Welcome to the historic capital city of China. Upon your arrival at the airport or train station, you will be met by your local tour guide and then transferred to your downtown Beijing hotel. After checking in at the hotel, you will be free to rest up from your journey or to explore the local area on your own.
China has more than 4,000 years of history with its Imperial Social System, and Beijing is the best place in China to experience this magnificent history and the culture of ancient China. Today your guide will pick you up at your hotel after your breakfast to begin the wonderful ancient China culture and history tour!
First up on your visit to Beijing is the world's largest plaza - Tian'anmen Square. The grandiose Tian'anmen Gate is the place where Chairman Mao Ze Dong announced the establishment of the People's Republic of China to the world in 1949. Passing through Tian'anmen Gate, you will enter the ancient and splendid Forbidden City, the home of 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties for nearly 600 years. Magnificent architecture, intricate ornaments and touching legends make this a must-see site while in China.
After lunch, you'll visit the stunning and exquisite Summer Palace, where you'll be amazed at the vast ensemble of lakes, gardens, temples and palaces that together make up a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. During the Qing Dynasty, the Summer Palace was the personal summer retreat of the royal family. The overall layout of the Summer Palace consists of a front hill, back hill, and Kunming Lake. The front hill area contains splendid halls and pavilions while the back hill provides quiet, natural beauty.
After visiting these sites, we will take you back to your hotel to relax.
Recommended Optional Night Activities:
1) The exciting Legend of Kung Fu Show at the Red Theatre (usual showtime 19:30)
2) The famous Beijing Opera Show at the Liyuan Theater (showtime 19:30 - 21:00)
Hiking on the Great Wall of China is just a dream for most people, but today you will make that dream come true. We will escort you about 70 kilometers from your downtown Beijing hotel to the world-famous Mutianyu Great Wall, which has fewer tourists than the often over-crowded Badaling Great Wall. Mutianyu is also the best section of the Great Wall to view the expansive and beautiful scenery while appreciating the grand scale of the Wall. After we purchase the entrance tickets at the ticket office, we will take the cable car up to the Great Wall for about 2 hours of hiking along the lengths of the Wall.
After hiking the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, we will take you back to downtown Beijing, but along the way we will stop at the solemn Ming Tombs, the final resting place of the ancient emperors of the Ming Dynasty. Here you can wander along the Sacred Road, a tranquil path that in the past was reserved for royalty. The road is lined with statues of devine animals and officials as it leads to the mysterious Underground Palace, which we will also visit. One last stop before returning to your hotel will be at the Beijing Olympic Village, where you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the outsides of the world-famous "Bird's Nest" stadium and the Water Cube.
Recommended Optional Evening Activity:
Authentic Peking Roast Duck Dinner at the world famous Quanjude Restaurant.
After breakfast at your hotel, we will take you to marvel at one of the greatest architectural masterpieces in the world - the Temple of Heaven, where the ancient emperors of China presided over various rituals to ensure a good harvest for the empire. Today, the outer area of the Temple of Heaven is a public park where the locals gather to practice Tai Chi, fly kites, play mah jong, and chat, while the inner area remains a historical site for visitors to learn about ancient Chinese history and culture. After visiting the Temple of Heaven, we will visit some of the most famous "hutongs", which are ancient alleyways that stiill retain the traditional architecture that originated in the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368 A.D.) Even today there are still many local Beijingers that live in these old quarters where during the Qing Dynasty (1636 - 1912 A.D.) many noble families lived. You will be able to wander freely around these narrow alleyways to experience the way people lived during ancient times, or you can take a relaxing rickshaw ride through the hutongs as well. Lunch will be arranged in the home of a local hutong family for a truly memorable experience.
After lunch you will have some free time to explore the hutongs until we transfer you to the Beijing West Train Station for your high-speed train to Xian. Your local guide will greet you at the Xian train station to escort you to your local hotel. The rest of the evening will be free for you to explore the ancient city on your own.
After breakfast at your hotel, we will drive around 90 minutes to witness the magnificent man-made wonders of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, which were created and buried to protect the First Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. More than 8,000 life-sized terracotta warrriors and horses, each one designed differently than the others, along with numerous bronze weapons are arranged into a large-scale military sytem to recreate the Qin army as it appeared more than 2,000 years ago.
In the afternoon, we will drive back to the city of Xian to visit the Ancient City Wall, the largest and best preserved ancient city wall in China. Built during the Ming Dynasty as a military defense, the wall's top was designed to be wider than its height as to allow the army to perform drill practices over the centuries. You will be able to stroll along the top of this ancient wall to observe the modern city of Xian that has now surrounded it and immerse yourself in the charm of this ancient capital. After exploring the city wall, we will visit the nearby Muslim Quarter, an interesting street with various local foods and snacks. This is also a great place for a leisurely walk to see how the locals live.
