SHAANXI province is dusty, harsh and unwelcoming, with a climate of extremes: in winter, strong winds bring yellow dust storms, while summer is hot and wet. However, it’s remarkable for the depth and breadth of its history, best exemplifed in the provincial capital, Xi’an: famed for the renowned Terracotta Army to the east, it was used as a dynastic capital over the course of 2000 years. Mysterious terracotta figures aside, there’s other evidence of the city’s former glories, in the shape of the tomb of the great emperor Qin Shi Huang, and a host of nearby temples and museums; it’s a far bigger, busier place than many visitors expect, and perhaps the country’s most cosmopolitan city outside the eastern seaboard.

Shaanxi, however, is more than just Xi’an. If you’ve had enough of the relics of ancient cultures, head east of Xi’an to Hua Shan, a spectacular mountain range which offers superb, easy-to-access hikes.

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