Beijing – Xian – Kunming – Xianggelila – Lijiang – Chengdu – Chongqing – Yangtze Cruise – Yichang – Wuhan – Guilin – Shanghai
Combining China’s most popular cities with exotic Yunnan Province and a first-class Yangtze cruise, the well tested itinerary gives you as complete an introduction to China as possible in 26 days. Westerners began to pay attention to Yunnan around a century ago when National Geographic magazine published a series of articles and photographs on the area. It is believed that those articles and photographs inspired James Hilton to write his famous novel Lost Horizon. Visitors to Yunnan today never fail to be awed by its stunningly beautiful landscape, rich biodiversity, and intriguing tribal cultures.
This thrilling vacation tour visits places as high as 3,500m (11,500 feet) above sea level. Travellers with known history of altitude sickness should take precaution before going on the trip.
- Small group size – maximum 20.
- Experts guides handpicked and trained by company owners.
- Tips for local guides and drivers included.
- Inter-city travel by high speed train except one city pair.
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- Half-day Jewish heritage tour in Shanghai.
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Day 1/Thu: Departing for Beijing
Your China tour with air departs from a city of your choice. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Fri: Arrival in 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.
Day 3/Sat: Beijing (B/L/D)
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.
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 4/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 5/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 6/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 7/Wed: Xian (B/L)
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.
After lunch we spend the rest of day exploring on our own.
Day 8/Thu: Xi’an – Kunming (B/L/D)
We board early morning flight (2 hours 20 minutes) for Kunming.
Capital of Yunnan Province, Kunming is known as the “city of eternal spring” due to its temperate climate. Sitting at 1,900 metres above sea level in the middle of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, Kunming long profited from its position on the caravan roads through to Southeast Asia, India and Tibet. During the Second World War, Kunming became the terminus on the Chinese side of the famous Burma Road and also served as an airbase for the Allied Forces.
Our sightseeing this afternoon includes the historic Western Hill Scenic Area and Huating Temple.
Day 9/Fri: Kunming – Stone Forest – Kunming (B/L)
Enjoy a full-day excursion to Stone Forest. Located 126km southeast of Kunming, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is a massive collection of gray limestone pillars created by water erosion. The tall rocks seem to emanate from the ground in the manner of stalagmites, with many looking like trees made of stone.
Day 10/Sat: Kunming – Xianggelila (B/L/D)
We spend the morning exploring on our own. A stroll through Green Lake Park is recommended.
We fly to Zhongdian, known as Xiangelila nowadays, in the afternoon and then spend the rest of the day getting acclimatized to the high altitudes (3,160 metres/10,400 feet above sea level).
Day 11/Sun: Xianggelila (B/L/D)
In the 1933 novel Lost Horizon, the British author, James Hilton, describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Some scholars believe that the Shangri-La story owes a literary debt to Shambhala, a mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which was sought by Eastern and Western explorers. Because of this remote association, the local authorities in Yunnan applied to the State Council, the Chinese equivalent to the cabinet of a Western federal government, to have their county’s name changed from Zhongdian to Shangri-La (Xiangelila in Chinese pinyin) for the sake of tourism promotion. The application was approved in late 2001 and the name change soon went into effect.
We spend the morning exploring Pudacuo National Park. Stops include Bita Lake and Shudu Lake surrounded by virgin alpine forests. Designated as a national park on June 25, 2007, Pudacuo covers an area of 1,300 square kilometres. It is the first national park in China that meets the standards established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The park contains more than 20 percent of China’s plant species, about one-third of its mammal and bird species and almost 100 endangered species. It is notably home to vulnerable Black-necked cranes, many rare and beautiful orchids, and Himalayan Yew – a coniferous tree whose extracts are a source of the anticancer drug, paclitaxel.