Recommended Optional Activities:
1) Bicycle rental for riding bikes on top of the ancient city wall.
2) Enjoy a wonderful evening performance of the Tang Dynasty Show (showtime is usually 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. nightly).
Today's tour of Xian starts with a visit to one of the ancient landmarks of the city - the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The earliest and largest pavilion style pagoda built during the Tang Dynasty, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a seven-layered pagoda standing 64.5 meters tall. The pagoda was originally built to store the Buddhist sutras brought back from ancient India by the Chinese monk and religious scholar Xuanzang (the model for the character of Tang Seng in the classic novel "Journey to the West"). Following our visit to the historic pagoda, we will take you on to visit the Shaanxi History Museum, which houses a collection of more than 370,000 cultural relics from the different Chinese dynasties, including ancient bronzes, porcelain, gold and silver wares, tomb frescoes, coins from the various dynasties, and so much more that is held in its vast collections.
After your visit to the museum, you will have the rest of the day free to relax and prepare for tomorrow's flight to Lhasa.
After breakfast and checking out from your hotel, we will escort you to the airport for your 3 and half-hour flight to the capital city of Tibet, Lhasa. Upon arrival at Lhasa Gongga Airport, your tour guide will meet you with a private vehicle to escort you to your Lhasa hotel and help you check in. The rest of this day will be free for you to explore the local area and acclimatize yourself to the high altitude of Lhasa.
Tips for High Altitude Acclimatization:
1) Go for a leisurely walk in the fresh high altitude air, but avoid any strenuous activity after your arrival.
2) It's better to avoid taking a bath, to avoid catching a cold.
3) Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and eat some fresh fruit.
4) Get plenty of rest.
Start your exploration of Lhasa today with a visit to a world-famous landmark - the Potala Palace, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful examples of architecture in the world. Climb up the palace along zig-zagging stone paths alongside the white and red walls to the top of the palace where you can gain a greater appreciation of the exotic Tibetan-style buildings as well as for a great view of Lhasa's entire urban area. After admiring the sweeping outside views, explore the inner spaces of the Potala Palace to find the stately chapels and learn more about the fascinating history of this special place.
From one historic landmark to another, your next stop will be at the Jokhang Temple, considered as the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism. Every day thousands of pilgrims come from all over Tibet and other places to the temple to worship the Buddha. The Jokhang Temple is also known as the "House of Buddha" because it houses the precious Jowo Rinpoche, a life-sized (1.5 meter/5 feet) image of the Shakyamuni at the age of 12.
The last stop for today's Lhasa exploration is Barkor Street, the wide, circular street that surrounds the Jokhang Temple. Local residents enjoy walking on the street, completing several circuits around the temple as a daily tradition of pilgrimage. The street also has many small shops selling a wide variety of traditional Tibetan goods, religious items and handicrafts.
Tips for today's tour:
1) There are 1,080 steps to the top of the Potala Palace, so it's best to take it slowly to avoid high altitude sickness.
2) Taking photos is not allowed inside the Potala Palace.
3) Most of today will be spent outside, so please bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and some water with you to protect yourself from the more intense sun at the higher altitude.
After breakfast at your hotel, we will visit the beautiful Norbulingka Palace and Park, the location of the former summer palace of the Dalai Lamas from the 1780s up until 1959. It features the famous Potrang, the private palaces of former Dalai Lamas built in the grandiose style of traditional Tibetan architecture.
After visiting the palaces and park at Norbulingka, we will travel around 5 kilometers to the western outskirts of Lhasa to visit the Drepung Monastery. The word "drepung" in Tibetan language means "prosperity". Since its establishment in 1416, Drepung Monastery has served as one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. During its prime, more than 10,000 monks lived and studied in the monastery. Throughout its history, many important and famous Tibetan leaders studied at this monastery, including the Dalai Lamas. Accordingly, Drepung Monastery is also respectfully known as the “Mother School of Dalai Lamas”.
In the afternoon, we will escort you on to another famous monastery in Lhasa - the Sera Monastery. Sera Monastery is famous for its spectacular “Buddhist Debates”. As a daily routine, the monks gather in a courtyard, and debate on the various Buddhist doctrines with exaggerated gestures, which is thought to be helpful in facilitating a better comprehension of the Buddhist philosophy to attain higher levels of study. After enjoying the "Buddhist Debates", we will take you back to your hotel with the rest of the day and evening to relax or explore on your own.
Tips for Proper Etiquette While Visiting Monasteries
1) For clothing, shorts and/or bare shoulders are not allowed.
2) Hats and sunglasses should be removed before entering the chapels.
