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A China Heritage Journey

China’s landmass covers nearly 4,000,000 square miles and her ancient history dates back over 5,000 years.

The vast land expanses of China include plateaus, plains, basins, foothills, and mountains. The sites in China are as extensive as her landmass. From The Great Wall to a cruise on the Li River, China is captivating and complicated.

In Beijing you can explore the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, The Bird’s Nest, the Summer Palace and more. Visit Xian and see the famed Terra Cotta Warriors, The Great Mosque, Muslim Street and bicycle around The Great Wall. Head to Chengdu and you can hike through the nature reserve and even hold a baby Panda. If you stop in Guilin don’t miss Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave or Seven Star Park. And a stop in magnificent Shanghai in a must! You can take in the famous Shanghai Museum, Nanjing Road (the busiest shopping area in this bustling metropolis), Yuyuan Garden and the nearby Chenghuang Miao bazaar. Although impossible to see all of China in one trip, we will help you create a Heritage Journey that fits your family!




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Our Favorite Activities:


  • The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace from 1420-1912. It is now the Palace Museum. The structure is one of the largest ancient structures of its kind in the world and certainly one of China’s most amazing architectural accomplishments. A trip to Beijing would be incomplete without a visit to The Forbidden City. Although it can be crowded and maybe not quite as enticing to younger children, it is a spectacular site and worth your time!
  • Tiananmen Square is most well known to those of us who were around in 1989 as the place where students led a call for more democracy, freedom and government accountability. The protest spread nation wide but brought about the use of military force that eventually killed hundreds of thousands and quashed the rebellion against communism. Other than being the site of much violence, Tiananmen Square is also the largest public square in the world. A visit to pay homage to the brave students that lost their lives here is a sobering and moving experience.
  • The Great Wall of China extends 4,000 miles across the country along China’s northern border. It has been used as a means for border control (immigration, emigration and invasion), as well as controlling trade. The wall was developed to include watchtowers, troop barracks, garrison stations and serve as a transportation corridor. There are many areas throughout the country where you can hike, ride bicycles or cable car up to the top of the wall. In Beijing there is an area where you can cable car up and toboggan down! It’s great adventure but not for everyone. You’ll have to have your daring hat on for the ride!
  • Spending an afternoon exploring the Hutongs (mazes of small lanes through the old part of the city) via rickshaw is one of my most favorite experiences. We love to include time to get to know a local family as well as cook and eat a traditional meal with them. It makes for a wonderful experience for everyone in both families!
  • The Summer Palace


  • The Terra Cotta Warriors are one of the most well-known and spectacular displays of funerary art in the world. More than 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 670 horses (the majority of which are still buried) were buried with Qin Shi Huang, Emperor of China in 210BCE to protect him in the afterlife. The Terracotta Warriors were found in 1974 by a group of local farmers and one of the farmers still comes to the museum on a regular basis to sign autographs. It’s a fascinating museum and well worth a visit to Xian.
  • Bicycle around The Great Wall – there is a lovely area in Xian where The Great Wall is easily accessible and bicycle rentals are numerous. My daughter and I spent a couple of hours riding along the wall on a tandem bike enjoying the sunshine and exploring the area. Definitely one of our most memorable experiences in China.
  • The Great Mosque
  • Muslim Street
  • Wild Goose Pagoda


  • Hike the nature reserve surrounding the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center and hold a baby Panda. This day was absolutely our favorite day in China! The pristine grounds and natural habitats for the pandas were spectacular but for my daughter, holding a baby panda is a lifelong memory! Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this research facility!
  • Visit the Sanxingdui Museum
  • Attend a Face Changing show


  • Elephant Trunk Hill – floating on the Li River in beautiful Guilin is an experience that delights all travelers to this area. And seeing Elephant Trunk Hill, the landmark of Guilin, is one of the highlights!
  • Reed Flute Cave is another one of the spectacular sites around Guilin. A 240 meter-long cave filled with stalactites, stone pillars and rock formations that are illuminated by colorful lighting. It is a very special experience not to be missed when traveling to Guilin!
  • Seven Star Park


  • Walk along The Bund
  • Shanghai Museum
  • Nanjing Road (the busiest shopping area in this bustling metropolis)
  • Yuyuan Garden
  • Although the booming megalopolis that is Shanghai has innumerable things to see – The Bund, Yu Garden, Jade Buddha Temple, the Shanghai Museum, etc, what I hear clients talk about most is their trip to the West Lake District – an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Families can take a bullet train (which is an experience in and of itself) to the area, bicycle around the lake and explore the garden and Lingyin Temple. It is a lovely trip outside the bustling city and offers great fun for everyone in the family!

Our Favorite Places:

  • Beijing
  • Xian
  • Chengdu
  • Guillin
  • Shanghai
  • Linden’s Center

Basic Traveler Information:

Visa and Passport Requirements:

China Travel Stats


  • A passport with at least six months’ validity is required to enter China.
  • A passport valid for the duration of stay is required to enter Hong Kong.

Passport note: 

Foreign nationals must carry their passports at all times as police carry out random spot checks; these are more frequent around times of heightened security such as sporting events. Those wishing to visit Tibet are strongly advised to join a travel group. Individual travelers need a Tibet Travel Permit issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Applicants also need to show their Chinese visa.


Visas are required except for:

  • All nationals mentioned in the above chart when visiting Hong Kong or Macau only, in which case visas are not required for limited stays.
  • All nationals above when visiting the Pearl River Delta for up to six days as part of an organized tour group from Hong Kong or Macau.
  • Nationals of Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA visiting Hainan Province only as part of an approved, organized tourist group for stays of up to 15 days (21 days for German nationals).

