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By turns ancient and ultra-modern, China is endlessly fascinating

In this land of immense natural beauty you'll discover a rich history of bygone dynasties and a tantalising culinary flair. As modern-day China rushes into the future, its past remains ever-present. In the metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai, skyscrapers spring up next to temples, while office workers in the latest designer gear take time out to unwind in traditional teahouses. This is a country home to one fifth of the world's population, and yet great swathes of its emerald forests and desert plains remain largely unpopulated.

Things to do

On our escorted tours to China you'll see all the highlights of this incredible country, from the grandeur of the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square, to the tranquillity of the Summer Palace. You'l follow in the footsteps of the ancients on the Great Wall, and gaze out across the Terracotta Army in the plains of Xi'an. Join one of our tours for solo travellers or book your place on a great railway adventure leading to Lhasa in Tibet. Along the way you'll wander through lively city markets and immaculate gardens, take in exquisite art, stay in the best hotels and feast on Peking duck and dim sum. If you're looking for a real insight into this most amazing of countries then look no further.

North China

Broadly speaking, northern China encompasses the vast Yellow River Valley and borders with Mongolia. It is made up of several provinces, the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia and China’s capital city – Beijing. With so much history to discover, this vast city offers up sight after incredible sight. Delve into the secrets of the Forbidden City, walk the length of Tian'anmen Square and wander though the lakes and gardens of the Summer Palace.

Northeast China

Bordering Russia, Mongolia and North Korea, historically this region of China was known as Manchuria. The Great Wall of China begins here in the border city of Dandong and stretches over 2,000 miles west, roughly along the border with Inner Mongolia. However, there are many, many more miles of branches, spurs, twists and turns along the Great Wall's meandering route.

Eastern China

This coastal region on the South and East China Seas is home to China's largest city - Shanghai. With a population in excess of 14 million, this frenetic metropolis is endlessly fascinating. Stroll along the waterfront Bund, visit the Jade Buddha Temple and gaze at the monumental skyline of futuristic Pudong. This region also encompasses Shandong Province and, depending on who you're talking to, the disputed island of Taiwan.

South central China

Stretching from the east coast to the border with Vietnam and up to north China, this region is made up of several provinces, including Guangdong and Hainan. This is also where you'll find the autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Southwest China

This vast swathe of land sweeps along the high Tibetan plateau to the Himalayas – home to nine out of 10 of the world's highest mountain peaks. The region includes Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces, as well as the disputed region of Tibet. Perched high on the very top of the world, magical Tibet and its capital city Lhasa (set at 3,650 metres) must be one of the most remote and mysterious travel destinations on the planet.

Northwest China

Bordering Kazakhstan and Mongolia, this area of China is home to the central Shaanxi Province. This is where you'll find the famed city of Xi'an (formerly Chang'an, the ancient capital of China for many dynasties) and also the starting point of the Silk Road. In the plains around the city you can also gaze upon one of China's most incredible man-made wonders - the Bingmayong, otherwise known as the warriors of the Terracotta Army.

See All Holidays to China

China: Land of the Dragon

Escorted Tour Pace 2

From the Imperial treasures of Beijing to the cosmopolitan streets of Shanghai, you will see the most iconic sights and incredible highlights of China on this great-value tour.

From the Imperial treasures of Beijing to the cosmopolitan streets of Shanghai, you will see the most iconic sights and incredible highlights of China on this great-value tour.

Contrast the fast pace of city life with the calm of island living on this fascinating cruise to Ko Samui, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

Grand Tour of China

Escorted Cruise and Tour

Discover the very best of China on this comprehensive tour-and-cruise visiting Shanghai, Guilin, Xi'an, Beijing and more.

The Lhasa Express

Escorted Rail Tour Pace 1

Travel in a group of 20 or fewer Saga guests, to discover China's ancient secrets and let the world's highest railway carry you across the Tibetan Plateau to atmospheric Shanghai…


Chinese -

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language, especially across northern and south western China. There are many other dialects spoken here too, such as Jin, Wu and, particularly useful if you’re buying a microwave, Ping.


In general you’re not expected to tip anyone in China. Local tour guides are the only exception as they rely on tips to boost their income.

