Tibet tour – escorted small-group holiday trip including Lhasa, Gyantse, Shigatse, Potala Palce, Yumdrok Lake
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Beijing – Chengdu – Lhasa – Gyantse – Shigatse – Lhasa – Shanghai
Explore China & Tibet in depth with a reputable China tour operator recommended in every edition of Frommer’s China! Small group, no forced shopping, expert guides, gourmet food, and loads of fun.
Trip highlights include Potala Palace, Yamdrok yumtso (lake), Gyantse Fortress, Tibetan family visit, the Great Wall, and Chengdu Giant Panda Research Center.
Please note that the tour is suitable only for travellers who are perfectly fit without any medical condition that may be complicated due to high altitudes – the highest point during the tour is 4,800 metres or 15,744 feet above sea level. Ask us for over-the-counter remedy for altitude sickness!
- Group size limited to 20.
- No forced shopping stops.
- Top guides handpicked by owners of Laurus Travel.
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers included.
- Quality meals at non-tourist restaurants.
- Unlimited supply of bottled water.
- Free in-room Wi-Fi.
- Peking roast duck at a top rated restaurant.
- Visits to side chambers in Forbidden City that most tour companies pass up.
- Great Wall visit at Mutianyu with cable car.
- Tibetan family visit in Shigatse.
- Peking opera show in Beijing
- Face Mask Changing performance in Chengdu
- Princess Wencheng stage performance in Lhasa
- Jewish heritage tour in Shanghai
B = buffet breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Day 1/Thu: Departing Home City
Your China and Tibet tour 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.
Beijing was already a strategically important city in northern China for centuries when Kublai Khan decided to move his capital here from Karakorum in Mongolia. With the collapse of the vast Mongol empire in 1368 AD, Beijing, known as Da Du or Grand Capital at the time, lost its status as the country’s capital but soon regained it when the imperial court of the successive Ming Dynasty moved here 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 1911.
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.
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 popular Beijing roast duck restaurant.
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.
Day 5/Mon: Beijing – Chengdu (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.
Evening flight to Chengdu, capital of populous Sichuan Province. The urban area of the municipality houses 14 million with half of that within the city’s nine districts and the remainder in the surrounding regions. Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centres in Western China and was recently named China’s 4th most livable city by China Daily, the country’s largest English newspaper by circulation. The fertile Chengdu Plain, on which Chengdu is located, is also known as the “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. The city was named “Chengdu” when it was founded more than 2000 years ago, and the name has remained the same till the present day.
Day 6/Tue: 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 the most of the afternoon at Jinsha Museum built on the excavation site. A significant archeological 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. Ivory, jade artifacts, bronze objects, gold objects and carved stone objects were found 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 7/Wed: Chengdu – Lhasa (B/L)
Free morning to rest up. We board noon flight for Lhasa and upon arrival spend the rest of the day relaxing and getting acclimatized to the high altitudes.
Day 8/Thu: Lhasa (B/L)
Situated in a wide, mountain-fringed valley on the north bank of the Kyichu River, Lhasa (elevation 3700m) is a rapidly expanding city with a population of over 540,000. An important settlement for well over a thousand years, Lhasa was originally called Rasa, but was renamed by King Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century when he moved his capital here from the Yarlung Valley. Following the collapse of the Yarlung dynasty two centuries later, power dispersed among local chieftains and the city lost its pre-eminence. It was not until the seventeenth century, with the installation of the Fifth Dalai Lama as ruler by the Mongolian emperor, Gushri Khan, that Lhasa once again became the seat of government.
Morning visit to the Dalai Lama’s summer residence Norbulinka. This afternoon we tour grand Sera Monastery, where lively debates held Monday to Saturday from 3 to 5 pm between resident monks often draw a large audience.
Day 9/Fri: Lhasa (B/L)
This morning we visit the Potala Palace. This was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising. It is now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace is named after Mount Potalaka, the mythical abode of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The 5th Dalai Lama started its construction in 1645 after one of his spiritual advisers pointed out that the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated as it is between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. The palace sits on the site of an earlier fortress built by King Songtsen Gampo. The main building measures 360 metres east-west and 140 metres north-south. Thickness of the exterior granite walls varies between 2 and 5 metres.
Afternoon sightseeing at Jokhang Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist buildings in Tibet and a remarkable combination of Tibetan, Indian, Nepalese and Han Chinese architectural styles. No visit to Jokhang Temple is complete without checking out the Barkor Street bazaar outside the temple.
Day 10/Sat: Lhasa – Gyantse – Shigatse (B/L/D)
Following breakfast, we drive along the Southern Route to Gyantse (265km). Highlights of the scenic drive include Kambaba Pass (4700 metres/15416 feet above sea level) and the holy lake Yamdrok Yumtso. Every summer throngs of Tibetan pilgrims come to the lake to pray for blessings by the lake fairy. Afternoon sightseeing in Gyantse takes in the Fortress of Gyantse Dzong and Pelkhor Choede. We continue on to Shigatse (90km) in late afternoon arriving at the second largest city in Tibet around dinnertime.
Day 11/Sun: Shigatse – Lhasa (B/L)
This morning we visit Tashilunpo Monastery, the religious and administrative headquarters of the Panchen Lama – paramount leader of the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Return to Lhasa via better paved Northern Route (295km). Vast pastureland, barren mountain slopes, snow-capped peaks, blue skies, white clouds, scanty population, and ubiquitous prayer flags – these images combine to conjure a sense of solitude and mystery.
Day 12/Mon: Lhasa – Shanghai (B)
Spend the morning relaxing or exploring the ancient Tibetan capital on your own. Fly to Shanghai via Chengdu or Chongqing – there’s no non-stop flight from Lhasa to Shanghai. Depending on flight availability we may need to leave Lhasa in the morning.
Before 1949, Shanghai was widely known in the West as a city of quick riches and paradise of the adventurers. After four decades of anemic growth in a state planned economy, Shanghai is roaring back to recapture its position on the world stage. With a population of 23 million and rapid economic expansion in the last 20 years, Shanghai has again become a leading global city with significant influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology and transport.
Day 13/Tue: Shanghai (B/L)
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.
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. The skyline of the glitzy buildings across the river in Pudong looks better in late afternoon and certainly works better for your camera!
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.
Day 15/Thu: Shanghai – Home City (B)
Your China and Tibet tour ends this morning. Transfer to the airport by Maglev train (train ticket included in tour price) to board return flight departing in the afternoon. Re-cross the International Date Line and arrive home the same day.
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|Beijing||3||Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng||luxury|
|Chengdu||2||Holiday Inn Oriental Plaza||luxury|
|Shigatse||1||Jiumuyamei or similar||first class (best available)|
|Shanghai||3||Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou||luxury|
2017 Dates & Prices
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2018 Dates & Prices
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China & Tibet Tour Review
Lori and Michael B from Orillia, Ontario wrote:
“One week has passed since we left China – it is hard to believe that time has passed so quickly. We want to say that we had an incredible time in China and Tibet. It was an amazing opportunity to share in this experience with the many guides in varied cities and most importantly, to have Howard as our tour coordinator…”