This in-depth China tour takes your deep into the heart of this magical land, where you can discover the country’s imperial history, ancient heritage, traditions and cuisine, with unique tours and excursions. Not just famous highlights such as the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, The Great Wall of China at Beijing, the ‘Avatar’ mountains of Zhangjiajie and urban sprawls of Shanghai and Beijing, also experience the hidden gems of real China.
The busy and dynamic Shanghai is China’s biggest city and a global financial hub. The Bund, a waterfront promenade lined with colonial era buildings lies at the heart of the city.
Discover Shanghai’s Architectural Delights Embark on a fascinating tour that will take you through the many architectural layers of Shanghai. After an early breakfast or lunch at your hotel, set out to explore the city’s architectural heritage in the company of your local English or French speaking guide. Begin with the classy old French neighborhood and take a peek at Shanghai’s glamorous yesterday. Walk past tony parks, tree-lined avenues and visit a grand home or two. Wander over to the Jingan neighborhood and explore little known nooks and corners, hidden among the glitzy modern buildings. Head to the Bund and get an insider’s perspective of this gritty part of town, ambling past back alleys and narrow streets of old Shanghai. Discover heritage homesteads that have stood here for generations, contrasting the traditional architecture with contemporary street life. Return to your hotel at the end of the walk. (Half Day; Time: 0900/1200 hrs; Private Activity & Transfer; Fitness level: Easy; Please wear comfortable walking shoes).
Chinese Home Cooking and Yu Garden Visit Explore the various shades of everyday Chinese life as you go on a market visit, enjoy a spot home cooking and stroll through a traditional garden. Kickstart your immersive cultural experience with a guided tour of a wet market in Shanghai, bustling with exotic colors, aromas and textures of myriad vegetables, spices and meats. Carry back freshly bought produce to be cooked at a local Chinese home according to timeless recipes. Try your hand at preparing Chinese dumplings with varied fillings and pick up a few closely guarded culinary secrets along the way. Enjoy the meal in a traditional setting and then set off for Shanghai’s Old Town. Make your way through intriguing lilongs or interconnecting alleys that exude mystery and character. Next, proceed to the Yu Gardens where your guide will share insights into the traditional art and science of Chinese landscaping. Amble through the picturesque rock formations representing mountains and the charming water channels symbolizing rivers. Finally it is time to soak in some more local color at a bazaar – enjoy bargaining for souvenirs or browsing through vibrant stalls. If you have time, savor a traditional Chinese tea experience at the Huxinting Tea House till you are ready to head back to your hotel. (Full Day; Time: 0800 hrs; Private Activity & Transfers).
Entertaining ERA Show in Shanghai Treat your senses to a spectacular multimedia extravaganza with an evening show of ERA at Shanghai Circus World. Settle in to watch a riveting display of live music, visuals, fabulous costumes, and special effects. One of the most popular entertainment shows in the city, this stunning pageant has been running on stage for six years. Marvel at the superlative skills of the acrobats and martial arts proponents as they take you through the cultural as well as historical past and present of the country. Return to your hotel mesmerized by the splendid combination of traditional art and modern technology. (Half Day; Shared Activity; Fitness Level: Easy.)
Zhangjiajie is the gateway to one of the most fascinating landscapes on our planet. This UNESCO World Heritage site houses the delicate and protected natural history zone of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, which includes endangered wildlife species as well as unusual rock formations.
