China tours

Best tours in China

China spans such a huge area of land that the touring opportunities seem endless. There’s the wonders of cruising along the Yangtze River, the long stretch of green land to be explored by horseback, and even reaching up into the clouds on an immersive rice terrace tour. That’s not all; the man-made attraction that is the Great Wall never disappoints visitors, whichever route they take. And aside from seeing China, it’s just as easy to taste your way through, too, with its dizzying cuisine making for delicious food tours. You may find yourself wanting to extend your trip…

  1. Great Wall tour
  2. Yangtze River tour
  3. Night food tour Shanghai
  4. Horse Riding tour
  5. Rice terrace tour

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Rough Guides

1. Great Wall tour

The number one choice of the top China tours has to be the Great Wall. One of the wonders of the world, the Great Wall winds some 6400km through numerous provinces, autonomous regions and into Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. There’s a number of tours you can take to explore different sections of the wall: the most accessible (and popular) is Badaling, which is around 60km north of Beijing. Other sections, such as Mutianyu, are much less busy, while those who are up for taking a more strenuous hike will enjoy the Simatai or Jiankou sections. Big hotels and tour companies run their own excursions, but whatever section you choose to tour, there’s simply no missing the breathtaking scenery that surrounds you from the numerous vantage points, with the seemingly endless stone wall that zigzags across the undulating mountain landscape.

Best for: Experiencing one of the wonders of the world.

Top tip: If you want to go independent, make sure you pre-book a taxi.

2. Yangtze River tour

Travel in style and experience China’s longest river on a Yangtze River tour. There’s a range of vessel sizes and routes available, meaning that you can tailor your cruise however you like. One of the shorter tours takes four days and runs between Chongqing and Yichang, where you’ll stop off at the likes of Fengou, Lesser Three Gorges and Xiling Gorge. Longer tours of up to 11 days run between Chongqing and Shanghai; as you travel upstream, you’ll take in the likes of Shibaozhai, Wu Gorge, Jingzhou and, finally, China’s most cosmopolitan city, Shanghai. China holidays don’t come more iconic than this – what a way to arrive in style!

Best for: Sightseeing by water.

Top tip: Onboard activities cover a range of Chinese cultural activities, including tai chi.

3. Night food tour Shanghai

Get to know the tempting cuisine of Shanghai’s night markets with a food tour. This is the ultimate tour for foodies, who can sample such streetside delights from grilled skewers to bags of doughy dumplings. The best to try, though, is xiaolongbao, a small dumpling that is filled with meat (usually pork; veg options also available) and soup. The trick is to balance the dumpling on your spoon so as you bite into it, the soup is collected on your spoon; this is a Shanghai specialty, with restaurants even offering these little soup pockets, and shouldn’t be missed. Your tastebuds won’t regret it!

Best for: Eating your way through Shanghai.

Top tip: Tell the street vendors you find the food delicious by saying hao chi! (literally: good eat!).

4. Horse Riding tour

Saddle up and trot away from the crowds on a horse riding tour. It’s a great way to explore natural parts of the country in a sustainable way, many of which offer the chance to visit ethnic minority communities to gain a deeper insight into different cultures and lifestyles. To make the most out of this tour, book onto a week-long excursion, where you’ll likely cover four or five hours riding each day. Yunnan is one of the top places for a horse riding tour, with its sublime mountainous landscapes, intriguing traditional handicrafts and fast-flowing lakes. Some tours from the southwest even stretch into Tibet; while the admittance procedure can be a little time-consuming, ultimately it’s worth it for a once-of-a-lifetime opportunity.

Best for: Embracing wildlife.

Top tip: Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is another good starting point for horse riding tours.

5. Rice terrace tour

The Longji Village Rice Terraces, nicknamed the Dragon’s Backbone, is located in the lush landscape of Longsheng county. From Guilin, it takes two hours to drive up the hairpin roads and into the mountains, where the layers of rice terraces seemingly stretch into the clouds, if not the heavens. As well as the farmers, the Yao and Zhuang ehtnic minorities live here, where you can purchase their beautiful, colourful handicrafts from a number of small shops. The Dragon’s Backbone tour can be experienced in a day from Guilin, but why not make it an overnight stay? There are plenty of small hotels to choose from, where you’ll appreciate the near-silence, lack of air pollution and clear night sky, as well as numerous restaurants to choose from, too.

Best for: Slow travel.

Top tip: The women of the ethnic communities grow their hair very long; ask permission before taking any photographs.

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