China is a huge country. There’s no ifs, buts, or coconuts about it. At 9,596,960 square kilometers – it weighs in behind only Russia, Canada, and the United States for sheer size. Couple this with China’s massive population and its jaw-dropping history, and you’ve got a recipe for a borderline overwhelming array of choices when it comes time to plan your trip to China. Put simply, there are just too many places to visit in China to do it all in one go.

For a country with so many diverse cultures and landscapes, it’s remarkable that so many Chinese itineraries consist of the same tried and tested fare. Beijing for the historic sites, a brief detour to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors, and one final stop-off in Shanghai for shopping and a brief walk along the Bund. For those pressed for time, this is perfectly fine, but there’s so much more to China than just these three cities. There are a wealth of cities with more history in one neighborhood than the entirety of my own country. There are unbelievable and almost alien landscapes the likes of which would fit in better with fantasy or science fiction. You’ll find cultures as unlike the ‘traditional’ Chinese as our own, sample foods that go well beyond beef & broccoli, and be confused, frustrated, and amazed every step of the way.