Tour the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Discover the myriad offerings of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park! Board the Bailong Panoramic Elevator, a glass elevator built right into the side of the mountain, and enjoy spectacular views of the whole park as you rise. Once you reach the summit, take a stroll around the Pillar of the Southern Sky, the inspiration for the “Hallelujah Mountains” in the popular movie Avatar. Head to the Platform of Forgetfulness next, from where you can enjoy stunning views of the nearby peaks, and then traverse the No. 1 Bridge under Heaven. Board a bus and set off on a sightseeing tour to the Son of Heaven Mountain (Tianzishan) next. Take the cable car and ascend the mountain; once you’re at the top, take in views of the Imperial Brush Peak (Yubifeng) and Western Sea, two of the most impressive mountain formations, after which you can head to the Tianzige. Board the cable car again and make your way down the mountain; take a bus to the Ten-mile Gallery from here. Stroll along the Golden Whip Stream and enjoy the towering karst peaks, which appear like natural skyscrapers from this angle. These peaks are revered by the Chinese, who have christened them with various poetic names, such as the Magical Eagle Protecting the Whip. Enjoy the respite from China’s megacities as you enjoy the clean air, well-maintained grounds and clear water. Take in the flora and fauna of the area, and if you’re lucky – you might even spot a bear, panther or pangolin! You might also run into groups of monkeys; make sure you leave the animals well alone to enjoy a safe and delightful trip. (Full Day; Private Activity; Please note that if the Golden Whip Stream is not a priority preference, you can opt to visit the Baofeng Lake instead.)
Longsheng county in the northeast of Guangxi is known for its 700-year-old rice terraced fields and ethnic villages with unique architecture. The Longji (‘Dragon’s Backbone’) rice terraces are set among ethnic minority villages including Zhuang and Yao and make for scenic hikes.
Trekking Through Rice Terraces Spend the morning and noon hours with an approximate four hour walk along the “Dragon’s Backbone”- one of the most beautiful stretches of the Longsheng rice terraces in the Guilin mountains. Appearing similar to a massive, undulating staircase, these tiered rice paddies house villages of the Dong, Miao, Yao, and Zhuang minorities. Start to take a walk from Ping’an Village to the Ancient Zhuang Village. Stop for lunch by midday at a local village home and make the most of this chance to get to know your gracious hosts. (Full Day; Time: 0800 hrs; Private Activity & Transfer; Lunch included: Fitness level: Easy; Please wear comfortable walking shoes).
Yangshuo may be like any other modern Asian city with neon lights, construction sites and a buzzing nightlife, but it is the surrounding countryside that draws the crowds.
Cycling Through Yangshuo Country Enjoy a leisurely bike ride through the beautiful countryside of the Yangshuo region, framed by a rugged karst landscape of misty waterfalls, verdant paddy fields, meandering rivers and quaint little villages. After an early breakfast in your hotel, meet your local English speaking guide and pick up your biking gear before setting off. You can either take the laidback village trail along the Yulong River before looping back to town, or you could make a couple of stops at local villages along the Li River. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, on your way back to Yangshuo from either of these river routes you can embark on an uphill trail that comes with a spectacular view at the end. Riding on the Yulong River trail, pedal down to Baisha Village and stop at the historic Yulong Bridge to take selfies, if you wish. Ride past fragrant mandarin orchards, framed by a limestone karst backdrop of the ‘sugarloaf’ mountains in the distance. Along the Li River trail, ride down to Mushan Village and study its traditional architecture born of Taoism and Feng Shui. Visit the Liugong Village next, stopping to admire the pretty picture painted by paddy fields against a ruggedly handsome karst landscape of the ‘sugarloaf’ mountains. The nearly century-old Liugong is a charming sight with its traditional homesteads and ‘three colored pools’. Ride back to Yangshuo via Yongcun Village. (Full Day; Time: 0800 hrs; Private Activity & Transfer; Lunch, snacks & refreshments included; Fitness level: Moderate; Please be comfortably dressed and note that a bicycle, helmet and water provided on the trip).
