15-day China Discovery


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Beijing – Xian – Yangtze River Cruise – Shanghai

This popular small-group China tour features China’s top three tourist cities plus a first class Yangtze cruise. Trip highlights include the Great Wall at Mutianyu, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Terracotta Army, and a 3-day cruise through the magnificent Three Gorges on the Yangtze River.


Important Features

  • Group size limited to 20.small group china tour
  • Top guides handpicked by company owners.
  • No forced shopping stops.
  • Quality meals at popular, non-tourist restaurants.
  • Tips for all local guides and drivers included.
  • Free in-room Wi-Fi in all hotels.
  • Unlimited supply of bottled water during group tours.
  • Travel from Beijing to Xian by bullet train.
  • Peking roast duck at a top rated restaurant.
  • Visits to side chambers in Forbidden City that most companies leave out.
  • Great Wall visit including cable car.

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

Scroll down for dates and prices.


Day 1/Thu: Departing Home City

The journey begins 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 your guide on arrival in late afternoon and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure.

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

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.

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We begin today with a visit to Tiananmen (tian an men) Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square is 880 metres from north to south, and 500 meters from east to west. Said to be the biggest of its kind in the world, Tiananmen Square has the capacity to hold one million people. Tiananmen (Heavenly Gate) Tower sites 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 of China (east). Chairman Mao’s mausoleum and Qianmen (Front Gate) sit in the south of the square. Considered 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.

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After lunch we proceed to the Forbidden City. Also known as Palace Museum or Gu Gong in Chinese, 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. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

We conclude our sightseeing today with a visit to a 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”.

Today we enjoy a delicious dinner at a famous Beijing roast duck restaurant.

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Day 4/Sun: Beijing (B/L)

Morning sightseeing takes us to historic Jingshan Park for a panoramic view of the Forbidden City from above. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace in the old days, serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 meters above ground, 89 meters above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.

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 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 of its kind in the world, sits right across from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in various guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by the Chinese. 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 $8.

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Day 5/Mon: 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. 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 6/Tue: Beijing – Xian (B/D)

Free morning to relax or explore on your own. We check out the hotel at noon and travel to Xian by the high-speed train. The four-hour-forty-minute rail journey cuts through fertile farmland dotted with villages, providing the visitor an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful landscape. The track we travel on is part of the new 2,298 km high-speed railway connecting Beijing and Guangzhou, the longest high-speed rail line in the world. The Chinese for the past 20 years have been on a building spree expanding the country’s rail network and upgrading existing railways. This new rail service rivals France’s TGV and Japan’s “shinkansen” in terms of speed, comfort, cleanliness and onboard facilities.

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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 archeological discoveries of the 20th Century.

After lunch we return to the city for a stroll on the ancient city wall. 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.

Enjoy a delicious buffet dinner in the hotel.

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 (1644-1911). 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/D)

Free morning for some well deserved rest and relaxation. If you wish to explore Bell Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, you can reach both by Subway Line 2, which has a stop right next door to our hotel. Bell Tower is 3 stops away (8 minutes). The pagoda is 7 stops away plus a short taxi ride at the other end which costs about 15 Yuan (less than $3).

We fly to Chongqing at noon or in early afternoon and board the Yangtze cruise ship after dinner.

Day 10/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.

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On today’s shore excursion we visit a Shibaozhai or Shibao Pagoda – an impressive wooden pagoda built on a cliff overlooking the Yangtze.

Day 11/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 navigate Shennong Stream on a small vessel. Originating in the southern slopes of Shennongjia Nature Reserve, the crystal clear river twists and turns 66 kilometres through forested mountains before emptying into the mighty Yangtze. Please note this excursion may be replaced with a similar one on Shennong Stream (Goddess Stream), another Yangtze tributary.

Day 12/Mon: Yichang – Shanghai (B/L)

Morning visit to the Three Gorges Dam site – the largest hydroelectric dam in the world with a reservoir stretching hundreds of kilometres upstream. Construction of the dam started on December 14, 1994 with completion date set for 2009. Due to additional projects such as the underground power plant with six additional generators, the dam did not become fully operational until the end of 2011. The Chinese government estimated the cost of the construction to be $27 billion while some Chinese scholars and international organizations estimated the actual cost could be as high as over $80 billion.

We disembark in Yichang around noon and fly to Shanghai.

Day 13/Tue: 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 full-day walking tour begins with a stroll through an old but vibrant neighbourhood near our hotel. We then proceed to the magnificent Shanghai Museum with a huge collection of national treasures collected from around the country.small group china tour

After lunch, we walk to Yu Garden in the old town centre. The last stop of our schedule is the Bund, a waterfront promenade famous for its landmark neoclassical buildings of European style.

Day 14/Wed: 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.

The new bullet train system has made it possible to explore a number of popular destinations near Shanghai such as Hangzhou and Nanjing without overnight stay. For more information, please feel free to ask your tour leader or local guide.

Day 15/Thu: Shanghai – Home City (B)

Spend the morning packing and relaxing. Transfer to the airport by Maglev train to board return flight departing in the afternoon. Re-cross the International Date Line and arrive home the same day.

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City Nights Hotel/Ship Category
Beijing 4 Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng luxury
Xian 3 Sheraton Xian North City luxury
Yangtze Cruise 3  Century Cruises (Sun) luxury
Shanghai 3 Sheraton Shanghai 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 price includes and excludes

2017

All departures guaranteed. Discount available for parties of 4 & more subject to space availability.

Depart (Thu) Return (Thu) from YVR*
CA$/US$
from YYZ*
CA$/US$
Land Only**
CA$/US$
Single Supplement
CA$/US$
Sep-07 Sep-21 $4685/$3660 $4860/$3800 $3980/$3099 $1640/$1280
Sep-14 Sep-28 $4685/$3660 $4860/$3800 $3980/$3099 $1640/$1280
Oct-05 Oct-19 $4685/$3660 $4860/$3800 $3980/$3099 $1640/$1280
Oct-12 Oct-26 $4685/$3660 $4860/$3800 $3980/$3099 $1640/$1280
Oct-19 Nov-02 $4685/$3660 $4860/$3800 $3980/$3099 $1640/$1280
Nov-02 Nov-16 $4685/$3660 $4860/$3800 $3980/$3099 $1640/$1280
2018 dates and prices

* Contact us for a price with air from any other city.

** Land Only price does not include international air.

What the tour price includes:

  • International economy class air.
  • Hotel accommodations.
  • Local economy class air and ground transportation.
  • Yangtze cruise fare including shore excursions.
  • Second class seat on high speed train wherever applicable.
  • Daily meals as specified.
  • Guided sightseeing and entrance fees per itinerary.
  • Airport transfers on arrival and exit if your dates correspond with tour schedule.
  • 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:

  • 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.

Updated August 10, 2017