China Discovery (15 days)


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Beijing – Xian – Chongqing – Yangtze Cruise – Yichang – Wuhan – Shanghai

This popular small group China tour features China’s top three tourist cities plus a first class cruise through the mighty Three Gorges on the Yangtze River. Trip highlights include the Great Wall at Mutianyu, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the Terracotta Army.small group china tours

Important Features

  • Small group size – maximum 20.
  • Tips for all local guides and drivers included.
  • Inter-city travel by high speed train.
  • No annoying forced shopping of any kind.
  • Quality meals at non-tourist restaurants.
  • Unlimited supply of bottled water during group activities.
  • Outside cabin on or above bridge deck for Yangtze cruise.
  • Complimentary laundry service (10 items per passenger) during Yangtze cruise.
  • Free Wi-Fi on cruise ship and in all hotels.
  • Peking roast duck dinner at a popular restaurant.
  • Visit to chambers in Forbidden City that most tour operators leave out.
  • Great Wall visit at Mutianyu with cable car.

Dates, Prices and List of Accommodations

Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner


Day 1/Thu: Departing for Beijing

The trip to China starts with your transpacific flight departing from a city of your choice. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.

Day 2/Fri: Arrival in Beijing

Welcome to Beijing! Meet the driver on arrival for transfer to the hotel. You’ll have the balance of the day at leisure. The guide will get in touch with you tonight.

Capital of China, Beijing is a world-class cultural and educational centre with a population of 21.7 million (2017), ranking it China’s second largest city behind Shanghai. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates – treasures that make it the most popular tourist city in China by the number of visitors it receives every year.

Beijing was already a strategically important city in northern China for centuries when Kublai Khan decided to move his capital here from Karakorum in Mongolia. With the collapse of the vast Mongol empire in 1368 AD, Beijing, known as Da Du or Grand Capital at the time, lost its status as the country’s capital but soon regained it when the imperial court of the successive Ming Dynasty moved here from Nanjing. Beijing continued to serve as China’s capital after Manchu tribes dethroned the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty in 1644 and established the Great Qing Empire (Qing Dynasty), which lasted till 1912.

Day 3/Sat: Beijing (B/L/D)

We begin today with a visit to the Forbidden City. Officially known as the Palace Museum, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties lived and carried out their administration. Construction of the Forbidden City took 14 years (1406-1420) to complete. The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 hectares or 180 acres. It exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1912 but the royal family was allowed to continue to live in the Forbidden City till 1924, when the last emperor, Pu Yi, was driven out of the imperial palace. One year later the Forbidden City was turned into a museum. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

After lunch we proceed to the Summer Palace, a well preserved UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The imperial resort was first named Garden of Clear Ripples, which was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860 during the Second Opium War (referred to as Arrow War by the British). Reconstruction started 25 years later and was completed in 1895 when the name was changed to Yi He Yuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The design gives prominence to Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, south of the hill. The sprawling complex covers an area of 290 hectares and the buildings inside consist of over 3,000 bays.

Today we enjoy a delicious dinner at a popular Peking Roast Duck restaurant. Peking Roast Duck is a famous Beijing dish prized for the thin and crispy skin with authentic versions serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners. The meat is eaten with pancakes, shredded scallion, cucumber, and a sweet and salty sauce made of wheat flour. Condiments may also include pickled garlic and white sugar.

Day 4/Sun: Beijing (B/L)

Today we embark on a full-day excursion to the legendary Great Wall at Mutianyu, 75km northeast of the city.

Zigzagging over 6,000 kilometres from east to west along the undulating mountains, the Great Wall was built to hold off tribal invaders from the north. As history shows, the Wall failed the Chinese rulers miserably, especially in the case of Kublai Khan who and his men swept across China from the Mongolian steppe, thus the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368).

Construction of the earliest sections of the Wall started in the 7th century B.C. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 and took 200 years to complete. The wall we see today in Beijing is almost exactly the result of this effort.

Day 5/Mon: Beijing (B/L)

We begin our sightseeing today with a visit to a traditional hutong neighbourhood. Hutong refers to an ancient alleyway with siheyuan or ”4-sided courtyard house” on both sides. The name hutong dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.). According to some experts, the word originated from the Mongolian language, in which it is pronounced as hottog and means “well.” In ancient times, people tended to gather and live around wells. So the original meaning of hutong should be “a place where people live around”.

