Luxury China tour by high-speed train. Travel China in style and never feel rushed.
Highly rated by customers. Lots of references available. Company recommended by Frommer’s.
Shanghai – Qufu – Tai’an – Beijing – Xian – Guilin – Chongqing – Yangtze Cruise – Yichang – Wuhan – Hong Kong
Travel China by bullet train! The leisurely paced grand tour introduces the traveller to China’s three largest metropolises as well as off-the-beaten-path towns stringing together a collection of spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Highlights of the tour include a cruise on the mighty Yangtze, Terracotta Warriors, traditional Chinese gardens, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.
To keep air travel related hassle to the minimum, we use high speed train as much as possible. As a result, you only have two intra-China flights (both less than 2 hours) during the entire 22-day trip.
- Group size limited to 20.
- No forced shopping stops.
- Gratuities for all local guides and drivers included.
- Promenade or Bridge Deck cabin with exclusive amenities during Yangtze cruise.
- Quality meals at popular, non-tourist restaurants.
- Unlimited supply of bottled water.
- Free Wi-Fi in all hotels.
- Travel by high speed train for 5 city pairs.
- Special cultural activities.
- Peking roast duck at a top rated restaurant.
- Visits to side chambers in Forbidden City that most tour operators leave out.
- Great Wall visit at Mutianyu with cable car.
- Day hike at Longji terraced rice fields.
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Day 1/Sun: 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/Mon: Arrival in Shanghai
Welcome to Shanghai! Meet your guide on arrival in late afternoon and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure.
Day 3/Tue: Shanghai (B/L)
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.
Day 4/Wed: Shanghai (B)
Today is a free day to give you time to recover from jet lag and explore on your own. Our recommendations include Jinmao Tower and the evening cruise on Huangpu River.
Optional Suzhou Excursion
Depending on the number of guests expressing interest, we may offer an optional full-day excursion to Suzhou. Located 85 km 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 takes in historic Tiger Hill, Humble Administrator’s Garden, a short cruise on the Grand Canal aboard a Chinese style gondola, and a stop at Suzhou Number One Silk Spinning Mill. Lunch is included in the optional program.
Day 5/Thu: Shanghai – Qufu (B/L)
After breakfast we ride the bullet train to Qufu, hometown of Confucius, arriving in three hours. Confucianism, the collective term for the sage’s philosophy and teachings, has played and continues to play a vital role in the evolution of the Chinese civilization. To some extent, Confucianism defines the soul of China as a nation, at least for the Han Chinese who make up 92% of the population.
We visit the mansion inhabited by Confucius’ descendants (now a museum), the sage’s last resting place at Confucius Forest, and finally 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. The temple, cemetery and the residence together form the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 6/Fri: Qufu – Tai’an – Beijing (B/L)
Following a leisurely breakfast, we drive 100km to Tai’an, the city at the foot of historic Mt. Tai, the most revered of the five sacred Taoist mountains of China. Since the dawn of Chinese history, Mt. Tai has been a great source of inspiration for poets, writers and painters. In 1987, the UNESCO designated Mt. Tai a World Natural and Cultural Heritage Site.
We ride the cable car to midpoint and then walk for about an hour to the summit for a rewarding view of the surrounding countryside. Please be forewarned that the hour-long walk includes strenuous stair climbing. The energetic may choose to skip the cable car and conquer the entire 6000 steps on foot. The climb can be hard work but the central route’s bewildering catalogue of bridges, trees, towers, statues, inscribed stones, caves, pavilions and temples combine to take your mind off your aching calves.
We travel to Beijing by high speed train in late afternoon arriving in 2 hours.
Day 7/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 8/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 9/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 10/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.
Day 11/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.
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 12/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 13/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 14/Sat: 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 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 15/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.
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 16/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 17/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.
On today’s shore excursion we visit Shibaozhai or Shibao Pagoda – an impressive wooden pagoda built on a cliff overlooking the Yangtze.
Day 18/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 Gorges Goddess Stream (also called Shennong 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 19/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) after lunch. 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 20/Fri: Wuhan – Hong Kong (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 G1017 (14:39/19:24) for Shenzhen and cross the border into Hong Kong after a quick dinner. We should arrive at the hotel around 10:30 PM.
Day 21/Sat: Hong Kong (B/L/D)
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.
Our full-day tour begins 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 walk to the tram station to get to 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, Lamma Island and the surrounding islands. The Peak Lookout Restaurant is a wonderful place for dinner and offers a wide selection of Chinese, American, Indian, and Southeast Asian dishes.
After lunch at Aberdeen fishing village, we proceed to Repulse Bay, where opulent private residences owned by Hong Kong’s rich and famous overlook the well maintained golden beaches.
Our final stop is Stanley market, which is a short drive from Repulse Bay. Stanley Market is a typical example of a traditional old open-air market in Hong Kong and a major tourist attraction well known for its bargains.
Day 22/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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|Beijing||4||Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng||luxury|
|Xian||3||Sheraton Xian North City||luxury|
|Yangtze Cruise||3||Victoria Cruises (Jenna)||luxury|
|Wuhan||1||Hyatt Regency Optics Valley||luxury|
|Hong Kong||2||Harbour Grand Kowloon||luxury|
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