China’s wild west has long marched to the beat of its drum, as during much of its history, the region was a collection of independent kingdoms (such as Tibet and Xinjiang) completely separated from China. In the past, the remote nature of these lands remains hard for visitors from the world. The lack of modern transportation and underdeveloped road and other infrastructure made the trip difficult.
Today, thanks to China’s bullet train system and the high-ways, these untamed areas are begging to be explored. The culture, land, and history are now showing to the world.
Our programs in the west of China cover an area that’s epic in scope and scale (much more significant than say, continental Europe). They include such fantastic destinations as the holy mountains of Tibet, the boisterous markets and bazaars of the Silk Road, the mighty waves of the Yangtze, the mountains of Zhangjiajie (primary inspiration for the look of Avatar), and of course that icon of Chinese wildlife, the Panda.
Tibet has held the imagination of spiritual seekers, adventurers, and curious travelers for hundreds of years. Double the size of France, home to a mere 2.8 million people, the “rooftop of the world” endures as one of the world’s most fascinating destinations because it is merely so. The fertile Brahmaptura valley is the heartland of Tibet. Here you’ll find some of the oldest and most revered monasteries, including the very first, Samye. In Lhasa, the spiritual and political center of Tibet, your first sighting of the Potala Palace, the former seat of the Dali Lamas, will be a high point in every way.
Walking in the steps of Marco Polo, a tour of the Silk Road is truly a journey into the ancient history and diverse culture of China quite unlike any other. The range of attractions is quite unsurpassed. It’s a journey of contrasts: Han and Uyghur ethnicity, Buddhism and Islam religion, desert and mountain scenery, East and West (Central Asian) culture. Journey from scorching desert austerity to cool, watery mountain beauty and lush green upland pasture, and, if you have time, cross the Taklamakan Desert to the frontier outpost of Kashgar, which has a market as fragrant and bustling as in ancient days. The Silk Road has everything you need for a rich cultural journey into the heart of China’s past.
Poor Guizhou, always on the short-end-of-the-stick China province. A much-quoted proverb has it as a place “without three li of flat land, three days of fine weather, or three cents to rub together.” Ouch. Yet bit by bit, others are beginning to swear by this mist-shrouded mountainous province. What may keep you here longer than you’d planned is Guizhou’s extraordinary human mosaic. Almost 35% of the province’s population is made up of over 18 ethnic minorities, including the Miao and the Dong. In fact the province enjoys more folk festivals than any other in China.
A cruise down the Yangtze River puts you on a journey aboard China’s mightiest-and the world’s third longest river. Starting life as trickles of snow in the Tanggua Shan of southwestern Qinghai, the river then spills from Tibet, swells through seven Chinese provinces, sucks in water from hundreds of tributaries and powerfully rolls into the East China Sea north of Shanghai. En route, it surges past some of China’s greatest cites, Chongqing, Wuhan, and Nanjing.
Rising sublimely from the misty subtropical forest of northwest Hunan are 243 peaks surrounded by over 3000 karst upthrusts, a concentration not seen elsewhere in the world. The picture is complete by waterfalls, limestone caves, and rivers suitable for rafting. With all of this natural paradise, it’s easy to see why the designers of Avatar chose Zhangjiajie as their inspiration for the movie’s “Hallelujah Mountains.”
Increasingly used as the emblem of China, the cuddly and lovable giant Panda lives nowhere else in the world outside of Sichuan province. The best place in the world to see giant pandas is at the Panda Breeding Center in Chengdu. Alongside the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, the Li River, etc., China’s giant pandas are becoming a must see attraction of China. The Panda is the logo for the WWF and is known as the national treasure of China.
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