Population and size

China has a population of around 1.4 billion making it the most populous country in the world, accounting for approximately 19% of the entire planet’s people!

Population distribution is strikingly uneven though, with the majority choosing to settle in the east, near the coast, where all China’s major cities have been established.

At 9,706,961 square kilometres, China is almost 40 times bigger than the United Kingdom!


Yuan Renminbi - The Chinese currency unit is the yuan, which is divided into 100 fen.


Although officially an atheist country, there are a significant number of Buddhists (as evident in the many beautiful temples) and Taos in China. China is proud of her many people, long history, resplendent culture and distinctive customs. The country's 'four great inventions' are cited as paper, gunpowder, printing and the compass, though there are many more. Chinese arts and crafts, including painting, calligraphy, opera, embroidery and silk are all highly distinctive. Martial arts, which have only recently begun to enjoy popularity in other parts of the world, have been part of Chinese culture for centuries, while Chinese literature testifies to the country's rich heritage. Not forgetting Chinese cuisine, which, in various forms, has been exported to every corner of the globe.

The shape and size of China has changed many times over the centuries, but none the less it remains one of the oldest civilisations in the world. The Shang 'dynasty' (which actually controlled only a very small area of central China) is thought to have formed in around 1,760 BC, with evidence of Chinese writing dating back to this time. The first millennium BC was marked by warfare between dozens of states across the sub-continent, however many elements of China's culture took root during this era - not least the writings of Confucius in the fifth century BC. From 221 BC the warring among states abated a while with decisive wins by the Qin kingdom whose leader then declared himself Emperor. He was the first in a long procession of rulers that were to last until 1912, and it was he who commissioned the Terracotta Army to protect him in his afterlife.

The dynastic rules over the centuries were punctuated by periods of war until 1368. From this date right through until 1911, China was ruled by just two dynasties - firstly the Ming, and then the Qing. Throughout the 19th century there were several bitter civil wars in China, as well as the war with Japan. Growing civil unrest marked the first decade of the 20th century, and when a rebel group took control of the city of Wuhan in October 1911 and declared their independence from the Qing, they sparked a chain of events leading to the end of dynastic rule. Within a matter of months each province declared themselves in favour of a republic and the last emperor abdicated, aged just six.

The next 40 years were dark times in China with many forces at play and heavy losses of life during both world wars. Throughout this time the Chinese Communist Party had been on the scene, and following the end of World War II and several years of civil war, the CCP led by Mao declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Sweeping reforms were brought in and Chairman Mao's cult of personality grew ever stronger despite famine and poverty across the land, culminating in the violent Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Mao died in 1976 and his successor initiated a whole host of reforms to usher in a more market-led economy and ideology. China continues to march in this direction to this day.


To the uninitiated, China’s written language is pretty baffling, and the spoken word is notoriously hard to grasp too, but you might be able to manage a few of the basics…

Thank you - Xiexie, roughly pronounced as syeh-syeh

Hello - Ni hao

Goodbye - Zaijian

Yes - Shi de

No - Wu


China is eight hours ahead of GMT.


Most electric sockets are 220 volts AC and are usually the two or three-prong American type. You will therefore need an adaptor for British appliances.


Due to its size, China has a range of climates.

Most regions experience hot, dry summers and cold winters, while certain areas in the north, south, west and centre of the country also experience substantial rainfall throughout the year.


Tap water in China is generally not safe to drink, so we recommend you only drink bottled mineral water throughout your stay. You should also be aware that there are high levels of air pollution in some of China’s major cities and industrialised areas, which may irritate respiratory conditions.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre – see, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad at

Passports and visas

Before your plane lands in China you will be given an entry card to complete. With your visa obtained in advance, entry into China is usually smooth and uncomplicated.

You’ll also need a current passport valid for the duration of your stay, which you’ll need to carry with you at all times.


Smoking in enclosed public places is banned, however this law isn't always adhered to, especially outside of developed cities.

Flight time

London to Beijing takes around 10 hours; to Shanghai Pudong it takes around 11 hours. There’ll be plenty of time for watching films and sleeping then.