Embark on a magical odyssey to some of China’s most celebrated destinations and discover a wealth of attractions that will leave you with memories for a lifetime. Journey from Beijing through historic cities, stunning landscapes and sites steeped in ancient myths and legends, cruise along the mighty Yangtze River and immerse yourself in the world’s largest city, Shanghai. This well-balanced tour presents a truly vibrant mix of history and modernity. Groups vary in size but are typically made up of about 6-10 travellers.
Beijing: Considered by some the mother of all Beijing markets, the Pearl Market has to be seen (and heard) to be believed
Xi’an: The city’s delicious dumplings are renowned all over China and no visit is complete without tasting some
Shanghai: Live the high life while sipping afternoon tea or a cocktail at Bar Level 87 – the views are something else, too
A wide range of optional excursions and pre and post-programme extensions are available on request. Please ask tour designer Kiki Cheng for rates and conditions
Great Wall: Stroll along the restored Badaling section and see the undulating wall disappear into the horizon
Forbidden City: Discover the majesty of the walled imperial precinct, which for centuries was closed off to mere mortals
Temple of Heaven: Behold the beauty of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and other buildings in this Buddhist complex
Big Wild Goose Pagoda: This seven-storey tower in Xi’an has protected priceless Buddhist scriptures for centuries
Terracotta Army: Pay homage to the immortal clay warriors unearthed after 2,000 years guarding China’s first emperor
Reed Flute Cave: See first-hand how multicoloured lighting has revolutionised one of Guilin’s greatest natural treasures
Li River cruise: Drift along this unimaginably picturesque valley framed by the region’s signature karst peaks
French Concession: Explore the elegant boulevards and leafy residential streets of Shanghai’s former French sector
Meet your local guide in the lobby of the Beijing Tangram Hotel. This afternoon there is an optional excursion to the Summer Palace and Kunming Lake in the north-west of the city. This spellbinding complex was where China’s emperors and their families would retreat from the heat and intrigues of the Forbidden City. Here they could relax in the lavish pavilions of Longevity Hill, meditate in the temples and stroll through the landscaped gardens around Kunming Lake. The vast and sumptuous Summer Palace provides a range of striking views, and boasts beautifully decorated buildings and courtyards, which are charged with history. Admire structures whose grandeur is matched only by their wonderfully evocative names such as the Temple of Buddhist Virtue, the Hall of Jade Ripples, the Cloud-Dispelling Hall and the Hall of Happiness and Longevity. Kunming Lake is a large manmade pond, expanded over centuries, which has three isles that are believed to represent the ‘three fairy islands of the Eastern Sea’. Two can be reached by bridge, including Nanhu Island, which is linked to the shore by the sensational Seventeen-arch Bridge.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before departing for a journey into China’s past with visits to the Imperial Tombs of the Ming Dynasty and the Great Wall. The Ming Tombs are located some 45km north of Beijing in the valley below the Jundu Mountains. The location was specifically chosen because of its harmonious environment, and it was designed in an arc form to ward off evil spirits from the north. This monumental and serene complex is accessed through the imposing Great Red Gate and then reached via the 7km-long Sacred Way, which is lined with statues of guardians such as camels, elephants, lions, soldiers and imperial chamberlains. Explore the Changling Tomb, which is the final resting of the Yongle Emperor, who reigned in the early 15th century and is considered one of China’s greatest rulers. Break for lunch at a local restaurant. Afterwards, take to the road for a brief drive to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. This stretch was built in in 1505 in the strategically important Guan Valley in order to keep out the Mongol hordes from the north. Nowadays, tourists flock from all over the world and it is the most visited part of the Great Wall. Having been reconstructed to replicate its original appearance, this section gives a realistic vision of the Great Wall's immensity.