An insight into China

A Journey through this colossus of a country is a mesmerising encounter with the most populous, perhaps most culturally idiosyncratic nation on earth. The sheer diversity of China’s terrain takes you from noisy cities fizzing with energy to isolated mountain-top Ming-Dynasty villages where you can hear a pin drop.

China, is a destination that inspires, fascinates and bewilders travellers with its rich, diverse and often mysterious landscape and culture. It is one of the world's oldest and most magnificent civilizations which at present is experiencing an extraordinary modern transformation.  Today, you can enjoy excellent itineraries, good food, easy shopping, comfortable living conditions and convenient transport.

Thousands of years of history have blessed China with a rich culture plus a wealth of magnificent landmarks, making it an essential country for the discerning traveller.  Beijing is often the starting point for China holidays, thanks to attractions such as the imposing Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the elegant pavilions of the Summer Palace. Not far from the capital are some of the most impressive sections of the Great Wall, built in stages from around 500BC to keep out troublesome neighbours from the north. Photos simply can't do the wall justice, and the scale of the project is every bit as breathtaking as the views.

Another must-see  is the Terracotta Army at Xian, created by an emperor to watch over his tomb for eternity. The 9,000 figures he left behind include soldiers, cavalry and chariot drivers, each man standing up to 6 ft 5 in tall and with a unique features. Amazingly, this clay army was discovered only very recently, when farmers stumbled upon it while drilling a well in 1974.

Visit any of China's skyscraper-lined cities and you'll see why the country is fast emerging as the world's new superpower. The vibrancy and colour of everyday life is truly remarkable, from the hustle and bustle of the street markets to the group Tai Chi exercises in every public park.

The coastal city of Shanghai is a thriving metropolis but also symbolises an important stage in a turbulent modern history. Visit the Bund on China holidays to see a stretch of clubs, banks, trading houses and wharves along the riverside, all built in the days when the European powers dominated the city and other parts of China. Many have been restored to their former art deco glory and the area is the jewel amid an ever-rising skyline.

Hong Kong is now a 'Special Administrative Region' of China but this thrilling gateway was a British colony until 1997 and retains many distinctly British features. Theres much to do here but any trip should include the short hop across the harbour onboard the Star Ferry, a spot of bargain-hunting at Stanley Market and a funicular train ride to the summit of Victoria Peak.

Travel beyond the cities and you'll see the rice fields that feed this nation of more than a billion people plus a uniquely beautiful countryside. One of the country's enduring artistic images is of rivers winding around steep, misty mountains, and a cruise along the Yangtze to the Three Gorges is the perfect way to discover this timeless vision of China.

See some sample itineraries below: