China travel: Explore the history and culture of one of the world's most fascinating countries
In recent years, the eyes of the world have been trained on China. The rapid changes in its economy and politics have made it a front-page staple, but for travelers, the allure of China is far richer. The country is one of the oldest in the world, and for those seeking a diversity of experiences, spanning centuries, cultures and landscapes, China travel
can offer all of that and more.
China has been welcoming tourism with growing enthusiasm, and the country's desire to wow its visitors was fully on display when it hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. As China's star has started rising again on the international travel scene, it's obvious why the country now ranks as one of the hottest destinations for travelers. There are few places on earth where tradition and modernity are both so strong and so intertwined as in China, where you can walk the Great Wall or see the "Bird's Nest" stadium that was at the heart of the Olympic pageantry. The country's size also contributes to its diversity: you can find deserts, mountains and tropical environments all within its borders, as well as a diversity of cultural traditions: all of these aspects making for a unique China travel experience.
As the country's tourism infrastructure expands, it's the perfect time to visit. Keeping in mind that there are some unique challenges to China travel, a tour can be a good option. For first-timers, a tour can simplify everything from language barriers to visa questions, as well as arranging hotels and transportation. For both first-time and experienced travelers, tours like those offered by Tauck offer a deeper look into the country, filled with one-of-a-kind experiences that aren't always available to independent travelers.
There's so much to see in China that it requires some careful planning - and maybe even more than one trip. But an itinerary that shows you the highlights, ancient and modern alike, is the best way to be introduced to the country. Be sure that your China travel will take you to these destinations:
* Beijing. The site of the 2008 Olympics is a perfect place to explore China's heritage and get a glimpse of where it's going. One of the most famous sites is the legendary Forbidden City, the home of the Imperial Court during the Ming and Qing dynasties - no visit to Beijing is complete without touring its grounds. The striking metal architecture of the Beijing National Stadium or "Bird's Nest" is emblematic of the country's vision of the future.
Also in Beijing you'll find the legendary Forbidden City, which was the hermetically sealed home of Chinese emperors for centuries. With Tauck, you'll also be able to visit the city's centuries-old hutongs, or traditional courtyard homes, and visit local families on an exclusive tour.
* The Great Wall. The only man-made structure visible from space is also high on most travelers' to-do lists for China travel. Spend a day exploring the ancient ramparts with an experienced guide who can give you insight into the history and legend surrounding this wonder of the world.
* Xi'an. Deeper into central China, the ancient Silk Road city of Xi'an draws visitors with its legendary army of Terra Cotta warriors. The carefully rendered army of warriors was created in the 3rd century BCE for the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Each of the thousands of warriors and animals in the massive force is unique, making it one of the most astounding examples of funerary art ever made. Even beyond the Terra Cotta army, Xi'an is a wonderful place to delve into China's complex history in places like the Ox Culture and Ceramics Museum, which showcases Chinese history alongside the country's centuries-long relationship to and reliance on this beast of burden. The museum's curator leads a special tour for Tauck guests.
* The Yangtze. The mighty Yangtze is the longest river in Asia, and the third longest in the world, but neither of those statistics captures the picturesque beauty of the landscape through which it flows. The area has changed dramatically in the past few years, since the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, and you'll be in the vanguard of travelers seeing the changing face of the Three Gorges area. You'll have a spectacular view of China's wilderness, combined with shore visits to quaint villages along the banks as you take a Yangtze cruise during your China travel experience.