As Shanghai and Beijing march headlong through the 21st century, much of China moves at a different rhythm, maintaining a traditional way of life. Rice is still planted in paddies by hand and tilled by plough, ethnic minorities dress in colourful traditional costumes, and ancient houses remain hidden in quiet valleys.
These things aren’t always easy to see, however. For many travellers, China means crowded tourist sites, congested traffic, air pollution, and local charm lost to infrastructure.
Tour operator Country Holidays provides a point of difference by designing quintessential experiences based on the first-hand information of its China-based team members. The emphasis is on local sights, stunning accommodation, authentic eats and other secrets, whether it’s in the fascinating cities – where specialist walking tours give alternative perspectives – or rural areas that are both charming and remote.
Here are five classic China experiences and some of the unexpected additions you’ll find on a Country Holidays itinerary.
Beijing & Xi’an
More than just The Forbidden City, the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors
• Enjoy a hike and a picnic on a rural section of the Great Wall – remote, unrestored and uncrowded
• Stay in a village house next to the Great Wall
• Go on a food trail and learn about the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an
Beyond the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town of Lijiang
• Hike or horse-trek along an ancient tea trail
• Search for the true Shangri-La
• Enjoy a “tea spa” experience in the tea-growing Jingmai Mountains
• Stay in the Amandayan, the newest Aman Resort, set in traditional dwellings and courtyards
Guilin & Yangshuo
Alternatives to a tourist boat trip on the Li River
•Cruise the Li River on a private bamboo raft in quieter sections of the waterway, close to local life
• Hike in the Long Sheng Rice Terraces and through ethnic minority villages
Outside of the well-beaten trails of Xinjiang Province
• See a lesser-known but spectacular section of the Silk Road in Gansu Province
• Luxuriate in wilderness tents and cabins in the monastic town of Labrang
• Enjoy hikes and horse treks
• Visit restricted-access caves in the Mogao Grottos
Beyond Potala Palace of Lhasa
• Travel in winter to avoid crowds and enjoy blue skies and snowcapped mountain views, see Tibetan pilgrims in Lhasa, and explore Potala Palace without summer’s time limitations
• Experience smaller Tibetan townships