China and South Korea group tour for history buffs and gastronomes.
This first-class group tour designed for history buffs and gastronomes combines the best of China and South Korea giving the guest an authentic introduction to these dynamic East Asian countries. If you have little interest in history and politics, then this tour is not for you.
Beijing – Xi’an – Shanghai – Busan – Gyeongju – Seoul
- Expert local guides.
- Small group size – 20 maximum.
- Premium accommodations.
- Quality and authentic local cuisine.
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers included.
- Absolutely no forced shopping stops of any kind.
- Free Wi-Fi in all hotels.
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Day 1/Sun: Departing Home City
The trip begins with your flight from a city of your choice. International airfare is not included. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Mon: Arrival in Beijing
Meet the driver on arrival for transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure.
Capital of China, Beijing is a world-class cultural and educational centre with a population of 21.7 million (early 2017), 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.
Day 3/Tue: Beijing (B/L)
We 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.
We wrap up the day with a tour of 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 4/Wed: Beijing (B/L/D)
After an early breakfast we embark on a full-day excursion to the legendary Great Wall at Mutianyu, 75 km 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).
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.
Tonight we enjoy a delicious dinner featuring the famous Peking Roast Duck restaurant.
Day 5/Thu: Beijing – Xi’an (B/L/D)
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 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.
After lunch we ride the high-speed train (#G87, 14:00/18:23) to Xi’an. The 4-hour-23-minute rail journey through fertile farmland dotted with villages provides the visitor an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful countryside. The track we travel on between Beijing and Zhengzhou is part of the new 2,298km high-speed railway linking Beijing and subtropical Guangzhou and the longest high-speed rail line in the world. In the past 20 years China has been on a building spree expanding the country’s rail network and upgrading existing railways. Its new high-speed rail service rivals France’s TGV and Japan’s “shinkansen” in terms of safety, speed and punctuality.
Day 6/Fri: 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 archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.
After lunch we return to the city for a stroll on the ancient city wall. Declared a national treasure by the State Council in 1961, the wall first built in 1370 encircles an area of 14 square kilometres. It runs 13.7 kilometres long and measures 12 metres in height with a thickness at the base between 15 to 18 metres.
Day 7/Sat: Xian – Shanghai (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 (1644-1912). 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.
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. 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.
The late afternoon flight to Shanghai takes two and half hours.
Day 8/Sun: 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.
This morning we visit the famous waterfront promenade known as the Bund which is followed by Shanghai Museum. After lunch we tour Yu Garden located at the old town centre. We then drive through the glitzy financial district of Lujiazui.
Day 9/Mon: Shanghai (B)
Free day to explore on your own. Feel free to ask your guide for recommendations.
Optional Suzhou Day Tour
After a leisurely breakfast we ride the high-speed train (30-40 minutes) to Suzhou, an ancient city 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, Suzhou Museum (designed by I.M. Pei), North Pagoda and a short canal cruise. We return to Shanghai by high-speed train (30-40 minutes) in early evening.
The all-inclusive price with hot lunch starts from US$135 per person subject to a minimum of 2 participants.
Day 10/Tue: Shanghai – Busan (B/D)
Transfer to the airport for morning flight to Busan (2 hours). Meet the local guide on arrival and transfer to the hotel.
Busan is South Korea’s second largest city. Bursting with mountains and beaches, hot springs and seafood, Busan is a rollicking port town with tonnes to offer. Later today we visit the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, a seaside Buddhist temple built in 1376.
Tonight we enjoy a delicious Korean seafood hotpot dinner.
Day 11/Wed: Busan (B/L)
Today we visit the bustling Jagalchi fish market, Gujesijang market and Yongdusan Park.
Day 12/Thu – Busan – Gyeongju (B/L)
Following breakfast we drive 100 kilometres northeast to Gyeongju. After dropping off bags at the hotel, we driver another 16km northbound to Yangdong Folk Village – a UNESCO World Heritage site from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897).
Day 13/Fri: Gyeongju (B/L)
Gyeongju is a city on South Korea’s southeast coast. It was the capital of the 1,000-year-long Silla dynasty and is known for its extensive historical remains. The 8th-century Bulguksa Temple features twin stone pagodas, a series of wooden staircases and a large bronze Buddha. Nearby, Seokguram Grotto houses a towering seated Buddha and offers panoramic views of the sun rising over the Sea of Japan.
We spend the afternoon exploring Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple – both inscribed as UNESCO Heritage Sites in 1995.
Day 14/Sat: Gyeongju – Seoul (B/L)
We travel to Seoul by express train (2 hours, 300 km) this morning. Capital of South Korea, Seoul is a huge metropolis where modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways and pop culture meet Buddhist temples, palaces and street markets. Notable attractions include futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a convention hall with curving architecture and a rooftop park; Gyeongbokgung Palace, which once had more than 7,000 rooms; and Jogyesa Temple, site of ancient locust and pine trees.
Our sightseeing after lunch includes Gyengbokgung Palace, Myeong-dong district (fashion, market, churches) and N Seoul Tower.
Day 15/Sun: Seoul – DMZ – Seoul (B/L/D)
Today we go on a full-day excursion to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) and the Joint Security Area (JSA) within the village of Panmunjom. The DMZ divides North Korea and South Korea and is one of the last remnants of the Cold War. The DMZ runs across the Korean Peninsula and roughly follows the 38th parallel north (popular name given to latitude 38° N) on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. With over a million soldiers on watch each day, this stretch of land measuring 250 kilometres (160 miles) long and about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) wide is the most fortified border in the world. Our itinerary also includes Freedom Bridge and the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel and observing life on the other side from the Dora Observatory.
Our farewell dinner featuring famous Korean dishes is at a restaurant within walking distance from the hotel.
Day 16/Mon: Seoul – Home City
Your memorable China and South Korea tour ends this morning. Transfer to Incheon International Airport, 50km west of Seoul, on your own. Taxi costs between 70,000 and 100,000 Korean Won ($65-$90 USD) including expressway toll charge, but most travellers prefer the Airport Railroad Express which costs 14,800 Won ($12.50) one way per person. The guide will escort you to the train station and help you buy ticket.
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