On arrival you will need to make your own way to the group hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore Beijing. There will be a group meeting in the hotel foyer at approximately 6.30pm (please confirm timing in your final documentation). Following this we will head out to a local restaurant for our first taste of Chinese cuisine in this fascinating city. Beijing has been the dynastic capital since the 13th century and visiting the iconic sights located in this orderly city is like meandering through the pages of a history book.
Overnight in a hotel.
After breakfast we will enjoy a walking tour of Beijing. We will leave our hotel and walk to Dashila where you will see what old Beijing is like. After that we will come to Tiananmen Square. Tiananmen Square is located at the center of Beijing City where you can see Tiananmen Tower, the Monument to the People’s Hers, Great Hall of the People, and Mao Zedong Memorial Hall which is the world’s largest city square. From here we will visit the Forbidden City. To conclude our day of sightseeing we will enjoy a full view of the city from atop Jingshan Park. In the late afternoon we will attend a show of acrobatics before dinner of delicious roast Peking duck. An acrobat show is something to see as very talented young men and women enthrall the crowd with daring feats involving bicycles, dragons, swords and double-jointed body parts!
Today is a real treat as we travel to a beautiful section of the Great Wall of China. The Mutianyu section is approximately a 1.5 hours drive from Beijing, slightly further than the popular and very busy Badaling Gate section. The Mutianyu section is renowned for its Ming Dynasty Guard Towers and stirring views. The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is one of the worlds most unusual and awesome sites. Construction commenced over 2000 years ago, around 221 B.C, as a defence line to keep out invaders, along the course of several thousand kilometres. The Emperor Qin Shihuang unified the various northern walls into the Great Wall we see today. We have the opportunity to walk along this section, quite often with no one else in sight, and appreciate the many watchtowers as well as the surrounding rolling hills. Late this afternoon we transfer to the train station for our overnight train journey to Xian in comfortable air-conditioned sleeper cabins.
This morning we arrive in Xian, the traditional starting point of the Silk Road. The old walled city of Xian, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is a vivid example of old and new China. The modernised new city bustles around the quaint, winding lanes of the Old Quarter, where old men can be seen smoking pipes and watching the world go by, as butchers pull their carcass-laden carts and hawkers sell their wares. We will have breakfast in the hotel before visiting the famous Terracotta Warriors, Great Mosque and City Wall. These warriors stand in their thousands outside the tomb of Qin Shihuang where they were uncovered in 1974 by peasants digging a well. Each warrior stands over 6 feet tall and has different features and characteristics. Some stand in a vanguard with crossbow and longbow bearers; others hold spears, daggers and axes at the ready. They are accompanied by dozens of horse-drawn carriages and enormous terracotta horses. The sight of the warriors arising from their muddy grave, some intact, others still submerged in the ground, is an extraordinary one.
Overnight in hotel.
After breakfast we have a morning tour of the Wild Goose Pagoda and the History Museum. This afternoon we have a transfer to the station for our high speed train to Chengdu. Upon arrival we will be met and transferred directly to our hotel. After freshening up we begin our sightseeing of town with an orientation walk. Chengdu is the capitol of Sichuan province and is famous for its spicy, pepper based foods and healing medicine markets. It is a green city and is one of the more laid back cities in China.
Overnight in hotel.
In the morning we will visit the Panda Sanctuary, at this research center we have a chance to see these gentle giants wandering around the grounds. This afternoon we travel to the Tang Dynasties Wenshu temple, Kuan Zhai Alleyway and People’s Park. Originally built in the 7th century, The Wenshu Temple is one of Chinas oldest and best preserved Buddhist temples.
Overnight in hotel.
This morning you have an optional tour of Giant Buddha in Leshan (additional charge - payable direct). This large sitting Buddha statue has been carved into a cliff and overlooks the river. We then transfer this afternoon to the station to take a bullet train to Chongqing. Later in the afternoon we will board our boat for the start of our Yangtze River cruise.
Overnight on board.
The Yangtze River is the longest river in China and the third longest waterway in the world. We travel along one of the most picturesque sections of the river where over millions of years it has carved its way through the surrounding mountains creating these uniquely beautiful gorges now named the Three Gorges. Over the next two days we will have the opportunity to view the dramatic scenery from both sides of our comfortable 4-star boat. Along the banks of the Yangtze River high peaks tower above us from both sides, in some sections, exposing huge cliffs and dramatically perched temples. Waterfalls spray mist over the river creating a mystical feeling as we meander along. Accommodation aboard our boat is in private twin share cabins. All meals on board are included.
