The most popular travel itinerary for China starts in Beijing or Shanghai, and takes in the likes of the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Shanghai’s Bund, the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, and Hangzhou’s West Lake.
Sure, these are all “must sees”; but they’re also among the most heavily touristed places on the planet. If you’re looking for a China holiday with difference, here are five itinerary ideas to consider. (Flight times are from Singapore.)
1. Fly to Chengdu (4.5 hours, direct), capital of Sichuan Province. See giant pandas and sample the incendiary local cuisine, then take a half-day bus towards the Tibetan grasslands in the west, or to the foothills of mighty Mount Gongga (7,556m).
2. Fly to Harbin (10 hours, one stop), capital of Heilongjiang Province, and brave Arctic temperatures to enjoy the city’s bizarre ice festival (January/February), or wait for warmer weather and see Russian churches, Siberian tigers and boisterous beer gardens.
3. Fly to Xiamen (4 hours, direct) in Fujian Province; explore the interesting coastal community on the island of Gulangyu, then take a bus into the highlands to stay a few nights in one of the unique circular mud homes of the Hakka people.
4. Fly to Guiyang (6.5 hours, one stop), capital of Guizhou Province, and take a minibus from the airport to the Miao minority area in the east. Highlights include Xijiang village, with its ageing dark-timber houses, and nearby hiking routes and waterfalls.
5. Fly to Xining (9 hours, one stop), capital of Qinghai Province, then take a 4-hour bus to Tongren, and spend the next week travelling the Hexi Corridor, part of the historic Silk Road. Expect monasteries galore and a mellow Tibetan vibe.
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