Shanghai – Suzhou – Tongli – Qufu – Beijing – Xian – Chengdu – Chongqing – Yangtze Cruise – Yichang – Wuhan – Guilin – Hong Kong
The leisurely paced grand tour takes in China’s most popular destinations stringing together a collection of spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition to well-known highlights such as the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army and the Yangtze Three Gorges cruise, the itinerary features Tongli (water town), Qufu (hometown of Confucius) and Chengdu Giant Panda Research Centre.
For added comfort, inter-city travel is exclusively by high-speed train, thus eliminating air travel related hassles such as intrusive security checks and frustrating flight delays. Train travel also allows you to see the countryside and mingle with locals.
- Small group size – maximum 20.
- Experts guides handpicked and trained by company owners.
- Tips for local guides and drivers included.
- Inter-city travel exclusively by high speed train.
- No annoying forced shopping stops.
- Quality meals at non-tourist restaurants.
- Unlimited supply of bottled water during group activities.
- Outside cabin on or above bridge deck for Yangtze cruise.
- Specially negotiated complimentary laundry service (10 pieces per passenger) during Yangtze cruise.
- Complimentary Wi-Fi in all hotels and aboard Yangtze cruise ship.
- Visit to chambers in Forbidden City that most tour operators leave out.
- Great Wall visit at Mutianyu including cable car rides.
- Day hike at Longji terraced rice fields.
- and so much more…
- Half-day Jewish heritage tour in Shanghai.
- Peking Opera show with dinner in Beijing.
- Tang Dynasty cultural show with dinner in Xi’an.
- Traditional face mask changing performance with dinner in Chengdu.
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Day 1/Thu: Departing for Shanghai
Depart from a city of your choice and lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Fri: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Suzhou – Qufu (B/L/D)
This morning we board the bullet train for Qufu (3.5 hours). Qufu is the hometown of Confucius (551-479 BC), who lived around the same time as Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) and Cyrus the Great of Persia. His teachings collectively known as Confucianism have played, and continue to play, a vital role in the evolution of the Chinese civilization.
This afternoon we tour the massive Confucius Temple which features a series of impressive gateways, clusters of twisted pines and cypresses, inscribed steles and tortoise tablets recording ancient events.
Day 8/Thu: Qufu (B/L)
We begin our sightseeing this morning at the mansion once inhabited by the sage’s descendants (now a museum). We then proceed to Confucius Forest – the last resting place of Confucius and cemetery for his descendants. The cemetery, the residence and the temple together form the UNESCO designated World Heritage Site in Qufu. If time allows, we will visit a village nearby.
Day 9/Fri: Qufu – Beijing (B/L)
We spend the morning exploring the small town on our own. After lunch we ride the bullet train to Beijing (80 minutes) and transfer to the hotel on arrival.
Capital of China, Beijing is a world-class cultural and educational centre with a population of 21.7 million (early 2017), ranking it China’s second biggest 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 (1215-1294) of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) moved his capital here from Karakorum in Mongolia. With the collapse of the vast Mongol empire in 1368, Beijing, known as Da Du or Grand Capital at the time, lost its status as the country’s capital. But the city regained its capital status in 1420 when the imperial court of the successive Ming Dynasty relocated to Beijing 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.
Afternoon sightseeing in Beijing takes in Lama Temple and Guozijian (imperial academy). Lama Temple, commonly known as Yonghe Temple among locals, was built in 1694 as residence of Prince Yong (Yinzhen), one of the sons of Emperor Kangxi. After Prince Yong ascended the throne as Emperor Yongzheng in 1722, half of his former residence was turned into a lamasery – a monastery for monks of Tibetan Buddhism. Guozijian was the highest institute of learning in China’s traditional educational system during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Its main functions also included assisting the imperial court in administering national examinations.
Day 10/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. 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. 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 meters 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, Tian’anmen 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, another 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. Recommended by numerous guidebooks for freshwater pearls, Hongqiao teems with domestic and international shoppers. 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.
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 wrapped in a thin layer of pancake (Chinese tortilla) together with shredded scallion, cucumber, and a sweet and salty sauce made of wheat flour. Condiments may also include pickled garlic and white sugar.
