The world’s most populous country has the longest continuous history as it is the world’s oldest continuous civilization. On top of that China is a powerhouse of natural wealth. With a terrain comprising snow capped mountains to pristine beaches, China’s natural charm is beyond imagination. While the country’s world-class cities boom with high-tech infrastructure, its rural areas offer strong tradition and culture along with delicious local food. This diverse nation is one of the most bucket-listed countries in Asia and receives tens of millions of visitors each year.
Located in North China, Beijing is the country’s capital city. At first glance, it is quite impossible to tell that this modern architecture packed city has a history of over 3,000 years. But as you start to explore Beijing, you will come across its popular sites like the Forbidden City or the Summer Palace, which will give you a perfect idea of its rich history. If you’re still not convinced, visit the Great Wall of China – the longest feat of human engineering, as Beijing is one of the best places in the country to visit this more than 21,000 km long historical treasure.
To visit the Great Wall in Beijing, you need to head over to the areas of either Badaling or Mutianyu, which are located just outskirts of the city. In the city center, the Forbidden City is the most notable site in Beijing. It is actually a palace complex which was the home to the emperor of the country and houses an imperial palace and the Palace Museum. The palace was in use until as recently as 1924. Since it was a royal palace and general people were forbidden to enter, hence it got its unusual name. The Summer Palace is another imperial palace in Beijing and surrounded by picturesque gardens and hills. This mid-18th-century palace is set around the beautiful Kunming Lake and houses a few temples and pagodas.
Located south of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven is a cluster of religious imperial building complexes. Even though it requires lots of walking, the Temple of Heaven is a must visit site of any trip to Beijing.
Apart from the mentioned ones, other highlights of the city include Tiananmen Square – a 15th-century square which is quite infamous for its 1989 protests, Jingshan Park – a verdant imperial park located opposite of the Forbidden City, Lama Temple – a temple and monastery with an 18m-high statue of Buddha, The Drum & Bell Towers – a historic building which was once the tallest buildings in Beijing and Beihai Park (also known as Winter Palace) – a thousand year old public park with numerous structures, palaces and temples.
From Beijing, you can explore other areas in North China like Tianjin and Hebei. Shanxi and Inner Mongolia are the other provinces in the country’s north region. While Shanxi’s attractions lie within its walled city of Pingyao and its historically rich ancient sights, Inner Mongolia offers Mongol cultures and Genghis Khan legacy.
The Northeast China region houses three provinces named Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. The region offers somewhat different (and crowd-free) experience from the other regions of the country.
Liaoning is known for its walled Ming dynasty cities and beach resorts on the coast of the Yellow Sea. Its capital city Shenyang was the original home of the Manchu Qing dynasty emperors.
The neighbor province Jilin is home to China’s largest nature reserve located in the mountain range of Changbai Shan. Apart from that the Jilin is an emerging ski destination in China.
Heilongjiang, on the other hand boasts a rugged landscape of forests, lakes, mountains and volcanoes. Capital Harbin is known for its internationally famed ice-sculpture festival and ski slopes.
East China is where the country’s biggest city and a global financial hub Shanghai is located. The city’s iconic skyline is dominated by the world’s second-tallest tower – Shanghai Tower. The waterfront area, known as the Bund, is the heart of the city and houses plenty of colonial-era buildings. Along with its modern and ancient architecture, there are plenty of religious monuments in Shanghai including Jesuit cathedrals, Jewish synagogues and Buddhist temples. This megacity is the hub of the country’s shopping, art, entertainment and cuisine.
Besides Shanghai, there are six other provinces in the East China region, which are Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi and Shandong. When you are in the region don’t forget to visit Jiangsu and Zhejiang’s water towns like Suzhou, Zhouzhuang, Wuzhen and Xitang. The birthplace of Confucius, Shandong features some of the country’s best natural scenery amidst its vast wine production regions.
South Central China is made up of five provinces – Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Hainan, one autonomous region – Guangxi and two special administrative regions – Hong Kong and Macau.
Henan is home to Luoyang City, where you will find China’s oldest surviving Buddhist temple – White Horse Temple, and the impressive 5th-century Buddhist carvings of the Longmen Grottoes. Apart from these, the Shaolin Temple – located in the province’s capital Zhengzhou, is another must-visit site of Henan.
The province of Hubei is famed for its striking scenery of Three Gorges and verdant hilly landscape. The region’s capital Wuhan is a commercial hub, but mostly infamous as the birthplace of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Hunan province is home to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park – the country’s first national forest park. The park is world-renowned for its appearance in the 2009 Hollywood movie Avatar.
The province of Guangdong was the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road. Often skipped by travellers, Guangdong features some great natural sights and heritage of China’s revolutionary past.
The island province of Hainan is the country’s southernmost point and offers a tropical climate and hilly forested landscape. Here, you will find several luxury resorts and white-sand beaches in the hyper-developed city of Sanya and plenty of hiking trails in Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone.
The autonomous region of Guangxi is all about discovering traditional ethnic villages and Longji Rice Terraces on a hiking tour. Here, you can witness the unique surreal beauty of Danxia landform.
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The southwest region of China comprises the provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan along with the municipality of Chongqing and the autonomous Region of Tibet.
The capital of Sichuan, Chengdu is one of China’s top cities and famed for its Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Located about 100km away from the capital, Leshan is home to the 8th-century Buddha statue – Leshan Giant Buddha, which is the world’s largest and tallest stone Buddha statue.
Guizhou province is an offbeat destination for international travellers and offers great natural beauty. Yunnan province, on the other hand, is mostly known for its extreme diversity of people and landscapes. Its surreal landscape is made up of mountains, rice terraces, lakes and deep gorges.
The municipality of Chongqing was used to be a part of Sichuan until 1997, now houses several large towns including Chongqing City. Along with its rugged and verdant rural areas, this Yangtze River bisected province is one of the best places in China to explore.
China’s northwest region houses the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu and Qinghai and the autonomous regions of Ningxia and Xinjiang.
The capital of Shaanxi, Xi’an is a historical city that marks the Silk Road’s eastern end and home to the renowned archaeological site of the Army of Terracotta Warriors – Other than that, Xi’an lures visitors with its city wall and Muslim Quarter.
The neighboring province Gansu is another destination with a rich Silk Road history. It also features numerous Buddhist statues, forts and parts of the Great Wall.
The other province of Northwest China Qinghai has a Tibetan vibe to it. Here you will come across numerous monasteries, yaks and high-altitude grasslands. This is one of the most offbeat destinations in China.
The autonomous regions of Ningxia and Xinjiang are quite opposite to each other. While the former is a laid-back region with historical elements, Xinjiang offers an excellent mixture of modern and ancient architecture. The deserts and mountains marked region of Xinjiang is the largest province of China and home to many ethnic minority groups. Xinjiang attracts visitors with its striking natural beauty and its Silk Road heritage.
Together with its culture, tradition and food, this vast country makes a great travel destination not only in Asia, but also the world.
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