China & Silk Road (26 days)


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Beijing – Xian – Lanzhou – Dunhuang – Turpan – Urumqi – Kashgar – Chongqing – Yangtze Cruise – Yichang – Wuhan – Guilin – Shanghai

The itinerary focuses on the ancient Silk Road without leaving out China’s most popular cities. The 3-day Yangtze river cruise further enhances your China experience. On this exotic journey we retrace the footsteps of Marco Polo to explore the glorious past of the fabled Silk Road. Trip highlights include the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, Mogao Grottos and the scenic drive from Kashgar to Karakul Lake on winding Karakoram Highway whose route overlaps one of the many paths of the Silk Road.

This is a physically demanding tour venturing into locations as high as 3,645m (12,000 feet) above sea level. Travellers prone to altitude sickness should take precaution.

Important Features

  • Group size limited to 20.
  • Expert local guides hand-picked by owners of Laurus Travel.
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers included.
  • No forced shopping stops.
  • 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.
  • Quality meals at non-tourist restaurants.
  • Unlimited supply of bottled water during group activities.
  • Peking roast duck at a popular restaurant.
  • Visit to chambers in Forbidden City that most tour companies pass up.
  • Great Wall visit at Mutianyu with cable car.
  • Day hike at Longji terraced rice fields.

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

Dates, Prices and Hotel List


Day 1/Thu: Departing for Beijing

The trip 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 million (2013), 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.

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 (1644-1912) 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.

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.

Day 4/Sun: Beijing (B/L)

After an early breakfast we embark on a full-day excursion to the legendary Great Wall at Mutianyu, 75 km 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).

beijing_great_wall_mutianyu

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.

group_china_beijing_temple_of_heaven_6

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. In the past 20 years China has been on a building spree expanding the country’s rail network and upgrading existing railways. Its high-speed rail service rivals France’s TGV and Japan’s “shinkansen” in terms of safety, speed, comfort and punctuality.

china_xian_bronze_charriott

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. Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, this mosque is completely Chinese in its architectural style. It has neither domes nor traditional minarets.

Day 9/Fri: Xian – Lanzhou (B/L/D)

Our morning journey to Lanzhou by high-speed rail takes 3 hours.

A major link on the ancient Silk Road, Lanzhou is the capital of Gansu Province and a key regional transportation hub with a population of 3.7 million. Our afternoon schedule takes in the Gansu Provincial Museum, Zhongshan Bridge (built in 1907 by Germans) and the historical White Pagoda Hill across the bridge.

Day 10/Sat: Lanzhou – Dunhuang (B/D)

We depart for Dunhuang by high-speed train after breakfast. The rail journey along the Gobi desert takes 5 hours. On arrival at the train station in Liuyuan, we’ll travel another 2 hours by motor coach to arrive in the city of Dunhuang. Lunch on the train would be your own responsibility. You may bring some snacks or purchase bento style lunch on the train.

Late afternoon sightseeing at Dunhuang Museum.

silk road China tour from canada

Silk Road China tour – Singing Sand Dune

Day 11/Sun: Dunhuang (B/L)

Morning sightseeing introduces us to the brilliant murals and sculptures inside Mogao Grottos, one of the most celebrated legacies of the Silk Road era. Situated at a strategic point along the Silk Route, at the crossroads of trade as well as religious, cultural and intellectual influences, the 492 cells and cave sanctuaries in Mogao are famous for their statues and wall paintings, spanning 1,000 years of Buddhist art. In the afternoon, we visit the Crescent Moon Lake and Singing Sand Dunes.

Day 12/Mon: Dunhuang – Turpan (B/L/D)

Following breakfast we transfer to the train station located 2 hours from Dunhuang to board the high-speed train for Turpan (3 hours). Situated on the northern route of the Silk Road, Turpan is a fertile oasis where crops and vineyards are irrigated by an underground water canal system called Karez. Ethnic Uyghurs make up 70% of the total population.