We arrive into Yichang this morning and disembark. We transfer to the airport to catch our flight to the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai. Upon arrival in Shanghai we are met by our driver and transfer to our well-located hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. You may choose to visit the Jade Buddha Temple, built in 1911 it is one of the few Buddhist Temples in Shanghai, or visit the high end of town, Nanjing road, where the Gucci and Prada stores dominate the high-end shopping malls. Shanghai is known as the “Paris of the Orient” and it is easy to see why. You can wander through the old Frenchtown to view some of the wonderful architecture including the old art-deco apartments and the neo-classical mansions. Long the place of quick fortune, opium and tea houses Shanghai has a vibrant feel that seduces all travellers that pass through her gates.
This morning after breakfast we will meet our guide and embark on a full day walking tour of this cosmopolitan and vibrant city. The vibrant Bund is an awesome place to congregate and has been the setting for countless classic paintings over the years. It is wonderful to walk along the ocean side and observe life here. We will visit the Shanghai Museum, the famous and spectacular Yu Garden. Our day will be interspersed with tasting the delicious snacks such as steamed dumplings with vinegar dipping sauce that can be found in the many teahouses, bazaars and markets throughout town. Late afternoon you have a chance to go on an optional boat ride on the Huangpu River to see the city from a different perspective.
Overnight in hotel.
Following breakfast we transfer by private vehicle to the town of Dali. The drive is on mountainous roads and it will take a whole morning (approx. 3- 4 hours) to reach Dali. In Dali we head out on an orientation walk of Dali Old Town, get to know the regions Bai ethnic minority culture and gain a small taste for their every day life as we explore the old town.
Overnight in a hotel
Lijiang resides in a spectacular setting with the imposing snow capped peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is never far from view and helps frame our photos. Today we visit the stunning Black Dragon pool with it's very picturesque landscape and thousand-year-old trees. Next we make our way to Baisha, the Old Town of Lijiang (approx. 11 kms away) with its beautiful, typical Chinese countryside. Baisha is home to ethnic minorities, the Dongba Cultural Center and the Naxi museum, which help visitors gain a better understanding of the cultural diversity and long history of this special place. Later we have an opportunity to watch the Naxi musical orchestra.
It is an early start as we continue hiking through the Gorge. The terrain this morning is mainly flat and downhill as we walk in the shadow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, passing through Halfway Village and by a waterfall. We board a small van to take us back to Qiao Tou where we enjoy lunch before boarding our own vehicle for the drive to Lijiang. The journey from Tiger Leaping Gorge to Lijiang is 80km by winding roads and takes approximately 2.5 hours.
Lijiang is the cultural center and capital of the Naxi people and has existed for over 800 years. It was once at the end of a very popular ancient Tibetan trading route and is now a World Heritage listed site. The city is populated by mainly Naxi people with their vibrant blue traditional dress. Lisu, Pomi and also Han Chinese people also populate the city along with a small number of Tibetan people. The town has a thriving arts community and its own traditional music and musical instruments can be heard whilst walking along the cobbled streets. The ancient part of town with its narrow streets and clay-tiled roofing is best explored by foot and we take a walk around the canals and streets of this area.
Overnight in a hotel.
After breakfast we journey to the awe-inspiring Tiger Leaping Gorge to commence our hike. It is one of the deepest gorges in the world and the sight of the 3900m walls of the gorge - as they drop from the snow capped mountain tops of Haba Shan to the cool gushing waters of Shinsha River - are simply breathtaking! Considered by most as one of the most spectacular natural wonders in all of China, we venture out amongst its wild beauty to soak in its magical presence. We start our easy walk into the Gorge from Qia Tou. Most likely from here we walk approx. 2.5 hours to a Naxi village where we will stop for lunch. Continuing walking uphill, we are on the higher trail and the 28 bend path which is more challenging than our morning walk. The trail affords excellent photo opportunities with a full view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Once we reach our highest point (2621m) we have a long decent down to the guesthouse where we will spend the night. This evening you can relax and enjoy a night of star gazing.
Note: you will only need to carry your day pack today, the rest of your luggage will be transferred by jeep to the guesthouse.
