the great wall


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.

And for more luxurious ideas try this website

As the biggest country in the East, China is a place to be attended to with care and precision. Short of moving there for the rest of your life, it might be difficult to conquer the vast amount of natural delights China has to offer (for example, its 225 national parks!). That being said, while you might not get to excavate every unique, cultural crevice and crack, taking a month off with your family to explore China’s innate and man-made wonders is definitely the way to do it.

Day 1-2: Hong Kong

Getting there: Fly into Hong Kong international airport from your home country.

After flying into Hong Kong, you’ll want to spend a little time getting a feel for the city’s bustling streets and becoming accustomed to the language. If you’re keen on delving right into nature, take a day to walk around (make sure to see the markets in Mong Kok and try the eggettes) and get ready to head out to Yangshuo after a good night’s sleep. Your destination? The Li River.

Day 3-8: Li River and Guilin

Getting there: Take the train from Hong Kong to Lo Wu station in Shenzhen. After passing through customs, head upstairs to the bus station, where you can take the sleeper bus to Yangshuo (leaving every night at 7:30 PM).

While a bit touristy, the Li River (or Lijiang) is surrounded by karst mountains and stunning river views all around. It spans the 51 miles up to Guilin, and you can take a bamboo-raft or fancier cruise ship to get a feel for it. Explore the countryside for a couple of days, and then head over to Guilin for another three nights, via the express bus from Yangshuo station. Some sights you may see along the way include the Reed Flute Cave, decorated in stalagmites and stalactites, and Elephant-Trunk Hill, aptly named as it looks like an elephant drinking water. Your little ones will love it!

Day 9-12: Wulingyuan and the Zhangjiajie Forest

Getting there: There are no direct trains from Guilin to Wulingyuan as of yet. However, there is a short, direct flight (about an hour and forty-five minutes) between the two cities. If you prefer to take the train, you can take the bullet train to Changsha South Railway Station, and from there, a bus from the Changsha West Bus Station to Zhangjiajie.

From Guilin, your next venture should be to the “Avatar Mountains,” i.e. Wulingyuan National Park. The Zhangjiajie Forest makes up most of the park, featuring towering mountain pillars that allow for climbing, hiking, and of course, magnificent photo opportunities. You can take the family rafting, or simply spend your time comparing the Zhangjiajie mountains to the floating rocks your kids remember from Avatar. Either way, give yourselves three to four days to wander through all the park’s main attractions, before making your way to Chongqing.

Day 10-17: Chongqing and the Yangtze River

Getting there: The quickest way from Zhangjiajie to Chongqing is by flight (around three hours; note that there are only three flights per week), but the best alternative is probably by train. You can hop the train from Zhangjiajie station to Yichang East, from where you’ll transfer to the train to Chongqing. Allow yourself a full day of travel time, as you may have to wait awhile for your transfer train, and the voyage is long!

Here, the 9th-13th century Dazu Grottoes will make for some interesting family discussions, as they portray the ins and outs of life in olden-day China. These intricate rock carvings can be found on the hillsides of the Dazu area, and will tell a story of religion as they delight aesthetically. Following this day trip, it’s high time to experience the Yangtze River- the longest river in Asia. From deep into the Tibetan mountains and flowing all the way to Shanghai, the river spans a number of interesting cities and the famous Three Gorges, which are best experienced from aboard a cruiseship. You can spend anywhere from three to twenty days on the cruise, depending on how many sights you want to see (like the Shibaozhai Temple or the “ghost city” of Fengdu), but when you’re ready to move on, you can head over to Chengdu, in the south-western Sichuan region.

Day 18-21: Chengdu and Mount Qingcheng

Getting there: Your cruise! The easiest way from Yangtze is to sign up for a cruise that lets you off in Chengdu, but you can also take a bullet train from Chongqing Station to Chengdu Station.

There’s much to do in Chengdu, like hug a giant panda and check out the ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system. Mount Qingcheng is nearby, which is a great place to learn about Taoism and its origins. The scenery is stunning, of course, and there’s enough culture there to satisfy the family for days.

Day 22-25: Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong

Getting there: You can take a one-hour flight from Chengdu to Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, and then catch a bus from the airport to Jiuzhai Valley. Or, you can opt for an eight-hour bus ride, either from Xinnanmen or Chadianzi Bus Stations in Chengdu. While much longer, it’ll give you a great view of the natural scenery along the way!

You can’t travel through China’s glorious parks without stopping at Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong, also in Sichuan. Some must-sees in Jiuzhaigou include include snow-covered peaks, many-colored calcite pools, hot springs and stunning waterfalls. If you get lucky, you might get a peek at a world-famous giant panda, or even an Old World golden snub-nosed monkey- but you may not want to get too close! Similar astonishments can be found in Huanglong, as well as remarkable, multicolored ponds that you could spend days staring at. Two days in Jiuzhaigou and another day in Huanglong should be enough to get your fill; however, photographers should take an extra day, as there is just too much beauty to capture.

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Day 26-28: Leshan, Kunming, and the Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Getting there: You’ll have to retrace your steps through Chengdu the same way you came (it may be worth it to buy round trip plane tickets to save you time), and from there, a short train from Chengdu East Station to Leshan.

While staying in the area, you may want to spend a few days in Leshan. Here, you’ll find the 71 meter Giant Buddha, carved in a red, sandstone cliff. You can also trek up the infamous Mount Emei, which is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China. From there, take a short plane to Kunming and plan a couple of day trips. A must-have experience lies to the south of Kunming in the Hani Yuanyang Rice Terraces, which will really give the family the flavor of the East if you don’t feel quite like you’ve tasted it yet. It’s scenic, it’s colorful, it’s cultural, and it has sunsets equivalent to none. The time you can spend exploring the terraces is endless, so it’s probably best to just go to one more place from there- Beijing.

Day 29-30: Beijing

Getting there: From Kunming, you can take a 3 hour flight to Beijing, or an 11 hour train from Kunming Station to Beijing West Station.

China’s capital boasts the modern interwoven with the historical, and comes with a lot of traffic on the roads. Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City are two of the many main attractions to visit, but of course, nothing beats the infamous Great Wall. Seeing this World Wonder up close is sure to be a bonding experience, and the perfect way to end off your family vacation. Before your flight home, make sure to try some of the local cuisine- such as Peking duck or Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings)- and don’t forget to check out the palaces, temples, alleyways and parks that permeate the city streets. Who knows; they may give you a reason to come back!