After 50 years of being closed off to the outside world, China has reopened its doors to outsiders, and the race to see the Middle Kingdom is on. But beyond the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and the Terra-Cotta Warriors, communism, Chairman Mao, human rights issues, the one child policy, a booming economy, being the factory of the world, and the 2008 Olympics, what can you expect from China? In short, anything and everything; while East Coast and Pearl River Delta cities storm headlong into their sky-scraper laden future at a pace inconceivable and unmatchable in the Western world, towns and villages in the west of the country remain unchanged since camel caravans traversed the Silk Road a thousand years ago. Landscapes are startlingly varied and incorporate tropical rainforest, glaciers, fairytale limestone karst towers, loess plateaus, huge river valleys, and gorges along with the world's second biggest desert and its highest mountains. The communities that inhabit these varied landscapes are equally diverse, and though the Han Chinese are predominant throughout most of the country, China's 55 ethnic minorities range from hill tribes in the southwest to Tibetan nomads and Turkic speaking Uighurs in the northwest. On your travels you might meet camel guides, urban fashionistas, goat herders, students, train conductors, and waitresses, each with a story to tell. The fact that they don't speak your language often does little to deter them and, as the world's most populous nation, it is fitting that many travelers' strongest memories of China are of its people. With this geographic and cultural variety comes another bonus for travelers: a culinary diversity that makes China one of the world's great gastronomic destinations. From Beijing Duck to spicy Sichuan, Cantonese dim sum to Tibetan momos, there's always something new to try, and for those with an open mind and palate are some dishes that defy belief (ever tried fried scorpion?).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.