Steeped in tradition yet fizzing with energy, China is quite simply one of the most remarkable places on the planet. The world’s most populous country is on track to become its largest economy later this century, and the pace of change over the last 30 years has been astonishing. Communist discipline married to turbo-charged capitalism has seen provincial backwaters mushrooming into megacities practically overnight, and there’s a newfound swagger visible in everything from Shanghai’s skyscrapers to the show-stopping spectacle of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Nevertheless, vast swathes of China remain deeply rural in nature, and you don’t have to travel far from the big cities to find a way of life that has barely changed in centuries. China’s top attractions are well known - the Great Wall (no, you can’t see it from the moon), the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, and the extraordinary Forbidden Palace in Beijing. But there is so much more to China than the well-trodden path, from the lush limestone landscapes of Yunnan and the thrill of cruising the Yangtze to the unique Buddhist culture of Tibet. China also sits at the eastern end of the old Silk Road, which winds its way northwest across the Taklamakan Desert through the distant province of Xinjiang, with its distinct Central Asian culture. Whether you’re a China novice or a returning visitor, this vast country simply has so much to offer.