We then visit historic Jingshan Park. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 metres above ground, 89 metres above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.

Next up is Tian’anmen Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square measures 880 metres from north to south and 500 metres from east to west. Said to be the largest public plaza in the world, Tian’anmen Square has the capacity to hold one million people. The imposing Tian’anmen Tower sits at the north end of the square while the Monument to the People’s Heroes dominates the centre. The square is flanked by The Great Hall of the People (west) and the National Museum (east). Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum and Qianmen (Front Gate) are located in the south of the square. One of the top 16 tourist attractions in Beijing, Tiananmen Square is also the witness of the Chinese people’s great struggles for democracy and personal freedom since 1919.

Afternoon sightseeing at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated in southeastern Beijing the Temple of Heaven is China’s largest extant sacrificial temple where, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the emperors conducted the elaborate and most exalted sacrifices addressed to “the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” Construction of the temple started in 1406, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, and took 14 years to complete. The temple was expanded under the Qing emperors Qianlong (1736-1796) and Jiaqing (1796-1820). Occupying 2.73 square kilometres (roughly 1,700 by 1,600 metres), the area of the Temple of Heaven is more than twice that of the Forbidden City.

The famous Hongqiao Pearl Market, the largest pearl market in the world, is right across the street from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in numerous guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by China. If you are interested, please ask the guide to drop you off there. However, you’ll need to get back to the hotel by taxi, which costs about 50 yuan or US$8.

Day 6/Tue: Beijing – Xian (B/D)

Free morning to relax or explore on your own. We travel to Xian by the high-speed train (#G87, 14:00/18:23). The 4-hour-23-minute rail journey through fertile farmland dotted with villages provides the visitor an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful countryside.

Day 7/Wed: Xian (B/L/D)
With a history going back over 3,000 years, Xi’an served as the capital of several ruling dynasties including the Han (206 BC – 220 AD) and the Tang (618 – 907). It is home to the famous Terracotta Army as well as the eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road – a network of trade routes that connected China proper with regions as far as the Mediterranean beginning in the 2nd Century BC.

Morning visit to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Built on the excavation site, the museum is located 30km east of the city. Designed to follow the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) into eternity, the Terracotta Army represents one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.

After lunch we return to the city for a stroll on the ancient city wall. Declared a national treasure by the State Council in 1961, the wall first built in 1370 encircles an area of 14 square kilometres. It runs 13.7 kilometres long and measures 12 metres in height with a thickness at the base between 15 to 18 metres.

Day 8/Thu: Xian (B/L)

Morning sightseeing begins with Shaanxi Provincial Museum. The modern, well-organized museum was completed in 1992 and traces the history of Xian from prehistory to Qing dynasty (1644-1912). The extensive galleries and exhibitions offer the visitor an excellent introduction to the area that greatly improves understanding of the numerous historical sites in and around the city.

We then visit the ancient grand mosque in the old town centre and the adjacent Muslim bazaar. The mosque was established in the 8th Century but the majority of the complex was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was further expanded in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, this mosque is completely Chinese in its architectural style. It has neither domes nor traditional style minarets.

Day 9/Fri: Xian – Chongqing (B/L/D)

This morning we ride the bullet train (4 hours) to Chongqing. Afternoon sightseeing takes in the zoo (giant pandas), and Three Gorges Museum if time allows. Board the luxurious Yangtze cruise ship following dinner.

Day 10/Sat: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)

At 6,380 km the Yangtze is the longest river in China and the third longest in the world after the Nile and the Amazon. The most impressive section of the Yangtze is the Three Gorges stretching 119 km.

On today’s shore excursion we visit Precious Stone Fortress (shi bao zhai) built atop a hill overlooking the Yangtze. It was so named because the location was once used as a stronghold by a group of uprising peasants in mid-17th century. About one hundred years later a Buddhist temple was built on the hill. Several more decades passed before a staircase covered by a 9-storey wooden pagoda was added. In 1956, 10 years before the catastrophic Cultural Revolution started, the pagoda was expanded to the current 12 stories.

Day 11/Sun: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)

Admire nature’s grandeur while sailing through spectacular Wu Gorge (45 km) and Qutang Gorge (8km). Later this morning we hop on a small vessel to explore Goddess Stream. A tributary of the Yangtze, the emerald coloured stream traverses through narrow gorges walled by soaring cliffs covered in thick vegetation.