Our afternoon sightseeing in Turpan features Jiaohe Ruins (Yarkhoto, an ancient garrison town), the Karez museum and the Bezeklik Buddhist Caves in the Flaming Mountains.

Day 13/Tue: Turpan – Urumqi – Kashgar (B/L/D)

silk road China tour from New York

silk road China tour – Kashgar Old Town

The high-speed train ride to Urumqi takes only one hour. Our sightseeing in Urumqi includes Red Hill Park and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum where the famous Tarim Mummies are on display. Transfer to the airport for late afternoon flight to Kashgar (2 hours).

Located at the westernmost tip of China, Kashgar, also known as Shufu in the old days, is a vibrant kaleidoscope of Central Asian cultures. An oasis 1200 metres above sea level, Kashgar is a remarkably prosperous and pleasant place, despite remaining, in part, an essentially medieval city.

Day 14/Wed: Kashgar (B/L)

Our morning schedule today includes the Old Town centre, Abakh Hoja Tomb (also known as Fragrant Concubines’s Tomb) and Ida Kah Mosque.

silk road China tour from New York

silk road China tour – Mosque in Kashgar

We spend the afternoon visiting a local Uighur family and the extraordinary Sunday Bazaar where half of Central Asia seems to converge. The market now called Central Asia International Grand Bazaar is open every day except for three days during the three-day holiday known as Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice).

Day 15/Thu: Kashgar – Lake Karakul – Kashgar (B/L)

After breakfast we embark on a full-day excursion to Karakul Lake, 198 kilometres southwest of Kashgar.

Accessed via legendary Karakoram Highway leading to Pakistan, the lake, 3,600 metres above sea level, sits on the laps of Muztagh Ata and Kongur, two towering peaks of the Pamir Mountains. The scenery along the way is simply stunning. As we drive higher and higher into the mountains, farmland along the river valley on the edge of the desert gradually gives way to high mountain pastures nibbled by camels and yaks tended by yurt-dwelling Kirgiz and Tajiks.

The Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world, connecting China’s Xianjiang region with Gilgit-Baltisan region of Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass, at an elevation of 4,693 metres. The highway was built by the government of Pakistan and China. It was started in 1950 and opened to the public in 1979. About 810 Pakistanis and 200 Chinese workers lost their lives during the construction of the highway, mostly in landslide and falls.

Day 16/Fri: Kashgar – Chongqing (B/D)

Due to Kashgar’s remoteness, our air travel to Chongqing including connecting time in Urumqi or Xi’an takes the better part of a day. If we arrive in Chongqing without wasting much time elsewhere, sightseeing will be arranged on arrival in Chongqing. We board the Yangtze cruise ship following dinner.

Day 17/Sat: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)

At 6,380km 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 119km.

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 18/Sun: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)

Admire nature’s grandeur while sailing through spectacular Wu Gorge (45 km) and Qutang Gorge (8 km). 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.

Day 19/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 be able to have a proper lunch; instead, a lunch box would be provided for you to carry onto the train.

Day 20/Tue: Wuhan – Guilin (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 an early lunch we board the high-speed train G435 (13:13/18:27) for Guilin. A small city by Chinese standard, Guilin has long been renowned for its unique scenery. The name Guilin literally means “forest of sweet osmanthus”, owing to the large number of fragrant sweet osmanthus trees in the city.

Day 21/Wed: Guilin (B/L)

We begin today with a five-hour cruise down the Li River. The 83 km stretch of the river between Guilin and Yangshuo affords breathtaking scenery as the river snakes through tall karst mountains, gigantic bamboo sprays, and picturesque villages — sights that have inspired countless poets and painters for generations.

We disembark in Yangshuo after lunch on board and drive back to Guilin. We wrap up the day with a quick tour of Fubo Hill (elevation 63 metres) located 2km from the hotel. Walking back to the hotel along Li River is a perfect way to soak in the beauty of the city.

For dinner, you will find all kinds of restaurants around the centrally located hotel. To avoid hassle and waste of time, please ask your expert local guide for advice.

Day 22/Thu: Guilin (B/L)

Enjoy a full-day hiking excursion to the terraced rice fields in Longji. Located 80km (2 hours drive) to the northwest of Guilin, Longji, meaning dragon back, is famous for its terraced rice fields. Because the villages at Longji are in the jurisdiction of Longsheng County, the tourist attraction is often collectively referred to as Longsheng Terraced Fields. The scenery is arguably at its best in early May during transplanting and in late September right before harvest when the fields turn golden.

Built by local farmers of different ethnic groups from Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the mountainous fields cover a total area of 66 square kilometres, rising between 300 metres and 1,100 metres above sea level.

Optional Tea Farm Visit

If time permits and for a nominal fee we can arrange a late afternoon visit to Guilin Tea Science and Research Institute, subject to a minimum of 6 participants. Founded in 1956, the state-owned institute and its experimental tea farm cover an area of 42 hectares, boasting 250 species of tea plants. The predecessor of the institute was said to be one of the tea suppliers to the imperial court during the Ming Dynasty. The farm sits on fertile soil ideal for tea growing. During harvesting season, the farm employs 150 workers full time to pick tea leaves. Each year the institute produces around 42 tons of organically grown tea of different flavours.

Day 23/Fri: Guilin – Shanghai (B/D)

Morning flight to Shanghai. 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.

Afternoon sightseeing finds us at Shanghai Museum. This museum is frequently cited by visitors as one of the best of its kind in China with a treasure trove collected from around the country. Please note that extended delay is common for flights from Guilin to Shanghai. If we couldn’t make it to Shanghai on time, the planned sightseeing for this afternoon would be moved to Day 25.

Day 24/Sat: Shanghai (B/L/D)

china tour with air fare

Our full-day tour begins at Jade Buddha Temple located in an old neighbourhood. This active temple of Mahayana Buddhism was founded in 1882 housing two jade Buddha statues imported from Burma.

We then process to famous waterfront promenade known as the Bund, which is followed by a visit to 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 25/Sun: Shanghai (B)

Today is a free day to explore on your own. Our recommendations include Jinmao Tower and the popular evening cruise on Huangpu River. We also offer an optional half-day Jewish heritage tour and a full-day tour to Suzhou by high-speed train.

china tour with air fare

Optional Suzhou Day Tour

After a leisurely breakfast we ride the high-speed train (30-40 minutes) to Suzhou, an ancient city 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. We return to Shanghai by high-speed train (30-40 minutes) in early evening.

The all-inclusive price with hot lunch starts from US$135 per person subject to a minimum of 2 participants.

Day 26/Mon: 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.

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City Nights Hotel/Ship Category
Beijing 4 Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng luxury
Xian 3 Sheraton Xian North City luxury
Lanzhou 1 Crowne Plaza Lanzhou luxury
Dunhuang 2 Silk Road Hotel 4-star/first class, best available
Turpan 1 Friendship Peak Holiday Hotel 4-star/first class, best available
Kashgar 3 Radisson Blu luxury
Yangtze Cruise 3 Century Cruise (Sun) luxury
Wuhan 1 New World Hotel luxury
Guilin 3 Sheraton Guilin luxury
Shanghai 3 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 and more.

Depart
(Thu)
Return
(Mon)
Land Only*
CA$/US$
Single Supplement
CA$/US$
May-10 Jun-04 $8700/$6850 $3250/$2550
May-17 Jun-11 $8700/$6850 $3250/$2550
Jul-26 Aug-20 $8700/$6850 $3250/$2550
Sep-06 Oct-01 $8700/$6850 $3250/$2550
Oct-04 Oct-29 $8700/$6850 $3250/$2550

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

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 air.
  • 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 $5 to $10 USD per day per guest.

See Terms & Conditions for more information.