Tibet offers fabulous monasteries, breathtaking high-altitude treks, stunning views of the world’s highest mountains and one of the most likeable peoples you will ever meet. A Higher Plain For many people, the highlights of Tibet will be of a spiritual nature – magnificent monasteries, prayer halls of chanting monks and remote cliffside retreats.
Guǎngdōng’s unique culture and natural beauty fly under the radar and have yet to be discovered by many travellers, so you may have a plethora of sublime sights (not to mention great dim sum) all to yourself. Northern Guǎngdōng (广东) is home to some wild and wondrous landscapes.
It's fitting that an ancient form of opera and magic called biànliǎn (face-changing) originated here, for Sìchuān (四川) is a land of many guises. Capital Chéngdū shows a modern face, but just beyond its bustling ring roads you'll find a more traditional landscape of mist-shrouded, sacred mountains, and a countryside scattered with ancient villages and cliffs of carved Buddhas.
Lhasa & Around
Within a short bus or taxi ride or easy cycling distance of central Lhasa are the impressive Gelugpa monasteries of Sera and Drepung. Both are must-sees, even if you have only a brief stay in Lhasa. Current regulations require foreign tourists to visit Drepung, Sera and Ganden Monasteries in the company of a registered guide.
Yúnnán (云南) is perhaps the most diverse province in all China, both in its extraordinary mix of peoples and in the splendour of its landscapes. That combination of superlative sights and many different ethnic groups has made Yúnnán the trendiest destination for China’s exploding domestic tourist industry.
Steeped in natural and supernatural allure, the Shāndōng (山东) peninsula on China’s northeastern coast is the stuff of legends. Its captivating landscape – a fertile flood plain fed by rivers and underground springs, capped by granite peaks and framed in wild coastline – can’t help but inspire wonder.
Shaanxi (陕西; Shǎnxī) is where it began for China. As the heartland of the Qin dynasty (秦朝), whose warrior emperor united much of China for the first time, Shaanxi was the cradle of Chinese civilisation and the fountainhead of Han culture. Xī’ān marked the beginning and end of the Silk Road and was a buzzing capital long before anyone knew of Běijīng and its Forbidden City.
Once the terminus of the Silk Road and a melting pot of cultures and religions, as well as home to emperors, courtesans, poets, monks, merchants and warriors, the glory days of Xī’ān (西安; pronounced 'see-an') may have ended in the early 10th century, but a considerable amount of ancient Cháng’ān, the former city, survives behind the often roaring, modern city.
Despite rampant Chinese-led modernisation, Lhasa (literally the 'Place of the Gods') is still largely a city of wonders. Your first view of the red and white Potala Palace soaring above the holy city will raise goosebumps and the charming whitewashed old Tibetan quarter continues to preserve the flavour of traditional Tibetan life.
On the face of it, Chéngdū (成都) should be a drag. It's flat, with no distinguishing natural features. The weather is grey and drizzly much of the year. The traffic is alarming. Yet somehow everyone comes away satisfied. Perhaps it’s the truly fabulous food, and the laid-back local folk. Or it could be the relaxing teahouse culture.