20-day China in Depth (2018 special)


Sign up today to save 5% or more!

Shanghai – Suzhou – Tongli (water town) – Wuhan – Yangtze Cruise – Chengdu – Xian – Beijing

On this grand China tour, you’ll visit a multitude of UNESCO inscribed World Heritage Sites and the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Centre, hike the Great Wall, cruise the mighty Yangtze River, and savour authentic and quality Chinese cuisine.


China tours 2018

trip map – click for large view

Important Features

  • Expert local guides hand-picked by company owners.
  • Small group size – 20 maximum.
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers included.
  • Inter-city travel by comfortable high-speed train.
  • No annoying forced shopping stops.
  • North American standard luxury accommodations.
  • Quality meals at non-tourist restaurants.
  • Promenade or Bridge deck cabin with exclusive amenities during Yangtze cruise.
  • Unlimited supply of bottled water during group activities.
  • Free Wi-Fi aboard cruise ship and in all hotels.
  • Peking roast duck dinner at a popular rated restaurant.
  • Visit to chambers in Forbidden City that most tour companies leave out.
  • Great Wall visit at Mutianyu including cable car rides.

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


Day 1/Thu: Departing for Shanghai

Your tour begins with transpacific flight from a city of your choice. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.

Day 2/Fri: Arrival in Shanghai

Meet the driver on arrival and transfer to the hotel. You’ll have the balance of the day at leisure. The guide will get in touch with you tonight.

China tours 2018

China tours 2018 – Jade Buddha Temple

Day 3/Sat:  Shanghai (B/L/D)

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.

Following tour orientation we visit Jade Buddha Temple located in an old neighbourhood, the famous waterfront promenade known as the Bund, and the Yu Garden at the old town centre. We wrap up today’s sightseeing with a drive through the glitzy financial centre opposite the Bund on the other side of the Huangpu River.

Enjoy a delicious welcome dinner.

Day 4/Sun: Shanghai (B)

Free day to explore on your own. We recommend a tour of 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.

China tours 2018

China tours 2018 – Suzhou gardens

Day 5/Mon: Shanghai – Suzhou (B/L)

After a leisurely breakfast we drive 85 km to Suzhou and visit one of the city’s top gardens – the Humble Administrator’s Garden – on arrival.

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 full-day schedule takes in historic Tiger Hill, Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou Museum (designed by I.M. Pei), North Pagoda and a short canal cruise. Those interested in shopping can ask to be dropped off at the Silk Embroidery Research Institute or a filature (silk spinning mill) on the way back to the hotel.

Day 6/Tue: Suzhou – Tongli – Suzhou (B/L)

Morning excursion to Tongli – an ancient water town 25 km south of Suzhou. Tongli is famous for its canal system intersecting the town. After lunch we return to Suzhou and have the balance of the day at leisure.

China tours 2018

China tours 2018 – bullet train interior

Day 7/Wed: Suzhou – Wuhan (B/L/D)

This morning we board the bullet train for Wuhan and arrive around lunchtime.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.

Afternoon sightseeing included in the Provincial Museum and scenic East Lake (Dong Hu) nearby. 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.

Day 8/Thu: Wuhan – Yichang (B/L/D)

Our first stop this morning is a food market. We then proceed to Changchun Taoist Temple to learn about Taoism – the only native religion among all the major religions practiced in China.

After lunch we ride the high-speed train to Yichang, where we board the Yangtze cruise ship following dinner.

Day 9/Fri: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)

China tours 2018

China tours 2018 – Yangtze cruise excursion

At 6,380 km 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 119 km stretch collectively known as the Three Gorges (Xiling, Wu and Qutang).

Before sailing through Xiling (41 km), the deepest of the Three Gorges, we embark on an excursion to the Three Gorges Dam at Sandouping. The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world and you’ll hear all about it from the local guide.

Day 10/Sat: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)

This morning we transfer to a smaller vessel for a relaxing excursion through the attractive gorges of Goddess Stream. Depending on river conditions, this may be substituted with an excursion to Shennong Stream.

Admire nature’s grandeur while passing through the spectacular Wu Gorge (45km) and Qutang Gorge (8km).

China tours 2018

China tours 2018 – Yangtze cruise

Day 11/Sun: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)

Today’s shore excursion is a visit to Shibaozhai – an impressive wooden pagoda built on a cliff overlooking the Yangtze. Depending on river conditions, a visit to a relocation village may be provided instead. This is one of the many such villages built for locals affected by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

Day 12/Mon: Chongqing – Chengdu (B/L/D)

Our Yangtze cruise concludes in Chongqing this morning when we transfer to the train station for our 2-hour rail journey to Chengdu, the capital of populous Sichuan Province.

Afternoon schedule in Chengdu 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.

China tours 2018

China tours 2018 – giant pandas in Chengdu

Day 13/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.

China tours 2018

China tours 2018 – Jinsha Museum

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 14/Wed: Chengdu – Xi’an (B/L/D)

After breakfast we board the high-speed train for Xi’an – eastern terminus of the legendary Silk Road and one of the ancient capitals of China. The three-hour journey is a fantastic way to enjoy the immense beauty of the lush green terrains of soaring peaks and deep valleys.

China tours 2018

China tours 2018 – Muslim market

Our afternoon sightseeing in Xi’an takes in the ancient City Wall and the Muslim quarter.

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.

The Muslim quarter is anchored by the historical Grand Mosque which itself is surrounded by a huge market selling all kinds of food, spices, arts and crafts. One thing particular about this mosque worth mentioning is that, unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, this one is completely Chinese in its architectural style; it has neither domes nor traditional minarets.

Day 15/Thu: Xi’an (B/L)

China tours 2018 - Terracotta Army Museum

China tours 2018 – 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 archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.

Afternoon 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.

Day 16/Fri: Xi’an – Beijing (B/D)

Free morning to explore on your own. Travel to Beijing by bullet train in the afternoon.

Day 17/Sat: Beijing (B/L/D)

China tours 2018We 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. It exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. 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. One year later the Forbidden City was turned into a museum. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

After lunch we proceed to 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.

china_beijing_duck_dinner_2

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 eaten with pancakes, shredded scallion, cucumber, and a sweet and salty sauce made of wheat flour. Condiments may also include pickled garlic and white sugar.

Day 18/Sun: 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. As history shows, the Wall failed the Chinese rulers miserably, especially in the case of Kublai Khan who and his men swept across China from the Mongolian steppe, thus the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368).

China tours 2018Construction 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 19/Mon: Beijing (B/L)

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”.

We then visit historic Jingshan Park. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 metres above ground, 89 metres above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.

Next up is Tian’anmen Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square measures 880 metres from north to south and 500 metres 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, Tiananmen Square is also the witness of the Chinese people’s great struggles for democracy and personal freedom since 1919.

group_china_beijing_temple_of_heaven_6

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 pearl market in the world, is right across the street from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in numerous guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by China. 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.

Day 20/Tue: Return Home (B)

Your tour ends this morning. Transfer to the airport any time for return flight. The guide will arrange your hotel pick-up time.

City Nights Hotel Category
Shanghai 3 Renaissance Yu Garden luxury
Suzhou 2 Pan Pacific luxury
Wuhan 1 New World Hotel luxury
Yangtze Cruise 4 Victoria Cruises – Jenna luxury
Chengdu 2 Holiday Inn Oriental Plaza luxury
Xi’an 2 Sheraton North City luxury
Beijing 4 Sheraton Grand Dongcheng luxury

2018 Dates and Prices