21 best Chinese holidays: All aboard the truck to Hong Kong

1 Highlights

Bales' (tel: 01306 885991) Best of China tour packs as many of the country's highlights as possible into 10 days, visiting Peking and the Great Wall, Shanghai, Suzhou and Xian. Departures are until November, starting again next April. The price is about pounds 1,500 based on two sharing, including b&b accommodation, return flights and some other meals.

2 Overlanding

Exodus (tel: 0181-675 5550) runs an eight-week truck trip from Islamabad in Pakistan to Hong Kong, through much of China's most fascinating territory. The price for transport and basic accommodation is pounds 1,940 per person, plus pounds 80 for the food kitty. An open-jaw flight into Islamabad and out of Hong Kong costs about pounds 500.

3 Eco-friendly

Earthwatch (tel: 01865 311600) takes students to sites of rare environmental interest. The "Inner Mongolia's Lost Water" trip - investigating desertification in the Black River delta - leaves this week, running from 16 September to 4 October. The price is pounds 1,150 per person based on two sharing and includes accommodation in a tent, meals and internal transfers from Xian. International flights to Xian are extra.

4 Activity

Variety is the spice of life on The Imaginative Traveller's (tel: 0181- 742 8612) three-week trip from Peking to Hong Kong, using transport such as trains, boats and bicycles. Departures every fortnight up to November. The price is pounds 1,335 per person, based on two sharing, including all internal transport, accommodation, most meals, but no international flights.

5 Cycling

Worldwide Expeditions (tel: 0800 0744135) offers 18-day holidays from Hong Kong, travelling by catamaran to Zhaoqing, then cycling for nine days to Guilin. Next, you fly to Xian and finally on to Peking by train. The price is pounds 1,962 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, internal transport, accommodation and most meals.

6 Trains

Take the Trans-Siberian express from Moscow to Peking. A five-day rail package - including a flight into Moscow, one night there, rail travel to Peking, three nights there, and a flight back - costs about pounds 900 from Regent Holidays (tel: 0117-921 1711).

7 Great Wall Tours

Interchange (tel: 0181 681 3612) offers 10-night tours of northern China, staying for a few nights in Peking and spending four days walking some wilder stretches of the wall. The price is about pounds 1,000 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, accommodation and most meals. Departing in April.

8 City breaks

A short city break in distant China is possible with frequent, relatively low-cost direct flights now available from the UK to Peking, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Page & Moy (tel: 0116 250 7979) offers a four-night package in Peking for pounds 399 per person, based on two sharing, including transfers and b&b accommodation.

9 Steam train

TEFS Railway Tours (tel: 01509 262745) runs trips to the Manchuria and Inner Mongolia regions of China. The "soft adventure" trips last about two weeks and cost between pounds 1,500 and pounds 2,000 per person, based on two sharing, including return travel from London and full-board.

10 Silk Road

Travelbag Adventures (tel: 01420 541007) offers 18 nights on the Silk Road. Departing from May 2000, the price is pounds 1,795 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transport, b&b accommodation and some other meals.

11 River cruises

Voyages Jules Verne (tel: 0171-616 1000) runs a group trip called Journey to the Yangtse Gorges, which includes four days cruising up the Yangtse from Yichang to the famous war-time capital Chongqing, and five nights in Peking. The price is pounds 940, per person twin share, includes b&b accommodation in Peking, full-board on the boat, transfers and international flights. There are four departures before the end of October.

12 Gardens

China Holidays (tel: 0171-287 6727) offers tours of the Shanghai area, with visits to typical old Chinese gardens in Suzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai. The next departure is 20 November. The price is pounds 749 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights to Shanghai, eight nights' accommodation and all meals.

13 Learn a language

Caledonia Languages Abroad (tel: 0131-621 7721) offers language-learning breaks in Shanghai's Fudan University for summer, autumn or spring terms. Accommodation in a shared room costs pounds 2 per day (pounds 4 for the room) and tickets for all meals cost pounds 75 per month. Tuition for one term (17 weeks) costs pounds 900; while the eight-week summer term costs pounds 550.

14 Ice

Visit deepest Manchuria, where winter temperatures average -30 C, to see the famous ice sculptures of Harbin. The Imaginative Traveller (tel: 0181 742 8612) runs a one-week trip in February, including train travel between Peking and Harbin.The price is pounds 485, based on two sharing, but excluding flights and food.

15 Slow boats

Strand Voyages (tel: 0171-836 6363) offers berths on cargo ships heading to China. A 27 to 30-day one-way trip from Southampton (via the Suez Canal), to Hong Kong or Shanghai costs pounds 1,900 per person, based on two sharing, including all meals.

16 Luxury

Stay three nights at the world famous Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong in a superior room, with stunning views over the city and harbour. A package with Premier Holidays (tel: 01223 516677) costs pounds 669 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, taxes, transfers and room only.

17 Chinese medicine

Master Travel (tel: 0181-671 7521) organises two-week acupuncture and massage courses at China's leading hospital of traditional Chinese medicine in Peking. It costs pounds 1,345 per person, based on two sharing, including accommodation. Departing in November, March and August.

18 Rambling

One of the best long-distance walks for tourists in China is in Hong Kong, where you can walk for four days and three nights along the 100km- long MacLehose Trail. Visitors can join the trail at different points or do the whole walk. For accommodation details, contact the Hong Kong Tourist Association (tel: 0171-533 7100).

19 Flora and fauna

Naturetrek (tel: 01962 733051) runs an annual "Snows of Tibet" 25-day overland journey from Chengdu to Lhasa every May. The price is pounds 3,990, including return flights, accommodation in tents, hotels and hostels, transport and all meals.

20 Tibet trek

See Everest on World Expeditions' (tel: 0181-870 2600) "Three Faces of Everest in Tibet", guided by Rebecca Stephens, who in 1993 became the first British woman to climb the mountain. The all-inclusive price is pounds 3,420 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights. Departing 20 September.

21 Taiwan

The "other" China is a crowded, polluted little place but it contains many of China's greatest historical art treasures. You won't find many package holidays to Taiwan from the UK, but flights to Taipei during October or November cost pounds 501, including all taxes with KLM. Call Trailfinders (tel: 0171 938 3366).

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