China, Cathay, The Middle-Kingdom, Kingdom of Heaven . . . there are as many names for this country as its history is long. Empires have come and gone but China has endured for thousands of years. This is the country that gave us fireworks, gunpowder, paper, and the compass to just name a few things. More recently China is known for its particular mix of communism with capitalism, its spectacular economic growth rates, its cheap goods flooding Western stores, and the advantages and disadvantages that come with being the factory of the world.

Contrasting some of the largest and most polluted cities in the world, it also offers areas of great natural beauty. Love mystical mountains shrouded in mist? Countless sacred mountains are scattered around the country. Big palaces? Try the Forbidden City in Beijing, or the Summer palace or the countless others you can pick from. Into long walls? Well, there is none longer than the Great Wall. You can see thousands of life-sized terracotta warriors in Xi’an, and the list goes on: traditional villages, rice terraces, wooden bridges, temples, snowy mountain peaks and craggy canyons, crystal clear lakes, Buddhist and Tibetan Monasteries, sky-scrapers and mesmerizing modern architecture, great food like Peking Duck, different food like birds' feet, and more.

Extend your trip to Chengdu, with maybe a boat trip through the Three Gorges or a trip to Guilin. But there are many more beautiful places to see that are less visited by foreigners, though still hugely popular with the Chinese. Try Jiuzhaigou National Park, a short plane ride away from Chengdu, with stunning clear lakes and mountains -- 4 million visitors a year but only about 2000 non-Chinese. Whatever you might think of this nation, one thing is for sure, it has something to offer everyone.

Highlights from China
Hints and Tips for China

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