3) Taking photos is usually not allowed inside the chapels.
Today will be free until your tour guide takes you by private vehicle to the Lhasa airport for your flight to Chengdu. Upon arrival at the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, your local tour guide will meet you to escort you to your downtown Chengdu hotel. The rest of the day is free to rest or explore the local area on your own.
Chengdu has three famous features as a major Chinese city – the Giant Pandas, its ancient history, and a leisurely pace of living. For the first day of your tour, we will get to experience all three of these features. First, we’ll visit the lovely Giant Pandas at the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base & Breeding Center, which is the number one must-do thing in Chengdu. We will pick you up early in the morning from your hotel and drive about 30 minutes to the panda base to see giant pandas as they are being fed, playing with each other, climbing trees, etc. There are many different enclosures for pandas of different ages, from baby pandas to 1-year old pandas to teenage pandas and older. Beautiful tree-lined walking paths lead you from one enclosure to the next so it’s an enjoyable morning spending time with the pandas.
After meeting the pandas, we’ll visit the sacred Wenshu Temple, which is hidden in a peaceful location right in the middle of modern Chengdu. This temple is the most popular Buddhist temple in the Chengdu region. With its beautiful, traditional and ancient architecture, the atmosphere is very calm and quiet, with some people praying, right in the midst of a busy and modern urban city. The grounds have a small garden and the monastery is very colorfully decorated, making it a fascinating place to visit.
After the Wenshu Temple, we will experience the leisurely pace of the life of the locals at Renmin Park and Jinlin Street. Renmin (People’s) Park is where the locals go for a relaxing walk, to meet friends or have a cup of tea. Jinli Street, by contrast, is a street mainly for tourists but it does offer a view of the way things were in ancient times. You can wander along this traditional old street to absorb the special atmosphere of Chengdu while tasting the local snacks, watching street performers, etc.
Optional Recommended Night Activity:
Take in the incredible Sichuan Opera & Face Changing Performance in a local theater.
This morning we will pick you up from your hotel to take you to the Chengdu train station to experience the high speed bullet train from Chengdu to neighboring Chongqing. Upon arrival in Chongqing, your local tour guide will greet you at the train station to take you to your private vehicle to visit the famous ancient town of Ciqikou. This town used to serve as a harbor with many bustling residential areas for the rich merchants of Chongqing filled with exquisite house in both Ming and Qing dynasty styles. After visiting Ciqikou, we will move on to the Three Gorges Dam Museum, a large and modern museum that traces the fascinating history and culture of the Three Gorges Dam project – the world’s largest hydroelectric dam structure.
That afternoon around 4 or 5 p.m., we will take you to the Chaotianmen Port to board your Yangtze River cruise ship. You will be able to check in on board between 6 and 9 p.m. to begin one of the world’s most interesting cruises along the famed Yangtze River.
1) Different cruise companies use different piers for boarding, so we will make sure that you get to the correct one;
2) Cruise companies may alter the boarding hours and locations due to possible changes in weather, different seasons, river conditions, etc. so we will make sure that you have the latest up-to-date information before your cruise.
After your relaxing sleep on board the cruise ship, you can wake up to enjoy a wonderful breakfast to start your day. The rest of the morning will be free for you to explore the relaxing onboard life on the ship, with activities such as a leisurely morning coffee, learning to practice Tai Chi, attending an interesting lecture on the culture and history of the Yangtze River and more. Don’t forget to watch the fantastic scenery of the landscapes surrounding the river as you pass by.
In the afternoon as river conditions permit, you will have the opportunity for a shore excursion to the spectacular Shibaozhai Pagoda, rated as one of the World’s Eight Most Fantastic Architectural Achievements by the Discovery Channel. This pagoda is a 12-story 200-meter tall pagoda constructed of wood and installed into a high cliff. By climbing up to the top of pagoda you can gain a fantastic panoramic view of the Yangtze River and the surrounding area.
Optional Shore Excursion:
In the morning, if river and weather conditions permit, you can choose to take an optional shore excursion to the Fengdu Ghost City at an additional cost. This is an interesting place to visit to learn about the Chinese version of Hell and ghost culture.
Today will be a feast for the eyes as the ship sails through the famous Three Gorges – the most stunning landscape of the entire Yangtze River. The Three Gorges consists of Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge. Qutang Gorge stretches 8 kilometers from White Emperor City to the Daxi Stream with sharp changes in the width of the waterway and continuous craggy peaks lining the gorges. Wu Gorge is famous for its deep valleys, wide horizon views, rising mists and giant mountains as the gorge meanders for a length of 45 kilometers. Xiling Gorge is the section of the Yangtze River where the impressive Three Gorges Dam was constructed. This length of the gorges features rapid shoals, cliffs, streams, natural springs and karst caves.