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a full day visiting four of Beijing’s most famous landmarks. First up is the enormous Tiananmen Square, one of the world’s largest urban plazas, which is the location of the Chinese parliament, Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the National Museum of China, the Zhengyangmen Gate Tower and the Tiananmen Gate (‘Gate of Heavenly Peace’) which gives access to the Imperial City, within which is the Forbidden City, hidden from the prying eyes of commoners by 10-metre-high walls. Head inside and as you stroll along the stretch leading from the Tiananmen Gate to the Meridian Gate, which leads to the Forbidden City proper, the sense of anticipation gives way to awe as you take in the sheer majesty of this incomparable treasure – one that for centuries no commoner or foreigner could enter and live to tell the tale. Construction began under the Yongle Emperor in the early 15th century and it was meticulously designed to be in harmony with philosophical, religious and hierarchical principles. Thus all roof tiles were yellow, which was the emperor’s colour and could not be used by commoners, while no other building in Beijing could be taller than the Forbidden City. Among the city’s attractions visited are the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, the Hall of Preserving Harmony and the Palace of Heavenly Purity as well as the Hall of Union and Palace of Earthly Tranquillity. Explore this beguiling UNESCO World Heritage Site and marvel at the magnificent temples, halls, pavilions, palaces and courtyards. Enjoy a local lunch after the visit. Adjacent to Forbidden City is Jingshan Park, which is sprawled over the manmade 45-metre-high hill of the same name. It is the highest point in Beijing and was built as a private garden for emperors and their families. Like all imperial projects, feng shui was to the fore in the planning process, and there are five peaks on the hill, each crowned by a pavilion. The views over the Forbidden City and the rest of the capital are breathtaking. The last visit of your stay in Beijing is to the Temple of Heaven, which is located 3km south of Tiananmen Square. This Buddhist complex dates from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of the three main structures, the most impressive is surely the 32-metre-high Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which is the oldest building in the temple. After the tour, transfer to the train station for the overnight train to Xi’an.
Arrive at Xi’an railway station and transfer to your accommodation for the next two nights, the four-star Le Garden Hotel, which is located just a block away from the southeast corner of the old city. Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before venturing out to walk along the top of the 14km-long city walls, which have protected the city for more than six centuries. From here, you have an unrivalled vantage point 12 metres above the old city and the modern metropolis beyond. Lunch is at a local restaurant. Afterwards, head to the historic Muslim Quarter, which is within the city walls, to visit the famous Great Mosque. The current version dates from 1392 and the design is that of a typical Buddhist temple of the era with five successive courtyards, each with a gateway, pavilion or screen, eventually leading to the prayer hall.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a trip to the countryside outside of Xi’an to visit a priceless treasure that was unknown to humanity until some farmers stumbled upon it four decades ago. What they encountered has since become a global phenomenon, with parts of the so-called Terracotta Army being exhibited all over the world. There are thousands of armed warriors, each one different, lined up in rows according to military rank as well as hundreds of horses and chariots. The figures were made by an army of artisans and were buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, who died in 210 BC. To see them all before your very eyes is a truly unforgettable experience. After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll return to Xi’an. The afternoon’s activity is an excursion to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which has stood here since the Tang Dynasty in seventh century. It has been expanded and renovated many times but its main purpose of housing Buddhist scriptures brought back from India by the travelling monk, Xuanzang, has remained the same.
Transfer to Xi'an Xianyang International Airport after breakfast for your flight to Chongqing. Enjoy a city tour on arrival, exploring the area around the futuristic Jie Fang Bei square in the city centre. Continue to Eling Park, which is as far removed as possible from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area. These enchanting landscaped gardens feature lakes, pavilions, covered footbridges, pagodas and a tower boasting unbeatable views of the city as well as a wealth of flora. Lunch is at a local restaurant and then we head to the quays to board the vessel and begin the 600km Yangtze River cruise, which over the next three days will take you through the heart of China, passing landscapes of unparalleled natural beauty.