Day 11/Sun: Beijing (B/L)
After an early breakfast 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 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 whose cavalrymen 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 12/Mon: Beijing – Xi’an (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”.
Next on our schedule is 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 at the end of 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.
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. The track we travel on between Beijing and Zhengzhou is part of the new 2,298km high-speed railway linking Beijing and subtropical Guangzhou and is also the longest high-speed rail line in the world. In the past 20 years China has been on a building spree expanding the country’s rail network and upgrading existing railways. Its new high-speed rail service rivals France’s TGV and Japan’s “shinkansen” in terms of safety, speed, comfort and punctuality.
Day 13/Tue: Xian (B/L)
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.
Morning visit to the Terracotta Army. 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 archeological 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 14/Wed: Xian – Chengdu (B/L/D)
Morning sightseeing begins at 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 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 (1644-1912). Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, this mosque is completely Chinese in architectural style. It has neither domes nor traditional minarets.
This afternoon we ride the bullet train (G1975, 14:34/18:25) to Chengdu, capital of populous Sichuan Province. The ancient city has a population of 14 million with half of that within the urban centre and the remainder in the surrounding districts. A top livable city, Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication hubs in Western China. The fertile Chengdu Plain, on which Chengdu is located, is also known as “Country of Heaven”, a phrase also often translated as “The Land of Abundance”. The discovery of the Jinsha site suggests the area of Chengdu had become the centre of the Bronze Age Sanxingdui culture around the time of the establishment of the state of Shu, prior to its annexation by Qin in 316 BC.
Day 15/Thu: Chengdu (B/L)
Morning sightseeing at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The giant panda, unrelated to lesser or red panda, is a bear native to south central China, living in mountainous regions. It is easily recognized by the large, distinctive black patches around its eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda’s diet is over 99% bamboo. The giant panda has an insatiable appetite for bamboo. A typical animal eats half the day – a full 12 out of every 24 hours – and relieves itself dozens of times a day. Giant pandas are solitary creatures. They have a highly developed sense of smell that males use to avoid each other and to find females for mating in the spring. After a five-month pregnancy, females give birth to a cub or two, though they cannot care for both twins. The blind infants born white weigh only 5 ounces (142 grams) at birth and cannot crawl until they reach three months of age. The panda is a conservation reliant endangered species. Recent statistics show 239 pandas living in captivity inside China and another 27 outside the country. Estimates of the wild population vary from 1,000 to as high as 3,000. Some reports also show that the number of pandas in the wild is on the rise.
We spend most of the afternoon at Jinsha Museum built on the excavation site. A significant archaeological discovery in modern China, construction workers chanced upon it in February 2001. The site flourished around 1000 BC and shares similarities in burial objects with the Sanxingdui site located 50 km from Chengdu. Objects made of ivory, jade, bronze, gold and stone were unearthed at the site. Unlike the site at Sanxingdui, Jinsha did not have a city wall. Jinsha culture (1200–650 BC) is believed to be a final phase of Sanxingdui culture and represents a relocation of the political center in the ancient Shu Kingdom.
Day 16/Fri: Chengdu – Chongqing (B/L/D)
Free morning to explore on your own.
Afternoon sightseeing following lunch includes Wang Jiang Lou Park and a typical local tea house. Wangjianglou means “river-overlooking tower” and the park is so named because of the ancient pagoda-shaped wooden tower onsite. The beautiful little park dotted with verdant bamboo groves has long been a favourite spot among locals for leisure.
We ride the bullet train (G2889, 16:10/17:43) to Chongqing where we board the Yangtze cruise ship following after 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 (45km) 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.
Day 19/Mon: Yichang – Wuhan (B/L/D)
Morning visit to the Three Gorges Dam site. This is 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.
This morning we Hubei Provincial Museum. If we are lucky, we may get to watch a live performance featuring a set of bronze chime bells replicated from originals made two and half millennia ago.
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)
Enjoy a full-day hiking excursion to the terraced rice fields in Longji. Located 80km (2 hours drive) to the north 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 to mid-October 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 meters 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 has an experimental tea farm covering an area of 42 hectares and boasts 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 22/Thu: Guilin (B/L)
We begin today with a five-hour cruise down the Li River. The 83km 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.