Visa note: 

  • When making the visa application you will need to submit a detailed itinerary of all places you plan to visit and all hotel bookings (including addresses and phone numbers and dates of arrival and departure).
  • Business travelers are required to provide an official invitation from the company or institution in China when applying for a visa.
  • Visitors must register with the Chinese Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival.
  • Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements.

Weather and Climate:

Because of its size, China has a great diversity of climates, but since it is located entirely in the northern hemisphere, its seasons are comparable to those in Europe and the US. The northeast has hot and dry summers and very cold winters. The north and central regions have almost continual rainfall, hot summers and cold winters. The southeast region also has its share of rainfall, with semi-tropical summers and cool winters. Central, southern and western China are susceptible to flooding, and the country is often subject to seismic activity.


To the north China is bordered by Russia and Mongolia; to the east by Korea, the Yellow Sea and the South China Sea; to the south by Vietnam, Laos, Burma, India, Bhutan and Nepal; and to the west by India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. China has varied terrain ranging from high plateau in the west to flatlands in the east; mountains take up almost one-third of the landmass.

The highest mountain ranges are the Himalayas, the Altai Mountains, the Tian Shan Mountains and the Kunlun Mountains. In the Himalaya, on the border with Nepa,l is the tallest mountain in the world, 29,198ft Mount Everest. In the west is the Qinghai/Tibet Plateau, with an average elevation of 13,200ft, known as ‘the Roof of the World’. At the base of the Tian Shan Mountains is the Turpan Depression or Basin, China’s lowest area, 508ft below sea level at its lowest point. China has many great river systems, notably the Yellow (Huang He) and Yangtze River (Chang Jiang, also Yangtze Kiang). Only 10% of all China is suitable for agriculture.


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Our Adoptive Family Travel Philosophy

When we plan trips to a child’s birth country we are looking for activities that accomplish specific goals. First and foremost, we want to bring adoptive families closer together. We know that adoptive families often struggle with attachment and bonding issues so we use fun adventure activities that are challenging enough to require each family member to step outside his or her comfort zone, but easy enough to be accomplished. When that happens, research tells us that several different hormones are released into your body – serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. When those hormones are released into your body, you feel good – they are your happy hormones! When you feel good, you are more likely to connect deeply with all those around you. Especially when you congratulate, hug and talk about your accomplishments. And the good news, that’s when you release oxytocin – which is the clincher! Oxytocin is the bonding hormone and we want our travelers to release it as often as possible!

We use adventure activities like a company would use team-building exercises. We want the activity to act as the catalyst for healthy communication, collaboration and ultimately, connection. When families work as a team to accomplish a goal, it helps builds a positive family culture. Team-building exercises and adventure activities (when done together) lay the foundation for mutual understanding and respect. You get to see each other’s strengths and weaknesses and encourage each other through to the meeting your desired goal. The best part, accomplishing goals and  being rewarded for your efforts, releases all the happy “connecting” hormone’s AND builds self-esteem. Research also tells us that internationally adopted children often score lower on measures of self-esteem – we want to change that. When your adopted child accomplishes his or her goal, feels great, releases those happy hormones, he or she will connect more deeply with you and  other family members – it’s that simple.

Finally, we want all adopted children to leave their birth country having had a positive cultural and family experience. We look for triggers, we understand your child, we understand your family dynamics, we understand your needs, desires and limitations when we plan your itinerary. In other words, we strive to make every experience positive. When your child has a positive in-country experience, your child will develop a positive sense of self in relationship to his or her birth country. We know that a strong cultural identity fosters a positive sense of self, higher self-esteem, more joy and with all that comes richer connections.

What families are saying about working with Motherland Travel:

Originally, I hadn’t considered using a “travel agency” for our trip because I was used to doing all my family travel plans using tools on the web.  I am so grateful that we discovered Motherland Travel because we had only one opportunity to make a first impression of Guatemala on my son. Bambi thought of so many things that I would have missed. Our ultimate goal of the trip was to have Jack feel proud of his heritage. We knew that we had succeeded when on the last day of the trip as we were roasting cocoa beans at the chocolate factory, my son introduced himself to a stranger by saying “Hi, my name is Jack and I am from Guatemala.”


Proud Father of Jack

The trip transformed all of my fears of NOT being able to do a trip like this into joy and success. The people, pacing, activities, accommodations, and scope of the trip was a perfect fit for our family.

I feel like Bambi asked insightful questions during the initial consultation, helping me articulate my goals for this trip. I appreciate the family bonding/adventure travel information she provided, as well as the general information about Guatemala. Bambi targeted our budget and made the most of every experience, given our financial restraints. The itinerary proposal and final itinerary were thorough, detailed, and very clear. I so valued the personal details about possible triggers for my son, visiting his birth country.

We are so grateful for the effort, service, time, and thought Motherland Travel put into planning this trip for us. We have been transformed by the travel. Eddy exudes a pride and joy when he talks about our trip, and talks about Guatemala. A few days after we returned, his teacher had him present to his class about how the ecosystems in Guatemala affect the culture and way of life. As I watched him present to his peers, he shared details and experiences that revealed how much this trip was profoundly imprinted on his heart and his identity. Our family benefited so much from being out of our comfort zone – we learned so much about our son’s birth country, about human resilience, and even more about our family. I can’t choose one favorite moment, or even pick out a single least favorite moment. The days were unique, yet perfectly balanced, creating a gorgeous tapestry of experiences.

The Wall Family

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Learn how Motherland Travel can help you plan your intentional & purposeful Heritage Journey!

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Oh, the places you can go!

We design custom Heritage Journeys for the following countries:

What NOT to do when on a trip to your child’s birth country.

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Motherland Travel offers customized birth country travel for families with internationally adopted children. We can design an unforgettable adventure for your family, or help you create your own.

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