- Ground Operators
China covers a territory of more than 3.7 million square miles; with over 1.3 billion people and 5,000 years of history, its civilization is as vast and varied as its geography. On this explorer’s journey, we delve deep into the natural wonderland and the living cultures that make up China.
Taking this trip is like being in a time machine, as you move from the ancient cities of Xian and Lijiang, steeped in the historic and glorious past of China, to Chengdu and Dali, representing the present life, and finishing in the modern metropolis of Shanghai, signifying the prosperous future of this country.
Easy touring generally indicates short or optional walks of up to 2-3 hours each day during sightseeing excursions, with 3-4 flights of stairs and other uneven ground. Nights are spent in deluxe or luxury accommodation/lodges. Elevation throughout the trip remains below 5,000 feet.
Day 1: Arrive Beijing
You are met on arrival by our local guide and transferred to your hotel. Beijing, the capital of China for over 800 years, is a sprawling metropolis with about 29 million people. Depending on your arrival time, you may be able to go on a walking tour around Tian’anmen Square this afternoon.
Day 2: Exploring Beijing
This morning starts with a lesson on tai chi in the beautiful Jingshan Park. Following the lesson, climb to the top of Jingshan for panoramic views of the Forbidden City before heading out to explore this former royal palace, where 24 emperors ruled the Middle Kingdom. After lunch, drive to the Summer Palace, a large royal garden and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that epitomizes the philosophy and practice of Chinese garden design. This evening, enjoy a Chinese acrobatics show.
Day 3: Excursion to the Great Wall & Temple of Confucius
Today explore the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, one of the more dramatic and beautiful sections, which sees surprisingly few visitors. Take cable car up the Great Wall and enjoy the stunning view and a short walk. Have a lunch at the Schoolhouse, where Michelle Obama dined in 2014. This afternoon explore the Temple of Confucius, China’s second-largest such temple. Tonight, enjoy a classic dinner of Peking roasted duck.
Day 4: Hutong Tour & Train to Xi’an
Take a rickshaw ride to visit a local family living in a hutong—the ancient alleys that trace their origin to the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty and are still found throughout Beijing. After lunch, take the bullet train to Xi’an, the capital of China for 13 different dynasties and the starting point of the Silk Road. During the Tang Dynasty, Xi’an was the largest city in the world, with a population of over one million people. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel.
Day 5: Exploring Xi’an
This morning, visit the Terracotta Warriors and Horses; it was one of the most significant archeological finds of the 20th century when these 2,000-year-old statues were unearthed. Your guide will take you to a special place where you can photograph the figures up close. Then drive to the Tangbo Museum for a lesson in Chinese calligraphy. Your last stop is the ancient city wall, originally built over 1,000 years ago during the Tang Dynasty. Tonight, enjoy 18 different kinds of dumplings (jiaozi), while watching a dance performance.
Day 6: Shaanxi History Museum & to Chengdu
This morning, visit the vast collections of the Shaanxi History Museum, including a special VIP exhibition hall that houses close to 100 paintings from the Tang Dynasty. In the afternoon, say goodbye to the ancient city of Xi’an and board a flight to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province—known as the kingdom of abundance in Chinese history. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel.
Day 7: Exploring Chengdu
Early morning finds you at a breeding and research center for the beloved giant pandas; this is an unusual opportunity to see these elusive creatures, both cubs and adults. Then visit Wenshu Monastery to learn about Buddhism. In the late afternoon, visit the People’s Park to see how locals spend their free time—perhaps you can even join a game of Mahjong. This evening, head to a local theater for a “Face Changing” show, a traditional art form that is unique to Sichuan.
Day 8: To Lijiang and Black Dragon Pool Park
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Lijiang. Named by Kublai Khan in 1254, the city translates as “beautiful river”; in 1997, the old town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch, explore the Black Dragon Pool, a peaceful pond with a lovely traditional Chinese bridge and a spectacular view of the famed Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Also visit the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture, detailing a minority group that maintains its traditional ways. Just before sunset, climb up Lion Hill to enjoy a panorama of the ancient city.
Day 9: Exploring Lijiang
This morning, take in the Lijiang Impressions Show, a magnificent performance of singing and dancing with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as the breathtaking backdrop. Afterward, visit Yuhu Village, where the famed botanist Joseph Rock chose to live and through whose writing the western world first came to know about Yunnan. Next on the agenda is the Baisha Naxi tribal village of Baisha, full of murals depicting religious stories from Taoism, Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism that were painted between the early Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty.
Day 10: Excursion to Tiger Leaping Gorge
In the morning drive to the town of Stone Drum (Shigu in Chinese), nestled by the First Bend of the Yangtze River. Your viewpoint on this world-famous geological phenomenon, where the river makes a 180-degree turn, offers extraordinary vistas that you will long remember. Continue to one of the longest, deepest, and narrowest gorges in the world, where the Yangtze flows between the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain to create what is known as the Tiger Leaping Gorge. An evening concert of ancient Naxi music completes your day.
