Now a world superpower, the last few decades have seen a 5000-year-old civilisation race headlong into the modern world – there’s never been a better time to visit China. It’s a destination that really does offer the wow-factor for all kinds of travellers and with a crop of luxury hotels springing up across the country, you can now travel in style.
China, with its gargantuan population figures and seemingly impenetrable language, can at first seem overwhelming to the first-time traveller. It provides culture shock at its most acute and it’s therefore not hard to see why the country is still relatively untouched by Western tourism. This is part of its attraction however, and the pulsing, shiny new super-cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu combined with an incredibly rich and varied natural landscape cannot fail to amaze and inspire. Prepare to be dazzled by this land of contrasts.
The sheer size of the world’s most populous country offers an enormous variety of possibilities to our clients, allowing them to get well and truly away from the crowds. Vast landscapes encompassing the arid deserts of Xinjiang, the lofty peaks of Huangshan, the nomadic grasslands of Inner Mongolia, lakes, rivers and 14,500km of coastline are home to a Great Wall, an ancient Silk Route, a Forbidden City, Buddhist caves, sacred mountains and a grand total of 53 UNESCO world heritage sites. Its vibrant and distinctive culture boasts eight official cuisines, a melting pot of religions, unique and intricate arts such as Beijing opera, Tai Chi, calligraphy and acrobatics, not to mention the distinct traditions of over 55 ethnic minorities. One trip just won’t be enough – we can guarantee you’ll leave planning your return.
Wix Squared has some exceptional guides to get you under the skin of the country including:
- A Great Wall historian
- A Jewish heritage expert to uncover Shanghai’s Jewish quarter
- A Tibetan monk to guide you in a private meditation session
- Michelin-worthy chefs to teach you the ins and outs of China’s fiery cuisine
- An architectural aficionado to highlight the old and new along Shanghai’s Bund
- An expert to show you hidden courtyards of the Forbidden City and the hutong
- A village shaman to pass on stories of ancient faiths and lifestyles in Lijiang
- Trekking guides to take you off the beaten track in Tibet
Itinerary Starting Price
From £3,500 per person, for 11 days including accommodation, private guiding, private transfers and entrance fees (not including flights).
In ancient times, the Chinese used sticky rice, rather than cement, to construct the Great Wall.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Harvest Moon Festival), the Chinese celebrate the moon by lighting lanterns and eating vast quantities of mooncakes.
What to Eat
Dumplings are everywhere in China; our favourites are the soup-filled xiao long bao.
What to Read
‘Wild Swans‘ by Jung Chang, is a classic tale recounting the lives of three generations of women against the heartbreaking backdrop of 20th Century China.
What to buy
Browse China’s colourful markets and shiny boutiques for fresh water pearls, exotic teas or visit a tailor for bespoke dresses or jackets.
China’s capital boasts most of the major hotel players with the Peninsula, the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, the Rosewood and now the Mandarin Oriental all offering guaranteed excellent service and fabulous facilities. For something a little more individual, try the Imperial-style Aman Summer Palace, which offers after-hours access to the lakes and gardens of its namesake, or go for minimalism at The Opposite House, one of The House Collective’s four stylish properties.
At Wix Squared, we’re very excited about the range of boutique hotels springing up all over Shanghai, offering a more exclusive, equally comfortable base in the city. Capella blends traditional Shanghainese and Western designs with 55 shikumen-style villas, The Middle House is the latest addition to The House Collective, whilst Amanyangyun offers a peaceful retreat on the outskirts of the city, combining influences from ancient architecture and the natural world.
5* luxury is slowly making its way into the rest of China. In tropical Yunnan, you’ll find the peaceful courtyards of Lijiang’s Amandayan or the secluded Banyan Tree on the banks of the Li River. Another Banyan Tree hotel nestles in the clouds at the foot of Mt Huangshan, a stone’s throw from the UNESCO villages of Xidi and Hongcun whilst in Tibet, the St Regis and the Shangri-La vie for the top spot in Lhasa. And not forgetting the Six Senses located at the gateway to the majestic Qing Cheng Mountains.
Luxury hotels are popping up all over China’s second tier cities, notably in Hangzhou and Chengdu. The Four Seasons’ enviable location on the banks of West Lake makes it our top choice in Hangzhou. Meanwhile, in Chengdu, it’s hard to decide between classic luxury at the Ritz-Carlton or the tastefully resorted traditional courtyard building of The Temple House. Further west, Xi’an’s Sofitel, tucked within the city’s ancient walls, combines grandeur and elegance.
Alongside such hectic, exciting cities, the vast swathes of China’s wilderness are often overlooked. However, they contain hidden treasures where you can escape the crowds and be awed by nature’s creations. Dunhuang’s singing sand dunes, Gansu’s astonishing rock formations, holy mountains, endless deserts and tropical jungles … much of the scenery is unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere and we think getting out of the cities is an absolute must.
The Great Wall, Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors and China’s 51 other UNESCO sites are testament to the country’s historical prowess. But we can also show you equally fascinating and less tangible examples of numerous age-old cultural practices, handed down over the generations. Let us arrange an intricate tea ceremony, a private Tai Chi class on the banks of West Lake or a mahjong lesson on a street corner in the heart of the hutong.
