14-day China Garden Tour (April 19-May 2, 2018)
Shanghai – Suzhou – Tongli (water town) – Luoyang – Xian – Beijing
This premium China garden tour combines China’s most popular destinations with special garden visits and participation in famous Luoyang Peony Festival. History, culture, natural wonders, gardens, gourmet food, silk, tea and high-speed train – these are the main ingredients of this well planned itinerary. Trip highlights include the Great Wall at Mutianyu, the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Army and Longmen Grottos.
- Small group size.
- Expert local guides.
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers included.
- Inter-city by bullet train.
- No forced shopping stops.
- Quality meals at non-tourist restaurants.
- Free Wi-Fi in all hotels.
- Visits to chambers in Forbidden City that most tour companies pass up.
- Great Wall visit at Mutianyu with cable car.
B = breakfast | L = lunch | D = dinner
Day 1/Thu, Apr 19: Departing for Shanghai
Depart for China and lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Fri, Apr 20: Arrival in Shanghai
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.
Day 3/Sat, Apr 21: Shanghai (B/L/D)
With a population of 24 million (2015), Shanghai is China’s biggest city, which delights the visitor with its futuristic skyline and historical landmarks. 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.
Following tour orientation we visit Jade Buddha Temple located in an old neighbourhood, the famous waterfront promenade known as the Bund, and the Yu Garden in the old town centre. We wrap up the day with a drive through the glitzy financial district of Lujiazui on the opposite side of the Bund across Huangpu River.
Day 4/Sun, Apr 22: Shanghai (B)
Free day to explore on your own. We recommend Shanghai Museum and the Urban Planning Exhibition Center nearby. Shanghai Museum, a great place to explore on your own (audio guide available for a fee), is frequently cited by visitors as one of the best of its kind in China with a treasure trove collected from around the country.
Day 5/Mon, Apr 23: Shanghai – Suzhou (B/L)
After a leisurely breakfast we drive 85km to Suzhou. Ancient Suzhou is most famous for its gardens, canals and silk industry. In late 13th Century a Venetian named Marco Polo visited Suzhou and he was very impressed by what he saw. He vividly described the prosperous silk making trade and dubbed Suzhou Venice of the East due to the small waterways crisscrossing the city.
Our full-day schedule takes in historic Tiger Hill, Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou Museum (designed by I. M. Pei), North Pagoda and a short canal cruise. Those interested in shopping can ask to be dropped off at the Silk Embroidery Research Institute or a filature (silk reeling mill) on the way back to the hotel.
Day 6/Tue, Apr 24: Suzhou – Tongli – Suzhou (B/L)
Morning excursion to Tongli – an ancient water town 25km south of Suzhou. Tongli is renowned for its canal system intersecting the town. After lunch we return to Suzhou and have the balance of the day at leisure.
Day 7/Wed, Apr 25: Suzhou – Luoyang (B/L/D)
This morning we board the bullet train #G1974 (07:50/12:59) for Luoyang.
Afternoon sightseeing includes the magnificent Longmen Grottoes – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located 12 km south of the city centre, the historical site contains as many as 100,000 Buddhist statues ranging from 1 inch to 57 feet in height. Dating back as far as 493 A.D, these ancient sculptures carved out of cliffs on both sides of the Yi River are some of the finest examples of Chinese Buddhist art.
Day 8/Thu, Apr 26: Luoyang – Xi’an (B/L/D)
Morning sightseeing includes White Horse Temple (oldest Buddhist monastery in China) and the Peony Garden across from the monastery – the site of the annual peony festival held between early April and early May.
We ride the high-speed train (2 hours) to Xi’an after lunch. With a history going back over 3,000 years, Xi’an served as China’s capital of several ruling dynasties including the Han (206 BC – 220 AD) and the Tang (618 – 907). It is home of the famous Terracotta Army and the eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road – a network of trade routes connecting China proper with regions as far as the Mediterranean beginning in the Second Century BC.
Day 9/Fri, Apr 27: Xi’an (B/L/D)
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.
We visit the ancient City Wall and the Muslim quarter following lunch. The wall, declared national treasure by the State Council in 1961 under the premiership of Zhou Enlai, was started in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, encircling an area of 14 square kilometres. The wall runs 13.7 kilometres long and measures 12 metres in height and 15 to 18 metres in thickness at the base.
The Muslim quarter is anchored by the historical Grand Mosque which itself is surrounded by a huge market selling all kinds of food, spices, arts and crafts. One thing particular about this mosque worth mentioning is that, unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, this one is completely Chinese in its architectural style; it has neither domes nor traditional minarets.
Day 10/Sat, Apr 28: Xi’an – Beijing (B/D)
Travel to Beijing by bullet train (G26, 09:18/13:50). We tour the Forbidden City on arrival. Officially known as the Palace Museum, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) 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.
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.
Day 11/Sun, Apr 29: Beijing (B/L/D)
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.
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.
Day 12/Mon, Apr 30: Beijing (B/L/D)
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.
Later this morning 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.
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 13/Tue, May 1: Beijing (B)
Today is a free day. Please ask your guide the day before recommendations.
Day 14/Wed, May 2: Return Home (B)
Your China Garden Tour concludes this morning. Transfer to the airport to board return. Re-cross the International Date Line and arrive home the same day.
Contact us for printer-friendly PDF version
|Shanghai||3||Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou||luxury|
|Suzhou||2||Pan Pacific Suzhou||luxury|
|Luoyang||1||Lee Royal Mudu Hotel||luxury|
|Xian||2||Sheraton Xian North City||luxury|
|Beijing||4||Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng||luxury|
Tour Dates: April 19-May 2, 2018
Land Tour Price: CA$3100 or US$2499 per person based on double occupancy
Single Supplement: CA$1500 or US$1200
Tour Price Includes:
- Hotel accommodations.
- Second class seat on high speed train wherever applicable.
- Airport transfers on arrival and exit if the dates correspond with tour schedule.
- Guided sightseeing and entrance fees per itinerary.
- Daily meals as specified.
- English-speaking guides throughout tour.
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers.
Tour Price Does NOT Include:
- International airfare.
- Passport and visa charges.
- Gratuities to the tour leader (US$10/day/person recommended).
- Any item or service not specified as included per itinerary.
How to Book
You’ll need to fill out the online booking form and pay $400 deposit to secure your spot. The $400 is per person and can be paid by Visa or MasterCard. The balance is due 90 days prior to departure and can only be settled by cheque or wire transfer. Cash and e-transfer may be accepted at our discretion.
Health & Fitness Requirements
This tour requires the participant to have a certain level of fitness and health. The itinerary involves frequent climbing of steps and extensive walking on uneven ground. For this reason we want to emphasize in the kindest possible way that this tour is not suitable for people with challenges that require special help or attention or would make it difficult for them to take part in the daily schedule of events and activities. We, of course, want to be as inclusive as possible but our experience in the past has shown that it can be frustrating for everyone if people cannot walk comfortably or take part fully in the activities.
If you have any questions about this aspect of the tour, please talk to Julius or one of his colleagues.