Afternoon sightseeing takes in a Tibetan village, the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery and a local market. Located 5 kilometres from the town of Zhongdian, the Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery, also known as Sungtseling, is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery first built in 1679. Situated at 3,380 metres above sea level, it is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province and is sometimes referred to as Little Potala Palace in reference to the Dalai Lama’s Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
Day 12/Mon: Xianggelia – Lijiang (B/L)
After breakfast we embark on an overland journey to Lijiang. The day-long drive covers 200 kilometres of country road snaking through scenic river valleys and high mountains dotted with villages of various ethnic nationalities. The highlight of the drive is a stop at the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the first bend of the Yangtze. The gorge is a 15-kilometre scenic canyon on the Jinsha River, a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River. With a maximum depth of 3790 metres, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is believed to be the deepest river canyon in the world.
Day 13/Tue: Lijiang (B/L)
Lijiang is home to the ethnic Naxi people whose intriguing Dongba religion and unique customs coupled with the region’s enchanting scenery combine to make Lijiang and its vicinity a fascinating place to explore. Joseph Rock, the Austrian-American explorer, geographer, linguist and botanist, spent almost three decades researching this part of China. The old town of Lijiang known as Dayan is protected as a UNESCO-designated World Cultural Heritage Site. We spend the rest of the day at leisure to get acclimatized to the high altitudes.
We begin today with an excursion to Yunshanping or Spruce Meadow, an alpine pasture surrounded by virgin forests at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. While there, we’ll attend a live performance called Impression Lijiang. Directed by Zhang Yimou, Wang Chaoge and Fan Yue, Impression Lijiang is a song and dance extravaganza that takes place on location at 3,100 metres above sea level, in a spring-like city in Southwest China. Premiered on July 23, 2006, the hour-long show has been performed on a regular basis averaging over a million spectators per year.
Later today we visit an ancient village on the way back to the city. In the afternoon we enjoy a walking tour of the old town.
Day 14/Wed: Lijiang – Chengdu (B/L)
Free morning to explore on your own. We fly to Chengdu in late afternoon. Depending on flight availability, we may need to fly to Chengdu in the morning. In that case, sightseeing will be arranged on arrival in Chengdu.
Chengdu is 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.
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)
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 visit 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.
For dinner, you will find all kinds of restaurants around the centrally located hotel. Please consult your local guide for expert advice.
Day 23/Fri: Guilin – Shanghai (B)
Free morning to explore on your own. Transfer to the airport for late afternoon flight to Shanghai.
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.
Day 24/Sat: Shanghai (B/L/D)
We begin our day with a visit to Jade Buddha Temple located in an old neighbourhood. Later on we tour 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 25/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 26/Mon: Returning Home (B)
Your 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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|Beijing||3||Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng||luxury|
|Xian||3||Sheraton Xian North City||luxury|
|Lijiang||2||Hilton Garden Inn||luxury|
|Chengdu||2||Sofitel Chengdu Taihe||luxury|
|Yangtze Cruise||3||Century Cruises (Sun)||luxury|
|Wuhan||1||New World Hotel||luxury|
|Shanghai||3||Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou||luxury|
Dates and Prices
|Apr 04||Apr 29||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Apr 11||May 06||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Apr 18||May 13||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Apr 25||May 20||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 02||May 27||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 09||Jun 03||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 16||Jun 10||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 23||Jun 17||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 30||Jun 24||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Aug 29||Sep 23||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Sep 05||Sep 30||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Sep 12||Oct 07||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Oct 03||Oct 28||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Oct 10||Nov 04||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Oct 17||Nov 11||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Apr 02||Apr 27||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Apr 09||May 04||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Apr 16||May 11||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 07||Jun 01||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 14||Jun 08||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 21||Jun 15||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|May 28||Jun 22||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Please contact us for Summer dates|
|Aug 27||Sep 21||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Sep 03||Sep 28||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Sep 10||Oct 05||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Oct 08||Nov 02||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Oct 15||Nov 09||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Oct 22||Nov 16||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
|Oct 29||Nov 23||$8450/$6500||$3200/$2550|
* Land Only price excludes international airfare. Please contact us for a fare quote.
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