21-day China Highlights


Small group China tour from Hong Kong to Beijing.

small group china tour from canada

Hong Kong – Beijing – Xian – Guilin – Chongqing – Yangtze River Cruise – Wuhan – Suzhou – Shanghai

The masterfully planned itinerary taking in China’s most popular cities has stood the test of time. From the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong to the world-class historic sites in Beijing and Xian, the sensual overload is simply overwhelming.

Trip highlights include the Forbidden City, the Great Wall at Mutianyu, Terracotta Army, day cruise on picturesque Li River, a 3-day luxury cruise down the mighty Yangtze and exciting evening shows.

Important Features

  • Group size limited to 20.
  • Expert guides hand-picked by owners of Laurus Travel.
  • Tips for local guides and drivers included.
  • No forced shopping stops of any kind.
  • Exclusive amenity package during Yangtze cruise.
  • Free in-room Wi-Fi in all hotels.
  • Quality meals at popular, non-tourist restaurants.
  • Unlimited supply of bottled water during group activities.
  • Inter-city travel mostly by high speed train.
  • Peking roast duck at a top rated restaurant.
  • Visit to chambers in Forbidden City that most companies leave out.
  • Great Wall visit at Mutianyu including cable car.
  • Day hike to Longji terraced rice fields.

Options Available

  • Peking opera show in Beijing
  • Jewish heritage tour in Shanghai

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

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Day 1/Tue: 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/Wed: Arrival in Hong Kong

Welcome to Hong Kong! Meet your guide upon arrival in late afternoon and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure. If there are not enough participants arriving at the same time, you may be required to make your way to the hotel by taxi ($258 HKD/$33 USD) and get reimbursed by Laurus Travel later on. Taxis in Hong Kong are clean and the drivers all speak English.

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small group china tour

If you need a quick bite before going to bed, you may order room service at your own expense or visit one of the nice restaurants in the hotel or in the neighbourhood. You only need to walk two or three minutes to find decent, reasonably priced eateries. HSBC and Bank of East Asia both have a branch close to the hotel; if you want to exchange more than $100 USD or CAD, you should consider visiting one of the banks for better rates, instead of dealing with the front desk of the hotel. Remember to take the bank’s service fee into account when comparing exchange rates. Please avoid currency exchange services at the airports whenever you can!

Day 3/Thu: Hong Kong (B/L)

Hong Kong (meaning “fragrant harbour” in Chinese) 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.

small group china tour

small group china tour

Our full-day guided sightseeing today 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. The area, with its proximity to Victoria Harbour, has served as the centre of trade and financial activities from the earliest days of the British colonial era in 1841, and continues to flourish and serve as the administrative centre after the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997.

We then take the tram to reach Victoria Peak, which is also known as Mount Austin or The Peak among locals. It 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, Lamma Island and the surrounding islands.

After a quick dim sum lunch, we proceed to Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, located on Lantau Island. This is a bronze statue of a Buddha Amoghasiddhi, completed in 1993, with a height of 34 metres (112 feet) and a weight of 250 metric tons. The included cable car ride makes the visit easy.

On the way back to the hotel, you may ask to be dropped off at shopper’s Mecca, Nathan Road, which is just a short walk to the stop of the hotel’s free shuttle service. For evening entertainment, check with hotel concierge for a good spot to take in the nightly Symphony of Lights laser show.
Please note that depending on the number of participants, we may move around Hong Kong by taxi and public transit (air conditioned subway train and double-decker bus).

small group china tour

small group china tour

Day 4/Fri: Hong Kong – Beijing (B)

Free morning to explore on your own. We recommend Ocean Park (and Hong Kong Disneyland for families with kids) and Stanley market. The nostalgic should be forewarned that the market has gone through major gentrification and looks far different from what it was in the 70’s and even the 80’s of the last century.

The late afternoon or evening flight to Beijing takes 3 hours and 15 minutes. Be sure to buy some snack before going to the airport because restaurant food inside the airport is very expensive. Please note that depending on the number of participants you may be asked to get to the airport by taxi, for which you will be reimbursed in Beijing. Meet your guide on arrival and transfer to the hotel.

Day 5/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.

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small group china tour

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.

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small group china tour

Day 6/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.

Mutianyu Great Wall tours from Beijing with private guide

small group china tour

Day 7/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 8/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.

Please note that the train ride may be replaced by air flight during and within 3 days before and after these Chinese public holidays: Spring Festival, Qingming, Labour Day, Duanwu, Mid-Autumn, National Day and New Year’s Day.

Day 9/Wed: Xian (B/L/D)

Eastern terminus of the fabled Silk Road and one of the ancient capitals of China, Xian is home to the world famous Terracotta Army.

