An intoxicating fusion of old and new, Beijing offers an ideal introduction to China, with famous landmarks such as the Forbidden City and the iconic Great Wall, and a thriving cultural scene: experience the Peking opera, a Kung Fu show and dazzling acrobatics. The sprawling Forbidden City, which lies off the vast Tiananmen Square, is a unique palace complex: its historic wooden dwellings, labyrinthine alleyways and elaborate carvings offer a fascinating glimpse into life from the Ming to the Qing dynasties.
Around Beijing, visit the impressive circular Temple of Heaven, where Ming and Qing emperors held significant religious ceremonies, and explore the bustling hutongs, with their colourful markets and sizzling street food. Beside Kunming Lake, the Summer Palace, as its name suggests, was the summer retreat of the Qing royals, and is a beautiful haven of ornate palaces, lakes and gardens of cherry blossom.
Beyond Beijing, the Great Wall of China is simply iconic: a climb up the steps of the wall, which stretches for over 5,500 miles, will reward you with panoramic views over the countryside and fresh mountain air. Venture to the ancient walled city of Pingyao to see well-preserved architecture from the Ming and Qing dynasties, and to the historic and beautiful city of Datong, where you can see statue-filled grottoes, temples, wooden pagodas and the Hanging Monastery on a cliff at the foot of the sacred Mt Hengshan.