Day 12/Mon: Yichang – Wuhan (B/L/D)

Morning visit to the Three Gorges Dam site – the largest hydroelectric dam in the world with a reservoir stretching hundreds of kilometres upstream.

We disembark the ship at noon and travel to Wuhan by high-speed train (2 hours). Due to time constraint, we will not have time for a proper lunch; instead, a lunch box would be provided for you to carry onto the train.

Day 13/Tue: Wuhan – Shanghai (B/L/D)

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei Province and a powerful economic engine in central China. A pivotal hub of transportation, the sprawling city straddles the Yangtze. It became known as Wuhan in 1927 when Wuchang, Hangyang and Hankou were amalgamated. The city contains many beautiful lakes and parks including expansive East Lake.

Our first stop this morning is Hubei Provincial Museum, one of the best of its kind in China. If we are lucky, we may get to watch a live performance by musicians using a set of bronze chime bells replicated from originals made two and half millennia ago. The museum visit is followed by a stroll at scenic East Lake nearby.

After lunch we board the high-speed train G600 (15:01/19:13) for Shanghai.

Day 14/Wed: Shanghai (B/L)

With a population of 24 million (2015), Shanghai is China’s biggest city. Rapid economic growth in the past 30 years has again turned Shanghai into a leading global city with significant influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology and transport. Today’s visitors to Shanghai are delighted by its futuristic skyline that blends so well with its treasured historical landmarks.

Our morning sightseeing includes Jade Buddha Temple in an old neighbourhood and Yu Garden located in the old town centre. After lunch we go for a stroll on the Bund – a waterfront promenade famous for its landmark neoclassical buildings of European style. This is followed by a visit to Shanghai Museum, arguably the best of its kind in China with a trove of treasures collected from around the country. We wrap up the day with a drive through the glitzy Lujiazui Financial District opposite the Bund on the other side of Huangpu River.

Day 15/Thu: Shanghai – Home City (B)

Your China tour ends this morning. Transfer to the airport any time for return flight. Guests flying back to North America will regain a day upon re-crossing the International Date Line, thus arriving home the same day as departing from Shanghai.

If you would like to extend your stay in Shanghai, please contact us for our competitive hotel rate.

Contact us for printer-friendly PDF file

City Nights Hotel/Ship Category
Beijing 4 Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng luxury
Xian 3 Sheraton Xian North City luxury
Yangtze Cruise 3 Century Cruise (Sun) luxury
Wuhan 1 New World Hotel luxury
Shanghai 2 Sheraton Hongkou luxury
  • Price based on double occupancy. Payment by cheque or cash only.
  • Credit card not accepted except for deposit. See Terms & Conditions for details.
  • Scroll down for what tour prices includes and excludes.

2018 Dates and Prices

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Additional discount available for parties of 4 or more.

Depart
(Thu)
Return
(Thu)
Land Only*
CA$/US$
Single Supplement
CA$/US$
Jul-26 Aug-09 $3710/$2899 $1500/$1180
Aug-02 Aug-16 $3710/$2899 $1500/$1180
Aug-30 Sep-13 $3840/$2999 $1500/$1180
Sep-06 Sep-20 $3840/$2999 $1500/$1180
Sep-13 Sep-27 $3970/$3099 $1640/$1280
Oct-04 (sold out) Oct-18 $3970/$3099 $1640/$1280
Oct-11 (sold out) Oct-25 $3970/$3099 $1640/$1280
Oct-18 Nov-01 $3970/$3099 $1640/$1280
Oct-25 Nov-08 $3970/$3099 $1500/$1180
Nov-01 Nov-15 $3970/$3099 $1500/$1180

* Land Only price does not include international airfare. Please contact us for a fare quote.

Click here for 2019 itinerary (16 days), dates and prices.

What the tour price includes:

  • Hotel accommodations.
  • Local transfers and inter-city transportation as specified.
  • Yangtze cruise fare with shore excursions.
  • 2nd class seat on high speed train wherever applicable.
  • Daily meals as specified.
  • Guided sightseeing and entrance fees per itinerary.
  • English-speaking guides throughout tour.
  • Tips for all local guides and drivers.
  • A full-time tour leader for group with 10+ guests.
What the tour price excludes:

  • International airfare.
  • Passport and visa charges.
  • Tips for tour leader where applicable – tipping the tour leader is completely at the guest’s discretion and our recommended amount is $10 USD per day per guest.

Absolutely no hidden charge of any kind applies!

See Terms & Conditions for more information.