generally the best way to do this.

Xian and its Terra Cotta Warriors is the obvious place to visit after Beijing

Next on most first time China tours would be Xian for the Terra-Cotta Warriors and the Hanyangling Mausoleum. Aside from this the Provincial Museum, City Walls and Great Mosque are all worth a visit but you may find two nights more than enough here.

Next you will have the decision whether the pandas are something you want to see and that would be in Chengdu, with the Giant Buddha at Leshan nearby worth taking in if you’ve travelled all this way for the pandas. A night or two if going to the Giant Buddha will suffice.

The Yangtze, Yunnan or Yangshuo - or perhaps all three areas of China

After that there’s the split off where you decide whether you are going on the Yangtze or off into the countryside. My favourite would be a few days in Yunnan, taking in Lijiang, Shangri La and maybe Dali if you have time before heading to Guangxi for a couple of Days relaxing in sunny Yangshuo and taking in the unmissable light show there.

Finally a choice for two or three nights of ending in Hong Kong or Shanghai. If heading to Shanghai then its definitely worth squeezing in a trip to one of the water towns and if off to Hong Kong just enjoy the last days of this fast paced trip in comfort.

Article originally posted by Phil Stanley and Headseast: 23rd December 2013

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