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. Following this we will head out to a local restaurant for our first taste of Chinese cuisine. Our hotel will be our base as we explore this fascinating city for the next four days. 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.
After breakfast we visit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. After relaxing in the late afternoon we will make our way to the famous Chinese Acrobat show. Set in an old theatre, the 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. This evening we are treated to delicious Beijing duck dinner!
For those who are keen, we rise early this morning and travel to the Summer Palace. This huge area is punctuated by the picturesque Kunming Lake. Once a secluded resting place for the imperial court this collection of temples, gardens, pavilions and lakes is now one of the most visited places in all of Beijing. 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. Today we visit the famous Terracotta Warriors. 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.
After breakfast we embark upon a walking tour of the exotic Muslim quarter with its sesame oil factories, hidden mosques and delicious hand made noodle stalls. The afternoon is free to explore Xian before meeting in the early afternoon for our transfer to the station for our overnight train to Chengdu.
We arrive in Chengdu in the morning and are met and transferred straight to our hotel. After freshening up we begin our sightseeing of town. 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. We travel to the Tang Dynasties Wenshu temple. Originally built in the 7th century, The Wenshu Temple is one of Chinas oldest and best preserved Buddhist temples. This afternoon is free to relax and spend time in one of the many local teahouses in Chengdu.
An early start with a visit to the Panda research center where we have the chance to see 40 or so of these gentle giants wandering around the grounds. We then transfer my private vehicle to Chongqing stopping enroute at Dazu Grotto with its cliff carvings and statues of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian influence. Later in the afternoon we will board our boat for the start of our Three Gorges Cruise.
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 arrive at Tina's Guesthouse late morning and 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.
Today we explore a nearby Baisha minority village, the Dongba Cultural Center and the Naxi museum. This will help us gain a better understanding of the cultural diversity and long history of this special place. The afternoon is free followed by the opportunity to watch the Naxi musical orchestra.
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 and head out to the Snow Mountain for a leisurely walk. This afternoon is free to explore Lijiang.
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 (4 hours) to reach Dali. In Dali we 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.
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 three 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.
During the cruise and included in your trip cost, you will visit:
DAY 2 at 16:00 - 18:30
A shore excursion to The Shibaozhai Temple. Known as "The Treasure Stone Stronghold"
DAY 3 at 12:30 - 17:00
We change boats for an afternoon excursion to either the river tributary of Shen Nv Stream, known as "The Goddess Stream" or Shen Nong Stream. Both are equally impressive.
There are two optional land excursions (which are at your own expense and are payable locally) during cruising days should you be interested. These are subject participant numbers on board being adequate hence we cannot include them pre trip as numbers of those interested locally will not be known until on board.
Day 2: The Ghost City in Fengdu. 08:00 - 10:30
Day 3: White Emperor City. 07:00 - 09:30
Or, you may choose to relax on board and take in the majesty of the area.
Accommodation aboard our boat is in private twin share cabins. All meals on board are included.
This morning after a leisurely breakfast we will meet our guide and embark on a full day walking tour of this cosmopolitan and vibrant city. We will visit the Shanghai Museum, the famous and spectacular Yu Garden. We have the opportunity to wander through the old Frenchtown to view some of the wonderful architecture including the old art-deco apartments and the neo-classical mansions. 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 we will go on a river cruise to see the city from a different perspective.
We arrive into Yichang mid morning and visit the Yichang three gorges dam project and marvel at this huge undertaking before transferring 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. Shanghai is known as the "Paris of the Orient" and it is easy to see why. Long the place of quick fortune, opium and teahouses Shanghai has a vibrant feel that seduces all travellers that pass through her gates. 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.
After breakfast we continue our journey to the awe-inspiring Tiger Leaping Gorge - one of the deepest gorges in the world. 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 Qiatou. From here we walk approx. 2.5 hours to a Naxi village where we will stop for lunch. From here we continue walking uphill 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.
This morning we will pay a short visit the Jade Buddha Temple, one of the few Buddhist Temples in Shanghai. Built in 1911 the temples centre point is a 2 meter high white jade Buddha encrusted with jewels. This afternoon is free to wander around Shanghai and explore. You may wish to visit the high end of town, Nanjing road, where the Gucci and Prada stores dominate the high-end shopping malls. Late afternoon we transfer to the train station for our evening train to Huangshan.
Perched on a hill overlooking the town of Zhongdian is the imposing Ganden Sumtsanling 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 explore the local market for an authentic and unique glimpse into life in the region.
We arrive into Tuxi in the morning, where we enjoy breakfast in the down town old street. We then have a 1.5 hour drive to Huangshan, stopping en-route to visit two local villages. We arrive at foothills of Huangshan in the late afternoon where we will stay the night on the backhill of the mountain. The 2200 meter granite peaks are considered a sacred mountain area to the Chinese. We spend the afternoon leisurely walking in the area to an elevation of approximately 1800 meters. The scenery surrounding us here is nothing short of spectacular.
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!
After lunch we take a river cruise on the Li River and soak in the incredible surrounding landscapes. We will visit an ancient village before returning to Yangshuo. The more active of our group have the opportunity to walk the last 5km through small villages and huge rice fields.
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 ambience.
This morning we have an easy optional bike ride around the countryside followed by a visit to 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.
After breakfast we take a leisurely walk to the base of the mountain and transfer back to Huangshan city and further onto Shanghai. From here we fly to Guilin and transfer directly to the charismatic, colourful town of Yangshou set amongst limestone karsts.
Today we catch a cable car to the summit of the mountain where we spend the day walking the surrounding area to take in the staggering views over the valley and otherworldly site of granite rock formations shrouded in misty clouds. In the late afternoon we catch the cable car back down the mountain to our hotel.
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 take a walk around Dali's old town before exploring the surrounds of Erhai He Lake (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.
The morning is free to enjoy Yangshuo at your leisure, in the afternoon we will take a private vehicle and transfer to Guilin airport to catch our flight to Zhongdian (via Kunming), 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.
Today we complete our comprehensive tour of China with a transfer to the airport for our flight to Kunming. On arrival at Kunming airport the trip concludes.
Please note if transferring to an International flight you will need to collect your bags on arrival in Kunming and recheck in. Your bags cannot be checked in for an International flight from Dali. 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).