China Holidays: An Overview

How do you sum up a country that's home to almost a quarter of humanity and an ancient civilisation stretching back 5,000 years? With immense difficulty, is the answer, but here goes. Modern China contains striking contemporary metropolises such as Shanghai and Hong Kong, and rural areas where life has changed little for centuries.

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Miranda and Katie are here to help give you the inside track.

Why we think you’ll love it

  • The cultural treasures accrued over the country's 5,000 year history are extensive and impressive: the Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an and the Great Wall are both bucket-list-worthy wonders
  • The diversity of the landscapes, ranging from the metropolises of modern China to those tricky-to-reach rural villages
  • Our Original Travel guides are some of the most informative around, so you'll get a great grip on the history and need-to-know info

Luxury Holidays to China: The Detail

After the upheavals of Maoism, China has become a capitalist powerhouse in all but name, a transition symbolised by the hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Compare and contrast that with our Olympics four years later - we did an austerity budget, ironic pastiche of the UK as a bucolic 'Shire' for the opening of our Olympics, they did thousands of perfectly synchronised drummers and the biggest ever firework (their invention) display. Here in the UK we do pop-up restaurants while China's blast furnaces (their invention) produce enough steel to create pop-up cities almost overnight with populations larger than that of Holland.

It's this speed and scale of development that truly boggles the mind, and gives the venerable capital Beijing - your likely starting point on a luxury holiday to China - a certain comforting sense of permanency. Granted, at a cool 20 million souls Beijing is another city of Dutch population proportions, but one that took rather longer to evolve. 3,000 years longer, to be precise. Not to imply that this a staid or backwards looking city; far from it - that many people equates to a whole heap of ideas, ambition and creative energy, the flames of which are being fanned by the government's new found light(ish) touch 'state capitalism'. Speaking of capitalism, guess what? Yup, The Chinese invented that too, way back in the Song Dynasty.

Did you know

  • One in five people in the world is Chinese
  • Fortune cookies are not traditionally Chinese, they were invented in San Francisco in the early 1900s
  • 45 billion chopsticks are used in China every year
  • The famous giant panda is found near the Yangtze River in China

Away from the capital the country contains a similarly diverse range of landscapes, plus renowned cultural treasures such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an. Han Chinese make up most of the population, but there are 55 other major ethnic groups, notably the Uighurs in Xinjiang province and, of course, the Tibetans.

Depending on the length of your stay, after Beijing the next most important place to visit would arguably be Xian and those staggering terracotta troops, but the buzzing city of Shanghai is also well worth a look. Other smaller but equally memorable places to consider - although realistically only for anyone with ten days or more to spare - would be the pandas and Sichuan cuisine in Chengdu; Lijiang, Dali and Shangri-La, the fabled cities of Yunnan Province; the staggering limestone pinnacles of Guilin and Yangshuo, and the architectural marvel that is Pingyao, a city seemingly untouched since the Ming Dynasty in the 1300s. Finally, for anyone who can forgive China's policies in the disputed territory of Tibet, then Lhasa and the high Tibetan plateau are genuinely staggering places to visit, best reached by one of the world's most amazing train journeys from Beijing via Xian to Lhasa.

On the subject of journeys, there's no denying China can be a tricky place to get around, so it is best done in conjunction with a tour operator who knows the country well, and uses the best people on the ground. Like us, for example. Several of the Original Travel team have travelled in this fascinating destination so can talk you through what best to do in a fast-changing land.


Top picks for China

Chengdu

Chengdu

China

Welcome to the Sichuan capital, home to giant pandas, fiery cuisine and ancient tea house culture.

Where to go

Amandayan exterior and garden

Amandayan

China

Described by UNESCO as ‘an urban landscape of outstanding quality’; Lijiang Old Town is the ideal setting for the peaceful Amandayan hotel. Lying in a valley overlooked by the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, this lovely hideaway will have guests feeling like a member of the royal Mu family in no time.

Where to stay

The Opposite House

The Opposite House

Beijing & the Great Wall

The centerpiece of the spanking new Sanlitun Village development in the embassy district, the Opposite House is a far cry from many of Beijing’s rather dreary corporate hotels.

Where to stay

The PuLi

The PuLi

Shanghai & Hangzhou

The PuLi constitutes 26-storeys of hi-tech, low key and deeply sophisticated contemporary hotel with enough oriental touches – incense burners, screen doors, black lacquer furniture – to give the place a firm sense of identity.

Where to stay

Spa VIP room, Temple House

Temple House

Chengdu

Temple House, named after the nearby Daci Temple, is a contemporary hotel inspired by Chengdu’s landscape that blends traditional heritage with modern design.

Where to stay

Aman Summer Palace

Aman Summer Palace

Beijing & the Great Wall

The Summer Palace, located in the less frenetic outskirts of the bustling capital city of Beijing, housed the pleasure gardens of the dynastic emperors.

Where to stay

Amanfayun

Amanfayun

Shanghai & Hangzhou

Secluded in a valley just 20 minutes from central Hangzhou lies Amanfayun, a luxurious hideaway in the heart of ancient China. Coastal China is ultra-modern; Shanghai and Beijing are 21st century cities. So much of China is forward-thinking that the opportunity to experience historical China is rare. The Amanfayun concept is therefore intriguing, and getting there is easy.

Where to stay

Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Most hotels bang on about service, but few walk the walk as well as they talk. Not the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, though. The flagship of the MO brand opened its doors back in 1963, and after a well-judged refurb in 2006 this remains a hotel with gold standard service.

Where to stay

The Upper House

The Upper House

Hong Kong

Sister property to the Opposite House in Beijing, the Upper House is the second slick hotel from Hong Kong mandarins the Swire Group, who are making a considerable splash in the contemporary hotel scene in Asia.

Where to stay

The Peninsula Shanghai

The Peninsula Shanghai

Shanghai & Hangzhou

Sitting majestically on the Bund in central Shanghai, the Peninsula Shanghai is the brands flagship offering in mainland China, and we can see why. With a balance of the historic art-deco style of the district, with suites which are packed to the rafters with technology, the Peninsula is the epitome of Shanghai itself – a clash of historical tradition with 21st century tech.

Where to stay

Hong Kong Skyline & Reflections

Hong Kong

China

The city that could be the definition of 'work hard, play hard'. New restaurants, bars and buildings emerge at breakneck pace, soon to be eclipsed in the hip hangout stakes or demolished to make way for ever bigger, shinier skyscrapers.

Where to go

Rosewood Beijing

Rosewood Beijing

Beijing & the Great Wall

The Rosewood Beijing is a stylish, spacious and very comfortable hotel in the fun nightlife district of Sanlitun, within striking distance of Beijing’s main attractions.

Where to stay

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