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Book holidays in China to discover one of the most mystical and mesmerising destinations on the planet...
In China, holidays can be taken in a variety of ways. There's a delicious menu of attractions just begging to be sampled. Just for starters, consider: the mighty monuments of Beijing; the Great Wall of China; sizzling Shanghai, where the colonial meets the ultra-modern; the immense Yangtze River; bustling Guangzhou; and the islands of Hong Kong, Macau and Hainan, where the city of Sanya continues to grow as a tourist destination.
Visitors flock to Beijing, the capital of the People's Republic of China, to find inner peace in the glorious temples, which dot the cityscape and provide serene havens for some of the city's 20 million or so residents. Yes, 20 million, around a third of the population of the UK in one huge sprawl of a city. With ancient roots and an eye on the future, Beijing is a terrific taster for the rest of China. You mustn't miss Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace.
Shanghai is an equally intoxicating slice of the Orient. Known as the “Paris of the East”, this city on the Yangtze River Delta hosts a variety of unique experiences. Get up early and practise T'ai chi with the city's elderly (and fit) residents or hire a bicycle and join the masses on two wheels. Stroll along the Huangpu River on the Bund, dodging locals selling all kinds of weird and wonderful objects, and see old Shanghai bowing in the presence of new Shanghai across the water in Pudong, where the skewered spheres of the Oriental Pearl Tower dominate the skyline.
Guangzhou, once known as Canton, is somewhat overshadowed as a city destination by Beijing and Shanghai. It's the southern gateway into China, close to the islands of Hong Kong and Macau, and it has much to offer visitors. Known for its traditional cuisine, China's third largest city is making massive strides towards tomorrow and is a fantastic reminder that China is an ever-evolving nation. The neon lights of the towers reflected in the Pearl River frame the city perfectly.
More and more holidaymakers are flying into Sanya, on the island of Hainan. This is a tropical beach paradise not commonly associated with a country such as China. Located on the south of the island, which is south of China itself, the beaches of white sand and aquamarine waters are like those found in the Caribbean and on remote Pacific islands.
That's China for you: you think you've got the measure of her and then she takes you by complete surprise.
The weather in this vast nation is as varied as the destinations on offer...
From freezing nights to hot and balmy days, this mass of land features a huge variety of weather systems. As a rough guide, Beijing, in the north of China, experiences very cold winters and hot, wet summers. The more southerly city of Shanghai is milder but sees more rainfall throughout the year. Heading even further south, Guangzhou rarely experiences temperatures in single figures, though the summer months can be sweltering and rainfall is high in June, July and August. This makes spring, autumn and winter the most popular seasons in which to take holidays in Guangzhou. In Sanya it is hot year round - though temperatures and humidity are very high between May and September when rainstorms break up the day. Many use this as a bolthole for winter sun.
Annual events are things of real beauty in China...
Chinese New Year; January/February: The entire nation celebrates this much-anticipated event and it's a time for families to be together. Hotels will be in big demand around the country, but that shouldn't put you off coinciding your holiday with the New Year. The festivities will live long in your mind.
Lantern Festival; March/April: Never passing on a chance to earn good fortune, this elaborate and beautiful annual event is celebrated by Chinese in all of the major destinations. The glow of thousands of flickering lanterns against the night sky makes for a majestic sight. There are plenty of other things to see, such as dancing dragons, during the days of this festival.
Dragon Boat Festival; May/June: There exist a number of theories about the origins of this event, including the suicide of politician and poet Qu Yuan in 278 BC and the efforts of the local boatmen to find his body. Whatever you believe, the dragon boat races take place in a variety of locations and should not be missed.
Whatever you're into, whoever you're travelling with, there's a China for you...
Kids and teens: Family holidays are easy on China's Hainan Island. Long stretches of sandy beach provide hours of splashing and castle-building fun, while many of the hotels feature family-friendly facilities such as play areas and clubs for children.
Romance: If you and your partner have a head for heights then tackle the views from the incredible Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai. The observation deck is a wonderful spot for some alone time, though the cocktail bar on the 87th floor adds an extra kick to your evening.
Relaxing: It can be hard to relax in a country that positively buzzes with energy but in Beijing you can dive into a peaceful moment in the Summer Palace, China's largest royal park.
Active types: Where better to take a hike than the Great Wall of China? You can access sections of the wall on day trips from Beijing.