Perched on a hill overlooking the town of Zhongdian is the imposing Songzanlin, or Ganden Sumtseling, Monastery. The Monastery is 5 stories high and houses over 700 practicing Buddhist monks. It is like stepping back into a peaceful age when entering the Monastery with its huge red pillars rising from the main assembly hall. Built in the 17th century by the 5th Dalai Lama, the monastery with its numerous chapels, woodcarving and paintings is like a living museum of Tibetan culture and many believe to be the most significant Tibetan Monastery outside of Lhasa. Parts of the monastery are being reconstructed and there is a great regeneration of the religious spirit. This afternoon we visit a Tibetan farming village, meet a local family and delight in a unique glimpse into life in the region.
This morning we will transfer to the train station for our high speed train to Huangshan. On arrival, we will be met and transferred to visit Lao Jie (Ancient Street) and Village Hong - UNESCO World Heritage sites. "Ancient Street" is about 1.27km long and run from east to west. Lao Jie was a hub for tea trading in the Qing dynasty when it served as a commercial hub for businesses, especially tea trading. Enjoy shopping for souvenirs as you delight in the restored Huizhou buildings on both sides of the street. Later we enjoy sightseeing at Hongcun Village - this small village boasts old well preserved buildings, an extensive history and lovely scenery.
Overnight in hotel
Yangshou is an idyllic town set amidst soaring limestone pinnacles on the banks of the Li River. The surrounding region is very beautiful, spotted with small villages and imposing karst rock formations. This area has long been the inspiration for generations of artists and pts. It is classed by many as the most spectacular area in the whole of China. The village itself has fantastic shopping and restaurants, and an extremely laid-back ambiance. This morning we have a short bike ride around the countryside followed by a bamboo raft ride. Next we hike on the stunning Moon Hill, which is set alongside the Li River. Moon Hill is a strange limestone pinnacle with a crescent moon-shaped hole at the top. From the top of the hill there is a magnificent view of the layers of mountains and jigsaw landscape of rice paddies for which this region is famous. Make sure you have plenty of space on the memory card as the view is incredible. We enjoy lunch in a local farmer's home and cooking school.
After breakfast we have a morning transfer to the train station for high speed train to Hangzhou. From here we fly to Guilin and transfer directly to the charismatic, colourful town of Yangshou set amongst limestone karsts.
Overnight in Hotel
Today we drive to Huangshan, and spend a full day exploring the spectacular scenery of Mt. Huangshan. The 2200 meter granite peaks are considered a sacred mountain area to the Chinese. We catch a cable car to the summit of the mountain where we spend time walking the surrounding area to take in the staggering views over the valley and otherworldly site of granite rock formations shrouded in misty clouds. An ancient legend described this mountain as the place of discovery of the long-sought elixir of immortality, and has inspired beautiful Chinese painting and ptry.
Set on the outskirts of beautiful Erhai Lake, Dali is a charming cobble stone town surrounded by markets, rural villages and a backdrop of the spectacular 4000m tall Cang Shan (Jade Green Mountains). After breakfast we explore the surrounds of Lake Er (ear shaped lake) by boat. Today we take it easy as we stop to visit small villages and temples that make this area so charming.
Overnight in hotel.
We start the day with a visit to the local market to buy fresh ingredients for our mornings cooking lesson. Set in a charming rural village about 25 minutes drive from town, the class is hands on and will help unlock some of the secrets of Chinese cuisine. Relax, sit back and eat what you have cooked! Next you will be transferred to the airport for a flight to Kunming (or Chengdu depending on flight schedules), connected with a flight to Zhongdian, for our first taste of colourful Yunnan Province. In 2002 the Chinese government changed Zhongdian’s name to Shangri La as it declared it was the location described in James Hilton’s fictional novel "The Lost Horizon". Zhongdian is also known as Gyalthang in Tibetan and translates to Royal Ground referring to the rich and fertile pastures surrounding the city. This area is rated in the top 5 places in the world for high plant biodiversity and is famous as a favourite research area for famous Botanist Joseph Rock. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Overnight in hotel.
Today we complete our comprehensive tour of China a with a transfer to the train station to take the high speed train to Kunming, where the trip concludes.
Please note: All international airports in China require 2.5 hours to check in and to go through the customs, so you should schedule any connecting international flight for the afternoon (after 15.00).