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CHINA is the third largest country in the world after Russia and Canada, and its vast territories stretch from sub-arctic conditions in the north to a hot and humid south.

The Chinese can be eating tropical fruit on the resort island of Hainan, at the same time as their brethren in the north face Siberian frosts and icy winds.

“One of the problems for agents selling China is that their knowledge of the country is a bit patchy,” said Somak head of product Rob Haynes. “It’s still unfamiliar, and it can be hard to understand the weather and distances.”

China is split into 22 provinces and five autonomous regions, and also consists of around 5,000 islands, all of which are governed from Beijing.

Hong Kong and Macau have recently come back into the fold as Special Administrative Regions and various disputed territories lie around China’s borders.

Incursions by their Mongolian neighbours in the north led the Chinese to build a series of walls that became collectively known as the Great Wall of China.

The Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan Mountains bound China to the west and, although this area accounts for a quarter of China’s landmass, it is home to just 1% of its population.

More than two-thirds of Chinese people live along the country’s coast. This is the industrial and agricultural heartland and the starting point for many guided tours.

Wendy Wu, of operator Wendy Wu Tours, suggests agents take training courses to equip them with the knowledge to better sell China.

“This is a special destination and the more you know, the more you will be able to sell,” she said.

But in the meantime, here are a few of China’s highlights to get you started. You can locate them in the country using our China highlights map (opens in new window).

Great Wall

The best-preserved sections of this 4,000-mile long stone border, built over 2,000 years ago, are those around Beijing.


Though not the most attractive city, it’s worth staying a few nights to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Don’t miss the zoo housing Giant Pandas.

The Great Wall
Great Wall


Sanya Resort
Sanya Resort


Dubbed the ‘new Hong Kong’ this is mainland China’s most cosmopolitan and stylish city. Listen to jazz at the colonial Peace Hotel, shop in the authentic bird and flower markets and dine in the funky Xintiandi district.

Yangtze River

Cruises along the river take in the spectacular Three Gorges and the new Dam, such a feat of modern engineering that it is almost as awesome as the Gorges themselves.


One of the most historic cities in China and a major stop on the ancient Silk Road, it is best known today for its main attraction, the Terracotta Warriors.


A good spot to take a breather during a tour of China, rural Guilin is surrounded by farmlands and rice paddies. Take a relaxing cruise on the River Li.


This historic and scenic city is tucked away in Yunnan Province in the south. Visit the Stone Forest and the many ethnic villages found in the countryside.


Head to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants.

Sanya Resort

Known during the Tang Dynasty as the ‘End of the Earth’ it is launching mass tourism to China. It lies on Hainan island, off the southwest coast.

The Forbidden City

A walled city in the centre of Beijing where the Ming and Qing emperors once lived, it comprises almost 10,000 buildings over 75 hectares.

Tiananmen Square

This is world’s largest public square, best known for the bloody protests of 1989. At the north end is the door to the Forbidden City, at the southern end the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where his body lies in state.

Sample product

Premier Holidays’ 10-night Classic China tour to Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Hong Kong, with breakfast, some lunches, flights and transfers starts at £2,299 in September.

Wendy Wu Tours’China Experience is a 10-day tour to Beijing, Xian and Shanghai, costing from £1,590 with flights, transfers and all meals in September.    

Somak Holidays offers the 10-night China Grand Tour of Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and Guilin, including flights, transfers and some meals, from £1,595 in September.   

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