Five fab World Heritage Sites in China

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

Heading to the Middle Kingdom for Chinese New Year? Good call. It’s never been difficult to guarantee satisfaction in China – the country is crammed full of no fewer than 37 World Heritage Sites. From parks to palaces, warriors, wildlife and of course, the Great Wall, all are worthy of attention. So much so, that attempting to choose China’s top five World Heritage listed sights is like trying to pick the spottiest dog in a kennel full of Dalmatians. Since you ask, however, here are five of CD-Traveller’s favourites in both Beijing and beyond…


The Forbidden City
Beijing has a wealth of historical sites, but clearly you must start with The Forbidden City. The linchpin of Beijing’s tourism, the magnificent Forbidden City (so called because it was off limits for 500 years) took 15 years to build, and served as the imperial headquarters during the Qing and Ming dynasties. It’s the largest and best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China.


The Summer Palace
Steeped in history and in a landscape where old China meets new, this royal retreat is now only a short, speedy subway ride from Beijing. Translation?  There’s no need to get stuck in Beijing’s notorious traffic meaning visitors can now spend more time exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site which was rebuilt by Empress Dowager Cixi during the reign of her nephew, Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908), after the century-old buildings were destroyed by Anglo-French forces in 1860. Attractions to check out include the Fragrant Buddha Pavilion, Long Corridor, Cloud Fairyland Hall, and Four Great Regions Temple. When you’ve had your fill of culture, take a stroll around the delightful Kunming Lake.


The Great Wall
If you only visit one World Heritage listed site in China, make it the Great Wall for as Mao Zedong himself put it: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall, is not a true man.” Only a few places on earth are more mesmerising in the flesh, than on the postcard and the Great Wall – the symbol of China that was built to function as an impenetrable line of defence – is undoubtedly one of them. As a UNESCO listed site, the Great Wall is a crowd pleaser alright but that’s the problem: it’s crowded. To avoid the crowds, visit on a weekday in winter and skip the Badaling section of the Great Wall and make for Mutianyu. Alternatively if you’re feeling adventurous and don’t want to share the wall with other travellers, seek out un-restored sections such as Huanghua.


Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries
Located in China’s Sichuan Province, the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries constitute the largest and most perfect habitat area of giant pandas – not only in China, but the world. China’s national treasure is an endangered species attracting global attention and affection (owing to its friendly face, it serves as an enduring symbol of peace and friendship), in equal measure. Owing to its friendly black and white face, the beloved panda serves as an enduring symbol of peace and friendship.

The Leshan Giant Buddha
Staying in the Sichuan Province, look out for The Leshan Giant Buddha Statue – the world’s tallest Buddha. The 71m statue began to be carved into the mountain in AD713, but wasn’t completed until 90 years later. Inside the Buddha’s body, there’s a water drainage system to prevent weathering, although erosion continues to be an ongoing problem. The Buddha, whose fingernails are bigger than the average human being, is easily reached from Chengdu on a day trip.


Terracotta Warriors
No visit to Xian is complete without taking a trip to the Terracotta Warriors – Xian’s premier sight and one of the most famous archeological finds in the world. The army of life size warriors and horses were built for Emperor Qin to serve him in the afterlife more than 2,000 years ago. However they were only discovered by chance in 1974, by peasants digging a well. Today the former farmers have become celebrities and sit outside the museum signing guide books – for a small price, natch – all day long.
The famous forces are instantly familiar, iconic landmarks guaranteed to jump start a cold tourist engine and offer an amazing insight into the world of ancient China. The attention to detail is truly incredible and each face has its own individual features. Start with the smallest pit (there are three in total) and work your way up to the largest pit (home to 6000 warriors and horses), for an impressive finale.
Most hostels and hotels run tours to the Terracotta Warriors and Tomb (expect to pay approximately 300RMB per person, including admission fees and lunch). Alternatively the army is easily reached by bus from the Xian train station.

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