Have breakfast on board then continue the magical experience of cruising on the mighty Yangtze, taking in the stunning scenery. The boat will moor at the village of Shibaozhai, where the famous the twelve-tier Purple Rain Pavilion, which seems to cascade down a sheer limestone cliff face, is located. Back on board, the evening’s highlight will be the welcome dinner hosted by the captain.
Breakfast on board as the vessel glides along the Yangtze in anticipation of sailing by some of the river’s most dramatic landmarks. In the morning, we will cruise through the 8km-long Qutang Gorge, which is considered the most spectacular of the three gorges, and the 45km-long Wu Gorge. The boat will dock at Badong for a two-hour excursion along the Shennong River on a smaller craft. Back on board, continue the Yangtze cruise through the western part of the 66km-long Xiling Gorge and going through the shiplock of the Three Gorges Dam.
Enjoy breakfast on board before disembarking for a one-hour visit to the 2,335-metre-long Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest power station. This astonishing feat of engineering took almost two decades to build and involved the relocation of more than one million residents of the area that would be flooded by its creation. Back on board, continue through the eastern section of the Xiling Gorge, arriving at Yichang by midday. Transfer to the express train and relax in second class as it zooms through the countryside towards Shanghai on the coast. Arrive in the world’s largest city at night and transfer to your accommodation for the rest of your stay, the four-star New Century Puxi Hotel.
After breakfast at the hotel, enjoy a guided stroll in the sublime Yu Garden in the heart of the old town. This classical Chinese garden is crammed with richly decorated pavilions, halls, towers, rockeries and ponds, some dating from as far back as the Ming Dynasty four centuries ago. Here you will find a tranquil spot for respite from the modern pace of life in this at times hectic city of more than 24 million souls. Then head outside and discover the old town itself, which has somehow survived China’s impressive modernisation push of the past two decades. Almost huddled beneath the modern high-rises, the two and three-storey narrow streets of the earthy old city offer an astonishing contrast to the glistening new Shanghai. Mingle with pedestrians and cyclists as they weave about, heading to and fro in this warren of family-run shops and diners, before stopping at a local restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon, enjoy a spiritual sojourn at the Jade Buddha Temple, where you can admire jade, marble and gold Buddha statues. Its central location makes this one of the livelier temples in Shanghai.
Have breakfast at the hotel before heading for a guided tour of Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s pedestrianised commercial hub, where the thousands of shoppers are dwarfed by the neon signs and the skyscrapers of modern Shanghai. The immense energy, colour and spectacle of the boulevard is a microcosm of Shanghai all condensed into one place. Perpendicular to Nanjing Road is The Bund, the riverside quay crammed with historic bank buildings from the decades when foreign powers controlled large swaths of Shanghai as ‘concessions’. There are 52 landmark buildings along this 1.5km promenade, ranging in style from neo-classical to art deco. Among the more eye-catching structures are the eight-storey Customs House and the China Bank of Communications Building. Continue to the Shanghai Museum, which houses more than 100,000 objects, and appreciate priceless works of Oriental art. The museum has exhibits focusing on items such as ancient Chinese calligraphy, ceramics, seals and much more. There is also an intriguing exposition of antique furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties as well as a rare collection of European and central Asian coins, which flowed into China thanks to the Silk Road, the overland routes used by merchants to transport goods from the Orient to Europe. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before spending the afternoon exploring what was for almost a century known as the French Concession, which was a sector of the city controlled by French colonial authorities until 1941. To this day, the area retains the charm of a French or Quebecois provincial city, with elegant boulevards and leafy residential rues as well as grandiose mansions with chateau-style roofs and turrets. Café terraces, boulangeries and bistros add to the unmistakably Gallic ambience, which is virtually like having a foreign country in the middle of Shanghai. All attributes, which have no doubt contributed to making the area one of Shanghai’s most exclusive.
Savour a final breakfast at the hotel before checking out and continuing your journey, whether it’s to your home or somewhere else in our beautiful country.