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With a diverse culture and rich history stretching back 4,000 years, China offers something to delight every traveler. Immerse yourself in dynamic cities, inspect ancient temples and palaces, shop for bargains in open air markets or relax in a peaceful garden.
China's capital city, Beijing, offers abundant opportunities for exploration. Discover the imperial Forbidden City, visit immense Tiananmen Square or see the Summer Palace on Kunming Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander the 13th century Hutongs, narrow alleyways filled with courtyard-style buildings, and later stop by the iconic "Bird's Nest" of the 2008 Olympics.
North of the city, explore the archaeological treasures of the Ming Tombs or traverse the Great Wall. This man-made fortification stretches in an arc along the southern edge of Inner Mongolia and provides breathtaking panoramic views over the terrain of northern China.
Travel south to Xi’an, formerly the eastern end of the Silk Road and the capital of China for 13 dynasties. Today, the city offers a treasure trove of antiquities, beginning with the 6,000 life-size Terracotta Warriors that have guarded the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi for more than 2,000 years. Also see the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a holy place for Buddhists that was originally built in A.D. 652 and leans several degrees to the west, or visit the Great Mosque in the Muslim Quarter.
A highlight of any visit to Chengdu is a trip to the Giant Panda Research Base. The facility is the largest of its kind in the world and is home not only to endangered giant pandas but also to red pandas and black-necked cranes. You can also see pandas at the zoo in Chongqing, China's largest metropolis.
Many China tours include a cruise along the Yangtze River. The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world, traveling a route of almost 4,000 miles. The river is home to an array of unique and sometimes endangered species, including the finless porpoise and the nearly extinct Chinese river dolphin. Other highlights along the river include the Three Gorges and their accompanying dam, the "Ghost Town" of Fengdu and the 12-story pagoda of Shibaozhai Temple set high atop a cliff.
Cosmopolitan Shanghai is a world center of business and culture. Relax in centuries-old Yuyuan Gardens, visit the Children's Palace or discover the bronze, jade and ceramic treasures to be found at the Shanghai Museum. Colonial Shanghai is still on display in the architecture of the riverside Bund area while the French Concession is one of the city's most vibrant shopping areas. Modern China is hard to miss in the skyscrapers of the Pudong District.
Near Shanghai are delightful Suzhou and lovely Hangzhou. Suzhou is famous for its canals and oriental gardens. Explore the Garden of the Master of the Nets, first built nearly 1,000 years ago, cruise the Grand Canal, visit a local silk mill and see the ancient Panmen Gate. Hangzhou, called "Heaven on Earth" by the Chinese, is home to beautiful West Lake, the Temple of Inspired Seclusion and the Six Harmonies Pagoda.
Further south are the cities of Kunming, Lijiang and Guilin. Owing to its temperate climate, Kunming is known in China as the "City of Eternal Spring." The city's Old Town includes a Bird and Flower Market, where souvenirs and trinkets can be found. Kunming also boasts the most important Buddhist temple in the province, the magnificent 1,200 year old Yuantong Temple, as well as numerous Tang Dynasty pagodas. Explore the nearby Stone Forest, a UNESCO Heritage Site made up of a labyrinth of limestone columns in a range of surreal shapes.
Peaceful Lijiang is home to the Naxi people, descendants of Tibetan nomads. Wander the cobbled streets of the Old Quarter in this UNESCO World Heritage town and relax at the Black Dragon Pool where you can enjoy fantastic views of Jade Dragon Mountain. Marvel at nearby Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest river canyons in the world.
Limestone mountains, their peaks often hidden by mist, surround Guilin. Ascend Mt. Diecai for outstanding views of the karst landscape and visit the Reed Flute Cave to explore the dramatic stalactites and stalagmites highlighted by multicolored lighting. An easy journey from Guilin by boat on the Li River is charming Yangshuo, set among rice paddies and an enchanting landscape. Take a cycling tour through the countryside or relax with a drink in a cafe or bar.
The lively island of Hong Kong has long been characterized by its cultural pursuits and glitz. Amble along the mirrored towers lining the Wanchai waterfront, take a cable car up to Victoria Peak for amazing panoramic vistas, enjoy a sampan ride in an Aberdeen fishing village, or head to the popular beach area of Repulse Bay. Shop for unique goods at Temple Street and Stanley Market, get absorbed in the city's many museums, enjoy a sunset cruise across Victoria Harbour aboard the Star Ferry, or view the giant Buddha on the nearby island of Lantau.
The former Portuguese colony of Macau is now one of the richest cities in the world and is sometimes called the "Monte Carlo of the East" due to the many casinos in town. For a more traditional view of exciting Macau, visit the 17th century Penha Hill Church in the Guia Fort, explore A Ma Temple and see the Border Gate.
Tibet’s "Land of the Gods," Lhasa is more than 1,300 years old. The skyline is dominated by the architectural wonder that is the Potala Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was the religious and political center of Tibet and houses thousands of rooms exhibiting treasures, shrines and frescoes relating to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan faith. Explore the spiritual heart of the city in Jokhang Temple or shop for prayer wheels and carpets at the market outside.
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