Afternoon Cruise on a Bamboo Raft Experience the timeless beauty of Chinese countryside from a new perspective – the river. Drive to the pretty village of Yangdi where you will board a traditional bamboo raft and set off on a leisurely afternoon cruise down the River Li. Watch lush paddy fields pass by, their emerald green enhancing the sugar white of the limestone mountains. Find out from your friendly boat “pilot” about the quaint names given to these carsts like ‘Elephant Trunk Hill’, ‘Nine Horses Wall’ and ‘Folded Brocade Hill’. Arrive at the picturesque village of Xingping and explore its mesmerizing landscape, dotted with heritage houses going as far back as the Ming and Qing periods. Marvel at the spectacular beauty of Sugarloaf Mountains, or limestone outcroppings in striking shapes because of which they bear fantastic names like ‘Five-Finger Hill’ and ‘Camel Hill’. If you have time, check out the local poultry market bustling with chickens and geese on sale. Finally it is time to drive back to your hotel, with memories of an amazing day spent in the scenic Chinese countryside. (Haf Day; Time: 1300 hrs; Private Activity & Transfers; Please pack light and wear sunscreen).
Watch the Liu Sanjie Performance Witness the magical Impression Liu Sanjie performance in Yangshuo, at the world’s largest natural theater, dotted with tea trees and fern hedge bamboo forests. Watch the dramatic local folk entertainment unfold on the Li river, set against a stunning backdrop of twelve mist-covered limestone karsts. Marvel artists sing and dance in unison, supported by a magnificent light and sound show, and an array of grand props. Learn about the legend of ethnic Zhuang girl Liu Sanjie and her romantic adventures. See seven distinct episodes with different colors, based on a namesake Chinese musical directed by filmmaker Zhang Yimou. Before dispersing, you can drop by the museum that shares the history of the show. (Time of day: Evening; Duration: 70 mins; Shared Activity & Private Transfer; Pick-up & Drop-off at hotel in Yangshuo; Fitness level: Easy; Please wear layered clothing based on weather, and carry mosquito repellent. Please note the show is dependent on water levels).
Xi’an is represented around the world by its timeless army of terracotta warriors, each man distinct from his brother beside, before or behind him. Such meticulous craftsmanship often makes one seriously wonder if they were not an army of actual warriors turned into stone by an ancient curse from the gods!
Discover Hidden Treasures of Xi’an Discover Xi’an, one of the oldest cities in China, highlighted by treasures of the ancient world. Following a half-hour drive to Xianyang, explore the Museum of the Terracotta Army – one of the greatest archaeological finds in recent history. Traversing the different tiers of excavated pits, see thousands of life-size terracotta statues of warriors and horses featuring incredible details that seem to protect the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi. Learn about the legends and stories surrounding the region and the birth of Chinese civilization. Drop by the museum to see some amazing artifacts including two bronze chariots, before making your way to Xi’an. Hopping on a bike or a cart, weave through the bustling town. Stop by a few of Xi’an’s highlights, including the Bell and Drum Towers, nestled amid the towering ramparts originally built by the Ming dynasty. Visit the Muslim Quarter in the old town and understand the historical influence of the Silk Road that has made Xi’an a vibrant cultural center. See the Grand Mosque and other buildings that blend Islamic architecture and Chinese symbolism. Before returning to your accommodations, settle down for supper and savor the superb flavors courtesy of street hawkers at the colorful night market. (Full Day; Time: 0800 hrs; Private Activity & Transfers; Lunch included; Fitness level: Moderate).
The Pingyao settlement in central Shanxi is located on the east bank of the Fen River, a 90-minute drive southwest of Taoyuan airport. A regional financial hub in the 16th century, it is famous for its Ming and Qing urban planning and architecture.
Pingyao Attractions Discover the historic attractions of Pingyao, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its ancient urban planning and architecture. Stroll through the winding lanes of the Pingyao Ancient City with your local guide as you learn how it grew as a market town during the Ming dynasty. Walk along the ancient city walls that rise to ten meters in some places and cover a distance of six kilometers in all. Experience the marvel of Qing-era engineering and planning – the goal of the architects was to protect the commercial city from marauding invaders! Admire the majestic towers, which total 72 in all, each containing a Sunzi War artifact. (Half Day; Private Activity)
The energetic megacity of Beijing is a rich tapestry of the old and new, where imperial palaces, museums and buzzing ancient alleyways rub shoulders with cutting edge architecture, new shopping malls and modern buildings.