Ever wanted to cuddle a panda? We can help you tick off this bucket-list experience but besides this, our expert naturalist guides can take you hiking in search of the rare snow leopard in Tibet, through the forests of Shaanxi province following the endangered snub-nosed monkey, weaving in and out of Guilin’s water buffalo or watching some of over 770 species of tropical birds and numerous butterflies recorded in Yunnan province alone.
Chinese cuisine differs greatly from province to province and sometimes even between cities. The Chinese are passionate about their food, and you will be too, after discovering the explosion of flavours, textures and ingredients in every meal. From crispy duck wrapped in the softest pancakesto fiery dandan noodles, you’ll be hooked at first bite. Our dumpling-making master-class in an ancient courtyard house is a great start to your culinary journey.
The vast and varied terrain across China’s length and breadth ensures that there are plenty of adventures to be had. Hike through Yunnan’s paddy fields, along the dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge or up to the top of Yellow Mountain. Cycle along Xi’an’s ancient walls or in and out of the karst mountains of Yangshuo, before hopping onto a bamboo raft and punting down the Li River. We’ll set up a gourmet picnic in a secluded location to break the journey.
China’s dynamic art scene has come a long way from the whimsical watercolours of days gone by. Now you can compare and contrast these with a visit to the cutting-edge contemporary painting, sculpture and installations at the 798 Art District in Beijing or the hip galleries on Shanghai’s Bund. The futuristic architecture that has sprung up in many Chinese cities is often just as inspiring as the numerous temples and pagodas scattered across the land.
China and Japan are an intriguing travel pairing. These ancient Asian cultures present some mind-blowing contrasts, despite their geographical proximity and intertwined histories. Tokyo, Kyoto and Sapporo all have direct flights from Beijing and you can fly to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Osaka from Shanghai.
Mongolia boasts more horses than people and its wide-open spaces, and slower pace of life will be a welcome relief after the excitement and break-neck speed of modern China. Take a short flight from Beijing or hop aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express and journey to Ulaanbaatar.
Hong Kong is a fantastic gateway to China, opening the door onto the latter’s exciting eccentricities. A few days in this international metropolis (with its Chinese characteristics) will lessen the culture shock of diving head first into the often overwhelming world of China itself.
China is full of surprises so why not let us plan one for you? There’s an array of unique locations and venues for a private celebration. A three-course luncheon on a remote section of the Great Wall perhaps, complete with champagne and silver service or an intimate gathering aboard a private cruise on Hangzhou’s West Lake in a traditional wooden boat. We can even take you into the grounds of the Temple of Heaven after closing time for an exclusive viewing.
The cosmopolitan cities of Shanghai and Beijing offer plenty of trendy venues to host a party to remember: rooftop bars, exclusive private dining rooms, art galleries and even aquariums. We’ll work together with our in-country contacts to organise the event of a lifetime.
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China’s size means its climate varies dramatically.
The north of the country tends to experience hot, dry summers and bitterly cold winters when temperatures can plummet to -30 degrees Celsius.
The south is more tropical, experiencing hot, humid summers with temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius and cool winters.
The best time to visit is in spring (March-May) and autumn (late September-early November) when temperatures are pleasant and rainfall minimal.
- Head down south in January, away from the icy temperatures of the north and the bone-chilling damp of central China. Tropical Yunnan or Macau are cool (particularly in the evenings) but pleasant.
- Whilst winter is coming to an end, February can still be bitterly cold and you’ll have to go right down south to find warmth. However, it’s a great time to experience the traditions of Chinese New Year, which usually falls in early February.
- The weather in March is changeable. With spring just around the corner, temperatures are on the rise, however, even if it’s not raining, skies can be overcast. It’s still the ‘off-season’ so visitors will be fewer and there are no public holidays.
- As spring arrives, most of China experiences a pleasant climate in April and blossom starts to cover the trees. The south and central regions are still rainy, but there’s plenty of sunshine between the showers.
- Along with October, May is a perfect time to visit China. You’ll experience warm, sunny days, lush, green scenery and blooming flowers. Bear in mind, though, that many people travel at this time, especially during Spring Festival (1st – 3rd May).
- Hot weather arrives in China in June and it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to travel. However, a trip Yunnan – where the weather tends to be pleasant all year round – or Inner Mongolia would be enjoyable.
- July is probably China’s hottest month with the excessively dry heat of the north and the humidity and rainfall in the south making it a very difficult time to travel. It’s also holiday season so expect even larger crowds than usual.
- Almost all of China experiences unpleasantly high temperatures in August, making travelling and site-seeing tricky. Western China however, is a wonderful place to be, with Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang all enjoying great weather and folk festivals.
- Temperatures will start to drop slightly in the month of September making it a good time to travel around northern regions. However, the south and central regions many still be experiencing some rainfall.
- An excellent time to visit the whole of China. The temperatures are comfortable, you’ll experience crisp, blue sky days and stunning autumn colours. Avoid the national holiday in the first week of the month.
- Most of China will be cooling down in November and whilst it’s still possible to travel to the north and central regions, provinces such as Guangxi in the south will be more comfortable.
- Unless you want to brave the cold for skiing or Haarbin’s Ice Festival, you’re best to leave the north behind in December and spend your time in the southernmost provinces, such as Guangdong.