In the afternoon, again with river and weather conditions permitting, you will have the opportunity to participate in another excursion, this time by embarking on a smaller wooden boat to travel up the Shennv Stream (Goddess Stream), which is a secluded tributary of the Yangtze River. This smaller traditional Chinese-style sightseeing boat will sail through the fascinating scenery surrounding the quiet and narrow stream. On clear days you will be able to see the famous Hanging Coffins on the sides of the cliffs. There will be a stop to enjoy an entertaining local music and dance show before returning to the Yangtze River cruise ship.
That evening there will be a Captain’s Farewell Dinner Party for all of the passengers on the ship so you can enjoy these festivities as your last night on board the ship. If you can stay up a bit late, around 11 p.m. you can witness the amazing process as the ship travels through the five stages of the Three Gorges Dam Ship Locks.
Optional Shore Excursion:
This morning, for an additional charge and with weather and river conditions permitting, there will be an optional shore excursion to the White Emperor City where travelers can learn about the Three Kingdoms Culture of ancient China.
Optional shore excursion: In the morning of today, there is an optional shore excursion to White Emperor City (with extra charge) where travelers can learn about Three Kingdoms Culture.
After breakfast on board the ship, you will disembark to take the sightseeing bus to visit the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydropower station in the world. This magnificent dam took about 18 years to complete the major parts of the project. In 2014, the Three Gorges Dam produced a world-record 98.8 terrawatt hours (TWh) of electricity. In addition to generating electricity, the dam has also increased the Yangtze River’s shipping capacity while simultaneously reducing the potential for downstream flooding, which was historically a major problem in the area.
After visiting the Three Gorges Dam, you will return back to the cruise ship to finish the cruise as the ship sails on to the Yichang Port (also known as Taohuacun Port or the New Century Port in Yichang City). Be sure to have all of your things packed up and ready for the check-out procedures to disembark from the ship. Your local tour guide will meet you as you come off of the ship to transfer you to the Yichang Sanxia Airport for your flight on to Shanghai.
At the Shanghai Airport, your local tour guide will meet you with a private vehicle to take you to your Shanghai hotel, where you will have the rest of the evening to rest from the day’s travels.
Today your wonderful Shanghai visit and China journey begins with a visit to the Shanghai Museum. The building housing the museum was built to resemble an ancient Chinese “Ding” vessel with a round dome and a square earth base, representing Chinese philosophy. The Shanghai Museum is one of the must-see attractions of Shanghai as it is famous for its countless treasured cultural collections including ancient bronzes, ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, jade, emperor’s seals, as well as vast other exhibits, all tracing more than 5,000 years of Chinese history and beyond.
Moving on from the museum, your next stop in Shanghai will be the Yu Garden. This formerly private garden that was built during the Ming Dynasty fully demonstrates the achitecture and design style of the classical Chinese gardens with its delicate pavilions, clear ponds and man-made hills. After your visit to the garden, we will walk leisurely through the Yuyuan Bazaar, a marketplace full of tasty local snacks along with elaborate traditional Chinese handicraft and art works. The Yuyuan Bazaar is conveniently located right next to Yu Garden. .After exploring ancient Chinese history at the Shanghai Museum and classical Chinese garden design in Shanghai, we will drive you to Lujiazui to see a more modern side of Shanghai. If the weather is clear, ascending to the tallest skyscraper in Asia – the majestic Shanghai Tower – a look from the viewing deck on the 126th floor will show you the expansive landscape of one of Asia’s most prosperous and modern cities stretching out in front of you.
After a nice local lunch, we will stroll along Nanjing Road – a world famous shopping street that has something for everyone as a paradise for shoppers. At the east end of the road we will come to The Bund, an iconic symbol of Shanghai situated on the west bank of the Huangpu River. Walking along The Bund will allow you to feel the perfect fusion of Chinese and Western cultures while viewing the fantastically modern Shanghai skyline with your own eyes.
Recommended Optional Night Activity:
Enjoy a night time cruise along the Huangpu River to enjoy the amazing futuristic skyline of Shanghai when it is lit up at night.
After enjoying your breakfast at your hotel, we will take you to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center with its multimedia and interactive displays that are used to help visitors learn about the past history, present facts and future plans of Shanghai. After the exhibition center, we will move on to the Jade Buddha Temple, where the largest jade buddha in the world is housed along with numerous religious artifacts, ancient statues and Buddhist scriptures. The Jade Buddha Temple is a quiet sanctuary hidden in the midddle of a crowded and modern metropolis.
In the afternoon we will escort you to the airport or train station for your flight or train on to your next destination or returning home.