Day 23/Fri: Guilin – Hong Kong (B/L/D)
After breakfast we depart for Hong Kong by high-speed train (3 hours).
Hong Kong (meaning “fragrant harbour”) is one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China, along with Macau. Comprising more than 260 islands, the territory is located on the eastern side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering Guangdong Province in the north and facing the South China Sea in the east, west and south. Hong Kong was a dependent territory of the United Kingdom from 1842 until the transfer of sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. The Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Hong Kong stipulate that Hong Kong operate with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2047, fifty years after the transfer. Under the policy of “one country, two systems”, the Central People’s Government is responsible for the territory’s defense and foreign affairs while Hong Kong maintains its own legal system based on English common law, police force, monetary system, customs policy, immigration policy, and delegates to international organizations and events.
Afternoon sightseeing in Hong Kong begins with a ferry ride across Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central. The heart of Hong Kong’s business district, Central is home to the regional headquarters of many multinational financial services corporations. Consulates general and consulates of many countries are also located in this area, as is the government of Hong Kong.
Our next stop is the top of Victoria Peak. Also known as Mount Austin or The Peak among locals, Victoria Peak is located in the western half of Hong Kong Island with an altitude of 552 meters (1,811 feet). The peak offers sweeping views over Central, Victoria Harbour and the surrounding islands. The Peak Lookout Restaurant, a romantic place for dinner, offers a wide selection of Chinese, Western, Indian, and Southeast Asian dishes.
On our way to Stanley Market, we make a quick stop at Repulse Bay, where private residences owned by Hong Kong’s rich and famous overlook the well maintained golden beaches. We wrap up the day after a visit to Stanley Market – a traditional old open-air market known for bargains.
Day 24/Sat: Hong Kong (B)
Today is set aside for you to explore on your own. Don’t hesitate to ask the expert local guide for advice.
Please note that if we arrived in Hong Kong behind schedule the day before, we’ll finish our planned sightseeing this morning.
Day 25/Sun: Returning Home (B)
Transfer to the airport on your own for return home flight. The transfer is easier than you think and the guide will be glad to explain the details to you. Taxi to the airport costs about $30 USD and is highly recommended for couples and families. The alternative is using the hotel’s free shuttle to get to the Airport Express Train Station in Tsim Sha Tsui and ride the dedicated train to the airport for $90 HKD ($12 USD). The train departs every 10 minutes between 6:00 AM and midnight, reaching the airport in 21 minutes.
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Scroll down for dates, prices and hotel list.
|Shanghai||3||Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou||luxury|
|Suzhou||2||Pan Pacific Suzhou||luxury|
|Beijing||3||Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng||luxury|
|Xian||2||Sheraton Xian North City||luxury|
|Chengdu||2||Sofitel Chengdu Taihe||luxury|
|Yangtze Cruise||3||Century Cruises (Sun)||luxury|
|Wuhan||1||New World Hotel||luxury|
|Hong Kong||2||Harbour Grand Kowloon||luxury|
Dates and Prices
|Mar 21||Apr 14||$7000/$5400||$2940/$2350|
|Mar 28||Apr 21||$7150/$5500||$2940/$2350|
|Apr 04||Apr 28||$7150/$5500||$2940/$2350|
|Apr 11||May 05||$7150/$5500||$2940/$2350|
|May 02||May 26||$7150/$5500||$2940/$2350|
|May 09||Jun 02||$7150/$5500||$2940/$2350|
|May 16||Jun 09||$7150/$5500||$2940/$2350|
|May 23||Jun 16||$6890/$5300||$2940/$2350|
|Sep 05||Sep 29||$7280/$5600||$2940/$2350|
|Sep 12||Oct 06||$7280/$5600||$2940/$2350|
|Oct 03||Oct 27||$7280/$5600||$2940/$2350|
|Oct 10||Nov 03||$7280/$5600||$2940/$2350|
|Oct 17||Nov 10||$7280/$5600||$2940/$2350|
|Oct 24||Nov 17||$7150/$5500||$2940/$2350|
|Oct 31||Nov 24||$7000/$5400||$2940/$2350|
* Land Only price excludes international airfare. Please contact us for a fare quote.
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