Giant pandas. The greatest wall in the world. The Terracotta Army. Magnificent mountains and over 5,000 years of history… China has plenty to appeal to kids and teens, and there’s no need to mention the stunning landscapes and 20-plus UNESCO World Heritage Sites that will have grown ups’ eyes popping. Visiting this enormous, culturally-exotic country en-famille might sound like a mammoth undertaking, but China is well geared up to tourism, and luxury family holidays in China offer heaps of excitement and adventure without sacrificing any creature comforts – in fact, China’s finest five-star hotels are among the most luxurious anywhere in the world. Our 14-day itinerary offers a chance to catch China’s big ticket attractions, as well as some off-the-beaten track kiddie-pleasers and some seriously swanky accommodations.
? Tip: China is a kid-friendly country, and families are made to feel welcome the length and breadth of the land, and your kids may well feel like mini-celebrities if they have very ‘Western’ looks. Be prepared for plenty of snapping cameras and curious locals, especially if the kids are very fair-skinned and light haired. .
Day 1-5: Beijing
With its towering skyscrapers, honking traffic and sheer enormous scale, touching down in Beijing can be a giant culture shock for families who have just arrived in China. A stay at the fabulous Four Seasons Beijing will ensure your luxury family vacation in Beijing gets off to a smooth start. Pre-arrange a transfer (the hotel can do this for you, and having the driver greet the family from the plane can be a major stress-saver when arriving at this vast airport after a long flight). The Four Seasons is epic in scale and luxury levels, as a good location among the grand Embassy buildings of the Central Business District, and offers some great family-focused extras such as kids’ spa treatments, table tennis classes, traditional Chinese craft-making classes, and fascinating tea ceremonies – there’s even a library on the Executive Level. The hotel can arrange private sightseeing tours (and a private driver is a good way to see all that this enormous city has to offer. However you choose to see the city, be sure to get out early at least one day to see the locals going about their group morning exercise classes at the stunning Temple of Heaven. Other must-visits for families in Beijing include the gigantic Tiananmen Square (look out for vendors selling kites – kite-flying is a popular family activity here) and neighboring Forbidden City (just the word ‘Forbidden’ is usually enough to pique kids’ interest, and it’s impossible not to be impressed by the largest palace complex in the world, protected by a six-meter deep moat and 10-meter high wall) . A visit to the Great Wall at Mutianyu is another must-do, as is a trip to see the giant pandas at Beijing Zoo. Boat cruises on the city’s beautiful Kunming Lake, taking in the Summer Palace, are nice extras, and evening activities for families in Beijing might include watching a Kung-Fu class or puppet show, as well as getting to grips with chopsticks at some of the city’s excellent high-end restaurants.
? Boxout: Let’s Go Fly a Kite A popular extra activity for kids in China is a kite-making class. The traditional craft has been practised for centuries, and kite-flying is a hugely popular pursuit in Chinese cities. The intricate kites are made from bamboo and silk, and children of all ages tend to enjoy learning how to create their own.
Day 6-9: Xian
Take a transfer to the airport for the 2h 15min flight to Xian (multiple flights daily), where your family will get to meet the 6,000-strong Terracotta Army. There are several high-end accommodation options for your Luxury Family Trip to Xian – for modern luxury on a large scale, try the Sofitel Xian on Renmin Square, while more boutique accommodations come courtesy of Epoque Hotels, which has two upmarket, characterful boutique properties for your luxury family trip to Xian.
A trip to see the Terracotta Army is the main draw in Xian, but there are plenty of other impressive attractions here: dating back to the 11th Century BC, the former capital has a staggering amount of ancient ruins, tombs, pagodas and temples, as well as a Ming Dynasty city wall, and natural wonders including Mount Hua – one of China’s mightiest mountains – and the relaxing Huaqing Hot Springs. Again, the best way to take it all in is to arrange a private driver/tour guide. Try to catch a shadow puppet show at Gao’s Courtyard- a popular draw for families in Xian.
Day 10: Guilin
Take the 2h 15 flight to beautiful Guilin (several flights daily with multiple operators), and pre-arrange a transfer from the airport to Shangri-La Guilin – a super-swanky hotel with a traditional pagoda-style architecture, and a magnificent location between mountains and river. The real appeal of this spot is the beautiful setting, prepare for some rest and relaxation (plan some spa and pool time at the hotel), as well as more active family-friendly pursuits such as bamboo rafting down the river or hiking in the hills
Day 11: Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo
From scenic Guilin, take a cruise down the astonishingly-beautiful Li River (think mist-shrouded mountains, serene riverside villages and locals punting along on home-made rafts). Your hotel should be able to make bookings on luxury boats (or charter a private boat and skipper) to make the 3-hour journey to Yangshou. Allow time on the way to check out the Reed Flute Cave, with its dramatic stalagmites and stalactites (tours take about an hour). Yangshuo itself is more about peaceful retreats than truly luxury lodgings, but Li River Resort, high in the mountains above the city, has priceless views, a lovely pool and impeccable service, with families made to feel extremely welcome. Your family visit to Yangshuo should include activities such as hiking among the rice paddies and gloriously green hills, and the hotel can also arrange family cookery classes and painting lessons.
? Box out: Charming by day, Yangshuo town center gets packed and noisy after dark, and loud disco music may keep light sleepers awake. For a good night’s sleep, take the family to one of the peaceful hillside towns and villages instead.
Day 12-14: Shanghai
It’s a couple of hours’ drive to Guilin airport, where you’ll take a flight to Shanghai City (2h 15mins, several flights daily). Check into the plush-but-family-friendly Peninsula Shanghai and arrange to be picked up by one of the hotel’s own fleet of Rolls Royce cars. The pool and spa are both among the best in town, so allow for time to enjoy them. Super-modern Shanghai has a lot to pack into a couple of days, but highlights for a luxury family trip to Shanghai should include a visit to Shanghai Natural History Museum, a stroll and picnic through Ying Dynasty-era Yu Garden, whose lakes, pagodas and rockeries are a delight for small children and frazzled parents. Visiting the nearby market for keepsakes is another highlight, and an evening visit to catch a super-skillful Acrobatics show (ask at the hotel for bookings) is a cross-generational crowd pleaser and makes a fantastic last-night’s activity to round off your vacation in style before the flight back home.
Check out this post as well: 15 Things You Need to Know When Going to China with Your Family.
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