Discovery Tour of Forbidden City With Summer Palace Embark on this fascinating exploration of two of the city’s iconic landmarks and UNESCO World Heritage sites on a guided tour. Stroll into the Forbidden City – it was built in 1420 as an administrative center for the Ming and Qing dynasties and continued to serve in this capacity right up to 1911. Marvel at the sprawling palace complex steeped in history and restored in 2008, which has been immortalized in countless movies over the years. Explore the complex in three parts, starting with the official palaces as you listen to anecdotes about the opulent ceremonies and important government meetings that were held here. Stroll to the imperial lodges that sit tucked within beautifully maintained gardens. Walk to the public areas with temples and libraries as your expert guide narrates legends associated with the construction of the Forbidden City, including the reason behind the south-facing entrance. Climb up an artificial hill to savor wide-ranging views of the compound and all of the 900-odd buildings before you leave. Afterward, head to the picturesque Summer Palace that once served as a refuge for emperors seeking to escape the soaring temperatures of the imperial city. Saunter around this marvelous example of Chinese garden design to gain insights into the life of emperors. See excellent examples of Chinese culture defined in the architecture of this beautiful complex. Skirt the periphery of Kunming Lake to ascend Longevity Hill for a closer look at the towers and halls. Walk across the Long Corridor, a canopied ornamental walkway that will take you to the Marble Boat which served as a venue for entertaining guests. Amble across the Seventeen Arch Bridge and stop by other exquisite design elements before you wind up your tour. (Full Day; Time: 0800; Private Activity & Transfer; Fitness Level: Easy.)
Temple of Heaven Exploration With Hutongs Set off early in the day on this fascinating exploration of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Temple of Heaven. Walk through the gates of this 15th-century religious complex that was frequented by Ming and Qing dynasty rulers, who considered themselves messengers from heaven. Stroll past groups of Beijing residents engaged in practicing ancient arts such as Tai Chi, Kung Fu, gymnastics, and other types of exercise. Stop to watch people using giant brushes to practice their calligraphy skills on stones and learn the meaning of these beautiful designs that evaporate in moments. Soak in the esoteric symbolism of the simple yet elegant structure of the temple before you enter it for a closer look. Afterward, head out to unravel the secrets that lie within the traditional hutongs or narrow alleyways of the city. Saunter around these vibrant streets for a glimpse of local culture and life in these neighborhoods, some of which date back a century or two. (Full Day; Private Activity & Transfer; Time: 0800 hrs; Fitness Level: Easy.)
Chengde’s stunning beauty leaves you in no doubt as to why it was chosen as a summer retreat during the imperial Qing dynasty. Nestled snugly among the verdant rolling hills to the north of Beijing, the town is washed by the Wulie River that flows past.
Hiking at Great Wall Jinshanling Embark on this experience of a lifetime as you hike a remote section of the Great Wall of China, built in the late 16th century. Travel deep into the rugged countryside for a little under three hours to reach the trailhead. Head to the Kylin Tower where your expert guide will give you a safety briefing. Listen to lesser-known historical facts about the famous monument before you begin walking along the wall. Walk from east to west for about three to four hours and pause along the way to click some great photographs. Pass by 15 watchtowers on this partially restored section of the wall. You could also ascend some of the steep gradients to savor panoramic views of the surroundings. (Full Day; Time: 0800 hrs; Private Activity & Transfers; Lunch Included; Fitness Level: Moderate. Please note that bathrooms are available only at the start and end points. Please note that trekking poles, unlimited drinking water, energy drinks, and chocolates will be provided. Travel insurance and chairlift fee are not included.)
Prices are in USD and exclude international flights. This trip price is based on low season rates for accommodation and other applicable services, and may change depending on availability, currency fluctuations and number of people traveling together. For high season prices, please contact us with your exact travel dates and preferences.
Accommodation in one double room for 19 days / 18 nights.
Meals as indicated
Economy flights for all sectors :
Shanghai – Zhangjiajie
Guilin – Xi’an
The following train journeys in the highest class available :