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China: Beyond the Great Wall


The Great Wall is to China as the Eiffel Tower is to France, or the Statue of Liberty is to the USA: its image graces every tourism campaign and postcard, and is often the first place which comes to mind when we consider a visit. But just as there’s more to France than Monsieur Eiffel’s fine creation, China too has far more to offer. The Great Wall should certainly be on your Chinese bucket list, but it is by no means the only extraordinary sight in this vast, diverse, and intriguing country.


Start your trip with a few days in buzzing Shanghai, the most populous city in the world. A historic, cosmopolitan port, as well as China’s financial centre, Shanghai is an important cultural hub. Along The Bund you will find 52 exceptional buildings, in every architectural style from Romanesque and gothic revival to beaux-arts. Amidst the modern masterpieces on the skyline, it is still possible to see ancient sights, such as the 3rd century Jing’An Temple, which somehow survives against the pressures of development. Shanghai Museum boasts a superb collection of artefacts, including those from China’s most important archaeological sites, and you can indulge your appetite for art at Shanghai Gallery of Art and then in M50, an entire district of contemporary art galleries and studios. Many of these are open to the public, and we can arrange and English-speaking walking tour.


In spite of the infamous air pollution, there is much to recommend Beijing, not least the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, and nearby Beihai Park, where the city’s residents come early each morning to do their daily exercises. Exclusive Adventures can arrange for a private tour of the Forbidden City, including sites which are not usually open to the public, and this will also get you away from the crowds. It’s also the best way to learn about the City’s rich history, and how its buildings are being preserved for the future. Be sure to visit Tiananmen Square, both for its historical connection and the fact that on its corner is the excellent National Museum. Beijing is also the base from which to visit the Great Wall itself, either on a day trip, or on a two-day excursion. Our destination specialists will ensure you visit the quieter sections of the wall which are still in their original state, as opposed to those rebuilt for, and overrun with, visitors. Even in China, it is possible to find tranquillity!


The city of Chengdu is famed for its pandas, and if you stay at the magnificent Six Senses hotel, the concierge can arrange an immersive panda experience, where you can actually cuddle these big balls of fur. Beware, however, that although panda cubs look incredibly cute, they tend to be somewhat smelly! Chengdu’s reputation as a culinary centre is growing quickly, so while you are here, prepare to feast on regional cuisine. It is also well worth your time visiting Mount Qing Cheng, an important religious mountain of Taoism, and the giant state of the Buddha outside the city.


Last but certainly not least, you must visit the terracotta warriors at Xi’an. This city was towards the eastern end of the Silk Road, and since ancient ties has been a commercial centre abuzz with ideas, people, and goods from around the world. Even if you have seen a few of the terracotta statues in touring exhibitions, nothing can prepare you for the scale of the excavation pits, the number and quality of the statues, and the excitement as you wonder how many more treasures are waiting here to be unearthed.

Article written by:
Shari Burton
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