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small group china tour

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 10/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 11/Fri: Xian – Guilin (B/L)

Free morning to explore on your own. We recommend 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).

Late afternoon flight to Guilin. A small city by Chinese standards, 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 12/Sat: Guilin (B/L)

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small group china tour

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 and drive back to Guilin. We wrap up the day with a quick tour of the scenic Fubo Hill (63 metres) located 2 km from the hotel.

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

Day 13/Sun: 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.

china_guilin_tea_pickers

tea farm visit in Guilin

Built by local farmers of different ethnic groups from Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), 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 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 14/Mon: Guilin – Chongqing (B/L/D)

Morning flight to Chongqing. Our city tour of Chongqing includes the zoo (giant pandas) and Stilwell Museum built on the site of the former U.S. military headquarters in China during World War II. We board Victoria Cruises’ Jenna (the newest among the U.S. cruise operator’s fleet of seven) after a delicious dinner of Sichuan cuisine.

Day 15/Tue: 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.

small group china tour

small group china tour

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

Day 16/Wed: 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 Small Gorge Goddess Stream (also called Shnnv Stream) on a small vessel. A tributary of the Yangtze River, this beautiful stream in many places is the color of jade and is overshadowed by mountains on either side.

Day 17/Thu: 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 around noon and travel to Wuhan by high-speed train (2 hours). Due to time constraint, we may not have time for a proper lunch; in that case a lunch box would be provided for you to carry onto the train.

Day 18/Fri: Wuhan – Shanghai (B/L/D)

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 along scenic East Lake nearby.

We board the high-speed train G600 (15:01/19:13) for Shanghai after lunch.

Day 19/Sat: Shanghai (B/L)

group_china_shanghai_bund_10

small group china tour

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.

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 20/Sun: Shanghai – Suzhou – Shanghai (B/L/D)

Enjoy a full-day excursion to Suzhou today. We must leave the hotel no later than 7:00 AM so that we can return to Shanghai early and avoid being caught up in heavy traffic on the way back.

Eighty kilometers to the northwest of Shanghai, 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 schedule today takes in historic Tiger Hill, Humble Administrator’s Garden and a short cruise on the Grand Canal. If time permits, we’ll stop by the silk spinning mill before returning to Shanghai.

small group china tour

small group china tour

Tiger Hill has been a popular tourist destination for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, as is evident from the poetry and calligraphy carved into the rocks on the hill. The hill is so named because it is said to look like a crouching tiger. Another legend states that a white tiger appeared on the hill to guard it following the burial of King Helu. The highlight here is the brick pagoda constructed between 959 and 961 AD as part of Yun Yan Buddhist temple. Because of its unintended tilt to one side (2.34 meters off towards northeast), the pagoda is also called by some China’s Leaning Tower of Pisa, except this one is 200 years older than the bell tower in Italy.

The traditional Humble Administrator’s Garden is a masterpiece listed by the UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site with a style in sharp contrast with the Yu Garden of Shanghai.

Day 21/Mon: Shanghai – Home City (B)

Spend the morning packing and relaxing. Transfer to the airport 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
Hong Kong 2 Harbour Grand Kowloon luxury
Beijing 4 Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng luxury
Xian 3 Sheraton Xian North City luxury
Guilin 3 Sheraton Guilin luxury
Yangtze Cruise 3 Victoria Cruises (Jenna) luxury
Wuhan 1 New World Wuhan luxury
Shanghai 3 Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou luxury
  • Prices are per person 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 the tour price includes and excludes.

Departure Dates and Prices

Depart (Tue) Return (Mon) Land Only
CA$/US$
Single Supplement
CA$/US$
2017
Sep-05 Sep-25 $6200/$4899 $2490/$1950
Sep-12 Oct-02 $6200/$4899 $2490/$1950
Oct-03 Oct-23 $6200/$4899 $2490/$1950
Oct-10 Oct-30 $6200/$4899 $2490/$1950
Oct-17 Nov-06 $6200/$4899 $2490/$1950
Oct-31 Nov-20 $6200/$4899 $2490/$1950
  2018    
Mar-13 Apr-02 $6080/$4750 $2490/$1950
===> Click here for itinerary and dates beyond March 13, 2018.
What the tour price includes:

  • Hotel accommodations.
  • Local economy class air and ground transportation.
  • 2nd class seat on high speed train wherever applicable.
  • Yangtze cruise fare with shore excursions.
  • 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 local guides and drivers.
  • A full-time tour leader for group with 10+ guests.
What the tour price excludes:

  • International airfare.
  • Passport and visa charges.
  • Travel insurance (optional).
  • 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.

When you deal with Laurus Travel, you don’t need to worry about hidden charges because there are none!

See Terms & Conditions for more.

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Laurus Travel small-group China tours