China’s the world’s oldest civilisation, its most populous country, second largest state and third or fourth biggest land mass – depending on the measurements.
The political regime’s almost as complex as the country’s geography, climate and culture.
So it’s always a pleasant surprise when family holidays turn out to be quite straightforward here.
Tourism’s well managed and, with more UNESCO World Heritage sites and natural wonders than almost anywhere else on earth, doesn’t really have to try that hard.
There are hundreds of excellent hotels across a wide budget range in every city.
And, whatever you want to see or do, there will definitely be a guided tour or, at the very least, a state-registered and knowledgeable local guide.
Good domestic rail and air services make multi-centre holidays in China doable and affordable.
China has 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites, second only to Italy’s 51.
The country’s iconic attractions include: the Great Wall; The Forbidden City; the Yangtze River; the Li River Karst Landscape; Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries; the Terracotta Army; Xanadu and the Silk Roads.
Hong Kong has its own Disneyland and dozens of other waterparks, theme parks and family attractions as well as 41 city beaches and direct flights to all major cities in mainland China.
China has over 292 different languages, but English is widely spoken in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Chinese law’s very strict and penalties for crimes involving visitors are particularly harsh. So for all its size and diversity, China’s one of the safest countries for family travel.
China is currently the fourth most visited country in the world, attracting 55.7 million tourists annually. The WTO estimate it will rise to number one by 2020.
To call Hong-Kong ‘China Light’ is an injustice, but it’s undeniably a city kids will feel more familiar with. A balance of incredible street life, mesmeric shopping, colourful heritage and non-stop action, it’s a love-story in the making for teenagers. And younger kids have theme parks, waterparks, aquariums and cute sights on every corner to keep them happy.
One of the world’s largest and most densely populated capitals, Beijing’s as exciting and enchanting as it is hectic. This is the city for the Forbidden City and accessible sections of The Great Wall. Where ancient districts are tucked into a vast urban sprawl and you can pretty much expect everything to be unexpected, eccentric and, often, spectacular.
Guilin is the city to visit for cruise holidays on the legendary Li River famous for its huge, limestone karsts. The experience of China here couldn’t be more different from Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. Outdoor adventure, traditional culture, nature and freedom to explore independently are the main attractions and the pace is significantly gentler so it’s a good choice for younger kids.
High altitude Chengdu’s the city for Giant Pandas and authentic Sichuan cooking, it’s also the gateway to Jiuzhaigou National Park.
Chengdu’s just over two hours by air from Beijing and best between March and June or September to November.
Don’t hire a car in China. The easiest way to get about enormous cities is by public transport, taxi or rickshaw (prices are pre-set and all drivers are state-licenced). Fast and frequent train services and regular domestic flights connect all major tourist areas. And, if you’re planning to go off the beaten track and don’t speak Chinese, there are tours to almost everywhere and many are specially designed for families with kids.