Day 11: To Dali via Shibaoshan
This morning set out for Dali, visiting Shibaoshan on the way to see the grottos carved during the Nanzhao Kingdom, about 1,100 years ago. Dating back to 1382, Dali has historic sites, old buildings and temples, local crafts, a “Foreigners’ Street” with western-style restaurants and bars, and the beautiful Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake nearby. This afternoon, explore Dali’s Ancient Town.
Day 12: Exploring Dali
After breakfast, visit Xizhou Bai Village and its market, a bustling area where all kinds of handicrafts and groceries are sold by Bai minority women dressed in traditional attire. Afterward, visit a local family’s house and enjoy a Three Course Tea Ceremony. Then explore Erhai Lake by boat, watching how cormorant fishing is done the old way. Next, take a chairlift up Cangshan Mountain for a gentle walk along the Jade trail; descend by cable car. Finish the day with a visit to the Chongsheng Temple, by far the most well-known and magnificent Buddhist shrine in this part of Southeast Asia.
Day 13: Fly to Guilin
This morning, visit Zhoucheng Village to witness the art of tie-dyeing, which originated in this area over 1,000 years ago. Then take the noon flight to Kunming, where you will connect to a flight to Guilin. You are met on arrival and transferred to your hotel.
Day 14: Excursion to Rice Terraces
After breakfast, make the two-hour drive and approximately 30-minute walk to see the terraced rice paddies in Ping’an Village. Known as the Longji (Dragon’s Back) Rice Terraces, these fields look like great chains or ribbons that wind around the contoured hillsides. In the afternoon, return to Guilin.
Day 15: To Yangshuo via the Li River
After breakfast, drive to Yangdi village. While most tourists board crowded boats on this stretch of the Li River, you hike through local villages, past children and water buffalos, rice paddies and pomelo or tangerine orchards, appreciating the reflection of the hills and trees on the water. After a picnic lunch, take bamboo rafts to Xingping, then drive about one hour to your hotel in Yangshuo.
Day 16: Exploring Yangshuo
Today you explore the area around Yangshuo, where limestone hills and the Li River create some of the most dramatic scenery in all of China. Driving to the beautiful stone Yulong Bridge, you hike through villages, rice fields, and fruit orchards along the Yulong River, also known as the Lesser Li River. Your destination is a local restaurant that serves delicious organic food. After lunch, explore Moon Hill, where erosion has created a striking natural arch, and the countryside is spread out before you. Back in Yangshuo this evening, take in a performance of Impression Liu Sanjie, staged on the Li River (director Zhang Yimou was also the creative mind behind the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony).
Day 17: Fly to Shanghai
After breakfast, transfer to Guilin airport for a flight to Shanghai, the largest economic and trade center in China, as well as one of its cultural centers. The modern and the historical, the eastern and the western all blend in Shanghai. Explore the city this afternoon, then enjoy a final dinner at M on the Bund, which has not just great food but also a wonderful view of the nighttime skyline.
Day 18: Depart Shanghai
Transfer to the airport in time for your outbound flight; depending on your airline schedule, you might have time to further explore the city beforehand.
Trip Duration: 18 days / 17 nights
Starting City: Beijing (airport code – BJS)
Ending City: Shanghai (airport code – PVG)
2015/2016 Land Cost
Luxury 5-Star Hotel Option
(Beijing – St. Regis; Xian – Sofitel Legend; Chengdu – St. Regis; Lijiang – Banyan Tree; Dali – The Linden Center; Guilin – Shangri-La; Yangshuo – Banyan tree; Shanghai – Jing An Shangri-La)
2 participants: $9,404 per person
3 – 5 participants: $8,530 per person
6 – 8 participants:$7,520 per person
Single Supplement: $4,520
Standard 5-Star Hotel Option
(Beijing – Wangfujing Hilton; Xian – Sofitel on Renmin Square; Chengdu – Sheraton; Lijiang – InterContinantal; Dali – The Linden Center; Guilin – Sheraton; Yangshuo – Yangshuo Resort; Shanghai – Hyatt on the Bund)
2 participants: $7,555 per person
3 – 5 participants: $6,680 per person
6 – 8 participants: $5,669 per person
Single Supplement: $2,695
Internal China Airfare & Train Fare
Xian – Chengdu – Lijing, Dali – Kunming – Guilin – Shanghai flights: $897
(subject to change by airline)
Beijing – Xian train: $140
IMPORTANT NOTE: Kindly note that names of hotels mentioned above only indicate that the Land Cost is based on usage of these hotels; it is not to be construed that accommodation is confirmed at these hotels until and unless we convey such confirmation to you. In the event that any of the above-mentioned hotels are not available at the time of booking, we shall book alternate accommodation at a similar or next-best available hotel and shall pass on the difference of rates (supplement or reduction, as applicable) to you.
Not Included in Land Cost
• International airfare to China
• All internal China airfare – cost listed separately
• Items of a personal nature, such as alcoholic beverages, laundry, phone calls, etc.
• Movie, video and still camera fees
• Tips/gratuity to local staff (guides, drivers, bell boys, etc.)
• Trip cancellation, travel delay, or baggage insurance.
(Note: This optional coverage is highly recommended and can be purchased through TourDirect)
A China Tourist Visa is required for all foreigners traveling to China. China Visas are NOT granted on arrival and must be obtained prior to your departure from your home country.
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